Tool Fund Grantee - Java

An Interview with
  • Georges Labrèche

This grantee profile is one in our series of Frictionless Data Tool Fund posts, written to shine a light on Frictionless Data’s Tool Fund grantees, their work and to let our technical community know how they can get involved. Frictionless Data Tool Fund grantees are individuals and organizations that Open Knowledge International has commissioned to extend implementation of Frictionless Data libraries in additional programming languages.

I arrived in Kosovo from New York back in 2014 in order to conduct field research for my Masters thesis in International Affairs: I was studying the distinct phenomenon of Digital State-Building, i.e. the use of online digital technologies to promote statehood. I didn’t pack much on my trip here but did bring along a lot of entrepreneurial drive to start a digital agency with strong elements of corporate social responsibility and tech community building. Initially, I had hoped to leverage my background as a Software Engineer to build a small service-oriented startup, but in light of Kosovo’s ongoing state-building processes and push for good governance and anti-corruption, I saw the opportunity to establish a civic-tech NGO, Open Data Kosovo (ODK), as a means of getting local techies to play an active part in state-building by applying their digital skills towards contributing to increasing government transparency and accountability.

Work aside, I have a passion for continuous learning so if you were to meet me I would probably steer the conversation towards what I recently learned on my latest online edX course. My current deep-dives are around space, physics, astronautics and robotics and it is likely that you would find me happily struggling on my homework for online courses in these fields or getting excited about the next scheduled SpaceX launch in my spare time. I am also passionate about travel, particularly experiences that combine visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites, discovery of local cuisines, as well as hiking and mountain climbing in the great outdoors.

I first heard about Frictionless Data from Tin Geber (formerly of The Engine Room). He directly contacted me with a link to the Frictionless Data Tool Fund grant and asked me to apply. A couple of days later, Andrew Russell, the UN Development Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kosovo, asked me about Frictionless Data and the Tool Fund grant on Twitter and I have since had the opportunity to explain the concept behind Frictionless Data to several people.

At first I was just really excited about using the already available Frictionless Data Python library for a procurement data importer we were working on for an Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) project. Here in Kosovo, my organization has liberated public procurement datasets that we’ve transformed into an open format but without any strong nor consistent data processing methodology. As I went through the specifications, it became clear to me that it was exactly what our procurement data liberation workflow was missing. I also wanted to do more than just use it, I wanted to contribute to it and make it more accessible to other developer communities, and especially in Java, which I am proficient in.

Data is messy and, for developers, cleaning and processing data from one project to another can quickly turn an awesome end-product idea into a burdensome chore. Data packages and Frictionless Data tools and libraries are important because they allow developers to focus more on the end-product itself without having to worry about heavy lifting in the data processing pipeline.

Members of programming communities are, as a whole, involved in infinitely diverse projects and problem solving initiatives. Working with that diversity allows us to explore use cases that we would never have imagined when conceptualizing such libraries and tapping into such an ecosystem of programmers would serve to enhance future versions of the libraries.

All my work around extending implementation of Frictionless Data libraries in Java will be available on Github in these two repositories: datapackage-java and tableschema-java, and comments, forks and pull requests are welcome.

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