Innovation for Democracy Cafe
Innovation for Democracy Café – Conversations on How Technology Can Be a Force for Democracy
20th of April marked the launch of the first Innovation for Democracy Café with Ya-wei Chou being joined by two guests; Ms. Adriana Groh, Project Lead of The New Hanse, and Ms. Hung-wen Tseng, Green Citizens' Action Alliance (GCAA) Deputy Secretary-General. The online webinar discussed “How Can Open Data and Civic Tech Facilitate Initiatives of Civil Society”
“Most cities favour economic growth over environmental protection, with companies not willing to take action as they fear they will lose their competitiveness” Ms. Hung-wen begins in Mandarin with simultaneous English translation “however, we see the opposite to be true, with more public concerns for pollution and waste management.” The work that she does with GCAA utilizes technology in two ways, she explains. The first is the Thau-bing website, “Thaubing” literally meaning “transparent” in Taiwanese but the website’s complete name “透明足跡”in Mandarin translates to “transparent footprint”. The Thau-bing website allows the public to look at businesses more closely, such as their waste management and air quality surrounding factories located on a map. In addition, the website also notifies the public of penalties/violations that businesses have incurred. This may be due to waste mismanagement or delay in reporting data to the government. The information was taken from Governmental websites and adapted to data which was comprehensible to the general public.
Ms. Hung-wen recollected an experience she had, “Businesses were calling me up demanding why we had put the information on the [Thau-bing] website” She replied that “the information was already on governmental websites, why does it matter if the information was also on our website as well?” It mattered because an increasing number of people were finding the information and understand what that data meant – and so businesses were losing orders. However, this is the necessary pressure for business to change and adapt accordingly. If customers were caring about the environment so were they. Open data is the missing communicating link between key stakeholders; the government, the enterprise, and the general public.
The second innovation was the scanning-before-buying-it app. This app allowed for the product’s barcode to be scanned, and the pollution records of the product’s manufacture compiled in the Thaubing Footprint website’s database to be displayed. This allowed customers to make informed environment-friendly choices daily, bringing the public closer to the production of their goods.
The second speaker Ms. Adriana discussed her four year journey leading many inspiring civic tech projects and initiatives about data commons. In particular, she emphasized that data should be made “common” to the general public. This meant making data accessible and coherent. Evidence through data can generate political pressure which leads to policy changes. In addition, it empowers the people to communicate, co-create, and deliberate as a society. Ms. Adriana also suggests education of data within schools. Training can be given to help check and analyse data. She even goes further to suggest that there should be a basic toolset for correlation and causality.
Both speakers emphasized that Open Data works best when there is a trust between governments, CSOs, enterprises, and the general public. Consistent effort should be made to bring these actors closer together to find common and shared solutions.
*Sky Chatuchinda is the regional communication officer for the office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Bangkok, Thailand.
Thaubing Footprint: A New Sustainability Movement Based on Open Data
Taiwan’s GCAA leveraged the power of civil society and Taiwan’s vibrant civic tech community to create the wildly successful website “Thaubing Footprint” that monitors pollution and that is based on open data. Hung-wen Tseng explains how GCAA achieved that, and shares her recipes for innovation with FNF Global Innovation Hub. Register for Innovation for Democracy Café on April 20, UTC 9am to learn more about this project!