Last weekend I took part in the MakeOpenData Camp. The goal of the event was on one side to encourage the government to open more data by showing that we can make good use of it. On the other side, events like this help to get more developers and designers involved and actually realize that there is some data that is publicly accessible.
In the US, the UK and many other countries the governments have started publishing more and more data, freely accessible online. Considering the government should serve the people, empowering us and allowing us to actually check what’s being done with our tax money is quite important. More transparency will hopefully lead to a stronger democracy, with more accountability for the people in charge.
Together with three others I worked on the budget report of the City of Zürich for the year 2010. We set out to present it in a more personal way than the usual big numbers you read, hoping this would have more impact on people. Please take a minute to look at the result. A small application obviously named Where did my taxes go?, especially if you are a Zürcher taxpayer. And of course, it’s open source too.
The one thing I really like about it is seeing the amount of seconds your taxes sustained the city. It does put all this in perspective, and shows you how little we all are taken individually. On the not so fun side, the main pain point was the data format eZurich chose to provide. Having access to the data is a great step forward, but if it was provided in a slightly more machine-readable format than the RTF (Rich Text Format) we had to deal with, it would have made it easier to work with. We fed back the parsed CSV data into their system though, so it is now available to anyone.
All in all, it was quite a lot of fun to work under such a short deadline, and I am sure there will be more of those events in the future where I hope to see some new faces. Check out the other projects that were created.