Planet Open Data News Last Update: Tuesday, 27. June 2017 07:30

Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 26

New Open Knowledge Network chapter in Nepal

We are happy to announce that this month a new Chapter at the Open Knowledge Network is being launched officially: welcome Open Knowledge Nepal in this new stage! Since February 2013, Open Knowledge Nepal has been involved in research, advocacy, training, organizing meetups and hackathons, and developing tools related to Open Data, Open Government Data, […] a day ago

We are happy to announce that this month a new Chapter at the Open Knowledge Network is being launched officially: welcome Open Knowledge Nepal in this new stage!

Since February 2013, Open Knowledge Nepal has been involved in research, advocacy, training, organizing meetups and hackathons, and developing tools related to Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Source, Open Education, Open Access, Open Development, Open Research and others.

The organization also helps and supports Open Data entrepreneurs and startups to solve different kinds of data related problems they are facing through counseling, training and by developing tools for them.

Nikesh Balami, CEO of Open Knowledge Nepal tells us: from random groups of people to build a core team of diverse backgrounds, starting from messy thoughts to realistic plans and long-term goals, we have become more organized and robust. [We] Identified ourselves as a positive influence towards the community and nation. After being incorporated as a Chapter, we now can reach out extensively among interested groups and also expect to create impact in a most structured way in national and international level. Our main goal is to establish ourselves as a well-known open data organization/network in Nepal.

Pavel Richter, CEO of Open Knowledge International, underscored the importance of chapters: “Most of the work to improve people’s lives is and has to happen in local communities and on a national level. It is therefore hugely important to build a lasting structure for this work, and I am particularly happy to welcome Nepal as a Chapter of the growing Open Knowledge Family.”

Chapters are the Open Knowledge Network’s most developed form, they have legal independence from the organization and are affiliated by a Memorandum of Understanding. For a full list of our current chapters, see here and to learn more about their structure visit the network guidelines.

The Open Knowledge global network now includes groups in over 40 countries. Twelve of these groups have now affiliated as chapters. This network of dedicated civic activists, openness specialists, and data diggers are at the heart of the Open Knowledge International mission, and at the forefront of the movement for Open.

Check out the work OK Nepal does at oknp.org

a day ago

Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 21

Always Already Computational Reflections

Always Already Computational is a project bringing together a variety of different perspectives to develop “a strategic approach to developing, describing, providing access to, and encouraging reuse of collections that support computationally-driven research and teaching” in subject areas relating to library and museum collections.  This post is adapted from my Position Statement for the initial [& 7 days ago

Always Already Computational is a project bringing together a variety of different perspectives to develop “a strategic approach to developing, describing, providing access to, and encouraging reuse of collections that support computationally-driven research and teaching” in subject areas relating to library and museum collections.  This post is adapted from my Position Statement for the initial workshop.  You can find out more about the project at https://collectionsasdata.github.io.

Earlier this year, I spent two and a half days in beautiful University of California Santa Barbara at a workshop speaking with librarians, developers, and museum and library collection managers about data.  Attendees at this workshop represented a variety of respected cultural institutions including the New York Public Library, the British Library, the Internet Archive, and others.

Our task was to build a collective sense of what it means to treat library and museum “collections”—the (increasingly) digitized catalogs of their holdings—as data for analysis, art, research, and other forms of re-use.  We gathered use cases and user stories in order to start the conversation on how to best publish collections for these purposes.  Look for further outputs on the project website: https://collectionsasdata.github.io .  For the moment, here are my thoughts on the experience and how it relates to work at Open Knowledge International, specifically, Frictionless Data.

Always Already Computational

Open Access to (meta)Data

The event organizers—Thomas Padilla (University of California Santa Barbara), Laurie Allen (University of Pennsylvania), Stewart Varner (University of Pennsylvania), Sarah Potvin (Texas A&M University), Elizabeth Russey Roke (Emory University), Hannah Frost (Stanford University)—took an expansive view of who should attend.  I was honored and excited to join, but decidedly new to Digital Humanities (DH) and related fields.  The event served as an excellent introduction, and I now understand DH to be a set of approaches toward interrogating recorded history and culture with the power of our current tools for data analysis, visualization, and machine learning.  As part of the Frictionless Data project at Open Knowledge International, we are building apps, libraries, and specifications that support the basic transport and description of datasets to aid in this kind of data-driven discovery.  We are trialling this approach across a variety of fields, and are interested to determine the extent to which it can improve research using library and museum collection data.

What is library and museum collection data?  Libraries and museums hold physical objects which are often (although not always) shared for public view on the stacks or during exhibits.  Access to information (metadata) about these objects—and the sort of cultural and historical research dependent on such access—has naturally been somewhat technologically, geographically, and temporally restricted.  Digitizing the detailed catalogues of the objects libraries and museums hold surely lowered the overhead of day-to-day administration of these objects, but also provided a secondary public benefit: sharing this same metadata on the web with a permissive license allows a greater variety of users in the public—researchers, students of history, and others—to freely interrogate our cultural heritage in a manner they choose.  

