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Three stories of change from the International Open Data Hackathon

Over the past few weeks people have been in touch with me about what happened in their city during the open data hackathon. I wanted to share some of their stories so that people can see the potential around the event.

Here are a few that really struck me:

If you get a moment a Ton Zijlstra’s blog post about the open data hackathon in Enschede, in the Netherlands. It pretty much sums up everything we wanted to have happen during the hackathon:

  • Data sets released: Because of the hackathon the City of Enshede got motivated and released 25 data sets for participants to work with. This alone made me happy as this was a big part of why we wanted to do the hackathon – get governments to act!
  • Good cross section of participation: Local entrepreneurs, students and civil servants, including a civil servant with an IT background on hand all day to help out and a departmental head dropping by to see what was going on
  • Education: Interested government officials from neighboring cities dropped by to learn more
  • Tangible Outputs: As a result of the hackathon’s efforts two prototypes were built, a map overview of all building permit requests and the underlying plans (wish we had this in Vancouver) and a map overview of local business bankruptcies
  • Connectivity: They had a video session with the groups in Helsinki, Vienna to share lessons about event and show and tell the prototypes.

Meanwhile from Bangalore, I got the email from the local organizer Vasanth B:

We have not found a place to host our app yet. Unfortunate as it may seem. We are hoping to get it up in another 3 days. wanted to thank you for coming up with this novel concept. We all are convinced that open data is crucial and hence we will create a website which will be a one stop place to get the data of our country’s parliament!
I will send you the link of our site soon. Once again thanks to this event, we learned a lot and hope to be part of this in the coming days.
It’s great to see people:
  • Civic Engagement: Here is a group of developers that hadn’t thought much about Open Data but became interested because of the event and have developed a passion for using their skills to help make democratic information more available.
  • Tangible Outcome: They created an app that allows you to see public statements made by the leaders of India’s political parties at the national and state level. (Demo can be seen here)
And in Thailand, Keng organized an amazing hackathon in two weeks. Here one of the big outputs was scraping the Thailand’s Member of House of Representative Website. What was great about this output is:
  • Created Open Data: In many jurisdictions there is little available machine readable open data. The great thing about the work of the Bangkok team is that they now made it possible for others to create applications using data from Thailand’s House of Representatives
  • Learned new skills/tools: After the hackathon KenG sent the creators of Scraperwiki a really nice note explaining how great a tool it was. The fact that a bunch of people got familiar with scraperwiki is itself a big win as each time someone uses it, they create more open data for others to leverage. Indeed, Justin Houk, who participated in the Open Data Hackathon on the other side of the world in Portland Oregon, has written a great blog post explaining why they used scraperwiki.
Finally, in Oxford, Tim Davies has this excellent recap of what occurred at the Hackathon there with a number of great lessons learned. Again, some of what I loved there was:
  • Civic Engagement: As with Enschede, developers mainly worked on things that they thought would make their community better. Hackathons are about getting people involved in and better understanding their community.
  • More tangible outcomes(!): See Tim’s list…
I also got a great email from Iain Emsley who described exactly why Open Data can lead to public engagement.
I started on playing with Arts Council of England funding data from this region for last year but we got so enthused that a few of us downloaded the entire dataset of 5 years worth of funding! Anyhow, just thought I’d ping you with the URL of the stuff that we started playing with and I went off and started redeveloping .

Glad you organised it and looking forward to future days. I’m even thinking of trying to organise a literature hackday now…

Again this is not all the events that happened, there was lots more activity, just some highlights that I read and wanted to share.

To see a list of many of the artifacts produced during the hackathon take a look at the Open Data Hackathon wiki.

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