How EvoXLabs is helping open up the city's HIV data - Generocity Philly

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Aug. 24, 2016 2:22 pm

How EvoXLabs is helping open up the city’s HIV data

The city's Office of HIV Planning keeps data in a 400-page PDF document. EvoXLabs is helping make it accessible for civic hackers.

An EvoXLabs hackathon.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

Philadelphia’s Office of HIV Planning (OHP) is getting yet another data assist from a local civic-minded nonprofit.

Every year, the office produces a 400-page tome of a PDF document brimming with regional HIV/AIDs data — demographics, statistics, how existing services are being used and so forth — used primarily for grantwriting purposes by local organizations.

Here’s the problem with that: The PDF format is the furthest thing from being user-friendly.

Two years ago, the document was mined by a number of Girl Develop It Philly fellows and Code for Philly hackers. This year, the PDF file is in the hands of paid interns at accessibility nonprofit EvoXLabs.

“It’s all data that the Office of HIV Planning has collected since 2008,” said EvoXLabs founder Ather Sharif.

After meeting with OHP health planner and website coordinator Briana Morgan a few months back, Sharif and his interns (many of whom work remotely from across the country) began work on the project — but not before receiving a grant to pay interns from Access Computing at the University of Washington.

It’s the first project of its kind for EvoXLabs. The organization has primarily hosted accessibility hackathons and conferences. Now, project-based initiatives will be a third feature for the nonprofit, said Sharif, in an effort to make a more tangible social impact.

Ather Sharif. (Photo by Marcus McCarthy)

Ather Sharif. (Photo by Marcus McCarthy)

“We don’t necessarily want to develop a project. We want to make a social impact,” said the founder and Comcast technologist. “We have no deadlines and no other purpose than to create a social impact and while doing so, also contribute to the technical field in Philadelphia. These are both equally prioritized.”

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The OHP project is close to being finished, said Sharif. The next gig could be a project for the Ministry of Human Rights in Pakistan — where the accessibility advocate was born and raised.

“We want to envision access in a different way,” said Sharif. “When people talk about access, they talk about it in two ways: Information accessible to people and people with disabilities.”

EvoXLabs wants to envelope both under a single umbrella. The nonprofit’s new project-based arm, said Sharif, will allow them to do that.

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