Canada’s first foreign aid data hackathon

Guest post by Michael Roberts, Groupsia

On August 24-25, 2013, Citizen Attaché (an Engineers Without Borders supported venture) organized Canada’s first foreign aid data hackathon, a two-day event hosted at the HUB Ottawa’s co-working space. It attracted more than 40 participants from different Canadian cities. This included participants from Canada’s international development sector such as Engineers Without Borders, DFATD, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the North-South Institute.

After presentations on IDRC’s Open Data in Developing Countries research programme, the International Aid Transparency Initiative and its standard, and the Dept. for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) publication to the IATI standard, the participants were divided into six self-organizing groups who each took on a project challenge.

The hackathon demonstrated a strong and growing interest in open aid data in Canada. One could sense an enthusiasm to learn, collaborate, and share, made even better by the Hub Ottawa’s open concept workspace.

The full list of challenges can be found here. They ranged from an IATI project widget (see: http://bit.ly/16AZNTq and http://iati-widget.herokuapp.com/), to a tool for monitoring the frequency of IATI publishing (see: http://iatifreqs.ewb.ca/ and http://bit.ly/1e2rZpL), to efforts on a geo-coding shortcut. Four of the projects came from organizations and individuals who the event organizers approached, while the remaining two came from an open consultation through the event website.

Several coders worked late into the evening. Websites such as Data Driven DocumentsGithub, Dribbble, and Heroku, among others, helped to provide inspiration for UI designs and the component building blocks to accelerate the creation of the IATI tools.

In addition, a hackpadwith relevant links to the IATI standard and other related resources was shared in advance.

From a coding and design point of view, it was incredible to see how quickly these tools took shape by groups who hadn’t necessarily worked together before, or with IATI datasets.

Towards the end of the second day each group presented their efforts, and a twitter vote was held to choose the 3 top projects in the following categories: potential impact, innovation, and the best demonstration.

The two-day event made it clear there are many opportunities for those with creative ideas to improve the ease of publication and use of IATI data. IATI’s alpha release of their IATI Data Store just after the event, a service that brings together all the IATI datasets into a single queryable database, is an idea that several people had discussed during the event. This will no doubt be a welcome development for those creating IATI tools.

Canadian coders, researchers, and advocates interested in IATI and open aid data are becoming more active. This event catalyzed an emergent collaborative community around IATI and open aid data in Canada.

For more on the event visit the twitter hashtag #cdndevhack or visit http://citizen-attache.github.io/

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Michael Roberts @michaeloroberts helps international development organizations share open data, content, and to use collaboration tools to maximize community engagement. He is the co-founder of Groupsia Collaboration and Acclar.

 

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