There are many different ways to share data on the web, of course, but they are not all equal.  A low impact, open, standards-based set of approaches to sharing collections data that incorporates a diversity of potential use cases is necessary.  To answer this need, many museums are currently publishing their collection data online, with permissive licensing, through GitHub: The Tate Galleries in the UK, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have all released their collection data in CSV (and JSON) format on this popular platform normally used for sharing code.  See A Nerd’s Guide To The 2,229 Paintings At MoMA and An Excavation Of One Of The World’s Greatest Art Collections both published by FiveThirtyEight for examples of the kind of exploratory research enabled by sharing museum collection data in bulk, in a straightforward, user-friendly way.  What exactly did they do, and what else may be needed?

Packages of Museum Data

Our current funding from the Sloan Foundation enables us to focus on this researcher use case for consuming data.  Across fields, the research process is often messy, and researchers, even if they are asking the right questions, possess a varying level of skill in working with datasets to answer them.  As I wrote in my position statement:

Such data, released on the Internet under open licenses, can provide an opportunity for researchers to create a new lens onto our cultural and artistic history by sparking imaginative re-use and analysis.  For organizations like museums and libraries that serve the public interest, it is important that data are provided in ways that enable the maximum number of users to easily process it.  Unfortunately, there are not always clear standards for publishing such data, and the diversity of publishing options can cause unnecessary overhead when researchers are not trained in data access/cleaning techniques.

My experience at this event, and some research beforehand, suggested that there is a spectrum of data release approaches ranging from a basic data “dump” as conducted by the museums referenced above to more advanced, though higher investment, approaches such as publishing data as an online service with a public “API” (Application Programming Interface).  A public API can provide a consistent interface to collection metadata, as well as an ability to request only the needed records, but comes at the cost of having the nature of the analysis somewhat preordained by its design.  In contrast, in the data dump approach, an entire dataset, or a coherent chunk of it, can be easier for some users to access and load directly into a tool like R (see this UK Government Digital Service post on the challenges of each approach) without needing advanced programming.  As a format for this bulk download, CSV is the best choice as the MoMa reflected when releasing their collection data online:

CSV is not just the easiest way to start but probably the most accessible format for a broad audience of researchers, artists, and designers.  

This, of course, comes at the cost of not having a less consistent interface for the data, especially in the case of the notoriously underspecified CSV format.  The README file will typically go into some narrative detail about how to best use the dataset, some expected “gotchas” (e.g. “this UTF-8 file may not work well with Excel on a Mac”).  It might also list the columns in a tabular data file stored in the dataset, expected types and formats for values in each column (e.g. the date_acquired column should, hopefully, contain dates in a one or another international format).  This information is critical for actually using the data, and the automated export process that generates the public collection dataset from the museum’s internal database may try to ensure that the data matches expectations, but bugs exist, and small errors may go unnoticed in the process.

The Data Package descriptor (described in detail on our specifications site), used in conjunction with Data Package-aware tooling, is meant to somewhat restore the consistent interface provided by an API by embedding this “schema” information with the data.  This allows the user or the publisher to check that the data conforms to expectations without requiring modification of the data itself: a “packaged” CSV can still be loaded into Excel as-is (though without the benefit of type checking enabled by the Data Package descriptor).  The Carnegie Museum of Art, in its release of its collection data, follows the examples set by the Tate, the Met, the Moma, and Cooper-Hewitt as described above, but opted to also include a Data Package descriptor file to help facilitate online validation of the dataset through tools such as Good Tables.  As tools come online for editing, validating, and transforming Data Packages, users of this dataset should be able to benefit from those, too: http://frictionlessdata.io/tools/.

We are a partner in the Always Already Computational: Collections as Data project, and as part of this work, we are working with Carnegie Museum of Art to provide a more detailed look at the process that went into the creation of the CMOA dataset, as well as sketching a potential ways in which the Data Package might help enable re-use of this data.  In the meantime, check out our other case studies on the use of Data Package in fields as diverse as ecology, cell migration, and energy data:

http://frictionlessdata.io/case-studies/

Also, pay your local museum or library a visit.

7 days ago

Open Street Map (OSM) News - Jun 19

Calling for nominees for the OpenStreetMap Awards

Announcing the second OpenStreetMap Awards, awarded this August at the State of the Map 2017 conference in Japan! This is a community award: nominees and winners are chosen by the community. We are now opening the Call for Nominees, to learn more about the amazing contributors to OpenStreetMap. The Awards strive to be a worldwide […] 9 days ago

OSM Awards nomination for NelsonAnnouncing the second OpenStreetMap Awards, awarded this August at the State of the Map 2017 conference in Japan!

