24 hours, geeks galore and a common cause of tackling corruption: HAC 2012
Corruption ruins lives. Technology can save lives. Websites like ipaidabribe.com in India or the use of Twitter during the Arab Spring have shown how technology can be a potent tool for people power. We believe that technological solutions can help assure more transparent use of public funds, enable citizens to monitor and report the abuse of entrusted power, and engage millions of people in the fight against corruption.
This is why we want to foster stronger links with the many Information Technology (IT) communities that are currently reshaping people’s everyday lives. Around our movement, we began exploring ways to encourage technological innovation and harness the power of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the fight against corruption. The result? Our first global hackathon.
Hacks around the world
A hackathon is an event where thematic experts work side-by-side with software developers for 24 hours to come up with solutions to a diverse array of problems that have been identified.
HAC 2012 (Hacks against Corruption) was held the first weekend of October. Organised by Transparency International chapters in Colombia, Hungary, Indonesia, Lithuania, Morocco and Russia in partnership with Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) and dozens of other organisations and corporations, this global hackathon was a milestone in our work.
In the weeks leading up to HAC 2012, we received 36 challenging problem statements from 21 different chapters around the world. They ranged from using ICT in election monitoring to engaging youth in anti-corruption activities or tracking money used to thwart the impacts of climate change. More than 200 programmers and developers went without sleep that weekend to come up with tangible and sustainable solutions to the submitted problems.
So, what went on at HAC 2012?
Coding in Colombia
In Colombia, Transparencia por Colombia organised the hackathon in a partnership with RHoK Bogotá, Telefonica, Movistar, Wayra Colombia, Microsoft and Publik. In a 24 hour sprint that was live-streamed on the web, the winners developed a web and mobile citizen tool called Participa.co to report electoral advertising for the 2014 national elections. Another project, Ciudadamos, focused on graphing information collected from Cuentas Claras ('clear accounts'), a Colombian website that tracks funds in political campaigns. Part of the aim is to spark a review of advertising expenditure in campaigns for public office.
The Bogotá hackers also developed a prototype online platform for tracking citizens’ corruption complaints on their way through Guatemalan public agencies.
Beautiful data in Budapest
In Budapest, the event was part of the Data is Beautiful conference where hackers developed face-based data visualisation for our Hungarian chapter’s youth integrity survey. The coders also introduced several game concepts, including Cheat or Starve, a small mobile app used to illustrate how corruption undermines a community. The Budapest participants also spawned a Corruption City Guided Tour for mobile phones.
Creating a complaints mechanism in Casablanca
The hackathon in Casablanca was a side event of a big social media event called @citvate organised by our Moroccan chapter. The hackers worked on an Online Platform for Citizens Against Corruption, or OPAC. This website aims to allow people to file corruption-related complaints both on- and offline, and will offer a follow-up feature for complaints in conjunction with two different platforms, www.mamdawrinch.com (‘I will not bribe’) and a local legal aid website.
ICT innovations in Indonesia
At the start of “Hacks against Corruption” in Jakarta, we asked hackers to raise their hands so that everyone in the room could see the heroes of the event. Just three of the more than 20 assembled hackers put their hands up – ‘hacker’ is an unpopular word in the local context, where tech specialists prefer to be called developers, programmers, designers and even IT geeks. Whatever their preferred title, their dedication to anti-corruption was outstanding.
Five tools were developed in Jakarta: iFight and iConfess, a mobile app that allows users to post incidents; Hospital Watch, a web platform aiming to improve health services through user feedback; Cherrybelle, a corruption reporting and collaboration system; Merdeka, a web tool for monitoring the public courts that allows users to track the progress of cases and give their opinions on the fairness of the verdicts; and Jaya, a handy customisation of the open source Ushahidi platform for reporting and publishing corruption cases.
Hacking against harassment in Moscow
Despite the recent political developments and shrinking space for civil society in Russia, we also had a successful event in Moscow. Colleagues from Azerbaijan and Montenegro flew to Moscow and worked with Russian developers to tackle issues as diverse as illegal construction, freedom of information requests and sexual harassment.
One of the tools developed in Moscow was Stop Harassment!, a platform for women to report instances of harassment or gender-based corruption and violence in a confidential and anonymous manner. With this tool, our chapter in Azerbaijan aims not only to bring relief to the victims, but also to increase government responsiveness to handling harassment concerns from women in Baku and beyond.
Digging out data in Vilnius
In Vilnius, our colleagues from Transparency International Lithuania wanted to give a more positive spin to the event and branded it “Hacks for Transparency”. This brought together developers and anti-corruption experts from Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Portugal, Ukraine, the United States and of course Lithuania. One of the event’s themes was working with difficult data formats, as two of our chapters were struggling with data published by their governments in un-searchable, un-usable formats – at the hackathon, Georgia built a tool to scrape procurement data and Latvia (the winner) worked on making asset declarations available to investigative journalists.
In addition, our Ukrainian chapter worked on a tool to promote ethical behavior and alternatives to corrupt practices among doctors.
From prototype to people power
After a weekend of intense work, sleep deprivation, frenzied tweeting and fruitful sharing and refining of ideas, much was achieved. But there is still a long way to go to get these prototypes up and running so they are of use to the public.
The hackers and the corruption fighters came away from the hackathon bleary eyed but incredibly enthusiastic. They are full of plans to launch their new applications and see them serve the cause of combating corruption and promoting integrity.
What we have are seeds that we will now plant in several countries around the world. Let’s see which ones grow and gift the fruit of people power.
- See all the problem statements from Hacks against Corruption 2012
- Read a blog post from one of the global hackathon's organisers
- Read a first-hand account from the hackathon in Bogotá