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Week 10: 70 Days In...

by

.. ”The

This is not a polling station. Fortunately. This is the valve tower at Pontsticill reservoir, in the county of Merthyr Tydfil. It’s a glorious-looking place. This photo is here to celebrate Merthyr, who this week provided their polling station data. Hurray! Kudos also to Swansea for their efforts.

.Cymru is a great domain

We launched the polling station finder! NUS Wales kindly invited us to join a little get together in Cardiff Uni’s (very nice) Students’ Union. And Leighton Andrews, Wales’ Minister of Public Services was good enough to try out some postcodes. As did several students, and largely, it worked!

More importantly, the site - wheredoIvote.wales - is live and usable, so give it a go. If you don’t get an answer, that’s where we need more data. If you’re up for trying to convince your council to provide it, ping us an email!

We love that there’s a Welsh language version - bleibleidleisio.cymru - thanks to Gareth and Rhys for their translation efforts - and we’ve even got a rather nice Welsh language logo to go with it.

”Rapt

11,935 candidates to go…

We’ve had a few chats about the candidate crowdsourcing this week: people are keen to get tracking them down! But we’ve been stuck on those council areas whose boundaries were redrawn, because we can’t get the new boundary shape data or new area IDs. (If you missed this - here’s the backstory).

However, thanks to the wise counsel of many, we realised that this shouldn’t delay everyone else whose boundaries haven’t changed… so as I write, Sym is hammering away at his keyboard, which will somehow result in the import of all the local elections. Then, as that tall bloke with a spyglass said, the game is on.

Have we run out of money yet?

Like democramouse, we’re eking it out. But we’ve started thinking about the business stuff again. When we joined the BGV incubator, it was partly for the delicious investment of £15k on the table. But we then realised that equity funding for democratic infrastructure was probably unwise. So… what do we do?

We’re pretty sure that open data for democracy should be seen as a public good. According to some economics that Joe once studied, that means a good (or service) is ‘non-exhaustive’ and ‘non-exclusive’. That is, it doesn’t run out the more people use it, nor can we exclude certain people from using it. It’s like clean air, or street-lighting, or lighthouses.

Because of these attributes, you logically can’t profit from these types of goods. So in order that they exist, society has to come together to fund them. They have to be publicly provided. But we don’t have any friends at Her Majesty’s Treasury. (If anyone does know Liz, please let us know. Or, more seriously, if you have experience raising significant sums from government, or convincing government to take on your project, email hello @ democracyclub.org.uk)

So we’ve been talking about how we might raise revenue from the data - perhaps ensuring that it’s free for non-commercial projects by charging commercial projects. In which case we’ll start a company limited by shares, take the BGV money and see where we go from there.

(Aside: it’s been interesting to follow the experience of Loomio, who’ve been trying to do good stuff for (deliberative) democracy with digital, and have battled with this question for years. They’ve just announced that they are taking external investment, but that they’ve done something cunning with redeemable preference shares, which can only be bought back by the staff cooperative.)

We’re having a party

It’s BYOD: bring your own data. (Sorry.)

A few of us are getting together at Newspeak House on Saturday 9 April to cram more data on candidates or polling stations into the system, perhaps chat some new ideas of how to get the data out to the people (particularly as Scottish Parliament candidates will be official by then), maybe go out and do some user research… you know, those things you do at parties.

Okay, so it’s actually a workshop, or ‘maker day’. But we thought Democraparty had a ring to it. Do sign up if you’re keen - we’ve probably got room for about 10-15 people.

Housemates of the week

Occasionally, when their naughty little children aren’t playing up, the lovely Judy and Kartika are in the Big Somerset House at the desk next to ours. Kartika brought strawberries this week. It was great.

They’re tackling a big problem: postnatal depression and loneliness among new parents. They’re building an app for such folks that will match them with other new parents who share similar interests and a location. “It’s Tinder for Parents!” I hear you cry. Well…there’s some similarities, but it’s much better. There’s a focus on safety, on offline events, and on sharing local knowledge about where is child-friendly and great. (Joe’s told them he would pay for this data, so he can avoid those places.)

Two brilliant women, both with young kids (and another on the way for Judy), racing for startup success - it’s inspiring stuff. Check pkboo.net out!

Next week…

…is but four days long. Because chocolate. But once we’ve got local elections working (as far as possible) in the candidates database, you can bet we’ll be shouting about it - and please join us in getting the word out. If it’s rainy on Easter weekend, you know what to do. If you have children, only let them have chocolate once they’ve found at least five new candidates. That sort of thing.

Maundy Thursday is traditionally a day when startups come together and present to an audience of keen investors. Oh no, sorry, that’s a demo day. We’ll be doing one on Thursday and you’re very welcome if you’re in the area. We hope it’ll kick off a few interesting leads – and we promise to share the video. If Joe can write the thing in time.

Forward!

Photo credit: Greg Marshall