Volunteer coders and designers are taking inspiration from the USA to push the cause of civic technology in Poland.
Code for Poland, which has been running for a year, has adopted the model of volunteer “brigades”, who are working to create local tools for Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Lodz and Gdansk.
The brigades are based on those used by Code for America, which harnesses the skills of volunteers across the US to make tools for their cities.
“We had a huge boom of interest – we weren’t expecting so much attention,” says Code for Poland’s co-ordinator Krzysztof Madejski.
With only a small budget, Madejski admits it was hard to cope with all the interest. But the project has settled down into a hub, connecting different groups across Poland, with two new cities due to join soon.
The team has also just confirmed its first fellow, a technologist who will work on tools for the city of Gdansk.
Current projects include an app to help people recycle, and the team are looking at adapting Streetmix – a Code for America tool that allows citizens and planners to design or redesign their local roads to incorporate features such as bus or cycle lanes.
“We want to showcase the amazing projects people are working on,” he says.
Code for Poland began as part of ePF, a foundation which urges Poles to take advantage of technology and open data to make a difference in their country, and is now independent.
While Code for Poland isn’t yet part of Code for America’s international arm, Code for All, it has worked closely with its sister group in the US.
“They’ve a lot of experience in what we’re doing – they’ve been going for four years – so we’re using their experience,” he explains.
“But the challenges are different in Poland, especially as we're starting from scratch.”
This means Code for Poland is backing a wide range of hack events, including Code For Freedom, held in September to “promote the ideals of freedom, solidarity and democracy”.
Madejski says: “Rather than running hackathons, we’re acting as more of a media partner – getting the word out there.”