On Sunday, February 18, we met the winners of the Ministry of Data international open data challenge co-organised by TechSoup and GONG. Ten youth teams from four Balkans countries used open data to build apps to improve the lives of citizens and to make local government more transparent. The five winning teams received a total of $11,250 in cash prizes, and all ten finalists will receive needed software and ongoing mentorship for their projects.

 

The teams from Sarajevo, Podgorica, Gjakova, Prishtina and Pančevo were previously chosen in two votes, one public and then one by a jury. This week-end, they all took part in the bootcamp organized in Zagreb, Croatia – it was an intensive hacking weekend where seasoned experts helped the finalists complete their projects and sharpen their presentation skills. Teams worked individually with specialized mentors who helped them with data analysis, spatial data, promotion, marketing, building sustainable business models, UX design, programming and PR.

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Thanks to online streaming, everybody could watch the final gala in Zagreb on Sunday evening and meet the winners. In addition to cash and expert help, the contacts made during the bootcamp will be invaluable, as was the opportunity to pitch investors in Croatia, as well as governments in South-Eastern Europe and the United Nations Development Program.

And the evening saw a big surprise as the GDI Group (one of the challenge sponsors) gave ALL TEN teams one more cash prize ($1250), as well as full mentorship and software.

Here’s a profile of the top five finalists.

My City Can Do Better – $2,500

Verbatim from Kosovo based their idea on the Detailed Expense Report 2015 Dataset where students noticed that there was a considerable gap in the 2015 List of Capital Projects between allocated money and realized projects. Verbatim’s web app will analyse cases where this gap is beyond a certain percentage to trigger an inquiry with municipality officials seeking a public explanation. Citizens can also suggest other projects to be reviewed.

Cities of Tomorrow – $2,500 x 2

Dream Green Machine Team from Bosnia and Herzegovina wants to develop an all-inclusive, open source, open data, real time platform to gather data from all available sources for all pollutants, as well as from future sources of pollution that are under development. Citizens will have smartphone based apps to monitor air quality which then enables them to send legal complaints to authorities about violations of permitted levels of pollution.

Tax busters from Serbia project uses a website that will contain two main components: planning and realization of public municipal budgets, as well the use of open data regarding the legal framework of the tax system.

Special Mention Award: Spaces in the Balkans, GDI group Special Prize – $2,500

The InoCoders team from Kosovo created an app to ease farmers’ work. It will help in the collection of land data to help investors by showing them where loam is located. What if you want to invest in wheat, for example? The app can show you the lands where wheat is suitable for cultivation.

Special Award (Surprise for All!) from GDI group  – $1,250

The Biciklo.me Montenegro team from Podgorica wants to make their city into a more liveable place by making it more bikeable. They’ll do this by getting cyclists involved via their web platform “Ciklograd,” which will collect and create visualizations of data about traffic, safety and other problems, as well as suggested solutions. The gathered data will then be presented regularly to local authorities, along with requests for action.

“It gives us great encouragement that these ten teams are working to improve their societies, to make them better and to make them more competitive. It is really inspiring. I want to thank them for their enthusiasm, and hope that some of these finalists will found startups which will then produce more jobs and bring prosperity to society as a whole. By using open data, we can help society and create stable companies that will keep that flame going. I hope that one day they will also support events like this and make donations, as we at GDI did.” –  Boran Lončarić, CEO GDI Group, sponsor of four cash prizes, training and software for all ten teams.

For more information please visit: www.ministryofdata.infoFacebook page or follow the hashtag: #Mdata16

 “Ministry of Data” is an open data challenge focuses on solutions for improving the transparency, inclusiveness and quality of life in cities of the Western Balkans. Ministry of Data was designed by UNDP and its second edition this year is implemented by GONG and TechSoupIt is financially supported by the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and GDI Group.