Think for Good - Hacking Government Open Data

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Think for Good: “Hacking” Government Open Data


Students will visit a government open data portal, assess the findability, readability, and usability of a data set, and articulate a strategy for improving the data set.



After successfully completing this activity, the learner should be able to:
  • Explain the main principles underlying open government.
  • Assess the findability, readability, and usability of a government open data set.
  • Articulate a strategy for improving this government open data set.
Process Skills


Are there other activities the student should have done first?

No required activities

What is the rationale for this activity?

Empowered participation in open government is only possible if open data is easily findable, readable, and useable. This activity introduces students to the sites, portals and Open Data Sets associated with this topic of the project.


What should the student do?

Open Data

  • Select the Community (City) you are interested in (for example: City of Boston - Open Data, )
  • Search for “Open Government Data” web site on the community of interest
  • Once you are on the Open Data Portal of your community, you should search for categories with an “social justice or humanitarian” theme:
    1. Health (Food Pantries, Hospital Locations, Food Pantries, etc)
    2. Public safety (Crime Incident Reports, Closed Pothole Cases, Crime Incident Reports by Weapon Type, etc)
    3. City Services, (Parking Tickets Portal Web Statistics, etc)
    4. Transportation (Boston Taxi Data, etc)
  • Select a data set you are interested with.
  • Collaboration: Look on how to collaborate to the project.
  • Usability & User Friendly: search for how to use that data in a user friendly way.
  • Data visualization: Field Trip DataKind (Harnessing the power of data science in the service of humanity).


What will the student hand in?

  1. Wiki posting describing your explorations and findings
  2. Documentation on how to contribute
  3. Information on how to create and work on the data in a more user-friendly way
  4. Connection to an IRC created by the professor


How will the activity be graded?

  1. Participation and contribution to find data about open Government issues in your community.
  2. Creation of the wiki.
  3. Content (wiki)

How will learning will be measured?

Wiki content, measuring usability, approachability and usability of the Data of the issue (Data visualization)

Include sample assessment questions/rubrics.

Criteria Level 1 (fail) Level 2 (pass) Level 3 (good) Level 4 (exceptional)
The purpose of the project NO wiki or no content wiki created with description of the data issue and incomplete information on how to reach, measure or use the data Enough information in the wiki but not user friendly Great wiki, excellent language, very user friendly information
Why the project is open source No Open governance data samples or sites Good data but no visualization and analysis OSS tools Good data and visualization OSS tools but not user friendly instructions Great description of the Data and how to use Open Source Software to Visualize and Analyze Data


What should the instructor know before using this activity?

HFOSS philosophy, wiki, IRC

What are some likely difficulties that an instructor may encounter using this activity?

Lack of knowledge and interest from the students in HFOSS and community activities

Additional Information

Area & Unit(s)
Estimated Time
to Complete
Environment /

Tony, Germinal, Aria


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Suggestions for Open Source Community

Suggestions for an open source community member who is working in conjunction with the instructor.

Personal tools
Learning Resources
HFOSS Projects