Innovate, Integrate, and Legislate: Announcing an App Challenge

This is a guest post from John Pull, Communications Officer of the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

This morning, on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, Library of Congress Chief Information Officer Bernard A. Barton, Jr., is scheduled to make an in-person announcement to the attendees of the 2017 Legislative Data & Transparency Conference in the CVC.  Mr. Barton will deliver a short announcement about the Library’s intention to launch a legislative data App Challenge later this year.  This pre-launch announcement will encourage enthusiasts and professionals to bring their app-building skills to an endeavor that seeks to create enhanced access and interpretation of legislative data.

The themes of the challenge are INNOVATE, INTEGRATE, and LEGISLATE.  Mr. Barton’s remarks are below:

Here in America, innovation is woven into our DNA.  A week from today our nation celebrates its 241st birthday, and those years have been filled with great minds who surveyed the current state of affairs, analyzed the resources available to them, and created devices, systems, and ways of thinking that created a better future worldwide.

The pantheon includes Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver, Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.  It includes first-generation Americans like Nikolai Tesla and Albert Einstein, for whom the nation was an incubator of innovation.  And it includes brilliant women such as Grace Hopper, who led the team that invented the first computer language compiler, and Shirley Jackson, whose groundbreaking research with subatomic particles enabled the inventions of solar cells, fiber-optics, and the technology the brings us something we use every day: call waiting and caller ID.

For individuals such as these, the drive to innovate takes shape through understanding the available resources, surveying the landscape for what’s currently possible, and taking it to the next level.  It’s the 21st Century, and society benefits every day from new technology, new generations of users, and new interpretations of the data surrounding us.  Social media and mobile technology have rewired the flow of information, and some may say it has even rewired the way our minds work.  So then, what might it look like to rewire the way we interpret legislative data?

It can be said that the legislative process – at a high level – is linear.  What would it look like if these sets of legislative data were pushed beyond a linear model and into dimensions that are as-yet-unexplored?  What new understandings wait to be uncovered by such interpretations?  These understandings could have the power to evolve our democracy.

That’s a pretty grand statement, but it’s not without basis.  The sets of data involved in this challenge are core to a legislative process that is centuries old.  It’s the source code of America government.  An informed citizenry is better able to participate in our democracy, and this is a very real opportunity to contribute to a better understanding of the work being done in Washington.  It may even provide insights for the people doing the work around the clock, both on the Hill, and in state and district offices.  Your innovation and integration may ultimately benefit the way our elected officials legislate for our future.

Improve the future, and be a part of history.

The 2017 Legislative Data App Challenge will launch later this summer.  Over the next several weeks Information will be made available at loc.gov/appchallenge, and individuals are invited to connect via [email protected].

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