Government-sponsored CODE hackathon coming to Montreal


The government of Canada’s Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) hackathon is coming to Montreal for an information session on January 29.

The huge hackathon will be jointly hosted in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver from February 20-22. It inspires the open data community create teams and compete over 48 hours to create web and mobile apps using federal data sets available at open.canada.ca.

It’s first incarnation happened in Toronto in 2014, when 920 developers got together at XMG studio (and on the web).

Ray Sharma, founder of XMG Studio in Toronto and Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board of Canada were the two figureheads who introduced the massive initiative last year. They expected 100 developers to partake and it ended up being the largest hackathon in Canadian history at the time.

This year Montreal will host the event where students, entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to come learn about Open Government in Canada, and how Canadians can use open data to build a better world. They expect over 1,000 coders to join.

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Both Sharma and Clement will be in Montreal on January 29 to take questions and promote the event. The information session will be hosted at La Commune at 440 Place Jacques Cartier. Registration for the event runs from 5:30pm – 6:00pm while speakers & networking happens at 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

Come Feb 20, $40,000 in prize money will be up for grabs for the Canadian programmers who develop the most innovative applications at CODE.

Sharma went on CTV News earlier this week to talk about the event. Anyone from across the country can join, even if they want to work from home, and like last year, a matchmaking program is available to pair individuals based on interests.

“This is like a tsunami of data that’s being unleashed to the world. The weather is an open data source, GPS is open data and that’s just a couple of examples,” Sharma told the news channel. “So imagine every government agency, every department, every regulatory body and all the organizations reporting upwards. All that data is gradually being unleashed to the world in an open way so that we can come up with creative ways to find economic usefulness or time-saving tools, and that’s what this hackathon is doing.”

The winning programmers at last year’s inaugural CODE event created an app called ‘new Roots,’ which matches immigrants with the best places to live in Canada based on their skills and preferences. The ‘newRoots’ app uses Canadian immigration data and other data sets, including income and job patterns, to help pinpoint ideal landing spots for immigrants.

One of the two ‘newRoots’ cofounders was subsequently hired at a company thanks to CODE, while the other continues to work on the app.

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Sharma told CTV News that he considers Canada one of the world leaders in open data innovation, but insists that Canada could still learn a thing or two from other countries.

He said NASA is one of the most effective government agencies in the world at using open data. The space agency posts its spacecraft and Mars rover specifications online with the hope that someone can help solve some of the challenges it faces.

“They take the data, they put it online, and they say: ‘If anyone can solve this problem, they get $10 million,'” he told the news outlet. “Maybe some kid will figure it out in some foreign, weird place that we’ve never heard of.”

The top 15 teams in the contest will be announced on March 6, while the winners will be announced March 26. The top team will receive $15,000, with $25,000 more in winnings available for runners-up and the fan favourite app.

“We’ll again be the largest hackathon in Canadian history,” Sharma confidently told the news channel.

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