Lawmakers ask programmers: Hack for Congress

A couple of lawmakers are looking for hackers’ help.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline MORE (R-S.D.), Rep. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado loosens restrictions on antibody treatment, holds off on mask mandate Lobbying world Overnight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — Pfizer seeks authorization for antiviral pill MORE (D-Colo.) and other congressional offices have submitted challenges to an upcoming “hackathon” encouraging talented programmers to put their talents to good use.

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The event — which kicks off at Microsoft’s Washington office on Wednesday evening and really gets going at Google’s capital headquarters on Thursday — challenges hackers and the public to hone their efforts on improving the functioning of Congress.

“Hack4Congress DC is the third of three ‘not-just-for-technologists’ events geared towards finding ways to help Congress become more efficient and effective,” organizers wrote. “We welcome participants from all areas of expertise.” 

Thune, for instance, would love to see someone come up with a better way to share photos, charts and slides with the world during a congressional hearing. While members can easily pass out printed copies of those materials to hand out to reporters at a hearing, it can be difficult to quickly distribute them digitally.

Someone should make “hearings more accessible to journalists, close observers, and the public at-large through a platform that can present such information in real time,” Thune’s office suggested.

He also challenged programmers to develop a way for Capitol Hill staffers to better interact with constituents over social media and stay on top of news on Twitter throughout the day.

Polis, meanwhile, wanted to see an online approval system to streamline the process of co-sponsoring a bill. He also challenged computer wizards to come up with a way to more easily build a list to distribute information to people depending on which issues they are interested in, such as the environment.

Thune is expected to speak at the Thursday event, a spokesman said.