Winning app keeps tabs on country’s lawmakers

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Winning app keeps tabs on country’s lawmakers

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The grand prize winners of the 2014 Smart Teen App Challenge show off their mobile application Watchbly on Nov. 4 at Pangyo Techno Valley in Bundang, Gyeonggi. From left: Sunrin Internet High School students Noh Ju-hyeon, Park Hyun-su, Yoon Sang-ho and Noh Jae-won. Provided by the Small and Medium Business Administration

A number of applications appear when gukhoe, the Korean term for the National Assembly, is entered into mobile app stores.

They range from apps on National Assembly broadcasts and the National Assembly library to National Assembly meal plans.

But what stands out among them is Watchbly, which attracted 500 downloads in just 10 days after it launched in September. It has currently seen about 1,000 downloads.

Upon opening the application, real-time news fills the front page. At the top of the screen, the top three legislators who have proposed the most bills appear, and on the left side of the menu there is a “legislator transcript,” which ranks lawmakers according to the number of bills they have proposed.

If a user clicks on a legislator’s name, information about the lawmaker pops up. It includes party affiliation, number of terms and contact information, among other facts.

Users may also send a petition to a lawmaker by selecting the “email petition” option at the bottom of the official’s page.

With that, Watchbly aims to literally watch over legislators and hold them accountable for their actions.

The new app is the brainchild of high school students Yoon Sang-ho, Noh Jae-won, Park Hyun-su and Noh Ju-hyeon, who attend Sunrin Internet High School.

Yoon, 17, acted as the principle planner and came up with the idea in April as the National Assembly’s provisional session was ongoing.

“I felt bad every time I saw an empty National Assembly hall, or legislators arguing or shouting at the media,” Yoon said. “But then I thought: Would attendance rates and bill proposals increase if citizens watched over them?”

The idea earned the team the grand prize at the 2014 Smart Teen App Challenge, held on Nov. 4 at Pangyo Techno Valley in Bundang, Gyeonggi.

The contest, co-hosted by the Small and Medium Business Administration and SK Planet, drew 425 teams from 101 high schools. Twenty teams received awards on that day.

Second place went to an app titled Cats In Me, a mini encyclopedia that provides resources to cat owners, which was produced by high school students Yoon Je-je, Lee Han-sol, Kim Hyeon-joong and Kim Gi-ryeong, who attend Daejeon Electronic Design High School.

“This is an app that I concentrated on while picking up abandoned cats around my school,” Yoon said. “I provided information on cat food, their characteristics as well as a breeding diary that users can use.”

The team pooled research from the Internet and also consulted with veterinarians for the app, which has had 500 downloads so far.

Cats In Me also includes a function that allows users to search for nearby animal hospitals.

“I received requests to make apps for other kinds of abandoned animals, too,” Yoon said. “I’m considering making it a long-term project.”

Meanwhile, Yoon Sang-ho is in talks to add a special section in Watchbly that would enable users to watch real-time video broadcasts of a regular National Assembly session.


BY CHAE YOON-KYUNG [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]

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