Welcoming New Members: Taiwan and Romania

 

Governments are facing enormous pressure to deliver for their citizens today. Our network has been supporting an international community of technologists and their government partners to share knowledge, code and resources with each other to help governments meet this challenge.

Today, we are pleased to welcome Code for Taiwan and Code for Romania to our community as governing partners of the Code for All Network.

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Code for Taiwan (g0v.tw), with 200 active members and an online community of more than 2500, has been pushing for information transparency in Taiwan for the last five years. The community organized around economic policy issues debated in Taiwan in 2012. Their first event, the g0v.tw hackathon, led to the development of more than fifty projects and collaboration with government agencies and civil society organizations. Code for Taiwan has since partnered with various offices of the Taiwanese government and civil society organizations to organize hackathons and other civic tech projects.

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Code for Romani (code4.ro) recruits Romania’s tech talent to tackle the country’s most challenging citizen engagement and government transparency problems. Since 2015, Code for Romania’s 17-person team have been working with more than 200 volunteers and four brigade teams in the country to launch ambitious civic tech projects including tools that have supported election monitoring efforts and helped European Union asylum seekers to integrate with their community. Code for Romania partner with national agencies and ministries and civil society to develop data-driven products.  

Check out their work, and stay tuned for more updates from Code for All!

Welcome to the new Code for All Blog

You might have noticed that we’ve revamped the Code for All site to include a blog so that we can share stories of civic innovation from around the world.

As Code for All starts its fourth year, we want to be more proactive in helping to share what we’ve achieved.

We’ll also be inviting people from Code for All Chapters to write to the blog as well.

In the meantime, you can follow us on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

 

Creating Structural Change in Government

At the Code for All SummitZack Brisson from Reboot moderated a panel with Sheba Najmi (Code for Pakistan), Jakub Górnicki (Code for Poland), Alvaro Maz (Code for Australia), Kat Townsend (USAID) about how strong relationships can be built with public-sector institutions.

Building these relationships and developing trust with government partners is often the hardest part of our work. During the panel, Code for Pakistan, Australia and Poland shared learnings on how to build strong relationships with government partners and how to drive structural change within institutions.

The first question for the panel was directed at USAID’s Kat Townsend about what she’s learned from having seen the difficult process of government reforms play out and what she’s learned in terms of what really gets stuff done.

Townsend breaks the answer down into three parts: Policy Change, Cultural Change, and Infrastructure. Townsend recommends having small wins and prototypes that can provide your team examples you can replicate.

Townsend also says that everyone needs a one-pager – a single page that can summarize your case studies in such a way that they can be plugged in directly to speeches. Internally, make sure others can evangelize your message by giving them tools and products they can share with others.

Townsend also states that teams must get a policy in place, but cautions that people won’t pay attention to a policy alone. Civic innovators need to explain and determine what the barriers to the work are and understand why people don’t see the benefits and what motivates people within the org. In a lot of nonprofits and government agencies, people sign up because they want to help people. If you can appeal to the mission, people will jump on it right away.

With infrastructure, a lot of the open data projects require tech infrastructure – but reporting on progress has to be set up too.

The next question was about how to address the need for political cover. Sheba Najmi of Code for Pakistan talked about how the most traction they’ve gotten has been in Pakistan’s KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) province.

The KP province is consistently in the news for being a dangerous place to be because of the Taliban’s activities there. When a new government took charge in KP province, they had the political will to prove themselves. Code for Pakistan partnered with the new government and the World Bank to run a civic hackathon. Code for Pakistan was able to broker the relationship, and the World Bank added more legitimacy to the effort.

Code for Pakistan’s fellowship program was spun off from the hackathon where they partnered with the government IT board. Sheba says that was great because of the relationships that the IT board in KP province had with IT departments from other governments. Together, they created a six month fellowship (5 projects) in partnership with different departments. During the fellowship, they built a lot of trust by doing simple things like fixing printers and monitors. The team then used that trust to convince the government to hire an operational officer equivalent to a chief technology officer.

Sheba says that building a relationship with government is a gradual process and that organizations should partner with bigger organizations with existing relationships with government.

Jakub Górnicki from Code for Poland spoke about how their cities program started because one person in the City of Gdansk knew of Code for Poland (and that they weren’t crazy) and trusted them to do it. Code for Poland ran a pilot program (which was successful) and turned it from the trust phase to the build phase. After that, the team asked the mayor to help pitch Code for Poland’s program – helping Code for Poland grow. Jakub says that having mayor’s speaking on the city side is the place you want to be. You just have to not screw up.

