Tirana open data: a road towards positive change

Aug 14, 2017

Young people from Tirana participating at Open Data Hacathon

The most lucrative, fast-growing industry nowadays is data control, and tech giants are competing to grab this extremely valuable resource. Even though services offered by companies such as Google and Facebook are apparently free of charges, users in effect pay by providing more information. Open data is the revolutionary idea that data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish. More and more governments are deciding to treat data as a public good, making them available on line to the community; open data portals are websites where governments share the information they generated.

With the financial support of the UN Development Operations Coordination Office (UN DOCO) and the expertise from UNDP regional office in Istanbul, in spring 2016, the Municipality of Tirana started its journey towards an open data portal. Following a roadmap document, internal data audit and one year of collaboration between UNDP Albania and municipality of Tirana, the portal was successfully launched in May 2017  is now available online to all citizens: 33 indicators grouped in nine categories cover all information from infrastructure to culture and environment.

The city of Tirana gained the exciting and yet frightening opportunity to be nude in the hands of its citizens: open data can disclose stories about citizens’ successes and daily challenges, if only someone decide to read behind the numbers. For this reason, the support of UNDP did not end with the portal launch, but it encouraged Tirana citizens to familiarize and to dirt their hands with such valuable resource. The most appropriate tool to experience the excitement of working with technologies, put together people with a variety of skills, raise creativity and come up with innovative solutions is the hackathon. A hackathon is a digital marathon during which people involved in software development collaborate intensively on software projects. Two 48 hours’ events took place in Tirana -one and two months after the launch of the portal- targeting youngsters; a positive surprise was the high participation from women. One of the women participants added: “being part of this Hackathon has been a major development in our community of young coders and programmers. We have been enthusiastic to contribute to the improvement of the portal”. The winning prototype application focused on improving portal bugs and usability.

 

A third and bigger event is planned for September, with the idea to bring open data closer to journalists and storytellers. The ultimate ambition of the project is to mainstream transparency in the local government, so to engage every citizen on being an active player and aware decision maker for their city. However, the open data portal is only the first step of this process. Raw figures need to be translated into a language that everyone can understand; inspiring the media to interpret numbers and tell the story behind them, will hopefully influence a positive change.

Visit the portal:www.opendata.tirana.al