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On May 31st, Lamba Labs and SMEX – both leaders in Lebanon’s digital advocacy community – launched an open data tool that provides public information about Lebanon’s members of parliament. The tool Nouwweb*, made possible with support from Democracy International, is a directory for all 128 Lebanese legislators that users can sort according to each deputy’s district, religious sect, political party, official phone numbers (where available), and social media accounts. As SMEX says, “the tool aims to encourage more frequent and open exchange between MPs and the people they represent.”

Nouwweb, the open data API on Lebanon’s legislature

But Nouwweb is more than a public directory or an opportunity to contact representatives; because it is an open API (application programming interface), Nouwweb serves as a foundation for web developers and other tech-savvy users to create visualizations that further explain the workings of parliament. SMEX hopes that “ultimately, civil society representatives, bloggers, journalists, developers, students and educators like you will use these tools and data to support your own initiatives.” As the Sunlight Foundation demonstrates, via a similar API for US Congress data, interactive displays can reveal a range of interesting facts and correlations about representatives – using age, net worth, education, gender and more. While an API’s selection of data relies on what information is publicly accessible (all of Nouwweb is collected from publicly available sources), this provides an incentive for Nouwweb’s users to grow its database so that future visualizations and locally grown initiatives are possible.

The OpenLeb project

And that’s where community comes in. The launch of Nouwweb coincides with the start of OpenLeb, a portal where developers and tech enthusiasts can share and collaborate on open data projects. The content and outcomes of OpenLeb depend on the people who use it; to get started and learn more, join the OpenLeb Google Group and keep an eye out for SMEX’s upcoming open data challenges – an opportunity to build community around the benefits of open data in Lebanon.

For more about open data in Lebanon, see SMEX’s Nouwweb announcement and follow #openLeb on Twitter.

*”Nouwweb” is a creative play on words, a combination of the Arabic “nuweb” for parliamentarians and the ubiquitous web.