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Jeff Atwater looks to computer hackers to provide more government transparency

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater continued efforts to make government more transparent during a “hackathon” in Miami on Saturday. Atwater challenged participants to find a way to improve the way governments provide public information and communicate with consumers.

“Taxpayers should demand accountability from their government, and I’ve worked hard to present Florida’s financial information in a way that allows Floridians to become an auditing team of 19 million,” Atwater said. “But there are many meaningful ways to present our data and that is why our partnership with Code for America and Code for Miami is so important. Florida is full of innovators and technology focused entrepreneurs, and it’s vital that we harness their talent and excitement for community involvement.”

The challenge was also issued to hackers participating in events in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.

The events across the state were part of a National Day of Civic Hacking organized by the group Code for America with help from NASA and the firm SecondMuse.

This was the third annual National Day of Hacking. The idea behind the still new effort is to encourage residents to find ways to improve communities by accepting computer coding challenges in order to bring government into the 21st century and create more effective and efficient processes.

“As civic hackers, we are eager to work with government to build technology that helps our neighbors, and we are excited about the future of innovation in our state,” said Rebekah Monson, co-captain of Code for Miami. “CFO Atwater’s commitment to opening data and to partnering with the state’s volunteer technologists sets a great example of openness and collaboration for leaders and residents throughout Florida.”

The theme for this year’s event was “Principles for 21st Century Government.” Those principles include design, ease of use, organization of results, using the correct technology, data-driven results, accessible data and an overall focus on what government can do.

Atwater’s participation in the event is another in his growing list of efforts to provide better transparency to Florida’s fiscal activities. Atwater created the group Transparency Florida when he first entered the office in 2011. The group’s website allows Floridians to look at state budgets, payments and contracts. The idea is to hold government accountable for its actions.

Under Atwater, Florida has earned an “A” grade in transparency by the U.S. Public Interest Group.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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