With the support of National Endowment for Democracy, TechSoup Europe was able to help Ukrainian city officials embrace the open data movement. As a consequence, the cooperation and engagement of city officials and citizens improved significantly and has resulted in 35 cities in the open data community, twelve data audit reports, 600 open data sets, eighteen workshops, Open Data Handbook, an online service for the education sector, seven open data city platforms and finally the Open Data for Civil Society Organizations free online self-paced course.
TechSoup Europe believes that democracy assumes the right of the people to freely determine their own destiny. We also believe that technology is a great tool for supporting citizens and officials in accessing information and knowledge to collaboratively shape democracy.
We use our open data experience from the region to build bridges between civil society, governments, and IT specialists. By making data transparent and accessible, we empower local authorities to open and access the knowledge and insights gained via data, which can then be used to improve the local life of Ukrainians.
Cooperation with Cities and Activists
In the fall of 2021 TechSoup team focused primarily on localization and design of the English version of the Open Data for Civil Society Organizations free online self-paced course based on the Ukrainian course materials developed by GURT Resource Center. The final self-paced course was published in Hive Mind, TechSoup Europe’s platform, which is a cutting-edge online harbor for a broader, international Community of Practice, offering the space and various online resources, including self-paced e-courses.
The Open Data course will equip the civil society activists with up-to-date knowledge and skills essential for data analysis, creating campaigns using various types of data, and measuring the effectiveness of their Internet-based interventions aimed at bringing about a positive social change. The learning objectives of the Open Data course are as follows:
- understanding the difference between data and information;
- explaining what open data is;
- listing the principles of open data;
- listing open data policy guidelines;
- giving examples of open data services;
- describing different data types and formats;
- choosing appropriate format for different types of data;
- explaining how to choose text encoding format to avoid incorrectly displayed data.
An announcement about the English Open Data course will continue to be widely disseminated to TechSoup Europe’s partners and Community of Practice members as part of the promotional campaign of the educational resources available to users in Hive Mind. The Open Data course is an invaluable addition to the TechSoup portfolio of online courses covering the topics of Countering Disinformation, Building Positive Narratives, Digital Safety and Security, Media Literacy Online, and Digital Campaigning, and it is available to the English-speaking civil society activists globally
Hive Mind, with its 3,700 registered users and 23,000 website visitors as of late 2021, assists the Community of Practice on its journey of digital transformation by helping members keep in touch, network, learn and grow as civil society practitioners. The Community of Practice includes civil society activists, trainers, educators, content developers, subject matter experts, nonprofit professionals, and journalists, to name a few, who come from different countries across various regions and form a vibrant and supportive international cohort with the goal to strengthen digital activism efforts, counter disinformation, build positive narratives, and improve online communication to better connect with new and existing constituencies. Hive Mind user interface and materials are available in English, Polish, Russian, Albanian, Macedonian, Spanish, and Romanian and more languages will be added in 2022.
During the project implementation, TechSoup and GURT were working productively on conceptualization, design, and production of both versions of the Open Data course in Ukrainian and English. TechSoup has had extensive experience developing online courses (for nonprofits, libraries, and other interested audiences ranging from virtual real-time seminars and basic courses to advanced level project-based courses covering a variety of subjects, including, but not limited to digital skills, email marketing, Google analytics, or project management), and the team appreciated an opportunity to utilize this know-how during fruitful collaboration with GURT.
It’s been five years in a row that TechSoup’s work on championing open data in Ukraine has been appreciated by our main donor partner – the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)!
We invited our community to participate in an online competition of ideas for the best public service tool that would solve a specific problem of citizens. From among 16 projects submitted, we selected the best two which we help to develop into online services for citizens!
- “Clean Air” is an online service and Telegram chatbot thanks to which the inhabitants of Lutsk can monitor the ecological situation in their city!
- “Interesting facts about education” is an online service that allows the inhabitants of Kolomyia to know everything about public schools in their city!
