Digital activists, designers, developers and data journalists are gathering in Cape Town this weekend to launch South Africa’s open data movement via a 48 hour hackathon to build web and software applications that will help make government more accountable.
The Code4Democracy event is the first public gathering hosted by the new Open Data & Democracy Initiative (ODADI ) coalition. A R25 000 prize in cash and tech support is on offer or ideas that have the potential to empower ordinary citizens, make government more transparent, or make public services more efficient and open.
ODADI hopes to spark experimentation by providing access to previously difficult to find databases, including the national and Cape Town budgets, plus Service Delivery Agreements and contact information for constituency representatives, for participants to use as ‘feedstock’ for their hackathon ideas. Project teams will also bring or source their own datasets, or build digital projects that don’t use data and instead use crowdsourcing or other civic engagement strategies.
Anyone who has an idea and hopes to recruit teams to build it, is being encouraged to post project outlines on an ideas forum on Code4Democracy website ahead of the event.
The hackathon will be opened at a cocktail function on Friday evening with a keynote address by digital thought-leader, Gustav Praekelt, who will speak about the transformative potential offered by open data. Social justice campaigners such as outspoken former national cabinet minister Barbara Hogan and health rights activist Zackie Achmat will join in kicking off the weekend’s proceedings with short speeches highlighting ways for digital activists to make a difference.
The initiative echos similar campaigns that have revolutionised the way that civic debate and public accountability works everywhere from Kenya and Ghana, to further north in the USA and Europe. ODADI hopes to build on South Africa’s early support for the Open Government Partnership, by inspiring a grassroots data-driven movement in South Africa, giving ordinary citizens the tools and information they need to make better informed choices about public issues.
ODADI is a broad-based volunteer-led non-partisan movement, that bases its principles on the Constitution, and does not align itself with any political party or other political interest group. ODADI’s manifesto is available here.
The Code4Democracy hackathon has been made possible via a seed grant from the African Media Initiative’s prototype fund for civic engagement, as well as through logistic support from the Open Society Foundation’s Money & Politics Project (MaPP) and venue and material support from Cape Town’s Ndifuna Ukwazi centre for active citizenship.
Other ODADI coalition members assisting with the Code4Democracy hackathon include HacksHackers Cape Town, the Open Democracy Advice Centre, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, the Right2Know campaign, and the Silicon Cape initiative.
The hackathon itself will kick off at 9am, on the 2nd floor of Ndifuna Ukwazi’s resource center, on Saturday, 4 August and will run right through to 4pm on Sunday, 5 August.