Coding for Change
24 Nov 2015
From the 10th to the 12th of September, UNDP and the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications of the Republic of Uzbekistan organised Uzbekistan’s first ever ‘Hackathon’ – an event at which programmers used the competitive spirit to create innovative products. The results have been many astounding and practical apps, which among others have included an interactive social map of Uzbekistan, a 3D presentation of bus routes, and a transformation of economic data into a virtual reality setting.
The event’s winning team ‘Intense Group’ travelled over 500 km from the city of Bukhara to take part in the event. Their winning application ‘Fixit’, currently in the stage of ongoing development, intends to bridge gaps between citizens and their government in addressing urban issues and creating a safe and comfortable living environment in cities.
Bringing concerns into the light
When UNDP Uzbekistan asked programmer Alisher Mukhtarov about the purpose of ‘Fixit’, created together with teammates Bekzod Saidov, Saidravshan Shakirov and Maruf Tairov, his answer was as short and concise as expected: “The aim of our application is to simplify the citizens' appeals to the state authorities and to speed up decision-making regarding the smallest problems that remain ‘in the shadows’.”
‘Fixit’ is an application through which citizens can directly appeal to local government and authorities to address infrastructural problems. It makes use of geographic and geo-positioning data that has become newly-available through the Open Data Portal.
By utilising this information, the application allows citizens to take pictures of any damage to urban infrastructure, linked with an exact geographic location, which is then submitted to local authorities for their attention and action.
“The mobile and web application will allow users to report on problems in housing and utilities, transportation and other areas, directly to relevant authorities and responsible state bodies,” Mr. Mukhtarov added.
“Users will be able to mark problems either as ‘non-public’ content that is sent only to relevant authorities for processing, or as ‘public’ content displayed in every users’ downloaded application as well as the application’s website version.”
At this point the application is still in a development stage, with the ‘Intense Group’ seeking to work in collaboration with the UNDP E-Government project and local authorities to turn their expanding concept into a reality. Once the system is fully developed, it will be made universally accessible.
“The demand for programmers is increasing every day, because every sector of our lives needs software solutions,” Mr. Mukhtarov concluded. “That itself contributes to the development of society, and the facilitation of daily routine tasks.”
What comes out of data and innovation?
The establishment of the Open Data Portal has been a significant strive forward, but the information it makes available needs to be effectively applied in a practical way. The Hackathon event and the resulting applications have shown how the information can be applied, and it is hoped that these successes will lead to a new range of mobile and online software.
“Hackathons are very popular throughout the world. They provide opportunities to identify gaps and discrepancies in the datasets of public information. More importantly, available open data provides opportunities for programmers to add value to that data and create applications resulting in social benefits,” said Mr. Ivan Fost, an expert on open data from the Department of Information Technology of the Government of Moscow.
“As the website data is adapted into a more accessible format, and as the range of data on the website continues to expand, we are looking to see what creative, innovative ideas can come out of the woodwork.”
While encouraging independent programmers, the E-Government project has also actively worked with government partners to expand the role information and communication technologies play in making sure that public services are quickly and easily accessible.
This work has included both internal improvements, such as the streamlining of document exchange systems, and external improvements such as the establishment of the universal government online portal. These continued initiatives will be even more important as Uzbekistan works towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in coming years.
By blogging consultant James Brindley