Our educational app (Cards Against Australia), aims to inform Australians about politics in an engaging and easy to access way. After all, a better Australia is one that is better engaged and informed.
The federal Australian election happens every four years. In that time, politicians vote on many policies, bills, and rotate through different responsibilities. There are 151 seats in the house of representatives, 76 senators, organising six individual states and two territories; it can become quite difficult to keep up with it all. The ever-developing nature of the internet of things, is expanding to connect people with news, media and culture in new and innovative ways every day.
What it does
Cards against Australia makes it easy to learn about previous policies that have been voted on by members of parliament. The app provides users with a gamified voting component, where users must decide which mystery politician had the worst vote on a given policy topic. These politician agreement ratings are based on if the politician actually voted for or against a given policy, and represents that politician’s stance on a given topic. Once users have decided which stance is worse, based on their own beliefs, the app shows which member of parliament had that stance.
This stat based system allows users to understand more about what parliament is voting on, the names of the people in parliament, and a general view on if that politician aligns with the view of the user. Overall, the mystery politician approach keeps the user engaged through suspense, and keeps the user interested in the decisions of parliament.
The app provides in-depth analytics on user sentiment to given politicians, the voting distribution of different parties, and visualises it in a unique and accessible way. This can be seen in the leader board of politicians, where users can see how other users view certain politicians, allowing for politician filtering algorithms to show data analysis in real time. The statistics section provides insight onto the different distributions of votes on different policies, broken down by parties and policies.
How we built it
Cards Against Australia is built on the FARM technology stack. That is, through the use of a tailored set of technologies to the task at hand; Fast API (backend), React.JS (frontend), and MongoDB (database). These technologies have allowed us to customise and vertically integrate every part of our app, from user interface, to data storage, to data retrieval.
The integration with various REST APIs and frameworks such as Open Australia, NewsAPI, and Twitter’s REST API enabled us to populate our database with customised schemas for various political statistics. These statistics were collected through an array of data collection techniques and algorithms, developed to filter relevant and insightful information to the user. We were then able to use our database as a foundation for our custom built REST API, created to act as a bridge between our raw data and application. The endpoints that we made within our REST API meant that we were able to efficiently process our data on the server, reducing client side slowdowns and maximising the potential in our tools of choice.
We chose to use Material UI, in order to boost speed in development, allowing us to build user interfaces in a relatively quick amount of time. This ensured that our app had a consistent and accessible feel, promoting the user base of our app and reducing barriers for education. Finally, we deployed our app using a custom web domain, through the use of a virtual private server, running Linux. Available to the public, our app will serve as a user friendly tool to educate and inform.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are incredibly proud of our ability to work in a team, everyone was able to contribute to the project in a meaningful and productive way. Developing an app in 48 hours requires a team to be agile, and we all demonstrated the ability to adapt dynamically to problems that arose through our communication and collaboration skills.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better… something”
James Lew 2022
We are also proud of our custom technology stack. Being able to use all these technologies together is a huge achievement, and our ability to not only use these technologies, but being able to use these technologies in a product that we can show is even more exhilarating. The fact that None of us had worked with all parts of this stack before made it even more of an achievement, because we had to completely learn things like Fast API from scratch with no prior knowledge during these 48 hours.
What we learned
Throughout this project, we learned how to integrate various web frameworks together into an overall packaged minimum viable product. Within this, we learned how to plan, execute, and test a product throughout the entire lifecycle. Moreover, we were able to deploy the app to production, showing off our app to the world.
Problems we had to face
We needed to figure out a way to use our data to highlight meaningful patterns and shed light on the true views of each political party. We thought this could be facilitated if we provided statistics that gave useful insight on what parties believe in what policies, not according to what they say but instead on what they do: voting preferences in policy review. We decided an optimal way of showing this information would be a pie chart corresponding to how many leaders of each party votes yes on the user's chosen policy of interest.
What's next for Cards Against Australia
As a minimum viable product, we still have many areas for expansion, we have ideas that were dropped during development such as analysing news articles using sentiment analysis in natural language processing to identify controversial headlines, and analysing user twitter posts for popularity and controversy. Given that the federal election is approaching, this tool may be useful as a resource to everyone. Given enough time, we could implement the product to encompass all three areas of exploration, and develop our educational games to resonate better with our Australian audience.