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Civic hackers rejoice!  

On June 1, the U.S. Census Bureau will release ​City SDK , a Javascript-based devkit to allow civic hackers to tap into the vast data stores of the federal government.

The module-based CitySDK will allow users to access exactly the data they want to build their applications. And the open source code, available on GitHub, will enable users to build their own modules for their own local open data APIs, and make them available to the larger community.

So far, the U.S. Census Bureau has built modules for U.S. Census, Energy Information Administration and United States Department of Agriculture.  

Developers can call up census tract data and combine it with the USDA farmer's market database plus local data for a custom application. Applications might explore questions like "What is the median income surrounding farmer's markets along a given transportation route?" or "What is the poverty level around coal plants in a given county?"

CitySDK has a library of examples such as (from City SDK website):

  • GeoRequest – This example demonstrates how to acquire GeoJSON for cities using their boundaries

  • Commute Query – Use this example to learn how to use sublevels (and to show your friends that your commute is probably worse than theirs)

  • EIA Browser – Check out the Energy Information Administration's datasets with this interactive browser

A set of guides will be available at launch, with tutorials on how to do things like create a "City Innovation Dashboard" or "Mapping Community Treasures to Enable Citizens to Enjoy Local Parks and Improve Quality of Life."

The app will be released in time for this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6. A “City SDK Open Data Solutions Challenge” will be launched in celebration of the day for developers to use its new City Software Development Kit (SDK).


Nina Ignaczak


Nina Ignaczak

Nina edits and publishes the Planet Detroit newsletter ( and writes and edits stories about all aspects of people and place.