Go Code Colorado: another year of data-driven competition

Simon Tafoya, the policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, at the Go Code Colorado challenge kickoff Wednesday night in Denver (SOS photo)

Colorado’s funkiest and most fun data contest — Go Code Colorado — kicked off Wednesday night, marking the fifth year that the Secretary of State’s office has invited creative minds to use public information to build a product that helps businesses.

“We work hard to make data available and usable for Colorado businesses,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in his opening remarks.

Previous winners have developed a range of projects. One helped small farmers locate farmers markets and price information. Another created a platform for companies to connect with potential employees based on personality match.

Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, heaped praise on the Secretary of State’s office and the award-winning Go Code Colorado program during last year’s competition.

“This is, in my opinion, the epitome of how we should be thinking about government moving forward,” he said. “We should be thinking about how to take the assets and the innovation of the new industries that are popping up around tech and see how that expertise and that talent solves some of the problems that maybe government can’t do on its own.”

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Secretary Wayne Williams finds future and past in Little Rock

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 2017, where nine black school children made history in 1957 during a nationally watched battle over integration. (Wayne Williams photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams often tells the story of how the high school he attended once shut done rather than integrate, and during a technology conference in Arkansas this week he got to see where the public showdown first began.

At the conference, Williams also got to ride in a self-driving vehicle and heard from the “Elliot Ness of cyber crime.”

As for the school, a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the integration of public schools was met with hostility. In Little Rock, nine black students were denied entrance to all-white Central High School, forcing a very public conflict between President Eisenhower and the Arkansas governor.

Wayne Williams in high school.

At Warren High School in Virginia, where Williams graduated in 1981, the school board decided to close the school rather than allow blacks to attend, which is why there was no graduating Class of 1959.

Williams said the area was still mired in backward thinking when he first attended school, which created an economic decline in the town, which is why he first got involved in politics.

“When I was 17 years old I gathered a group of friends together and we passed out literature to everyone walking into a polling place,” Williams often tells young leaders. “And through that we were able to change the power in my area from one party to my party. So I understand the importance of youth involvement.”

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There’s an app for that: Colorado’s cool tech challenge

Entrepreneurs, coders and others Wednesday as Go Code Colorado prepares to kick off for the fourth year. (SOS photo)

The enthusiasm this week at the fourth “Go Code Colorado” kickoff reverberated as top tech leaders from across the state discussed how the award-winning program has created a community around entrepreneurship and driven innovation through the use of public data.

“You are part of an exciting thing,” Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams told the crowd at Galvanize in the Golden Triangle.

Simon Tafoya, senior director of policy for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at the Go Code Colorado kickoff Wednesday in Denver. (SOS photo)

“You are part of a different type of government, a government that says we want people to have information, and we want to make that information accessible. We use public data throughout this program, and we have wonderful partners throughout state government.”

The secretary mentioned some of last year’s challenge winners, which ranged from an app that helps food trucks figure out where they should locate, to one that helped oil-and-gas companies as they locate wells to minimize  disruptive impact on the surrounding community.

“We had phenomenal issues and suggestions and conceptions and presentations,” Williams said.

The program was developed by the Secretary of State’s office and is overseen by staffer Andrew Cole. Among the awards it has received  is recognition from CIO Magazine, a premier content and community resource for information technology executives and leaders.

For more information on the program — including the dates and cities of the challenges — go to gocode.Colorado.gov.