Fellowship recipients come to Lexington to seek high-tech solutions to city problems

esimon@herald-leader.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Mayor Jim Gray announced Wednesday that three technology experts have come to Lexington for a 10-month fellowship in an effort to make city government more effective and interactive.

As part of the Code for America, which has been called the "Peace Corps for geeks," developer Erik Schwartz, mapmaker Lyzi Diamond, and visual designer and web developer Livien Yin will be in Lexington this month to gather data and feedback from city officials and residents.

The collected data will allow for the development of effective applications to "tackle old problems with new solutions," Diamond said.

Previous Code for America projects have included an effort in New Orleans to use data to determine where abandoned properties were in the city. An app was created to allow residents to track the status of those properties.

Schwartz, Diamond and Yin will return to San Francisco to share their data with other program participants and develop solutions. They will continue to visit Lexington during the fellowship.

At a news conference Wednesday, Gray said the goal for the partnership is to inspire creative ways to turn data into useful information that can improve the lives of Lexington resident.

Apple Computers co-founder "Steve Jobs said innovation is what distinguishes leaders from followers," Gray said. "To be competitive today, cities must be smarter than ever. The best way to do this is to embrace data-driven decision-making, encourage experimentation, engage citizens in problem-solving and tap into the creativity and talents of the community. Our Code for America fellowship will help us push ourselves to imagine what's possible and then make it happen."

Diamond said, "We are most excited about collaborating with the city and with as many citizens as possible ... to do the best work we can and tackle some of these challenges."

This Gray's second effort to use data and technology to drive decision-making. Last year, the city launched its Open Data Portal, making more than 90 data sets public in areas that include election boundaries, zoning, floodplains and more.

Lexington joins eight cities, the state of Rhode Island and San Juan, Puerto Rico, in partnerships with the 2014 program.

Erin Simon: (859) 231-3308.

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