The Brussels Civic Data Hack: Episode 1
Like nearly everywhere in Europe, Belgium is undergoing a crisis of trust between citizens and their legitimate institutions. Brussels and Wallonia, in particular, are having a bad year.
Scandals, corruption, lack of ability for the political parties to clean up their rank is pushing toward a narrative where the whole PS is corrupt for example, when in fact depending on the scandal, take #publifin for instance, CDH and MR are part of this system, even though PS is taking most of the heat thanks to the fact that it was in power in the last 25 years or so.
What if we could precisely visualise the data and spot possible conflict interests between institutions, public services, private business and political parties ?
What if we could explain the problem of the accumulation of mandates and their possible conflict of interest through some state of the art visualisation that can help anyone, without any related skill to form his own opinion on these issues ?
We believe we, ordinary citizens, can help. We wish to help by using data, open data in particular, to investigate problems for ourselves, and share our results with our fellow citizens so that they can used to draw factual stories about these scandals allowing citizens to have a better perception of the issues at stake hence able to make better choice in the next electoral round (2018-2019).
We wish to organise a small event called a civic hackathon. Everybody interested in a civic use of data and data science is welcome, without exception and with no skill requirements. It’s about gathering under one roof to work with data with a civic purpose in mind. It could be anything: applications tracking parliament activities; crunching and visualisation of societally relevant datasets; dreaming up infographics that would make a complex issue more accessible, and so on.
There is already a open-data movement in Belgium and civil society initiatives like Cumuleo to track mandates and maintain these information in the public sphere. We do not want to reinvent the wheel, so we want to invite you all and see what we can do together.
We envision two steps. In step 1, we gather together for a few hours to hash out some possible projects to develop in the hackathon proper: we make sure each project has the data it needs and a skeletal crew with all the skills to pull it off.
In step 2, two weeks or so later, we take one or two full days to actually develop projects.
The results of the different projects are presented to the whole group at the end of step 2. All code is released as open source. Processed data are published as open data wherever the license of the primary data allows it.
Absolutely everyone is welcome. All you need to take part in a civic hackathon is a passion for all things civic. Every skill is needed. Among them (but there are others) are: software development, statistics, math, journalism, law, design, communication, storytelling. Female and minority participants (however you want to define “minority”) are particularly welcome.