Another sleepless night, this time for computer hackers

By | November 9th, 2011 | No Comments

This post was produced by Open Media Miami, an independent company that works in partnership with Beached Miami to cover neighborhood news along the Biscayne Corridor.

When the words “hacker” and “government” make it into the same sentence, it usually involves an illegal security breach by a faceless cadre of e-saboteurs. Not so in Miami this weekend, when a group of computer programmers will be battling for cash prizes in an event sponsored by the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

The 24-hour tournament, dubbed HackDay Miami, will take place this weekend at MiamiShared, a communal office space inside the Biscayne 900 building in downtown Miami. The 40 programmers chosen will compete for $10,000 in cash prizes and the chance to present their phone application in front of venture capitalists and investors at Florida International University’s 2011 Americas Venture Capital. The Miami DDA is dishing out $1,500 in cash for the hacker that develops the best app to assist people in avoiding traffic jams by finding alternative routes when the downtown bridges are up.

“This event is a great opportunity to bring together the greatest technology minds of South Florida and challenge them to conceptualize and build new services within an intense and sleepless 24-hour period,” HackDay Foundation founder Demian Bellumio said in a statement.

Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami DDA, said that despite being a center for major companies, downtown still is not regarded as a hub for technology producers. So when the HackDay Foundation, a non-profit that hosts similar competitions around the country, approached the DDA with the concept for HackDay Miami, the agency jumped on it.

The Miami DDA is an independent public agency of the City of Miami funded by property tax money coming from residents and businesses within its district boundaries. The organization’s stated mission is to improve the economy of downtown through different events and capital projects and to attract younger residents to the area.

“We want to create an atmosphere to encourage vibrancy and depth of offerings for our younger residents,” says Robertson, who concedes that HackDay is “not your typical government event.”

In fact, downtown is already drawing a younger crowd, says Robertson, who cites a September DDA demographic report that found that 57 percent of downtown’s residents are between 20 and 44 years old.

While HackDay Miami may play a role in convincing more young Miamians to move downtown, its grand purpose, says Bellumio, is to ignite a new industry.

“Hopefully this event will serve to kick-start a local tech ecosystem that can produce many exciting start-ups, in order to bring us closer to achieving the success that cities such as San Francisco and New York are having in producing highly valuable technology companies,” he wrote in his statement.

HackDay Miami starts on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m. and will run until Sunday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. For more details, visit hackdayfoundation.org.

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