Civic Hacking Workshop
A bunch of UK and Indian geeks gathered at Google office while Cameron was praising Sachin at Infosys campus. It was a kind of unconference made possible by CIS, with the UK Government’s Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office Team for Digital Engagement and Google. The discussions were around open data in India ( the lack of it) and UK, and possible ‘civic hacking’ of the data.
Started with general introductions of who they are, what they are working on and problems they have faced, in terms of getting data and pushing back into the main stream.
Geeks from Britain:
David McCandless (Information Is Beautiful) is London based information architect and designer. With in available time he made Akshara’s school data look beautiful. You should check his blog for beautiful visualizations of data. No wonder he calls himself a data journalist. I am planning to buy his book on data visualization if available in India :( I got few tips from him to improve my own election results visualization. I am planning to put it to work in a day or two.
Harry Metcalfe (TellThemWhatYouThink.org / Open Rights Group) he started wrote TellThemWhatYouThink.org, a site which aggregates central government consultations. He is also part of Open Rights Group. He pulled up a small mock up to display police atrocities reported using missed call concept.
Tim Green (Democracy Club) with Seb Bacon built Democracy Club. Democracy Club is an independent, volunteer-run website that acts as a hub where non-technical volunteers can help deliver civic society projects.
Edmund von der Burg of YourNextMP. YourNextMP is a place where you can learn more about your candidates and share information with other voters. They have no political bias or affiliation – we just want you to be informed when you go to vote. Conversations with him made me to come with idea of http://writetothem.in (still under construction, hence not a link). It should be up in a week’s time.
Rohan Silva is Special Adviser to the PM. I could see he was very interested in TextYourMP and MissedCall concepts. He along with Tim and Edmund helped in conceptualizing http://writetothem.in
Councillor Liam Maxwell of Eton and Castle Ward was unlike any other politicians I have met. Its inspiring and shocking (in a good way) to see a politician to push OpenSource. His papers on OpenSource, Open-Standards and internet are worth read.
From India Bangalore:
Alok Singh and Shivangi Desai work for Akshara Foundation which aims to bring literacy and teaching programmes to poorer children. They have data about school children (Govt) and their performance.
Arun Ganesh (Geohackers / National Institute of Design) of busroutes.in. Busroutes.in is a coll crowd-sourced website get the Chennai bus routes mapped onto OpenStreetMap. Today they have more information than the bus organization itself. The work they have done is phenomenal.
A. Pandian, Sridhar Raman, S. Raghavan Kandala work for Mapunity, which develops technology to tackle social problems and development challenges in India. Our GIS, MIS and mobile technologies are used mostly by Govt organizations and civil societies. They showcased their projects related to traffic and bbmp elections.
Sushant Sinha (IndianKanoon.com / Yahoo) started IndianKanoon.com which citizens to search for Indian laws and their interpretations easily. It crawls the judiciary websites and indexes them so they could be searched. It also tries to break the law documents into smallest possible clause and by integrating law/statutes with court judgments. A tight integration of court judgments with laws and with themselves allows automatic determination of the most relevant clauses and court judgments
Vijay Rasquinha of Mahiti demoed their projects which are based on cellphone and sms text messages. They have done lot of interesting projects using mobile as the platform. Mahiti is a social enterprise based in Bangalore. They provide Information and Communication Technology solutions through the strategic use of Free/Open Source Software.
P.G. Bhat (SmartVote.in). SmartVote.in is a citizen’s initiative to create a better civic life in their neighborhoods through collective action. Collective action will aim to reclaim the electoral process for the first and most immediate level of government
Pranesh Prakash is Programme Manager at Center for Internet and Society. CIS critically engages with concerns of digital pluralism, public accountability and pedagogic practices, in the field of Internet and Society, with particular emphasis on South-South dialogues and exchange.
Raman Jit Singh Chima is an analyst, Public Policy and Government Affairs at Google, India. He hosted us.
Thejesh GN (yours truly) is a technologist at Janaagraha. Janaagraha is a Bangalore based not-for-profit organisation that works with citizens and government to change the quality of life in India’s cities and towns. iJanaagraha in four keywords is Knowledge+Network+Tools+Maps. As of now it’s centered around Bangalore. Ward Infrastructure & Services Assessment project( WISA) is programme is a unique initiative to assess quality of life in urban areas. It analyses various wards by its quality of infrastructure and rates them on scale of 0 – 10.
It was a great half a day unconference. I wish we had more time, we could have hacked something really interesting. As of now, I will go back to hacking WriteToThem.IN. AppEngine it is.