Another aspect of Code for Poland’s work is to try and  get elected officials to embed openness into their campaigns. One of the goals is to to make openness a competitive political asset.

Jakub noted that one of the aspects about the projects in Gdańsk was they had to be open source. This was a challenge for Code for Poland because they had to explain the benefit of open source despite vendors claiming it ti be more expensive.

One question that Zach had for Code for Australia was how they defined ‘innovation’. Code for Australia’s Alvaro Maz described innovation as a good hack without the technical component. – doing something differently, and you find that you change things a little more, work through the issues, and make  progress that way. When Alvaro talks to people about innovation in government, he’s often speaking from a small steps perspective. He says, “If it’s something that we find that we can do differently, but it’s just doing something under the label of innovation, that’s just doing our work. I don’t think it’s really solving the problem.”

Sheba says that technology can either build or reduce trust – If done right, (where’s my bus, 311 service tracker) it builds trust. However, technology done badly – such as citizen reporting apps that don’t close the loop and alert the city to an issue – can reduce trust.

Zach also asked if – knowing the political resistance to releasing expenditure data – how would the process be different if they had started with that? Jakub states that they didn’t start with the capital because capital cities tend to be more political focused while smaller cities are more interested in governance. This led to focusing on the business case for open data.

Katie Townsend recommends starting with a problem – What are the tools? What are the resources? Who are the people? – and being very steady and methodical.

Code for Australia had one of their fellowship teams do a project where it was only research because the government didn’t have enough funding for an entire project. The team conducted their research through an entrepreneurial  focus within government and they wanted to study the longevity of that problem.

Katie Townsend also says that one of the things that they at USAID was state that because everyone is online and has their own social media profile, the organization can’t expect every message to go through 15 layers of approval because the internet simply moves too quickly.

Jakub ends the panel by saying that there are times where you can’t get the government on your side – in which case get the people on your side.

You can watch the whole panel here.

Code for Australia Spotlight at the Code for All Summit

Code for Australia is a passionate and skilled community that works with government to develop tech-based solutions to solve civic-problems. Through their work, Code for Australia believes they can lend not only their voices, but their hands to drive collaboration and transparency, accelerate economic growth and reanimate citizenship.

Code for Australia is led by a managing director Alvaro Maz, community organizing director Jacob Lindsay, and technical maestro Chris D’Aloisio.

Code for Australia has three main programs that they use to help government. Here’s Alvaro to explain:

Melbourne Data

The first program is their Fellowship program. Steve Bennet is Code for Australia’s data guru in residence and worked with the City of Melbourne to help populate a data portal that was going to be used primarily for research purposes. While doing that Steve blogged about his experiences and helped to create Melbourne.yuri.io – a site that helps people access interesting data from the city even if they are not familiar with working with data.

GovHack

Another program that Code for Australia supports is GovHack – ran in part by Code for Australia’s Coder Girls. Gov Hack is an annual hackathon focused on government. GovHack has grown from a small event in 2009, to a volunteer run and community driven annual event! It grew from a 2 city event in 2012, an 8 city event in 2013 and a national 11 city event with over 1300 participants and observers in 2014! This year, GovHack went international with cities in New Zealand joining the event.

Incubator Projects

Code for Australia is also worked to help incubate several apps to help support the work of government. The teams worked with a number of local government on civic technology projects including helping the New South Wales Department of Education to create a better way to help parents find public schools, an app to help people become aware of nearby rhinos.

You can find our more about Code of Australia on their website or by following them on Twitter @CodeofAus.

Code for South Africa Spotlight at the Code for All Summit

Code for South Africa is a non-profit that promotes informed decision making by using data, tools and tech to drive social change.  The group works mainly with media, civil society, communities, and government and has a team of ten people.

The team is based out of Claremont, South Africa and is in it’s second year. They work out of the CodeBridge co-working space which is literally under a bridge.

Code for South Africa doesn’t do hackathons, but rather data quests as they feel that hackathons tend to get too technical. During these data quests, they get together and tell stories using data.

Here’s Code for South Africa’s lead technologist to explain:

One of their projects was working with Black Sash – an anti-apartheid and social justice organization. The team put together a tool to monitor social service payouts from the state. The team also worked with Black Sash to engage the community about the user experience of receiving state payouts. They were then able to go back to their government partner and get the two sides to talk and find ways to improve the process.

