The ever increasing number of successful startups in Ukraine demonstrate the positive momentum of IT technologies in the development of public projects. Projects aimed at combining the capabilities and potential of ICT community activists to make decision-making processes more accessible and transparent to promote citizens involvement in policy development. This is one of the most important aspects of e-democracy.
Over a four day E-Dem-Lab Summer Camp, representatives of civil society, the IT sector, local councils, and universities from 24 cities received training in contemporary approaches to the use of imaging tools for their ideas, SMM, and methods to search for and expand audiences. The experts even explained the concepts behind the creation of social IT projects relevant to Ukrainian cities.
Problems facing cooperating ideas were as follows:
- Information "exclusion" of different segments of the population;
- Technical solutions for active residents of housing complexes (condominiums, BSP, some activists);
- Streamlining the decision making and visualization of results (automated "screening" of alternatives, risk analysis and anticipated results, work with electronic maps marking, etc.);
- Safe Environment - environmental monitoring instruments for individual residential complexes.
Every day after coaching sessions, teams received new tasks, and the resulting concepts were organized into five community projects, including:
- The formation of a portal, integrated with the City Council webpage, through which citizens can receive "filtered" information from the authorities based on their requests and share their opinion on governmental activities;
- Create a separate application for public budget changes titled "Make Changes". A resource that will provide better coordination of municipal civic initiative competitions, and will cover the implementation of projects which win;
- Development of a web platform for existing condominiums. Unlike existing services, the participants decided to supplement their idea’s functionality with features like a dispatch service, register of contractors, and a rating system to evaluate the quality of services provided;
- Environmental monitoring - using special sensors to assess air pollution;
- Development of an online tool coordination module to track objects of entrepreneurial activity by using GIS data (Google Maps).
Some of projects developed during the camp have already been started, the ecological monitoring project in particular. Even during the camp itself, the team had already begun indexing the air content in the camp site. Over the 4 days, the participants decided that in addition to the static sensors they used, it would also possible to develop mobile models in the future.
The team which proposed the creation of a public resource to track the small business approval process, has already started to plan the implementation of this idea in Mykolaiv. Websites like this can be used as an instrument of public monitoring for illegal small business placement or activities. It can also be used as a comfortable search base, since all the small businesses will be sorted into different categories and are immediately viewable on the map.
Further, the Laboratory of E-democracy will serve as a platform for further cooperation between camp participants to facilitate revising and updating project ideas, find ways to implement the projects across different cities, and create new projects.
So how did camp participants and coaches describe their experience at the summer camp?
"In general, summer schools provide a useful platform to meet caring people of different disciplines who want to make a difference in society. In regards to e-democracy, it means the maximum representation of a "human factor" in electronic machines to support better monitoring and compliance with rules and laws. Modern global trends in the reform of state institutions is essential, in my opinion, as it is in Ukraine. Especially important is the approach to popularize electronic communication among the youth and education services. Though without ignoring the elderly, which is a separate subject of such measures. Of course, it was difficult to expect significant results from the working groups in such a short time (4 days), but there is hope that some of the people who took part and got acquainted with each other, will maintain contact throughout the year and in the future, and continue working on projects that eventually grow into functioning services".
Jaroslav Rozhylo, startup BICA Labs, Kyiv (coach).
"Ekologichna rada Kryvorizzia" uses sophisticated information solutions in their daily activities. We actively use GIS technology, the results of remote sensing, and analytical software. It allows us to quickly show the ecological realities to everyone in the region. And we wanted to make similar unbiased data sources, which can be enjoyed by both public organizations and individual activists. And when I saw the interest in the eyes of the summer camp participants, I understood how interested people are in such methods. Our Public Union will continue to share their practical experience with the development of the environmental movement".
Evgen Vasilenko, NGO Ekologichna rada Kryvorizzia " c. Kryviy Rig (coach).
"I had an amazing opportunity on Saturday to share the practical experience of the "Centr Podilya - Socium" and meet so many interesting participants at the “E-Dem-Lab” summer camp. We talked about the practice of involving citizens in the use of IT-services and technical solutions for the "50+" population. It was interesting to work in groups on "portraits" of target audiences and to hear the interest in the possibility of introducing new solutions and attracting older people to learn. I sincerely hope that this project will develop creative and effective tools that will expand opportunities for those enjoying their golden years".
Anna Morgun, NGO "Centr Podilya - Socium"city Vinnytsia (coach).
"Time after time e-governance hackathons are conducted, where teams compete with one another, and a certain level of distrust develops due to the nature of competition. In this camp, everyone became friends and helped each other. There is a feeling of being together on a submarine, and whether or not you want to escape, the survival of the team depends on everyone".
Sergyi Karelin, Centr "Eidos", Kyiv (Participant).
"Summer Camp has been very copious. The most useful part for my work were presentations made by Grygoriy Sorochan and Olexander Oksymets. The teamwork was remarkable, and it brought together representatives from different parts of Ukraine. In addition, to understand that people are working to improve lives in the country".
Yuri Levchenko, NGO "Country of informational technologies" city Vinnytsia (Participant).
"Implementation of effective e-democracy tools in Ukraine is, in my opinion, one of the ways to fight the main problem facing our society - corruption. A summer camp, where activists from across the country worked together for 4 days, reinforced the understanding that we have good potential to not only implement tools and services, but also to make them effective. Thanks to the organizers and coaches for the program’s content, really useful lectures, and, most importantly for the practical aspect – co-working. After all that, there was also the opportunity to exchange experiences and to jointly develop new and interesting ideas and projects that can be practically implemented. Knowledge gained at camp has helped support our projects in Rivne, which we are now working on – public budget implementation, development of the new Rivne City Council website, and an initiative to work with open data #DataRivne and others. A special thank everyone for a great atmosphere! "
Oleksandr Melnychuk, civil network OPORA, Rivne (Participant).
The summer camp was an opportunity to implement ideas that can truly benefit society, because the coaches and participants shared their experience and skills. Over the 4 days of the event we were able to not only gain new theoretical knowledge of IT-tools to solve existing problems, but also practice the process of idea generation, and their development into a practical project. Thanks to the «E-Dem-Lab» summer camp. I again confirmed that when you are inspired have followers and a clear goal, you can change the world".
Sofia Sakalosh, NGO "European Dialogue» / BRONEXTDOOR, Lviv (Participant).
"There was a wonderful atmosphere of creative collaboration, created by our friends, the organizers of the Laboratory of e-Democracy. It was a great opportunity to learn from existing solutions in involving citizens in e-democracy, and to offer and generate new ideas and projects for startups in this area. Experienced coaches, mentors, experts and participants from all over Ukraine (from Kharkiv to Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, and Stryi, from Sumy to Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Tokmak), as well as friendly and creative communication, only assisted".
Artem Serenok Kharkiv Regional Institute of Public Administration, Associate Professor of IT and management systems, city Kharkiv (Participant).
More photos can be found on the Laboratory of E – Democracy Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/edemlab/
The E-Dem-Lab summer camp was organized by the "Podolian Agency for Regional Development" NGO under the framework of the E-Dem-Lab program, supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Swiss-Ukrainian program "E-governance for Accountability and Citizen Participation» EGAP.