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The other day, this Tech Innovator was meeting with a group of CIOs and IT entrepreneurs from Baltimore.  One colleague said he was concerned that the Greater Baltimore Technology Council (GBTC) had changed.

“Remember their big monthly meet-and-greets?” he said.  “Why did they stop doing those?”

I replied that, to my knowledge, the only events the GBTC stopped doing were duplicative events that were already being hosted successfully by other organizations, like Baltimore Tech Breakfast, which is awesome.  We’ve got Unwired, Groundwork, Baltimore Ignite, and many more.  People from Baltimore arts and technology are coming together, and it’s all team-based, innovation-based, and connection-based.  We have so many opportunities to open up and connect.  More than one person can possibly take advantage of.

So the GBTC has shifted to doing the work that an association does.  No longer are they putting on all of the events, but try to harness that energy for the benefit of their members.  As a result, I believe that the GBTC is doing exactly what the community needs.  They are facilitating a wide variety of events that bring people together in different ways.

For example, recently I was at a GBTC facilitated event, with Mike Powell, the Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Maryland.  Mike is an impressive young man who is new to the office.  As part of their “groundwork” event the GBTC brought together developers, entrepreneurs and people from Government or non-profits to expose them to open data sets. Mike and his team were also there to provide information about open data sets exposed by State of Maryland.

Mike shared several examples of some fresh thinking.  He said the government is making information and data available to the public.  It’s our data, he said.  But the problem is, how do you excerpt and use the data?

For example, I looked at the open data set for all of the parking citations and violations in Baltimore City by type of violation, vehicle, date of violation, etc. Just by doing some basic aggregation I found that Ford, Toyota and Honda are the three most-cited vehicles. The data set also has violations recorded by High Speed Cameras and Traffic Light Cameras. It would be interesting to see what areas in the city have most violations and then analyze why.

I am only making up this example.  I have not played with this data and other related data sets.  But this type of information can tell you many things.  Maybe after looking at the high speed violations, we should look at the # of accidents in that area. Also it would be interesting to see how many schools are in the area with most high speed or traffic cam violations. Or we can look at it upside down if we can start looking at areas with most accidents and look at the traffic cam coverage in that area.

The point is that, when government agencies make data available to us, we can make a correlation and come up with some patterns and trends of all the data that comes together.  And then perhaps we can build something that solves a problem.

Another speaker Brian Sivak, CTO of Department of Health and Human services, said, “Our goal is to make that data available, so that hackers, entrepreneurs and developers like you can create their company, and tell stories and build solutions around this data.  You have the skill set, the motivation and drive to make use of this data.”

Many other tech and non-tech attendees discussed the problems and questions they are most interested in solving by using the open data sets.  It was incredibly eye-opening for me, and it gave me hope for the future of our Baltimore as well as local technology community.

For that, I truly appreciate the new GBTC.  Jason Hardebeck, Sharon Paley, Andrew Hazlett, Kelly McKew and others are doing a great job.  Thanks to them, we are having conversations like this in Baltimore.

Your turn!  What do you think of the new GBTC?  Leave a comment below.

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