Bridgecamp in Poland; summary of the event that brings IT and NGOs together

alicjapeas's picture

Almost a week ago I have attended the second edition of Bridgecamp, an international conference organized by Fundacja Polak 2.0. The goal of the event was to expose NGOs to open source and free internet solutions. Bridgecamp started with the first day conference (find the agenda at  ), the second day focused on individual workshops related to specific solutions. Even though I have only been able to attend one part of the first day, my general impressions from the event were positive. However, I have to say that an international conference with only one part of one day agenda in English did surprise me.

The big topics mentioned during the conference where government transparency, citizen engagement, open data and free software. The speakers in that block where:

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Stefan Marsiske - Tools for NGOs. He presented a list of tools that can be helpful for NGOs, including Google groups mailing lists, Etherpads for shared text editing and Ustream for video streaming.

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Michal Skop – Kohovolit. Kohovolit is a platform for tracking the voting behavior of members of the parliament. It also allows users to match their own voting preferences with the past behavior of the parliament members.

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Zuzana Wienk – Fair-Play.sk - How to build a watchdog on the basis of a simple database? This was a presentation of a Slovakian project that attempts to visualize the financial relationships between companies and the government (tenders and donations) on their website. Their aim is to reduce corruption by making these connections easily accessible to the public.

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Juliana Rotich - Ushahidi - Demonstration of tools for map-based data visualization. With the Ushahidi platform, geographical data  can be easily gathered and visualized on a map. The focus is on making massive scale data gathering from citizen reporters fast and easy, e.g. using text messages. It has been used for example to track riots in Kenya and election fraud in Mexico.

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Tony Bowden - How to influence the masses with simple tools? Bowden belongs to MySociety.org which hosts a set of websites that enable citizens to engage easily with their government. Their platform includes for example websites where citizens can easily contact their members of parliament and Fixmystreet, a project where users can report broken streets and request the local government to fix them.

During the sessions, some trends emerged a few i.e.: gathering, analyzing and visualizing public information for easy use by the public. That includes tracking government activity data for increased transpacency (e.g. Kohovolit , Fair-play , MySociety ) but also data about e.g. riots (Ushahidi ) and broken streets (FixMyStreet ). The second topic were portals for increasing citizen engagement (MySociety )

The ambition of the Bridgecamp organizers is to make this conference the most important event for NGOs interested in ITC solutions. Comparing my reflections with the ones of my FTS collegues who attended the last year edition, I can that, apart from minor challenges it still has to face, Bridgecamp is evolving towards a good direction. I keep my fingers crossed for the next year event!

 

Ellen Koenig

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