Our first encounter in India took place in the big city of Mumbai, where we were kindly invited by Web Notes Technologies to pass by their office in the Vidyavihar-West area.
Founded in 2008, the small enterprise consists of a team of young open source enthusiasts and represents one of the few Indian companies developing own open source solutions. Their main product ERPNext.com is a good example of a complete software piece being released as open source with a business model behind, which is fair and makes sense. No surprise that ERPNext.com has been recently listed as one of the top open source applications of 2013 by the magazine InfoWorld.
While exchanging about open source and specially about open data, we discovered that they have a couple of great projects coming up soon. First, there is codeformumbai.org which is a platform that makes browsing the datasets available on the Indian open data website more easily and user-friendly. Interestingly, this clever approach was conceived and implemented in less than 24 hours as part of a Hackathon the government organised.
But this tool is just in a very early stage. According to their plans, it will become a more complete solution to address the main problems that most open data platforms are facing today: format standardisation and dataset categorisation. A new upcoming version should participate in the App challenge organised at data.gov.in till the 30th September. Full support for them!
After this enriching meeting, we could run our workshop on the spot and were happy to count around 20 people among the audience. While most of them had an IT-background as the previous sessions in Europe, we also gathered various profiles this time, youngsters and seniors, girls and boys, students, executive directors, architects and political activists. Their interest focused particularly in the visualisation part and its technical tools. Many attendees were indeed already working with a certain amount and kind of data, but still searching how to visualise and use it. Our examples in the political area and our data mappings were very inspiring for their work.
Mumbai and north of India are not so much advanced regarding open data initiatives as southern regions, the audience pointed out. Probably one of the reasons why the debate brought rather new ideas and projects being currently developed instead of finished ones. For example, one of the participants is developing a platform which fights human trafficking by helping families to recognize lost children working illegally in the streets of Mumbai. Also, the project Karnakata Election Watch, a platform to report election irregularities in this southern region, was presented and remembered us the similar initiative of za’lart we covered in Albania.
As we experienced, some big steps have been already made. India participates in the Open Government Initiative since 2012 and counts already lots of datasets on its Open Data Platform, mostly about economics, and organises Hackatons and App Challenges to promote their use. Other topics are being covered independently as by the United Nations – DevInfo, so we can state that something is happening in the sub continent regarding Open Data. However, something we would love to see, is its participation in the Open Government Partnership. We believe this can become true soon since India is on the list of the eligible countries 2013 and could apply to take part in this promising initiative.
Our next event will take place in the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, 400km north from Mumbai. After that, we will head south to experience ourselves the differences between indian regions and discover new Open Knowledge related projects there.