The Success of Experimental Hackathon Proves that Kaunas is Hungry for Such Events
Photos: Linas Žemgulis
What opportunities and challenges does the use of open data bring today? How to use it in attracting intelligent minds and creating innovative solutions for improving the quality of the life in the city? Such and similar issues were raised on November 15thduring the final discussion of the “Kaunas Startups” Hackathon, where the hackathon organizers, participants, partners and sponsors gathered to review the event, present its results and discuss how future initiatives could be developed.
48 hours for creative solutions
Hackathon is like a creative workshop where teams have a limited timeframe to develop their idea to a prototype level. On October 6th-7th, in the “KTU Santaka Valley”, over 130 participants – programmers, designers, business development specialists, or just innovation enthusiasts from Kaunas and Vilnius – participated in the hackathon event. While working with data from the public institutions of Kaunas for 48 hours, they generated 27 ideas and 25 concepts. The sponsor of the event KAYAK provided the help with analyzing the data, contributed to the prize fund, and appointed its professional employees to become hackathon mentors.
“We are proud of this business promotion program “Kaunas Startups”, organized by Kaunas City Municipality from year to year. It is often named as one of the most successful business promotion programs in Lithuania. During the four years, we had the opportunity to contribute to new and innovative businesses that were given the chance to develop their ideas and to quickly grow into competitive companies not only in Lithuania but also around the world,” said Kaunas City Deputy Mayor Simonas Kairys. “But this year, “Kaunas Startups” has reached a different level: the program has become a platform that gives young people the opportunity to access open data of Kaunas public institutions, deal with the problems of citizens or city guests and improve living conditions. Hackathon and open data of the city is a new and modern solution which not only promotes discussions but also allows the Kaunas citizens to contribute to the growth and development of their city.”
Promoting transparency, efficiency and innovation
According to the head of internal operations of “ADEO WEB” Gerda Aleksandravičiūtė Pečkaitienė, the advantage of open data (data that anyone can freely use and distribute) is transparency and the ability to monitor the activities of various institutions and companies. In this way, the social sphere promotes efficiency and innovation, and every member of society gains the main benefits.
According to one of the organizers of the Hackathon, the Director of “Linked data” Džiugas Tornau, who helped open the data of municipal agencies, the goals of the first experimental hackathon were realistic and practicable. The hackathon aimed to provide 40 datasets by the end of the year from at least 8 different companies, publicly accessible on GitHub (the platform that contains a programming code that could be easily shared and allows to track changes). The data also had to be presented in a CSV format which may be simply processed while creating applications or doing data analysis.
“Although this data is currently static and shallow, we nevertheless wanted it to be not only useful but also interesting to the participants of the Hackathon. Interesting and creative data attracts people, and developed products go to business or science,” said DžiugasTornau, who was pleased that the first open source hackathon in Kaunas received such great attention and attracted motivated participants, many of whom remained until the very end of the two-day event.
“It shows that Kaunas is hungry for such events, that there is not too many of them, and that they can be organized regularly, at least once a year,” he said.
Ideas: from index of districts to patrons of the trees
The best teams were awarded with prizes, and some participants presented their prototypes at the final event.
– The MIKADO team with the platform Manorajonas.lt proposed the idea to calculate the better life index in different districts of Kaunas city, adapting the results according to what is relevant to different interests or age groups – seniors, young families or students.
– “We strongly support this initiative and we definitely wanted to participate in it,” said Dr. M. Lukoševičius and doctoral student of urban development M. Ivaškevičius, who presented their idea of a visualized Kaunas investment map, which shows how public procurement is implemented according to the amounts spent.
According to the authors of the idea, it would be very interesting in the future to obtain behavioral data such as how people use public transport, where they are riding their bicycles, and for example, to compare behavioral data with existing cycling infrastructure when deciding where new cycle paths are most needed.
– “Using the open data indicating the coordinates, heights and even age of trees growing in Kaunas, we combined all this information and created a social initiative called “Medžių bankas” (Tree Bank),” said the team “Honey” whose application makes it possible to give your friend the care of a tree in Kaunas as a gift, and in this way, involve the citizens in the protection of trees, encouraging them to pay attention to the greenery of Kaunas. The authors hope to use the money collected during the initiative for maintenance of existing trees or planting new ones.
– Lukas and Eimantas, students of KTU representing the startup called “Pertraukties taškas” (Breakpoint), proposed the idea to digitalize bus tickets. They are introducing a personalized application that allows you to top up the Kaunas card, and improves the way of paying for public transport services.
– The representative Tadas from the team “Hike U” introduced an interactive cultural route app, created during the Hackathon, which helps you discover the city in a different way and lets every user go on an adventure. “This is an innovative way to represent the city, an idea that involves the client, a tool for organizing events and attracting customers for businesses,” the authors share their thoughts.
– The CBK team said that their idea was born after seeing tourists with huge and heavy luggage walking around the Kaunas city. Therefore, during the Hackathon, they used parking and geographic data and offered a short-term storage facility called “LookUp”, designed to provide a space for tourists to leave their property and keep it safe.
While talking about their ideas and discussing the possibilities of their implementation, the participants emphasized how important it is to identify the problems and suggest ways to solve them in order to create an open city of the future. The organizers of the first open data Hackathon in Kaunas emphasized that experience and competence are born from practice, therefore, undoubtedly similar events will be organized in the future, possibly by inviting a wider community to join in and encouraging people to answer the question: what would YOU like to change in your city?