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Developing Latin America Hackathon Draws Near!

[All links lead to Spanish language pages unless otherwise noted]

We are only 2 days short of commencing the regional hackathon Developing Latin America 2012 (#DAL2012, or DAL), and in each participating country the teams have already begun sharpening their skills and refining details. A workshop about Open Street Maps [en] was carried out during the weekend, which relied on transmission via streaming and was replicated in various headquarters; both developers and those interested in participating attended the events.

Furthermore, the organisation #DAL2012 has published a guide for the Evaluation of Applications, an extremely useful document that tries to bring participants up to speed about certain concepts that will be considered important in the development of applications. Aside from general instructions and evaluation procedures, amongst those concepts mentioned are: scalability, efficiency, spectacular-ness, the use and re-use of technology and data, and depth and coherency of subject matter. These are some extracts that include practical examples:

Eficacia – El problema de encontrar comida a domicilio puede ser más que sólo un directorio de teléfonos. En este sitio(Quehambre.cl) se puede encontrar los restaurantes cuyas áreas de cobertura incluyen el punto de interés, además permite ver los menús y ordenar el pedido desde el mismo sitio, es decir, entras al sitio y solucionas tu próxima cena.

Uso y Reuso de Tecnología y Datos – Esta aplicación (Polygraft, Detector de influencias) detecta entidades (empresas, políticos, empresarios, deportistas, etc) en artículos en los medios, en correos electrónicos, etc. Luego de detectar estas entidades busca en una fuente de datos central las relaciones que han tenido con otras entidades y más.

Efficiency – The problem with finding home-delivery food might be more than just a telephone directory issue. In this site (Quehambre.cl) you can find restaurants whose delivery areas are favourable to a point of interest, as well as being able to view menus and place your order all in the same place. In other words, you enter the site and your next meal is sorted.

Use and Re-Use of Technology and Data – This application (Poligraft, [en] Influences Detector) detects entities (businesses and businessmen, politicians, sportsmen, etc) within media articles, in emails, etc. After detecting these entities, it searches for their relationships with other entities via a central data source.

Anca Matioc, who is in charge of the organisation of DAL, spoke with us about preparing for the event. She also answered some questions relating to the development of a hackathon like Developing Latin America:

Anca Matioc, organiser of the hackathon Developing Latin America 2012

Global Voices (GV): What experiences and lessons have you taken on board from the first hackathon that took place last year?

Anca Matioc (AM): Last year the topics were the same for everyone. It was good that this year each country was able to choose their own since in 2011 there were some people left wanting to present work in other areas.

One of the difficulties from last year was the databases. In some cases, they simply didn't exist! In other cases, the governments showed signs of fear at having to provide access. This year the countries are more open in talking about open-source data. In one year we have seen very big changes in favour of these initiatives, principally in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Even in Brazil there is now an advice board for open-data available; they meet monthly and look for ways of making data available to everyone. Also, there are more people from outside technological fields that are wanting to get involved.

Furthermore, we realised that the projects needed further support, outside that which was being offered in the hackathon, in order to be correctly completed as well as looking to be economically sustainable. For this reason, this year the prizes will be in seed capital and projects will receive backing for one month afterwards in order to guide bringing the developments to a conclusion, whether it be in design, testing or even searching for potential clients and funding.

The 8 countries that have joined this year will work on different social issues. This time we have ensured that there are good quality databases in all 8. However, in Bolivia, we had technical difficulties since the subject of databases is not well developed.

Another thing that we have ensured this year is that the participants have made themselves aware- through workshops prior to the event- of the root of the problems with which they are going to work, that way they can arrive with more ideas for possible solutions, as well as the necessary information in order to achieve a good project.


GV: How did you manage to achieve access to better databases?

AM: One of the influencing factors that has encouraged governments to make their data available to us is to have invited them to be either part of the judging panel or spectators at the very least. After interacting with participants they have realised the potential benefit of opening up their data. Furthermore, we have seen that by involving the government we are able to generate long term results. The Chilean Government, for example, was so inspired by the hackathon last year that it organised its own during 2012 from which arose many interesting applications.

GV: Who are the main users of the applications that are developed in a hackathon?

AM:The main users of the applications depend on the topic and the data. The idea is that the applications are for the everyday citizen, for people that are looking for certain information or are curious to know more. Journalists are also popular users of the applications that are derived from open data.

GV: What happens to the applications after the hackathon?

AM: Generally what happens is that the teams want to launch their application. We ask everyone during their support month to keep their application going as an open code and from there, owners can do what they want with them. The ideal situation would see the applications generating an income and therefore opportunities to continue forward as well as stimulating the developers to continue making improvements and creating more. Let's hope that “open data” is more than just a good idea. Governments will be more interested as well if their databases are seen to be generating an income.

GV: For those that don't know what open data is, could you describe it in a ‘tweet'?

AM: Open data is data permanently available in an appropriate platform. It results in more transparency, citizen web applications, and hopefully business.

Soon we will be reporting on the events of the hackathon Developing Latin America!

Other related posts (all in English):

Developing Latin America 2012
What Exactly is a Hackathon? And What is Open Data?
Hackathons in Droves: How is a Hackathon Organised?
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro Demands Better Sanitation
Crowdmapping Water Contamination in Peruvian Indigenous Communities

Juan Arellano collaborated with the writing of this post.
Azucena Ramos and Carolina Paz Alarcón transcribed and subtitled the video in this post.

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