Mashing Georgia's Collective Data
Today Transparency International Georgia launched FixMyStreet.ge, an online tool that allows residents of Tbilisi highlight concerns and publicly report problems about their streets.FixMyStreet.ge is an iteration of MySociety's http://www.fixmystreet.com that has been highly successful in putting tools in the hands of U.K. citizen's that empower them to voice issues of concern and bridges the gap between people and city services.
While applauding Transparency International Georgia's efforts, it is important to recognize that this is a tool that highlights the importance of NGOs and government organizations working together by sharing data and turning it into useful information and tools for everyone. Mapping data from OMC-JumpStart (yeah, I know, a bit of gratuitous self-aggrandizement never hurt anyone) and Tbilisi Municipality, code from VisibleGovernment.ca, and a lot of hard work from Transparency International Georgia were all necessary components, without which FixMyStreet.ge might never have been possible.
There are many organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, collecting data in Georgia. Much of this information touches on issues that are relevant to our daily lives, such as water quality, health services, road construction, public spending and crime. However, much of this information is not easily available and thus Georgians are not able to integrate that data into their discourse, be they civil servants, NGOs, international organizations, businesses, journalists or just you and me.
Fact-driven discourse is necessary to help decision-makers target areas of real concern and not let the decision-making process turn into one of smoke and mirrors. In Georgia, we are all decision makers in our daily lives and in political discourse; we live in a democracy! For this type of discourse to be possible, it is important that the necessary facts be available to us all. The Internet is the medium of communication today and if data is not made available online, it is not truly available. As data providers, NGOs and public bodies should provide timely, complete, and detailed datasets online and free-of-charge in a format that is useful.
JumpStart Georgia calls on all organizations to unlock the power of your research, work and data to the public. Who knows where it will lead? Six months ago we did not know that our mapping data would one day empower people to voice concerns about the quality or danger in their streets, yet Transparency International Georgia saw the potential and turned it into reality. Perhaps their is hidden meaning in your data, that, alone is not apparent, but in combination with others' work will lead to important discoveries. We might never know, unless you make your data publicly available.