Code for Poland in Gdansk
Civic tech is a trend of growing significance. There is a strong belief that cooperation between the government, IT experts and activists can help engage citizens in improving their cities, regions or even countries through technology. “What if government services were this good?” — Code for America puts it simply in an invitation to join its summit. “Code for…” organizations in other countries have been also trying to answer the same question. How do they find answers in “Code for Poland” in Gdansk?
Like its American partner, Code for Poland, run by the ePanstwo foundation, tries to find IT solutions for social problems. Being a grass-root initiative, it has managed to establish local groups in Gdansk, Cracow, Katowice, Poznan, Warsaw and Wroclaw. From the beginning Code for Poland has been attracting people of various backgrounds and various IT skills. In a relatively short period of time members of CfP were able to generate interesting ideas and bring them to life. Some of them gained recognition throughout Poland, some were even noticed internationally.
One of such ideas is Pola, an application for people considering themselves conscious consumers, for whom buying locally produced goods is important (the idea behind it: it is better to support with my money companies based in the country, instead of anonymous, trans-national corporations). With this application you can scan barcodes while shopping to find out who manufactured a product and where was it manufactured. Other features are considered to be added in the near future, like additional information on preservatives or GMO.
Another ground-breaking application of Code for Poland is Na4Łapy (“On4Legs”), Poland’s first application for adopting pets from a city shelter. The idea came out in the city hall of Gdansk, where the staff was thinking how to increase the adoption rate in the shelter. They knew technology could help, but didn’t know exactly how to approach the problem. The idea was brought to a meeting of Code for Poland in the STARTER incubator in Gdansk and was applauded by the members. A very enthusiastic project team was established and after a few months the application appeared in Google Play (read more on this story).
On4Legs can be considered as a formative experience for Gdansk’s branch of Code for Poland. It integrated the community around the great idea, helped to learn how to build a support for new initiatives among internal and external stakeholders. For some people it was also a chance to improve their IT skills and we know about at least one person who found a better job thanks to it.
Above mentioned success wasn’t of course the only project of CfP in Gdansk brought into life. Another one is TristarEye, a great example how social initiative can help transform public services for better. Tristar is an intelligent transport system, operating in Gdansk, Gdynia, Sopot, providing city units with great amount of valuable data for improvement of traffic. There is also a website, which provides residents with real-time data on traffic jams, bypasses and public transport. However, it has one big disadvantage. Tristar was made years ago, when nobody expected mobile technologies, smartphones and open APIs could gain such an importance.
Although the city hall is working hard to make Tristar data available to creators of mobile applications, it takes some time. Marcin Szalomski of CfP Gdansk didn’t want to wait so long. He gathered a team working on TristarEye, a web application “hacking” data from non-responsive, non-mobile Tristar’s website. Basically, they download still pictures from cameras monitoring main streets in the Tri-city and put them in a responsive application. Finally you can get real time information on traffic jam on your mobile phone.
Code for Poland in Gdansk is also a place where you can just come and tell about your idea, ask for help or specific skills. This was the case of hospiCare, a mobile application connecting home hospices, patients and their families with doctors. Students from the Technology University of Gdansk presented us their application for supporting therapy of children with autism.
The meetings are a great opportunity for improving IT skills. Members of Code for Poland — Gdansk took part in lectures on REST, UX and other events are coming soon. It is obvious the meetings are also a great opportunity for networking — free pizza and drinks are always available. Everybody is welcomed!