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How to make Lafayette a ’Smart City’

by Christiaan Mader

Smart Community Summit convenes notables to talk building a tech-aided Lafayette

Joel Robideaux will speak on Lafayette's tech initiatives at the inaugural Smart Community Summit
Photo by Robin May

At the fifth annual Cajun Code Fest Hackathon, a gathering of local coders will use open-source public data to develop apps and software that can improve the delivery of public services. Also on the slate for this year’s three-day tech crunch is the inaugural Smart Community Summit, held all day March 30 and convening several notable speakers on the topic of tech-aided city services.

Recently, Lafayette has received two grants to fund the development of “smart cities” solutions in the public realm. Announced earlier this month, Mozilla's Gigabit Community Fund made available $150,000 to Lafayette-based nonprofits looking to leverage the city’s fiber-optic network to enhance education in town.

Late last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the city $40,000 to acquire air quality sensors and deploy them around the city, capturing data sets that are publicly accessible.

Initiatives like these are part of a broader national movement toward using tech solutions to assist the provision of public services and promote transparency. Advocacy groups have taken to calling communities that adopt these strategies “smart cities.”

The summit’s keynote speaker, Dr. Nishal Mohan, represents U.S. Ignite, one of the most prominent national organizations promoting smart city work. U.S. Ignite, which works with the Mozilla Community Fund, recently named Lafayette to its list of Gigabit Communities, a distinction that came with the $150,000 line of grants Mozilla made available. Jenn Beard, of the Mozilla Foundation, is also set to speak at the summit.

Mayor Joel Robideaux and other city representatives will be on hand for a panel discussing Lafayette’s recent advances in the smart cities field. Robideaux’s interest in hitching Lafayette up to the smart cities movement garnered an invitation to speak at Austin’s SXSW conference, where he delivered a short presentation on Lafayette’s smart cities work at an event hosted by U.S. Ignite.

Check the Cajun Codefest's website for the summit's agenda.

Cajun Code Fest 5.0 runs through April 1. Coding teams compete off- or on-site at the Picard Center, vying for a top prize of $10,000. The Smart Community Summit begins at 9:30 a.m. March 30 at Abdalla Hall.