It is going to be hard to summarize the last few days in terms of the amount of information that was flowing around me, considering that at certain times I was absolutely overwhelmed by this flux. There were talks I attended where I didn't even attempt to understand what was being talked about and other times where I had a brief idea but still didn't put any mental effort in capturing the information as I saw no immediate applicability. I have this unrooted assumption that captured information can pose an overhead to your brain if you don't have any short-mid term plans of retaining it. But there were also moments of inspiration and knowledge acquisition and my intention here is to summarize what those moments were.
The conference kicked-off with an inspiring keynote by Catherine Bracy, which was essentially a call to arms for programmers to take on more responsibility in their communities by putting their skills into good use. She is the community organizer for 'Code for America' and founder for 'Code for All' which are non-partisan organizations that engages in digital projects alongside with provincial governments to improve the state of bureaucracy. Their hope is the by improving the day-to-day interactions of citizens with the government they can improve the relationships between the people and their government which helps democracy and can level up to a deeper civic engagement. She started with giving examples from the disastrous government tech projects that failed to deliver and went on to talk about those that had positive impacts on the lives of people who benefit from the improvement in social services the most. Examples that come to mind are cell phone services that inform people about presence of a nearby internet connected public computer, or an easy crowd sourcing website for other people to help with hydro bills of people who can't afford them. One interesting project she mentioned was 'Own a Drain' where residents can own a drain hole in their neighbourhood and assure it is not clogged in case it is to rain. The whole service they provide is gamified so it makes it easy to participate. Catherine emphasized that good governance now is intimately linked with digital and we need to participate in this system of governance at least at the local level whenever we can if we want to see an improvement in our services. It was a great talk, well delivered and had a strong activist undertone which was empowering. It was an unfortunate but a truthful declaration she made during the Q&A that "it is now the rational choice to choose not to vote".
Find the talk here: