Press release for Rewired State: Parliament

Spectacular display at REWIRED STATE: Parliament weekend hack. Coders show off their awe-inspiring prototypes to a dazzled jury from Parliament.

5th - 6th November 2011: (#rsparly) Working in partnership with REWIRED STATE™(RS), Parliament opened up previously unreleased datasets for a coding competition at the weekend — as part of the inaugural Parliament Week — aiming to increase the transparency of the workings of the Houses of Parliament.

Starting with a tour of Parliament and an opening address from Lord Knight, 50 of the country’s best developers, including 15 YOUNG REWIRED STATE™ (YRS) members aged 14 – 18 years, hacked over 24 hours to create 22 programs, websites, apps, games, and internet tools designed to make the UK Parliament easier to understand: for both those that work there, and for the general public.

Emma Mulqueeny, Director of RS and YRS explained; “In the past we have worked on open Government data at our hack days but Parliament data has, until now, been guarded. The result of hacking this data is that information is easier to consume as it goes through Parliament so even those without a deep understanding of parliament and government data can better engage with the process.”

Commenting on why Parliament decided to open up data to REWIRED STATE, Tracy Green, Head of Online Services in Parliament, explained: “There’s a strong commitment in Parliament to make as much data as possible available in an accessible format. This not only helps us to improve the information we have on our own website so that we can better communicate the work of Parliament, but allows others to do that on our behalf, making Parliament more open and transparent.”

The event attracted buy-in at senior levels of Parliament as demonstrated by the jury members who attended the Sunday afternoon Show and Tell. Judging the prototypes were Kerry McCarthy MP, Tracy Green, Head of Online Services in Parliament, Bryn Morgan, Director of Research Services, House of Commons Library, and Stephen McGuinness, Second Clerk, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

Green explained how they determined the winners, “The standard of prototypes for the Rewired State Parliament hack day was incredibly high which made choosing one as Best in Class very difficult, so we picked two; Politics I Care About and Little Ben. We are very keen to look at how we might be able to take both of these forward with the developers and will be talking to them about that in the very near future.”

The winners list is as follows:

  • Best in show joint winners:
    • - Little Ben: A mobile application designed to keep both MPs and the everyday man informed about the bills going through Parliament. (Oderau, http://littleben.orchestra.io/)
    • - Politics I care about: A service that links your interests to what’s happening in Parliament. (YRSers Tim Brooke & Comrades)
  • Better understanding of the work of members: Oh Lordy! (Oli Wood, Project URL: http://ohlordy.theapproachablegeek.co.uk)
  • Better understanding of the work of Parliament: Parliament.info (YRSer Tom Shadwell)
  • To help members do their job better: Blogs for MPs (YRSer David Kendal)
  • Most likely to get you beheaded: Tweeting in Parliament (Gareth Lloyd & Colin Howe)

Special mentions:

  • Who's Lobbying(Rob McKinnon, http://whoslobbying.com/).
  • Groups memberships (Chris McGrath, http://uk-parliament-memberships.herokuapp.com/).
  • Parliamentary (Greg Miell, Allan Callaghan, Greg Mackelden, Shish Girling, http://parliamentarymydear.co.uk/).
  • Visual stats (Elena Croitoru, http://www.flickr.com/photos/69461644@N05/).

Particularly impressive were the YRS competitors, who although too young to vote, were not too young to develop useful applications that included three winning prototypes: Best in Show and the awards for Better understanding the work of Parliament and Better understanding the work of Members. Mulqueeny believes that it is important to include the younger members of the REWIRED STATE family,

“Everyone who comes to a REWIRED STATE hack day applies and we assess whether they should be invited based on getting the balance right of age, ability and talent, we need more designers at hack days! For REWIRED STATE: Parliament, I was thrilled to see such a high applicant rate from YOUNG REWIRED STATE (kids who have taught themselves how to code and are aged 18 or under). It is just so great to see that we are managing to engage the next generations on what could, understandably, be a very dry subject. We allowed everyone in who applied from YRS just to see whether they would cope. Not only did they cope, they excelled themselves, stayed up all night coding and bagged a high percentage of the prizes”.

EDITORS NOTES

Parliamentary Data opened up to REWIRED STATE included:

  • Structured, machine-readable Member information: MPs, Lords, Lords’ categories, new Lords, deceased Lords, Lords’ interests, committees calendar, election results.
  • Machine-readable Parliamentary Business: early day motions, briefing papers and bills.
  • Library Data: elections, divisions, crime by police force and constituency, unemployment by constituency.
  • Environmental Data: parliamentary estate performance.
  • Members allowances.
  • Historical Data: Member data, Hansard, Portcullis, parliamentary archives, and standing committees.

About REWIRED STATE — http://rewiredstate.org

REWIRED STATE is the only independent developer network in the UK. The REWIRED STATE network is made up of experienced developers, software designers and engineers. REWIRED STATE runs hack days, media partnerships, disruptive conferences and research.

Hack Days :  See http://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/whats-the-point-of-a-hack-day/ .

REWIRED STATE (RS) runs both commercial hack days (requested and run exclusively for commercial clients) and sponsored hack days (run for charities or government and paid for entirely or in part by a number of sponsors, with the developers being involved for minimal fees).

Next RS Event: Rewired State: Honda Power of Minds Hack: Nov 19th ➛ 20th 2011 http://rewiredstate.org/hacks/power-of-minds. Working with data released by Honda, 23 developers will work on the Power of Minds, hacking together creative solutions with the Creative Engineers in an intense, two-day hack. Five of the 23 paid coders have came from the YRS network.

About YOUNG REWIRED STATE — http://youngrewiredstate.org

YOUNG REWIRED STATE is the philanthropic arm of REWIRED STATE and is a network of developers aged 18 and under. Its primary focus is to find and foster the young children and teenagers who are driven to teaching themselves how to code, how to program the world around them. This is a mighty challenge, though well-supported with free tutorials online, but inevitably an isolating and solitary activity.

YRS works to seek out these people and mentor them primarily through a week long hack event in the Summer. This always runs in the first week of August. During that week businesses, large and small, around the country act as hosts to local young people, YRS alumni, REWIRED STATE mentors and other volunteers. A challenge is set to build digital products; mobile and web, using at least one piece of open government data. At the end of the week everyone piles on coaches, trains and cars to London, where they show what they have made to an audience of their peers, press, government and industry. Prizes are awarded and pizza is consumed.

About Emma Mulqueeny (@hubmum)

Emma is director and co-founder of REWIRED STATE. She is one of Britain’s leading digital communication strategists and developers. She has spent much of the last decade successfully crafting transformational digital initiatives, at senior levels, across the British Government and in the US. She is now focusing on building REWIRED STATE and YOUNG REWIRED STATE.

Mulqueeny authored the ePetition ‘Teaching our kids to code’, http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/15081and is the driving force behind Yr8is2late, — both campaigns to lobby government to improve the teaching of coding in schools.  She is a founding member of Coding for Kids (codingforkids.org/), a new online support and lobbying movement that asks its supporters to pledge to take action in their community to improve the teaching of computer programming for British children.