Successful Codeathon Fosters U.S. – Russia Relations

For Immediate Release

Monday, September 26, 2011
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A team of three from American University was selected the Washington winner of the first U.S.-Russia Codeathon, a weekend-long, trans-Atlantic gathering of volunteer computer programmers and civil society experts taking place in both Moscow and Washington, D.C. The 30-hour-long, timed event saw software designers or computer science students in both locations work to address challenges and issues related to open governance in both countries that had been raised by civil society groups as part of the expanded dialogue between U.S. and Russian civil society organizations, which is part of the Obama-Medvedev Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC). The winning team produced a unique search tool capable of connecting citizens to legislation relevant to their interests and helping them to understand it.

The winning team in the U.S. was one of eight, primarily student programmer groups, participating at American University over the September 24-25 weekend. The Moscow Codeathon was hosted at Yandex, a major Russian Internet firm, where seven teams of energetic coders participated. The Codeathon took place simultaneously at the American University, Washington, D.C., and the Yandex headquarters in Moscow. An internet video bridge linked the two sites, allowing teams to interact during the marathon event. Due to the eight-hour time difference, the judges announced the winners early evening Moscow time, while D.C. coders were still going strong after a long night of coding. The Washington event then closed early on Sunday evening at local time.

The Moscow winning team of coders had participants from the Yandex Company and developed a prototype for an anonymous, fraud-proof, verifiable e-polling system. The second and third place teams in Washington produced both an SMS-based neighborhood networking service and a heat-map visualization tool for crime statistics. In Moscow, second place went to a program for visualization of government procurement spending data and third to a program for tracking the assets and income of public officials.

Winning teams were selected by a panel of judges made up of representatives from the tech and open data communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Programmers signed up through an open registration portal at http://code4country.com. Code4Country was a unique event – a U.S.-Russian public-private initiative involving technology companies, civil society and ordinary citizens in the U.S. and Russia to foster cooperation, business development and transparency and efficiency in government. Volunteers from multiple universities, several high-tech companies, including Yandex and Google, together with the Skolkovo Foundation, came together in Washington and Moscow under the framework of the U.S.-Russia BPC to make the Codeathon a reality. Presidents Obama and Medvedev have supported such civil society bridges to promote dialogue between the peoples of both countries and to spur this kind of initiative to solve common problems.

The objective of Code4Country was to generate innovative tools that could make government more transparent and empower citizens in both countries to hold their governments accountable. Organizers believe it is very possible that applications created in Russia during the Codeathon will benefit transparency and e-government in the U.S. and that applications created in the U.S. will have the same benefit in Russia. For the past few weeks, people in Russia and the U.S. submitted problem definitions to a bilingual website, http://code4country.com, identifying an obstacle and a proposed solution for improving openness in their countries and communities through information technologies.

Financial support for the Codeathon was provided in part by the United States Agency for International Development.

For more information about USAID, visit www.usaid.gov.

Last updated: June 12, 2012

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