It was awesome to see so many people involved in Desarrollando Latino América hackathons last weekend, which simultaneously took place across six countries in Latin America. I was in Mexico City's sprint along with 50+ folks who camped out at CitiVox's office, many of them for the full 30 hour sprint. While I was officially there to judge the apps, I spent the full two days hanging out with everyone, moving around from table to table and seeing what all the build teams were doing.
Talking about the MapBox API and integration for their CrossMatch app. The Innku team would ultimately win the apps competition.
Sitting around the table together and just being in the same room is a big deal. This builds community and capacity, which is the real value of these kinds of events. Just watching how other teams overheard what folks were working on - like "Oh, you are using Wax with Modest or Leaflet?" - and seeing cross team collaboration shows how being in the same room together and learning from each other creates an environment to co-create. In addition to tech folks learning from tech folks, in the case of Mexico there was an exciting mix of NGOs and tech folks. Tech folks learned more context about the open data space while NGOs got to see how good tech teams build and launch.
As the open data space gains fans we need to start taking a critical look at who is really using open data in their operations and then look at ways to grow this base. Our work especially in the international development space continues to show that there are not enough NGOs using open data. This is a real lost opportunity. We can do better development through better data and I am again and again seeing that the first step needs to be more data capacity and more technical knowledge. It is not always sexy work nor as easy as just running an apps competition, but has real potential to help us grow a base of real data users.