On July 15 – 16, 2011, TechCamp Moldova brought together representatives of civil society, media, government and the private sector to explore how the government can make much of the data it holds public, and how civil society, utilizing the latest information technology applications, can use that information for the benefit of Moldovans. TechCamp Moldova was created through a collaboration of partners, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of State Office of eDiplomacy, the Moldovan eGovernment Center and the Chisinau Information Communications Technology (ICT) firm Trimetrica. The partners contributed funds and their organizational talents to the event and initiative.
The concept of TechCamp grew out of the Civil Society 2.0 Initiative of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and TechCamp Moldova is the fourth that has been held so far. During a TechCamp, small working groups representing civil society brainstorm how they can apply information technology in their work, and then receive hands-on training from leading experts to give them the necessary skills. The theme chosen for TechCamp Moldova was “Open Government Data.”
As U.S. Embassy Moldova’s Deputy Chief of Mission Marcus Micheli noted in his remarks, Open Government Data is necessary for a country to fully utilize the potential of information technology, as massive amounts of data which governments hold cannot be fully put to use unless they are made open—open to civil society organizations, businesses and educational institutions to use in creative ways to improve life for its citizens. These applications can improve public services, increase citizen awareness of and participation in government decision-making, and better utilize limited resources.
Although TechCamp Moldova generated ideas for new ICT applications, Moldovans have already been creatively applying ICT to mobilize citizen participation. Eugeniu Hristev of Trimetrica presented an application that allows users to submit information about improper trash disposal in Chisinau, and then gather in groups to clean up identified locations. Another example is www.alerte.md, a website that collects information about the state of the roads, street lights, and other important issues in the municipality of Chisinau. Inspired by the presented information, TechCamp participants expressed interest in setting up a portal with citizen generated data to monitor corruption in the public sector, thus directly influencing levels of corruption in Moldova.
“TechCamp Moldova and Open Government Data should be viewed as part of the larger eGovernment Transformation Strategy of Moldova,” said Kent Larson, USAID’s Moldova Country Director. Moldova is striving to be a leader in ICT, having established an eGovernment Center to manage implementation of the Strategy. With the support of USAID, Moldova recently succeeded in securing a $20 million World Bank credit to help it pursue this transformation. TechCamp Moldova also provided valuable tools to civil society and the private sector that will enhance the technical assistance they are receiving through ongoing USAID programs.