According to the Ukrainian constitution, every citizen is entitled to own a piece of land. The process through which to claim land is a basic one. All a person has to do is find a piece that isnâ€™t being used and ask the government to give it to them. Once this request is submitted the government has 30 days to make a decision. While this process might be plausible in rural areas of the country, in popular places the law is highly disregarded and abused.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by steep, craggy peaks facing the Black Sea in southern Crimea sits the small town of Alushta. During the summertime this is haven is a favorite vacation spot for Ukrainians and Russians. It is one of the few places in Ukraine that has a coast and while it might not measure up to some of the sandy, tropical beaches of Hawaii, it offers a small slice of paradise in an otherwise landlocked country. Because of its unique location, land in Alushta is extremely valuable. As the city grows in size and popularity, conflicts regarding land ownership become more prevalent. People are getting kicked off of their property by developers and powerful local politicians and administrators. The authorities that local citizens rely on for help and protection are the very people who are undermining their rights.
Social Innovation Camp and Deriban
On a weekend during the hot summer of 2011 in Bosnia, Internews Network and TOL launched Social Innovation Camp (SIC). The project brought together a group of selected hacktivists to create six working prototypes of socially meaningful projects. During SIC, Oleg Khomenok, Senior New Media Advisor at Internews Network Ukraine, sprearheaded his group to develop a project they named "Deriban"- a word in Russian that loosely means the misiappropriation of public resources. The idea of the project was to create a crowdsourced mapping tool the public could use to easily identify, report, and track land violations in Ukraine â€“- especially Crimea.
The project involved creating a website wtih a map consisting of two overlapping layers. The base layer would be an official blueprint of the city (obtained through the Open Data Law) to act as a reference point to confirm reported land violations and the second layer would be crowdsourced data identifying violations submitted by the public. People would be able to take photos of land violations with their cell phones, submit them to the site, send in a report to the local government, then track the report during the 30 window that the governement has to address the violation. Exposing these violations leads to public discussion, involvement of media and, hopefully, finding a solution. The site strengtens municipal participation in local governance and increases government transparency while enabling the public to circumvent the traditional, and largely corrupt, system of reporting land violations.
Deriban did not win the award for best project at the end of the SIC challenge, but the Internews Center for Innovation and Learning picked it up as a pilot project and gave the group memebers funding to create the site. Oleg agreed to manage Deriban from Kyiv while Leonid Kolesnikov volunteered himself and his business partner, Paul Belousov, to develop it in Alusta.
Paul Belousov and Leonid Kolesnikov met in 2008. They are both native to Alushta, Crimea and have become savvy to the problems facing the town as it expands in population size and popularity. The two decided themselves to useing new technologie to create innovative solutions to solve local problems, fight immoral citizenship, the absence of independent media, and increase transparency of the state. All of their projects are done in open source software that can easily be implemented in other parts of the country.
One of their most successful projects, and the one that the Derbian framework is modeled after, is Ukryama which uses crowdsource mapping to locate dangerous potholes and report them to the proper authoriy to be fixed. It is based on the idea of You Report, We Sumbit, They Solve It. Since its launch, 1200 potholes have been reported and 300 out of them were resolved within a couple of months. In 2010, the Paul and Leo formally created an NGO, Novus, to contintue their socially conscious work and Deriban is a perfect project for them to take on. They are currently building the site, which is projected to launch in spring of 2012, and are blogging about their progress at http://blog.deriban.net/.