In an attempt to improve public e-services a group of enthusiasts, professional programmers and part-time hackers gathered at Tallinn University in late February, prepared to spend an entire weekend coding new applications for the public sector.
Led by the non-profit initiative Garage48, 16 teams turned 16 ideas into functioning products in 48 hours, including an application allowing for easy visualization of the Estonian state budget, something the government figured would cost at least €300,000.
The idea behind Garage48 is to create a competitive environment for the production of new e-services, by organizing „brain-storming week-ends“ during which teams of programmers struggle to turn ideas into products in 48 hours or less. Certainly, those products can be a bit rough-around-the-edges, but for many entrepreneurs, this 48-hour brainstorming session is exactly the push needed to get a product underway and into real development. Once they get over the hump of preliminary programming, fine-tuning becomes easy.
The Public Service brainstorming session birthed products ranging from the obvious (a visual aid for understanding the Estonian state budget) to the bizarre (a custom-made plushy toy designer), with plenty of variation inbetween. Other highlights include EmergencyChat – a emergency call system for people who cannot speak; an online babysitting exchange; Ajapaik, an entertaining little portal where users can learn about their home town's history by matching old photographs with spots on Google Maps; and a website for helping owners find their lost pets.
Garage48 continues their brainstorming sessions in Latvia, with another session scheduled in Riga for March 25-27.