Since 2019, we cooperate with GURT Resource Center and our community of 30 small and mid-sized cities that joined open data movement. Together we enabled civil society leaders and city officials from the community to gain new knowledge and skills regarding accessing city data that can be used by activists, journalists or businesses to improve their citizens’ life.
📌60 people joined 3 two-day-long workshops on data cleaning and visualization.
📌We conducted 7 data audits and produced 500+ open data sets.
📌We opened 3 open data portals and released Open Data Handbook based on our research on the development of open data policies in Ukraine.
In the second edition of NED funding for Apps4Cities we decided to work with small and medium-sized cities. We chose Kolomyia, Rivne, Mykolayiv, Voznesensk, and Uzhgorod out of 55 that applied to our open call for participation. We offered them comprehensive support towards embracing the steps towards openness policy in their cities: training, workshops, data audits, creating open data platforms, and online tools. We engaged and brought together both city officials and CSO activists, and together they learned open data methodologies and standards.
With generous support from NED, and together with local partners, we proudly add our small bricks as part of the foundational process of reforms in Ukraine by:
Over 500 officials and CSO activists attended fifteen workshops on how to work with open data, including collecting, analyzing, cleaning, and visualizing it.
Another step on the way towards the complex implementation of the open data policy was data audits to assess the condition of available data. Then, taking into account citizens’ interests about the most important public services, we worked with the cities to, thus far, open 56 datasets provided by 20 municipal institutions in at least 8 thematic areas (education, spare time, advertising, medicine, finances and economy, housing and communal services, transportation, city council and other) — and this process will continue.
Open Data City Portals
Underlying this data, we were able to build three open data city portals. The goal is for these portals to be used in such a way that they can provide transparent information to do things like save budget spending on electricity or public procurements (based on open data it will become more efficient and controlled). In fact, last year the open data sector’s contribution to Ukraine’s economy made USD $700 million (based on Kyiv School of Economy’s research). By 2025 it has been modestly estimated that the share of open data in the country’s economy will amount to USD $1.4 billion. The largest part of this growing sector will be created by local, small to mid-sized communities and municipalities.
Open Education Service
We can already see how this data is being used in cities. Data opened by municipalities via this project was used to create the Good Education web service – an idea that was initially born during the first edition of Apps4Cities/DaniMist. We scaled this idea by connecting social activists and IT specialists to develop a tool to improve citizens’ lives: Good Education maps nurseries, kindergartens, and schools in Ukraine to help parents choose the best education option for their children – a stressful and difficult period of time for many parents making this decision.
Apps4Cities started in June 2016n was a joint project of TechSoup Europe and Civil Network OPORA a renown Ukrainian watchdog organization with branches in main cities across the country supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Personal Democracy Forum Ukraine
The process, which combines data research and sourcing with an app challenge, was inaugurated during Personal Democracy Forum Ukraine, an international gathering of transparency and accountability activists. A series of educational and community-building meetups followed the event, leading to sourcing ideas and developing projects in a challenge format. In order to facilitate access to open public data, an open-source platform was set up and 166 public data sets gathered there; many of which were published for the first time thanks to FOIA requests sent by OPORA.
The next part of the project was Apps4Cities Challenge – a competition for the best city apps built upon publicly available open data.
The format of the competition gave everyone an opportunity to develop services which would be useful to city inhabitants and encouraged cross-sectoral cooperation between team members and a variety of different community stakeholders. All teams developed their products based on publicly available data. Three winners were determined by the jury, while one team was selected by the people through online voting.
Meet the winner apps which make life easier for the city dwellers:
- “Directly” – a mobile application that will map the nearest toilets and pave the shortest way to them;
- “Open School” – service for monitoring public schools in Ukraine in regards to the number of students per class, educational level, achievements of students and teachers, etc.;
- “AllMuseums” – an app that aims at collecting relevant information about all museums in the country, in particular – the days of free visits for different categories of citizens;
- “Electronic system for monitoring utility usage” – an online tool that will help you inform and analyze usage of utilities by public institutions in selected cities.