Open data: decentralising and democratising social justice

From Global development | The Guardian Tue Feb 19 2013, 10:57:16

Chris Worman writes about Open Courts, the dataset which provides a model for others interested in data-driven advocacy

Glancing back and forth between the two university students and what looked like the underside of a jellyfish on their laptop, I was at a bit of a loss for words. "So I am looking at a visual representation of the connections between judges, plaintiffs and defendants, and court decisions by topic, for every court case in Slovakia since 1997?" Smiling, the first student replied: "Basically. It's almost 400,000 decisions downloaded, scraped, indexed and cleaned up."

"And ... why did you decide to do this?" "Well, I couldn't find a case I was interested in. The Department of Justice site was just so poorly organised. And besides, it seemed like a good idea."

Meet Pavol Zbell and Samuel Molnár, computer science students who had no particular social change agenda. They were not, and are not, out to take on their national judiciary or serve some higher power of social justice. They just couldn't find what they were looking for.

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