The year just past has been a pivotal one for Code The City, we’ve moved into a new home, expanded our operations, engaged with new communities of people, and started to put in place solid planning which will be underpinned by expansion and better governance.
Here are some of the highlights from 2019.
Sponsors, volunteers and attendees
We couldn’t do what we do without the help of some amazing people. With just three trustees (Bruce, Steve and Andrew) and Ian our CEO, we couldn’t cover such a range of activities without serious help. Whether you come to our events, volunteer, or your company sponsors our work, you are making a difference in Aberdeen.
Listing things is always dangerous as the potential to miss people out is huge. But here we go!
The Data Lab, MBN Solutions, Scotland IS, InoApps, Forty-Two Studio, who all provided very generous financial support; H2O AI donated to our charity in lieu of sponsorship of a meet-up; and the James Hutton Institute and InoApps who also donated laptops for us to re-use at our code clubs. Codify, IFB, Converged Comms who provided specific funding for projects including buying kit for code club, and paying for new air quality devices – some of which we have still to build.
Our regular volunteers – Vanessa, Zoe, Attakrit, Charlotte, and Shibo – plus the several parents who stay to help too, all help mentor the kids at Young City Coders club.
Lee, Carlos, Scott, Rob who are on the steering group of the Python User Group meetup.
Naomi, Ian N, David, and Gavin who are on the steering group for Air Aberdeen along with Kevin from 57 North who supervises the building of new sensor devices.
The ONE Tech Hub, and ONE Codebase have created a great space not only for us to work in, but also in which to run our public-facing events.
Everyone who stays behind to help us clear away plates, cups and uneaten food – or nips out to the shops when we run out of milk.
Apologies to anyone we have missed!
And finally YOU – everyone who has attended one of or sessions – you’ve helped make Aberdeen a little bit better place to live in. Thank you!
We ran four hack events this year. Here is a quick run-down.
Air Quality 1
We kicked off 2019 with the CTC15 AIr Quality hack in February. This saw us create fourteen new devices which people took home to install and start gathering data. We also had a number of teams looking at the data coming from the sensors, and some looking at how we could use LoraWAN as a data transport network. We set some targets for sensor numbers which were, in retrospect, perhaps a little ambitious. We set up a website (https://airaberdeen.org)
Air Quality 2
Unusually for us we had a second event on the same theme in quick succession: CTC16 in June. Attendees created another fourteen devices. We developed a better model for the data, improved on the website and governance of the project. We got great coverage on TV, on radio and in local newspapers.
Make Aberdeen Better
CTC17 came along in November. The theme was a broad one – what would you do to make Aberdeen a better place to live, work or play? Attendees chose four projects to work on: public transport, improved methods of monitoring air quality, how we might match IT volunteers to charities needing IT help, and the open data around recycling.
CTC18, our final hack of the year was another themeless one, timed to fit into a single day. We asked participants to come and work on a pet side-project, or to help someone else with theirs. Despite a lower turnout in the run-up to Christmas, we still had eight projects being worked on during the day.
New home, service
In the late summer the ONE Tech Hub opened and we moved in as one of the first tenants. So far we rent a single desk in the co-working space but we aim to expand that next year. The building is great, which is why we run all of our events there now, and as numbers grow it promises to fulfil its promise as the bustling centre of Aberdeen’s tech community.
Having started a new Data Meet-up in 2018 we moved that to ONE Tech Hub along with our hack events. We also kicked off a new Python User group in September this year, the same year as we started to deliver Young City Coders sessions to encourage youngsters to get into coding, using primarily Scratch and Python.
We also ran our first WikiMedia Editathon in August – using WIkipedia, WIki Commons and Wikidata to capture and share some of the history of Aberdeen’s cinemas using these platforms. We are really supportive of better using all of the wikimedia tools. Ian recently attended a three-day course to become a wikimedia trainer. And at CTC18 there were two projects using wikidata and wiki commons too. Expect much more of this next year!
Some recognition and some numbers
We’ve been monitoring our reach and impact this year.
In March we were delighted to see that Code The City made it onto the Digital Social Innovation For Europe platform. This project was to identify organisations and projects across the EU who are making an impact using tech and data for civic good.
In July we appeared for the first time in an Academic journal – in an article about using a hackathon to bring together health professionals, data scientists and others to address health challenges.
We will be launching our dashboard in the New Year. Meantime, here are some numbers to chew on.
We ran four sessions, detailed above. We had 102 attendees and 15 facilitators who put in a total of 1,872 hours of effort on a total of 20 projects. All of this was for civic benefit.
Young City Coders
We ran six sessions of our Young City Coders which started in September. The sessions had a total of 114 kids attending and 28 mentors giving up two hours or more.
In 2019 we had 12 data meet-ups with 28 speakers and 575 attendees! This is becoming a really strong local community of practitioners and researchers from academia and local industry.
Each of our four sessions from September to December had a speaker, and attracted a total of 112 attendees who were set small project tasks.
The year ahead
2020 is going to see CTC accelerate its expansion. We’re recruiting two new board members, and we have drawn up a business plan which we will share soon. That should see us expand the team and strengthen our ability to drive positive societal change through tech, data and volunteering. We have two large companies considering providing sponsorship for new activities next year. We’ll also be looking at improving our fundraising – widening the range of sources that we approach for funding, and allowing us to hire staff for the first time.
We’re long-term champions of open data as many of you will have read in previous posts. We’ve identified the need to strengthen the Open Data community in Scotland and to contribute beyond our own activities. Not only has Ian joined the Civic side of Open Government Partnership, and is leading on Commitment three of that to improve open data provision, but he has also joined the board of the Data Commons Scotland programme at Stirling University.
Scottish Open Data Unconference
Beyond that we have created, and we are going to run, the Scottish Open Data Unconference in March. This promises to be a great coming together of the data community including academia, government, developers, and publishers. If you haven’t yet signed up please do so now – there are only 11 tickets of 90 still available. We’ll also need volunteers to help run it: scribes for sessions, helping to orientate new visitors, covering reception, photography, blogging etc. Let us know how you could help.
We look forward to working with you all in the New Year and wish you all a peaceful and relaxing time over the festive period.
Ian, Steve, Bruce and Andrew