“Gig City” On a Geek Hunt

What sets Chattanooga, Tenn. apart from the rest of the nation? One gigabit-per-second. With the fastest Internet speeds available, our city has now launched a no-nonsense “geek hunt.” We’re offering up to $300,000 in cash and seed capital to students and entrepreneurs who are willing to participate in the Gig Tank. The Gig Tank is a summer program that’s part accelerator and part think-tank.

The success of this initiative, and others like it, will depend on our ability to be open and transparent. We believe these are essential elements to creating a vibrant, 21st century economy and a healthy public sector.

Tim Moreland, a local city planner, recently expressed interest in seeing an ‘open cities’ effort take off in our city. In response to Tim’s idea, Chattanooga Stand invited Code for America Founder, Jennifer Pahlka, to join our community (virtually) as a guest speaker for City Share. Through City Share we bring some of our nation’s leading urban innovators to our community using Skype.

Palhka’s discussion of Code For America’s nationwide successes confirmed our belief in the importance of openness and transparency. Her talk attracted more than 130 people, online and offline. As a result, Moreland was able to connect with individuals who shared his interest and was encouraged to coordinate a kickoff event for Open Chattanooga.

Government officials, emerging and existing community leaders, web developers, graphic designers, and neighbors came together to identify a series of projects to jump start the Open Chattanooga movement. Valerie Moye, with the City of Chattanooga’s Office of Sustainability, said that “an open cities platform fits beautifully with Chattanooga’s ‘smart’ city resources. It can be used to engage citizens in creative, new ways to solve civic problems hand-in-hand with local government officials.”

It’s been over two months since Jennifer joined us for City Share. We are proud to say that the momentum has continued to build since her (virtual) visit. Open Chattanooga’s team of dedicated volunteers have already surpassed many of their initial goals. “We were looking forward to accessing and cleaning up some datasets,” explains Tim. “The team has not only accomplished that, but we’ve also launched an open data portal using OpenPhilly’s API. It is inspiring to see our volunteers working so hard. We’ve accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.”

Open Chattanooga Projects Launched as of December, 2011:

  • Open Chattanooga Open Data Portal – an open source data portal based on Philly’s Open Data Catalog
  • Routr – A open source multimodal trip planner based on OpenTripPlanner, on Facebook, on Twitter.
  • WeBudget – A participatory budgeting web application

Open Chattanooga is currently discussing a formal partnership with the City of Chattanooga. We are learning from other leading municipalities that are crafting open data policies. Already, Open Chattanooga has shown great potential.

Now, we need geeks – and lots of them! You can connect with Open Chattanooga through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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