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Canada's First Hackathon for International Development

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, August 27 2013

This weekend nearly 40 Canadians came together for their country's first ever hackathon for International Development, sponsored by the nonprofit Citizen Attaché. In only 48 hours the 40 Canadians created six new tools using open data.

Hackathon organizer Ian Froude explained to the Ottawa Citizen that the open data released by the government is not always in the most user-friendly format.

“We’re translating all this mess of information that’s in a giant spread sheets [sic] into something that has value and provides insight into international development, and ideally increases the effectiveness of how we provide international aid,” Froude told the Citizen.

One team created a “powerful open data hub” that aggregates data from the major sources of aid money, including the World Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency (now part of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development).

Another shows the geography of aid money. “You can pull the information out, put it on a map, and see if there are concentrated areas of investment, you can see if there are areas with no investment and then you can make better decisions,” Froude told Canada.com..

Froude mentioned to Canada.com that some data was easier to work with than others:

For example, organizations that have signed onto the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) publish raw data in a standardized format, which makes it easy for analysts to work with and compare numbers across organizations and countries. . . He said the next step is for Canada to mandate all non-governmental organizations receiving federal funding to also report their spending in this transparent and comparable format, as is the case in the United Kingdom. Once this happens, Froude said interested parties can easily follow the flow of taxpayers’ money through non-governmental organizations.

Open data isn't really that open if only a select few can use it. As we learned last week, format matters.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.