Could Public Hacking be the new activism?

Meet with the tech entrepreneur who took on the Czech government.

When Tomáš Vondráček, CEO and founder of WMC/Grey in Czech Republic, along with millions of other Czechs, woke up one morning to the news that the government was awarding, without a pitch process, a 16 million euros contract to a company to build a website to register for highway vignettes, he couldn’t take it anymore. He decided to take action by rallying tech brains to create, for free, an online shop to commercialise those stickers.

“We wanted to prove how absurd it is to award a contract for millions when a few capable people can do it over the weekend,” said Vondráček. The public hackathon, called #ZNAMKAMARADA (translation “I know a friend”), was born.

In just a weekend, from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 January 2020, almost a hundred ‘hackathon’ programmers in the Czech Republic developed an online shop, under the title “Fair Vignette”, for electronic highway vignettes. The shop is available for trial operation and will be handed over to the Ministry of Transport in the following days.

“If we have to issue an invoice, there will be a zero on it,” said Vondráček, who’d first published a call for action on his LinkedIn profile on Friday 17 January.

The controversial contract led to the recall of the Minister of Transport, Vladimír Kremlík, and his replacement by the current Minister of Industry, Karel Havliček.

“The system will have to pass an endurance test in the next few days, but it doesn’t look bad,” said Havliček.

“I’ve never anticipated this avalanche would trigger a challenge that points to unnecessary investment of money where the solution is already ready or can be bought for several times less,” said Vondráček.

The system works as follows:

  1. Within the hackathon, the activists developed two e-shops with a web based mobile app for validating the purchased electronic highway vignettes. The system is also open to connect other partners – e-shops, gas stations, banking applications.
  2. License plates are recognised using ALPR (Automated License Plate Recognition) with a Camea static camera which can identify vehicles.
  3. Instead of using a customer call centre, the support is operated through a chatbot and a voicebot.
  4. The payments are made through a Global Payments gateway to a transparent account provided by Česká spořitelna bank. The earnings from the test-version of the website, where you can buy a sample vignette for a symbolic price, will be donated to Kolečko Foundation – an organization that supports the children recovering from injuries that happened on the road.


Thursday 16 January 2020: Website Hlidac Statu (State Watcher) discovers that the cost for creating the highway vignettes e-shop will be 401Mil CZK and that there was no pitch process.

Friday 17 January: Tomáš Vondráček (CEO WMC GROUP, CEO ACTUM Digital, CEO WMC/Grey) publishes a call for action on his LinkedIn profile.

He calls a board meeting and decides to act for free, during 48 hours, with volunteer developers.

Saturday 18 January: The Prime Minister offers Vondráček a meeting.

Monday 20 January: The registration for the programmers is opened. Vondráček meets the Prime Minister. The Minister of Transport is recalled.

Thursday 23 January: The government cancels its 401M CZK contract.

Friday 24 January: The hackathon #ZNAMKAMARADA begins. The government considers using the hackers’ e-shop.

Sunday 26 January: The Hackathon is finished. The e-shop is out and working. Everyone can now try it. The government starts to figure out, how to accept the developers’ solution for free.

Feb 3rd: The programmers are sorting out the bugs in the system and finalizing the e-shop to hand it over to the government.

Source: WMC/Grey

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