Hack the system! How open data can aid integration into Danish society

Participants including asylum-seekers and international students were challenged at Hack Integration to find new technological solutions to aid integration using open data

Hacking used to mean something illegal and make you think of 1980s blockbuster ‘Wargames’. Today, it has a more positive meaning. People are creating ‘Ikea-Hacks’ or posting ‘make life easier’ hacks on Instagram. And now you can also hack integration.

At ‘Hack Integration’, a workshop event held at the Aalborg University Copenhagen campus from October 7-9, teams of participants were challenged by organiser Open4citizens to use open data to come up with initiatives to encourage more interaction between foreigners in Denmark and their hosts.

Open data opens doors
The EU-funded project Open4citizens is exploring the potential of open data – information provided by public institutions such as the mapping of public buildings – to assist integration.

“We think the data available can be used in a smarter way to make better integration” explained Rikke Ulk, the CEO of the consultancy Antropologerne, in her keynote speech at the event.

The classroom at the university campus in Sydhavnen was not just full of data programmers and IT whizz kids, but also international students, asylum-seekers and people just interested in the topic of integration.

“Open data can often be vague, dry and hard to understand,” said event co-ordinator Louise Klitgaard Torntoft, a research assistant at Open4citizens.

“So I was surprised how many people were actually interested in the event, as we did not try to make it a secret that the event was about open data. We had 34 people on the waiting list [for 40 places].”

READ MORE: Meet the Danes in their homes

Pattern spotter from Princeton
Lizette Taguchi, a 33-year-old participant who has just finished a PHD in social enterprise at Princeton, said she was eager to use her knowledge and personal background in the hackaton.

“I have a father from Japan and a Danish mother and I am myself adopted from Korea,” she explained.

“I just came back to Denmark after seven years of studying in the US. Integration is a very relevant subject to me – especially as I now have to reintegrate.”

Taguchi contends that the open data can help her identify patterns and where the need for social intervention is.

Meet, greet, eat
Over the course of the three days, the participants were given inspirational speeches, coaching by experts and Middle Eastern food to fuel the brains. They worked hard to create six solutions, which were all pitched on the afternoon of the final day.

One of the solutions was ‘Meet and Eat’, an app that allocates recipes to Danes and newcomers who want to dine together, which might enable them to qualify for discounts at local food shops.

All of the solutions will now be evaluated by Open4citizens and given the necessary support to become activated.

READ MORE: Would you like more integrated cheese with your risotto?

Hope restored
Another participant was Ismail Yagoub, a 34-year-old asylum-seeker from Sudan who has been in Denmark for five years. He is still waiting for his asylum request to be decided, and in the meantime he has almost finished a bachelor’s degree in data-programming.

“The event has given me the feeling there is more intention to help immigration problems,” he said.

Yagoub is hopeful he will find a job in IT if he is granted asylum. He is currently building a job database for Trampoline House.

READ MORE: Activists work to put more control in asylum seekers’ hands





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