Vote for the World Bank “Apps for Development” challenge

The World Bank is -for some- an unlikely institution to be related with the open data philosophy, but this is what they have done since April 2010. They have released development related datasets (and two APIs) in their website, allowing everyone to download, analyze and reuse over 2000 indicators. The initiative has been so successful , that the Bank is now recruiting an Open Data Evangelist.

In order to encourage and promote usage, the organization initiated an Apps for Development competition where they invited developers to submit original software applications which exploit the datasets  in new innovative ways. The submission period has now ended and the initiative has entered into the phase of public voting to select the best projects (actually the Public Voting Prize), awarding prizes amounting $45 000 in total.

The 107 submitted projects from 36 countries (30 from Africa) are grouped around desktop, mobile, web and SMS apps. Some of them use the datasets to create insightful visualizations, others are content related or support advocacy, while some attempt to solve specific problems mainly in the developing world.

  • There is one SMS app which facilitates access to World Bank by people who have no other way to communicate than an ordinary mobile phone (the almost default way for developing countries which suffer from lack of adequate internet access infrastructure)
  • There are 7 mobile apps like, for example, Contrib8 which  enables citizens to contribute financially to NGOs that support the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • 19 desktop and 80 web apps complete the submitted projects

A committee which includes Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Ory Okolloh (Ushahidi) and Kannan Pashupathy (Google) will decide on the rest of the winners.

Apart from the obvious showcase of what these kinds of competitions can offer in terms of attracting engineering talent and fostering true innovation, one other thing that I found interesting is that the Bank is using the ChallengePost platform which is a marketplace for challenges.

ChallengePost allows you to find, solve or post challenges on their platform, individually or as an organization. There is also a more “loose” way to advocate for an issue by posting a “wish” which does not involve any kind of judge or rules process. The platform joins quite a formidable array of platforms with similar aims but differing mechanics and functionalities (more on this in a future post).
I think the World Bank is commendable in using a platform like that, instead of opting for yet another solution developed from scratch, for which obviously there would be no lack of resources. This is a lesson for many similar institutions and especially governmental ones which do not seem to exploit adequately existing solutions and platforms.

Ο καλός, ο κακός κι ο άτυχος

Ένα χρόνο και κάτι μετά από αυτά που έγραφα στις περασμένες ευρωεκλογές περί αποχής, το θέμα ήρθε πάλι στην επικαιρότητα. Είναι θλιβερό όμως, ιδιαίτερα κάτω από αυτές τις νέες και εξαιρετικές συνθήκες, να απαξίωνεται και πάλι το 1/3 των ελλήνων ψηφοφόρων, με τρόπο μυωπικό και τελικά επικίνδυνο.

Οι “καλοί” και οι “κακοί” λοιπόν. Εκ περιτροπής όμως.
Ο ίδιος ανθρωπος μόλις 1 χρόνο πριν, όταν ψήφιζε στις βουλευτικές εκλογές ήταν πολιτικοποιημένος και δημοκράτης. Ηταν ο  καλός”.
Ο ίδιος άνθρωπος, μόλις ένα χρονο μετά είναι “μουγγός”, αδιάφορος, σχεδόν μίασμα, που του αξίζει να απομονωθεί. Είναι ο “κακός”.

Μόνο που δεν είναι ένας και δύο. Ειναι 1,65 εκ άνθρωποι που ψήφισαν ΝΔ ή ΠΑΣΟΚ το 2009, κάπου 2,5 εκ άνθρωποι συνολικά. Είναι όμως και ένα πσοσοστό από 5,5% έως 9,1% (δημοτικές και περιφερειακές αντίστοιχα) που ψήφισαν άκυρο/λευκό, όταν συνήθως το ποσοστό αυτό είναι κάπου 2,5%. Continue reading

[UPDATE] Greece: OpenGov@times of crisis

On Thursday 23rd September , the PEP-NET Summit will take place in Hamburg, Germany. PEP-NET, mostly known for its excellent blog on e-democracy, is of course the European network of experts and practitioners in e-participation, supported by the European Commission.

I am honoured to hold one of the four presentation corners that will take place during the summit, under the theme: “Greece: OpenGov@times of crisis”.

As everyone knows, Greece is currently in the middle of a grave economic crisis. What is probably less well known is that we approach the first anniversary of a new effort being made towards open government, promoted as being pivotal towards wider reforms that are being introduced.
Since it is difficult for non-native speakers to follow these efforts, I will briefly present the projects under way, but more importantly, will attempt to assess them and stir a discussion on if, how and to what extent open government & e-participation can be valuable allies in engaging the healthy and productive sectors of society under such extraordinary conditions.

What I find truly symbolic is that the PEP-NET Summit will take place in Dialog im Dunkeln (Dialogue in the Dark), an exciting venue which exhibits a role-reversal experience of everyday situations, led by blind people. This certainly gets you thinking on hints and parallels with the state of things in Open Government today.

So, I am sure we will have some really good discussions in Hamburg this week!

The hashtag for the event will be #pepsum.

Credits: Many thanks to e-trikala for making possible my presence in this event. Photo by Daniel Rose.

[UPDATE]: My presentation at the PEP-NET Summit The first 120 days of e-deliberation.

The newly elected Greek Government was quick to launch after a few days in office, and two weeks later embarked upon a real practical application of a certain form of e-enabled public dialogue which was dubbed “public e-deliberation”. This is the first time that public administration in Greece deploys such a platform and the government has relied heavily on this to prove that a fresh, open and transparent political mentality is in place.
After 120 days, it is time to make a few comments about this novel process for our country.

Continue reading

What do Obama and Meg Ryan have in common?

Tidbits from pdf europe

The pdf conference in Barcelona was fascinating, as expected of course. Great atmosphere, great crowd, great ideas. So, here are a few belated scattered tidbits and thoughts:

Pdf being a New York-born conference brought in a whole bunch of people from the other side of the Atlantic, people we usually “follow” through the web. The heavy artillery were of course the people who were involved with the Obama campaign. Now, a couple of things come to mind when talking about the Obama campaign.

First of all, our American friends have a tendency to paint an almost activist picture of the campaign. There is always talk around notions of “bottom-up”, “citizen engagement”, “grassroots mobilization” and so on. However one cannot fail to notice that the Obama campaign was still a … hmm…well, “campaign”. Which means that by definition was a top-down exercise and a very expensive one.

Continue reading

PdF goes to Europe…and I go to PdF !

Yes, everybody knows that already.
Personal Democracy Forum (pdf), the biggest event on politics and the internet which assembles leading political and technologies actors every year, after creating ripples in the USA, finally comes to Europe and Barcelona on 20 & 21 November.

And, naturally, I am really excited that as a “Google Fellow”, I have been given a unique opportunity to attend this great event as part of a 20-strong team from all over Europe which I really look forward to meet.

Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej are the two people leading pdf and TechPresident, the “sister” great blog resource on how political candidates are using the web, covering everything from campaign websites, online advertising, social media etc, up to how the campaign tools can be used in governance.