The open field of innovations
At the core of the open philosophy is a belief in an equal world full of possibilities – that a good idea, expertise or the right trigger can come from anyone, from anywhere.
As the festival rolled on, it continuously demonstrated that this belief is well-grounded with amazing innovations being exhibited, performed, curated and created there itself. Here are just a few sample innovations -
1. The opening plenary had Farida Vis talk about her amazing analysis of how riot rumors spread during London riots. The innovative data visualization charting 2.6 million tweets, depicted the evolution of rumors on a timeline. Let me illustrate the power of this innovation. Recently in India, following a rumor about a possible attack on a minority community in Bangalore, thousands of panic-stricken people boarded trains to their hometown in North-east India. Undoubtedly SMS played a major role in helping spread this rumor. At times like this, the Indian government typically blocks mass messaging for all. Instead, imagine if government had a real time understanding of the origin and the spread of the rumour, it could have acted to catch the perpetrators and put an end to scare mongering that made so many people leave Bangalore all at once. Imagine the economical and social cost that could have been averted. Its innovations like these that will put the conversation about ‘open’ in the mainstream.
2. Ushahidi is an innovation that affects life, real-time. Ushahidi is a web based reporting system that utilizes crowdsourced data to formulate visual map information of a crisis on a real-time basis. It was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. It has now grown to become a versatile platform used for various projects across the world.
3. Federico Ramírez from Mexico presented Fundar’s project on uncovering government parties who were using taxpayers’ money to finance their PR and advertising.
4. Ipaidabribe.com is an engaging platform from India where people report about bribes being offered, paid, avoided etc. The resulting activity is a rich data-trove of stories of the entrenched malaise of corruption in all its complexity.
5. Mathare is a collection of slums in Nairobi, Kenya. The youth of Mathare created a digital map of their community by using mapping tools - open street map platforms, bable software, ArcGIS software. The digital map pointed out in detail the community requirements, water & sanitation data, roads, schools, healthcare facility and so on.
6. As a strategy professional, I was extremely thrilled to see ArcGIS’s presentation where the density of children was mapped against the density of day care centers. It’s a solution for a classic problem of visualizing market sizes. Usually for such queries, I would have had to pore over data and then make a loose schematic. But, assuming we have sufficient data (and that’s a big assumption), this interactive map would make strategic decisions a lot simpler – the literal ‘white space’ staring at us.
7. In the same session for tools of visualization was another inspiring talk about visualizing history, where Lesley Kadish talked about using historical archives, data, art and visualization to create engaging stories. The imaginative use of tools at our disposal to engage a people in its history & culture, is of immense value.
8. The Open Culture track was the hotbed of creative application of open data. Visual artists created stunning movies, interactive movies, generative sounds and other art forms in a single day through open-source content. Open science saw amazing project with well-placed politics. One of the hacks was about conflict resolution in research. By making the funding/ sponsorship of research open and searchable, the conflict of interest in research was highlighted. And certainly, who can forget the fantastic fablab and the open creation of some amazing artifacts.
Pure open excitement.