This spring, the USAID and UK aid Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS) program and the State Agency for E-Government (SAEG) announced Ukraine's second Open Data Challenge.

TAPAS and SAEG invited developers, designers, startups, and researchers to use or generate open data products with social and anti-corruption impact. Together with mentors and business consultants, 20 selected teams will intensively work for four months on their projects to discover many new opportunities. The teams will bank a total of 2.5 million hryvnia (approximately $96,000) in prize money to continue to develop their innovative open data projects. The 2018 Open Data Challenge earned a mention on Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s Facebook page and TAPAS is looking forward to even more innovative open data initiatives this year.

Open Data Challenges spur creativity, foster greater openness, and promote transparency by encouraging the use of open data to provide sustainable solutions to social challenges, including the corruption facing so many sectors of Ukrainian society. Ukraine’s Open Data Challenge helps to elevate the open data agenda nationally and stimulate stakeholders in the government, civil society, media and the private sector to utilize and advocate for open data.

This Open Data Challenge is based on the success of the Ukraine’s first contest in 2017, whose winners were announced in September 2017. The winning teams banked a total of 1.5 million hryvnia (approximately $56,000) in prize money to continue to develop their innovative open data projects.

“The interesting thing for me was the diversity of applications,” said judge Richard Stirling, an associate at the Open Data Institute (ODI) in London. “We had teams solving transparency in coal markets, gamifying MP performance, and even one looking to bring a little transparency to graveyards. This points to the broad spectrum of problems that can be solved using open data and open approaches.”

The other judges included Oleksandr Ryzhenko, head of the SAEG; Garth Willis of USAID; Denis Gursky of the 1991 Open Data Incubator; Victor Liakh of the East Europe Foundation (EEF); and Kateryna Onyiliogwu of the TAPAS team.

More than 200 startups from 31 cities across Ukraine applied to compete in the challenge, creating business models aimed at harnessing open data to create social change and tackle corruption.

Of the applications received, 15 teams were invited to take part in an intensive weekend event, which resulted in 10 finalists being selected to take part in the incubation marathon. During this two-month period, finalists honed their open data projects by developing prototypes, drafting business plans, and testing products and services. Their efforts culminated at Ukraine’s inaugural Open Data Forum, where teams delivered a three-minute pitch detailing their products and achievements during the incubation. Following team’s presentations, judges selected three winners:

First Place: Open Market Coal received 600,000 hryvnia (approximately $22,400) to create a platform that will increase transparency in Ukraine’s coal market. The platform will enable stock market auctions, providing additional revenue to the state budget. The public, including the media, will be able to access the coal market data for monitoring and analysis.

“Thanks to participating in the Open Data Challenge, we developed the exchange module ‘Coal Auctions,’ said team member Victor Vishnyo. "This is an electronic resource that allows players on the coal market use a market mechanism to set a fair price for this category of goods while the state receives additional revenues to the budget. The training and mentoring of experienced Open Data Challenge mentors greatly contributed to improve the project."

Kirilo Zakharov (center) of Court on Your Palm celebrates winning second place in Ukraine’s 2017 Open Data Challenge.

Second Place: Court on Your Palm received 500,000 hryvnia (approximately $18,600) to launch an application for lawyers that helps them easily find information from the register of court decisions. This tool will assist lawyers, journalists, and civic activists who monitor the judicial system.

“Participation in the Open Data Challenge has opened tremendous opportunities for us: an expert community appraised our project; we received valuable help from mentors; and we better understood the specifics of business development and doing business based on open data," said Kirilo Zakharov of Court on Your Palm. "It was an incredible mix of discoveries, intense work, and a real drive. And, of course, this is the fastest way to create a full-fledged product!”

Third Place: the Shtraf UA project received 400,000 hryvnia (approximately $15,000) to create an application that calculates payment of motorist fines and provides information on compulsory third party insurance.

“The victory in the Open Data Challenge competition set a new stage in the development of our ‘Fines UA’ service," said team member Denis Dmitrov. "We received funding to implement the idea of service updates. This victory is our opportunity and our motivation to really do something useful and necessary for the Ukrainian society.”

“We hope to develop a successful commercial and socially significant project, which, by its own example, will prove the great value of open data,” said Zakharov. “We will hope for a real revolution in the judicial process of our country...the end of inconsistent enforcement will reduce the mistakes of judges and help to combat corruption. Our platform will make the work of the courts more transparent.”

After its success in the first challenge, Court on Your Palm also took top prizes in the Aequo Legal Tech Challenge and in the HiiL Innovating Justice Challenge sponsored by The Hague Institute of Innovation in Law (HiiL) in partnership with the 1991 Open Data Incubator. The team learned many lessons in the process, including advancing its technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, as well as jurisprudence, finance, and search engines.

TAPAS is looking forward to even more innovative open data initiatives from this year’s Open Data Challenge.