What would you do if you live in a noisy neighborhood? or in a street with heavy light pollution? or what if you want to find where to go to for green recycling? or you want to know where food poisoning happens?
What if there is a solution for these problems?
What if you can build these solutions yourself?
That’s the idea behind the OpenData HK hackathon event. It was an intensive two day hackathon where people come and make things to solve these problems – scratching their own itch while solving problems for other people at the same time.
On May 18th & 19th, more than 50 civic-minded hackers and makers come to Good Lab for this first ever Open Data hackathon in Hong Kong. There were the usual suspects, namely, programmers, but there were also quite a lot of non-techies in the crowd. Some are data journalists, some are activists, some are designers, and some policy advocates. It was a nice mix of people from different background and different skill sets. They actually attended a catalyst event on Tuesday evening, where they proposed and discussed what projects to work on.
The crowd spring into action after lunch on Saturday. They spread and sprinkled the kitchen area of Good Lab, forming teams of two to six people. Now the hacking starts! People pulled out their laptops and started in all directions. They were all data-hungry. They scoured the many websites of Hong Kong government for useful data. Turns out that there are a lot more “open data” out there than people imagined. Actually, from the Data.One website, one could find over 1000 datasets in the open formats!
But for most projects at the hackathon, it was not so straight forward. The data they were able to find are either in closed format, or simply not accessible, which reflects the fact that there is still a long way to go before Hong Kong joins other cities in the world in opening up government data, and opening up the government process.
Day One of the hackathon runs into midnight, but people were very excited, because there was pizza!
So what did they make by the end of the two day hackathon?
Well, lots of interesting projects. There was the LegCo Meeting Log Parser to generate machine readable log files for analysis, there was HK Noise Pollution Map, HK Green Map, HK Light Pollution Map, HK Food Poisoning Map, etc. You could almost feel the excitement that these people have when they present their projects, as most eloquently voiced by one participant as “when you are working on a project that is not revenue driven, you get all the more passion and creativity naturally”.
And that was the most beautiful thing about this civic hacking weekend!
(written by Tony Yet, photo by Tony Yet)