A nine-year-old schoolboy and his eight-year-old friend recently won an international entrepreneurial award for creating a mobile application that shows how open data from local communities can be made available to everyone.
Much information is collected by governments to allow cities and towns to run smoothly.
This data is currently not available to citizens to use freely for easier and more practical living. But, thanks to the app developed by nine-year-old William Colglazier, it is hoped that similar creations will lead to the wider use of open data.
Colglazier, who now attends Reddam Preparatory School in Westlake, Cape Town, came up with the idea along with his friend, Alex Glidden (8), for the mobile app @Me-on-the-move while still living in the U.S.
Colglazier and Glidden received the award at the Data Day 2014 conference presented by Smart Cities, an initiative of Citadel-on-the-move in Ghent, Belgium in January 2014.
Citadel-on-the-move, which is funded by the European Commission, aims to use open data innovatively to benefit citizens.
Geert Mareels, ICT Manager for the Flemish eGovernment Authority and Citadel Project Coordinator, says: “When we set out, we never dreamed that our tools would enable a nine-year-old to create an app that works across three continents. Let alone in five minutes!”
Colglazier and Glidden’s mobile app has information about events in Cape Town, South Africa, Holyoke and York in the U.S., Ghent in Belgium, and Athens in Greece.
“The app has data on any events happening in towns or cities. It has information on sports events or parking spots you can use,” Colglazier says.
The idea for the app grew from Colglazier having dinner with Glidden and his parents one evening.
Glidden’s mother, Julia, works for Smart Cities, Citadel and asked Colglazier if he would like to enter a competition where he could win money.
Colglazier explains how he went to the Massachusetts town hall with his mentor, Julia in Holyoke, to ask for their open data.
“They had absolutely no idea what I was asking for and told me to go to their website.
I told them I need the open data in an Excel spreadsheet for me to be able to use it,” says Colglazier.
Colglazier’s mother, Melissa Murphy, says the app was created by using the open data to get the information and place it in a spreadsheet in order for the data to be manipulated.
The information cannot be used in any other format.
Colglazier then moved to Cape Town and continued his mission to get open data for his mobile app.
“The Cape Town Tourism Board were incredibly helpful and gave us all the information, termed as data sets that specify event information in Cape Town for the year,” says Murphy.
This information was then used for the app.
The app can currently not be accessed for use, because the invention was entered into the competition and belongs to Citadel-on-the-move.
There was no cost involved in creating the app. Colglazier used one of the Citadel-on-the-move templates to create it.
For now, he plans to learn Afrikaans and to concentrate on his studies.
Perhaps this nine-year-old’s creation will become a stepping stone for other entrepreneurs.
- For information on how to use Citadel’s tools for an app, go to www.citadelonthemove.eu