When the idea came up to award a speaking slot @ TEDxGhent to a team presenting the best idea at Apps For Ghent, I was immediately in favour of the idea. I work at Ghent University Library promoting Open Access to research (articles and data), and though the scope of the open data movement is much larger than research, the principle is the same. The public has the right to have access to materials that are created using public funding, whether it is research data, research articles, government data or policy documents (of course there are some issues related to privacy but those can be solved).
What’s so great about transparency and free access to these materials, is that they cannot only be viewed, but also that, if you have a bit of coding skills, you can do really cool stuff with it.
(TED features several talks about this: 15 year old Jack Andraka did some really important cancer research using open access articles and Jennifer Pahlka explains how you can improve life in your city using public data)
The city of Ghent has always been a forerunner in open government data – and Apps For Ghent has become an important showcase moment through which a wider audience can see what useful applications can be made using open data. TEDxGhent is all about the dissemination of new ideas – so a partnership between Apps For Ghent and TEDxGhent was quite inevitable.
So, on Saturday March 23 a delegation of four (not very tech-savvy, I admit) TEDxGhent members gathered at the Belgacom building, ready to be blown away. We saw some interesting apps that made use of energy data – it seems that gaming apps might be the best way to stimulate people to be more sensitive about their energy consumption. Also quite a few apps for tourists, and the inventors of the now famous Wakankdoen came up with Hoe Druk is’t nu, helping the poor people of Ghent to cope with the ever growing hordes of those same tourists visiting the city. One of the very few female contestants came up with a shopping app -I’m still not sure if I’m not a little insulted by that (although, shoes … :) ).
We decided to hand out an award to the competing team which not only had the best idea, but also had the necessary presentation skills to present their app at our TEDxGhent main event on June 22. The young students of 9K captivated us with the originality of their Builder app: an interactive map of the city, where citizens can suggest improvements and endorse other people’s ideas: that’s the best use of open data we can imagine.
We think the baseline of their idea is also très TED: improving life using technology, and make it fun at the same time: isn’t that what we all want? We hope that the TEDxGhent audience will share our enthousiasm!