Russia: SocialCamp, Crowdsourcing and Open Data

A SocialCamp Russia ‘unconference’ took place in Moscow from 7th to 9th of September. Over the course of three days social activists spoke about projects aimed at raising awareness, improving mutual understanding, promoting philanthropy, and much more.

Teplitsa Social Technologies [ru] organised a session called “Civic and Social Internet Projects: A Success Story,” during which the developers of civic applications and internet based non-profit projects shared stories about the emergence and development of their ideas. Some had evolved spontaneously – as a result of a college assignment, or in the form of a photo album on a social network. Others were a reaction to the political situation in the country. Still more were tools that can have both emergency and peacetime applications. Each presenter was asked a variety of questions, but we stuck with the same question for everyone: “Would your project have been possible without the Internet?”

OpenStreetMap: Whence a map of Krymsk? Cases of rapid mapping after emergencies.

Ilya Zverev presented the project OpenStreetMap and its usefulness in a variety of situations. On the one hand, it became one of the most important coordination resources for volunteers and emergency workers after the flooding in Krymsk. On the other hand, it can be used as a navigation tool for those newly moved to an unfamiliar part of town.

Would your project or the idea behind it be possible without the Internet? What would it look like?

Ilya Zverev: During the Soviet era some children drew maps of their area as a hobby. They marked the locations of the buildings, the shop, the walking paths… They did it just for fun and between them created many disconnected fragments of a larger map. The Brits who started this project [OpenStreetMap], travelled around by bicycle, motorcycle and car, and in the process gathered a large database of GPS tracking information. But without the internet all of this was just uncoordinated data with which it was impossible to work. The Internet became the connecting link that made it possible to merge all these “kids’ doodles” into one big picture, and all the GPS tracking information into one database in which the individual tracks came to resemble a map. The Brits noticed this and thought “Why not make a map, seeing as these tracks already look like one?” So, without the Internet, people drew maps, yes, but creating a map of the world could not have happened.

Grakon: online tools for the self-organisation of election observers.

The online platform Grakon, which functioned as a virtual coordination centre for election observers, was developed by Sergei Kolylov and Ilya Boikov.

Would your project or the idea behind it be possible without the Internet? What would it look like?

Ilya Boikov: It probably would have been possible – offline, we would have focussed our activism on interacting with political parties and groups of observers. The concept of the project, however, is the self-organisation of observers in the field. It's important that an observer is not alone but in a team, so we proposed coordinating by means of an Internet resource [Grakon]. It's practically impossible to imagine this kind of integration without the Internet. It would have been a completely different project.


The SocialCamp conference format allows for anyone to become a co-organiser; to change the scope or become a speaker. Renat Zakirov took part in the Teplitsa session with I-HISTORY.RF [ru], a project dedicated to recording the memories of people who have witnessed historic events. Many of the stories are truly remarkable — all come from ordinary people.



Gleb Suvorov presented the project Rospravosudiye (literally Russian Justice) [ru] – the largest directory of attorneys, lawyers and judges based on open databases pulled from judicial websites. Read an interview with Suvorov here [ru].

Would your project or the idea behind it be possible without the Internet? What would it look like?

Gleb Suvorov: It wouldn't exist. The project wholly depends on the internet: the information sources are all online. The users are online. We could maybe give it a try without the Internet, but it would be very laborious and irrelevant.

Author: Darya Alekseyeva. Original available at Greenhouses of Social Technologies.

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