Open Data and Mobile Apps with Nick Doiron
Nick Doiron (@mapmeld) visited the United Nations Institute on Computing and Society (UNU-CS) to tell us more about his technical work in civic engagement, migration and elections. We were interested in his work, which he did together with The Asia Foundation and Young Innovations (Nepal), around the practical development and deployment of a support app for Nepalese migrant workers called Shuvayatra. His experience highlights the challenges to combine updated information from governments with more critical comments and information from the migrants themselves. If the balance is not right, app developers may either alienate their government partners or lose their users. This comes of relevance to UNU-CS as Hannah Thinyane starts her work around the possibilities of tech to tackle modern slavery and forced labor.
Nick was also involved in an open data data project for the recent elections in Myanmar, in which he worked with the government to create an API to access candidates information. The information had to be digitized from the hand-written forms from all around the country. A hackathon was organized at Phandeeyar to promote the API and to create webs and apps to support informed citizens. The hackathon took a 3-weekend format instead of a 1-weekend format to accommodate input from a number of different groups of participants: women, students, professionals, etc. There is potential in combining official data with user generated content from Facebook, or Twitter, to promote fair and free elections. In that regard, at UNU-CS we are exploring the cross-media approach to election monitoring using Aggie to combine several sources of data in real time.