Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A talk on "Hacking with Open Data" at AngelHack Kochi

My first introduction to "Open Data" was during the Wiki Sangamotsav at Allapuzha, which took place last year in December. I attended it as part of Mozilla Kerala Community and one of the sessions there was regarding Open Data taken by Arun Ravi
It was his talk that motivated me to explore more about the possibilities with Open Data which opened up the ideas of socially relevant apps using data from portals like data.gov.in.

While I was hacking away at home, toying with such ideas over the last few months (although, I've got to say, I have nothing to show since none of them are complete yet!), I got a speaker invite from the organisers of AngelHack in Kochi.

I felt privileged to get an opportunity to take a session at AngelHack Kochi at Startup Village and decided to take a topic that I'd never talked on before : "Hacking with Open Data".

Since I was too lazy to create a presentation from scratch, I decided not to use any slides,  relying solely on a browser for the presentation!
The decision paid off and I discovered that it was much easier to speak clearly without any slides, and also managed to show the audience the requisite information simply by browsing Wikipedia articles and googling Open Data. Using the web as the presentation came out to be effective as well as simple.

I began with the definition of Open Data from Wikipedia, drawing analogies with Open Source/Open Hardware etc, movements which the audience(hackers!) were more familiar with.
Then I followed on by mentioning the four principles of the open world :
  • Collaboration
  • Transparency
  • Sharing
  • Empowerment
and discussed these in the context of Open organisations like the Wikimedia Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation. These principles, I believe are really the core for an Open World and is very well presented by Don Tapscott in his TED talk.

Next I went on to talk more on Open Data initiatives in the US and UK and showed the portals, data.gov and data.gov.uk
Here's a pic that one of my friends in the audience took while I was showcasing the US Open Data portal :



Then came the showcase of India's Open Data portal, data.gov.in. I also mentioned about the recently concluded OpenDataApps Challenge, and was really surprised to know that the first prize winner of the challenge was sitting in the audience! I promptly invited him to share his experience. Nithin's winning app, named Market Watch gives real time market price updates of various commodities using data provided by the portal.

After doing a quick google search on Open Data apps, I landed on the page I wanted to show : Your City Needs These 7 Open Data Apps. The page contains real-world apps, applicable to any city, showcasing the power of Open Data. Apps like "BusGuru" and "The Street Bump", would be very helpful for any city in the world!

Finally I concluded by reminding that it is not the just the fault of the Kerala Government that we don't have Open Data for Kerala. It is the responsibility of us, developers, to show the Government the limitless possibilities of Open Data by creating innovative solutions to everyday problems. That alone will encourage the Government to be more transparent and release useful datasets in the open.

I do hope I finish my projects with Open Data and showcase it soon. I'm using data from the World Bank as well as data.gov.in

On a different note, my team went on to actually win the AngelHack! , which would be the topic for my next blogpost. :)



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