Civic Innovation Challenge launched to benefit Buffalo

A new portal for open source data and resources in the City of Buffalo has prompted a competition from Mayor Byron Brown for developers, engineers, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and students to build an innovative technological product that benefits the city and its citizens.

With $8,000 on the line, the mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge, which runs through April 22, seeks the creation of an app, algorithm, visualization model, or any solution a developer can dream up, that addresses a need in the city, based on the data available on the new Open Data Buffalo portal, which went live Feb. 22.

“My administration, and our partners, aim to unite developers in the WNY region to build mobile apps or other solutions that address community needs while demonstrating how mobile technologies can lead to next generation job growth and development in the City of Buffalo,” Brown said.

Starting in 2016, Mayor Brown, in collaboration with city departments and agencies, began to implement building the open data portal when it was selected by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative – a national effort to assist cities in their use of data for more effective civic service and performance management.

The “virtual library” allows city agencies to address concerns, allocate resources, and identify solutions more efficiently.

“Creation of the portal will also give our city departments the ability to tell their everyday stories through interactive tables, charts, graphs, and maps,” Brown said.

In conjunction with AT&T, which contributed the $8,000 award to be split among three finalists, the competition will be judged by Mayor Brown; Marissa Shorenstein, President of AT&T Northeast Region; Ulla Bak, co-founder and President of Bak USA, LLC; Christopher Fagiani, co-creator of open source mobile platform FLOW; and Andrew Nicklin of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative.

Competitors will be judged on weighted criteria, including benefit to the community, creativity, execution, video component and wow factor. CivicPlus and Socrata provided additional support for the competition.

““The Buffalo Civic Innovation Challenge is propelling Buffalo into a new era,” Bak said. “One where technology plays a significant role in shaping civic policy. One where technology is at the forefront of Buffalo’s resurgence. And one where we use technology to equalize access to information and use that access to benefit every citizen.”

Open Data Buffalo provides a host of datasets ranging from police and fire activity in the city to interactive maps from the Bureau of Forestry and Buffalo Recycles. The website, which lays out the information in dashboard panels, has quick links for developers and coders as well. The information can be found at

Complete information about the Civic Innovation Challenge, along with registration information, can be found at

Read more articles by Joel Lehman.

After spending 15 years in northern Vermont where he worked as managing editor for a daily publication, Western New York native Joel Lehman returned to Buffalo this summer to be part of the city’s renaissance. He lives with his girlfriend and his goldendoodle, Wilson, and he enjoys running, skiing and cooking for his family.
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