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Bruce Heupt manages the Performance Improvement Division of the Houston Finance Department. The division works to improve financial and operational performance of processes and programs throughout the city. It reviews all departments in an effort to reduce waste, identify opportunities and provide consulting services to the city.
Heupt played a key roll in the first Houston Hackathon and Open Source data project on May 17-18. During Mayor Parker’s weekly press conference following the City Council meeting on May 1, the Mayor was joined by Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez and Jeff Reichman of January Advisers. Questions came from several journalists and publications.
“It is as important to us to build the civic infrastructure and develop the personnel that can help feed the high-tech jobs and processes in the future need as it is to solve the City of Houston’s problems. In that vein, we are holding the first Hackathon and Open Data Initiative,” said Mayor Parker.
The city wants to be known as a technology center, “…We are not known as a ‘tech city,’ yet we have the largest number of engineers per capita anywhere in the U.S.A. We are the home of human space flight and have always been on the cutting edge of technology. We need to claim that space. The goal is to help involve the large tech community in solving city problems.”
Are there any goals or specific outcomes anticipated from the Hackathon?
Bruce Heupt: “We have included about 25 samples on the Hackathon website. However participants are not required to select these. For example, a project could be on sustainability, or display restaurant inspection scores or display data on fiscal responsibility.”
Mayor Parker: “The goal is to have takeaways for the city. It’s designed to be intriguing and exciting for participants, but we expect to have real deliverables to the city afterwards. We’re certainly going to highlight the successes and will see to it that successful developers receive a lot of attention for doing this.”
If the program is started but not completed, will there be funds to complete it?
Mayor Parker: “That will be decided on a case-by-case basis.”
Jeff Reichman, a Principal of January Advisors that represents the City of Houston in Startup America Partnership, stated that a non-profit organization is being established to provide sustainability for this and future events.
Is there an age division? Is this something the schools can get into?
Bruce Heupt: “We have planned a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] Educational component. We will have some tech entrepreneurs on site that will be able to interact with students, just in terms of telling them about their experience.”
Jeff Reichman: “What we have seen in the past is that when a young person can meet a successful technology entrepreneur at a critical point in their life, they can become a role model. We hope to bridge those connections at the Hackathon.”
Marc Pembroke is a freelance writer covering all things Houston. His work can be found on Examiner.com.