Albin Larsson: Blog

Culture, Climate, and Code

Govdirectory and the Unlock Accelerator

3rd February 2022

A crowdsourced and fact-checked directory of official governmental online accounts and services.

That was how Jan Ainali and I described Govdirectory in late April last year when we wrote the initial application to the Unlock Accelerator.

The idea, a global directory of government agencies and their online presence based on Wikidata, was accepted, and we got started.

Highlights of the Unlock Accelerator Program

As skeptical as I was about the accelerator program, others were about my aim to have a working prototype within the first week. The program was great, and we had a working prototype within the first week!

The development speed was all thanks to the Snowman site generator and the Wikidata SPARQL service. A couple of HTML templates and some SPARQL queries and “check”. Working with Snowman was great, and it was the first time I got to show it off in an open-source project.

Much more went into making the program great. Here are some of my personal highlights from the program!

The other participants and their projects

The common goal of expanding access to the world’s knowledge and open values of the Unlock Accelerator made it different from my previous experience with accelerators. The majority of the projects were efforts that I could easily relate to or be inspired by, and I enjoyed many interesting and rewarding chats. Check out the other projects!

The structure and mentorship

I used to say that Jan and I could have created Govdirectory without the Accelerator project. However, with a few months of reflection, I would rephrase that.

Our mentor Fabian Gampp did provide a framework for our product development. That ensured we always questioned our ideas and focused on our users.

We could have created a Govdirectory on our own, but it would have been one designed after the needs and ideas of Jan and me, not the one that now exists.

Less (Bad) Design

There were plenty of interesting workshops to attend during the program, but the one that stuck with me the most was one based around the “Less (Bad) Design: A Toolkit For Ethical Ideation”. A toolkit by Matthew Manos meant to uncover the new problems our “solutions” might generate or contribute to.

No digital project is free from bad side effects, it just isn’t possible. However, by utilizing this toolkit one becomes aware of such and can minimize them or even consider the design of various features or KPIs.

It stuck with me and lead me to reflect on several bad side effects of both past personal projects and ones with former employers or clients.

Such a toolkit/framework was to me a missing piece when it comes to product design and project planning. I have since applied this toolkit both to my projects and those of my clients.

Final notes

We continue to develop and expand Govdirectory. If you want to get involved, you can check out good first issues on Github or have a look at the ongoing data-related efforts over at Wikidata.

Finally, a big thanks to the Unlock team and encouragement for the reader to apply to the Unlock program later this spring!

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