On the 24th and 25th November 2012 we are running a hack weekend for Parliament http://rewiredstate.org/hacks/parliament-2012. This is our second “Parly hack” and we have over 100 of the UK’s top developers (including 20% aged 18 or under from Young Rewired State) joining us.
Hack events in the UK have always played a vital role in helping government be open and transparent about what it is doing, and it is essential that this extends to what Parliament is doing too. Many people roll Government and Parliament up into one big ball of responsibility, and whilst it is right that this is so, there are also fundamental differences between the two bodies. Parliament has a video that explains this very clearly (ignore the target age group)
For those not familiar with the hack day format, it is an event usually held over two days, where developers, designers and experts work with digital information to create prototype web or mobile apps, infographics, websites or widgets with a view to making that information more understandable by everyone. They are important because the people involved are working with facts, statistics and published information – there is no opportunity for spin or mis-direction. In these days of mistrust of anyone in power, these events and communities underpin democracy and have a big role to play in rebuilding trust between citizens of a country and its elected populus.
If you watched the video you will understand the major differences between Government and Parliament, if you didn’t the highlights are thus:
- Government is made up of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and is responsible for running public sector departments – choosing how to raise and spend money from the taxpayer
- Parliament is made up of the House of Lords, The House of Commons and the Monarch – so Government is a part of Parliament
- Crucially, Parliament is the highest legislative authority of the land, making and revising most the laws in the UK
- Parliament also scrutinises Government and its actions
Consider your Member of Parliament (MP), they can raise questions on your behalf and get answers, they can also ask difficult questions of Government Ministers in their capacity as an MP. As can the House of Lords.
So if the communities of people who attend open data hack events only focused on the Government in the UK, they risk only getting half the answer, and providing easy access to information that is only made available through Government – and miss the information that Parliament holds on any given topic. Needless to say, scrutiny of those in Parliament is as important as that levelled at Number Ten and the Cabinet.
This year Parliament has been enthusiastic about joining in on this hack day, to the point that not only are they ensuring we have access to as much information as they can release, they are also opening access to the Annunciator data.
The annunciator service gives information about parliamentary proceedings, including live feeds from the Commons and Lords Chambers and Westminster Hall, on television screens throughout the parliamentary estate.
We have been keen on getting this for a while, simply because we can not only help open up Parliamentary procedure more easily with this access, but we can also create assets for MPs and Parliamentarians, to make their lives more easy too. Making pages such as this more alive http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/divisions/
And so we begin our plans for Parly hack 2012, hand in hand with Parliament and the developer community; with a view to continuing the trend for transparency – and making information relevant and understandable for everyone. At the same time we are supporting the (continuously cut) public sector employees who struggle to have the time and resources to do it on their own, however committed they are to openness.
If you would like to attend the Show and Tell to see what is made at Parly hack, sign up here http://rewiredstate.org/hacks/rsparly-2012-show-and-tell
Parliament Hack is taking place as a part of Parliament Week.