Another big impact the Code for South Africa had was the creation of the Living Wage Calculator to help people make informed decision about how much to pay domestic workers.

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Another project that Code for South Africa is involved in is digital literacy by training community service organizations in working with data. Most of the projects that Code for South Africa produces have some sort of community service organization involvement.

This year, Code for South Africa will be running a data journalism school as well.

To find out more information about Code for South Africa you can visit their website at http://code4sa.org/ or follow them on Twitter at @code4sa.

Code for Africa Spotlight at the Code for All Summit

Code for Africa is a grassroots driven and demand focused movement that seeks to build active citizenry by creating new avenues for public engagement to help shape better public governance and public services.

Code for Africa has four fully formed national chapters in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa and are exploring additional initiatives in Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda.

Code for Africa is led by a Justin Arenstein and is based in the Nairobi Garage. Here’s Justin’s presentation at the Code for All Summit where he talks about their work.

Code for Africa’s efforts are citizen focused, demand driven, and try to ensure that they judge their work by outcomes and not just output. Code for Africa metric for success is meaningful impact that creates lasting change as well as being sustainable and reproducible.

Code for Africa is also partner driven and believes that people need to understand the local context with strong community partners.

One example is working with government agencies in Kenya to help hospitals share what blood they have in storage for use during operations. Previously, the hospitals had been using paper records that were not organized.

Code for Africa has been operating four about four years and has produced over 90 projects ranging from media, data, and community engagement.

GoToVote

One such project was GoToVote. The app uses SMS text messaging to help people confirm that they are registered to vote and find registration centers closest to them if they are not eligible. The app also lets users send peace messages during heated political election times for free using the web.

The app has been scaled for use in five other countries including Malawi where it’s been adopted as the official solution to confirming voter registration. They identified over 35,000 ‘ghost’ voters using the tool – which only cost about $10,000 to build.

Dodgy Doctors

Another SMS driven app that the team in Kenya put together is Dodgy Doctors. The app lets people text a doctor’s name to see if they are registered and carry the appropriate malpractice insurance. The app will also tell the user which hospitals their National Hospital Insurance Fund will cover. The app is part of the media partners website and that helps with the partner’s revenue – which helps support the site long term.

Grano

The Grano Project  is an open source tool for journalists and researchers who want to track networks of political or economic interest. It helps understand the most relevant relationships in investigations, and to merge data from different sources. It helps residents shine a light on government procurements so that they can expose corruption. For example, the Nigeria government states that the government loses $18 billion a year in tax avoidance because it’s difficult to track who owns the oil rigs off the coast.

To find out more information about Code for Africa, you can visit their website at http://www.codeforafrica.org/ or follow them on Twitter @code4Africa.

Codeando Mexico Showcase at the Code for All Summit

Codeando México is a organization that works on public and social issues using technology. The group activates tech communities towards new forms of citizen engagement. Codeando México is part of the Code for All network and is run by Oscar Montiel in México, City.

Codeando México was founded in 2013 and was spun off from the work being done with Codeando por America Latina. One of their first projects was working to build a better app to monitor activity in San Lazaro. The government had signed a contract to build one for 115 million pesos ($7.5 Million US) – when the actual app could have been built for around 500,000 pesos. (Just over $34,000 US).  

Here’s Oscar explaining what the team did next:

Codeando México hosted an app challenge where they’d award just .01% of the original contract (and an iPad to the winner.) While they wern’t able to stop the contract from going forward, the team discovered there was a vast community of people in Mexico who wanted to use their tech skills to help their communities and improve government. 

From there, Codeando México built Retos Publicos (Public Challenges) to help governments procure better software. 

The app works to especially to help small businesses get government IT contracts. So far they’ve had ten challenges that have generated over 1500 participants and 400 submissions. Over 300 companies have participated in the challenges with 7 teams bringing prototypes to full fledged products.

Another project that the team has been working on is La Red México Abierto – a network of local and state governments who share tools and resources to help them open up their data. The team has offered training to help governments open up their data. They’re started out in three cities (Mexico City. Guadalajara, Monterey), but now have a presence in 13 cities. They are spinning off a for profit company to help build products that governments can use to open up data as well. The company will donate part of that profit to Codeando México to help sustain the organization. 

For more information, you can visit https://codeandomexico.org.

Code for All is an international network of organizations who believe that digital technology opens new channels for citizens to more meaningfully engage in the public sphere and have a positive impact on their communities.