#CyberFLASH: Hackers invade the Ottawa River

1297701227677_ORIGINALFor years raw sewage has been dumped unceremoniously into the Ottawa River.

And it seemed like no one really cared.

In truth, not everyone really even understood what was happening — or the severity of the situation.

Thankfully, that has changed.

By now, most everyone is aware of sewage seeping into the river and that something needs to be done about.

What was once widely ignored, now is getting some of the attention it deserves.

The political leaders in Ottawa and on the other side of the river in Quebec are all now painfully aware of the expensive — and incredibly complicated issues with keeping the river clean.

Of course, none of the issues are new to the Ottawa Riverkeeper — a group that has been working against the tide for years — trying to get all interested parties more aware of the problems and working toward dealing with them.

And that means more than just raw sewage, it’s plastic, it’s chemicals, and it’s still sewage.

Enter Aquahacking, part of a two-day event at the end of this month aimed at coming up with innovative ways to improve the river — and raise awareness of the issues.

Over the years, hackathons have gone on for 24 to 48 hour periods in a variety of fields. In the health-care system, for example, teams of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners seek out technical solutions together.

In Canada, it’s never been done where the focus is on water and water protection.

On May 29 and 30, a two-day session is being held — with May 30 dedicated to the aquahacking.

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#CyberFLASH: Federal government uses CODE2015 to boost open data’s profile in Canada

CODE-2015_featureThe federal government kicked off its promotion of an open data hackathon in Toronto on Wednesday night, encouraging people to use publicly available data provided by government departments to build new apps.

Now in its second year, the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) hackathon is targeted towards students, entrepreneurs, programmers, developers, and graphic designers. Participants will have two days to come up with a creative mobile app using open data sets provided by the federal government, with an eye to helping youth, commerce, or to improving quality of life. The contest kicks off Feb. 20 and runs until Feb. 22, coinciding with International Open Data Day on Feb. 21.

Last year, more than 900 participants competed in the hackathon, so the organizers are hoping for an even bigger turnout this time around. But more importantly, they’re trying to highlight what people can do with open data, said Ray Sharma, founder of Toronto’s XMG Studio Inc. and one of the main organizers of CODE2015.

“Every government agency, we’re talking fisheries, we’re talking defense, we’re talking immigration, we’re talking StatsCan, every regulatory body – can you imagine the data that exists?… Do you see why that’s exciting?” Sharma said, adding there’s a vein of untapped potential in all of that data. He’s especially excited about the prospect of bringing research publications online.

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Doctors, developers hacking their way to better healthcare

Software developers often use “hackathons” to brainstorm ideas with colleagues, especially to design games and create new social media tools. But a new grassroots organization is putting doctors and developers together to hack their way to solutions to health-care inefficiencies.

On a recent Wednesday evening in Toronto, a few dozen developers converged on Toronto General Hospital to discuss Hacking Health’s three-day hackathon in October.

Rather than develop the next “Angry Birds” or “Words With Friends,” and pocket heaps of cash for their troubles, these developers want to create tools that make doctors’ work easier and patients’ lives better.

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