This is a community award: nominees and winners are chosen by the community. We are now opening the Call for Nominees, to learn more about the amazing contributors to OpenStreetMap. The Awards strive to be a worldwide event for all OpenStreetMap members, including developers, mappers, community leaders, blog writers and everyone else. We need your help to find the best of OpenStreetMap globally.

For the second awards, we added three more categories focussed on Asia, Africa, and Latin America, three continents under-represented in OpenStreetMap. We strive for increasing the diversity and expect to see more great nominees who the larger community has not been aware yet. This is your chance to make yourself or people you admire visible for the entire world. Add your nominees on the awards website!

We’re mostly looking for new innovations, so only projects/works that were announced after August 1st 2016 are eligible. The Ulf Möller Award is an exception to this. Everyone is eligible regardless of the time when they were active in the project. Winners of past awards and selection committee members (in their categories) cannot be nominated.

The call for nominees will close on 9th of July, and shortly after that we will start the second round, choosing the award recipients. Please nominate!

9 days ago

Open Data Institue (ODI) News - Jun 14

It is time for UK parties to show voters their vision for data and technology

The UK election left no party with a clear majority to pass legislation and parties did not show voters that they understood the balance of positives and negatives that data and technology brings. Before the next election, the parties can show people their visions by looking for areas of consensus and working with local government to use data to improve places across the country, says Peter Wells 14 days ago
14 days ago

Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 14

Hong Kong joins the Global Mosquito Alert fight using Open Data

Open Science is a key part of the open data ecosystem. Citizen Science is one of the beneficial side-effects of these open and collaborative ways of doing research. Crowdsourcing amateur scientists to carry out science, harnessing untapped resources to tackle problems in new and innovative ways. Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK) members have been involved […] 14 days ago

Open Science is a key part of the open data ecosystem. Citizen Science is one of the beneficial side-effects of these open and collaborative ways of doing research. Crowdsourcing amateur scientists to carry out science, harnessing untapped resources to tackle problems in new and innovative ways. Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK) members have been involved in a number of such projects. Examples include BauhiniaGenome, Human Genome Hackathons, and last year ZikaHack. This final project has been recognised internationally, with members of the team getting an invite to the UN Environment meeting in Geneva which took place in April.

ODHK team members and other attendees at the UN Environment meeting in Geneva

From this meeting, new “Global Mosquito Alert” alliance of citizen-science organisations and UN Environment is being launched, in an effort to escalate the global fight against mosquito-borne diseases, responsible for killing close to 2.7 million people annually. Off the back of this, the team in Hong Kong is also launching a network of its own: CitizenScience.Asia – bringing together Citizen Science projects and practitioners in Hong Kong and across Asia. The goal of the community is to promote the concept of citizen science and to facilitate dialogues between researchers, citizens and communicators across different projects in the region.

Hong Kong has been a perfect testbed for these citizen-driven efforts against mosquito-borne diseases, with some of the highest smartphone usage and coverage in the world, and with increasing incidence of dengue. With the last year seeing the local transmission of dengue in the mid-levels and recent imported cases of Zika. Less than 2% of the territory is covered by FEHD mosquito screening programs, making harnessing citizen power a particularly attractive weapon against the disease.

School children test out the Mosquito Alert app in Hong Kong. Source and thanks to the Chinese Foundation Secondary School.

Coming out of our Zika-hackathon a Cantonese version of the Mosquito Alert app was developed and promoted, getting us interviewed on the TVB Pearl Report. Working with schools, the Chinese Foundation Secondary School has done an amazing job testing the app with their students, presenting their efforts at the HK SciFest 2017 at the Hong Kong Science Museum.

The new global initiative, launched under the name ‘Global Mosquito Alert’, brings together thousands of volunteers from around the world to track and control mosquito-borne viruses, including Zika, yellow fever, chikungunya, dengue, malaria and the West Nile virus. All diseases that threaten Hong Kong as mosquito species that can carry many of them are being increasingly detected. It is the first global platform dedicated to citizen science techniques to tackle the monitoring of mosquito populations.

Screenshot of Mosquito Alert, an app that enables citizens to report the sighting of mosquitoes and their breeding sites

Agreement to launch the initiative was reached at a two-day workshop that took place in Geneva last month, organized by UN Environment, the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP), and the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), as well as our developing citizen science community in Hong Kong, who were the only Asian representatives.

Director of Science at UN Environment, Jacqueline McGlade, said:

the Global Mosquito Alert will offer for the first time a shared platform to leverage citizen science for the global surveillance and control of disease-carrying mosquitoes. It is a unique infrastructure that is open for all to use and may be augmented with modular components and implemented on a range of scales to meet local and global research and management needs.

She also added:

The programme will offer the benefit of the millions spent in developing existing mosquito monitoring projects to local citizen science groups around the world.  Opportunities to keep these citizen-led initiatives at the cutting edge of science will now depend on securing major funding to support the ongoing programme development and its promotion to millions of people worldwide.

The consortium includes Mosquito Alert, Spain and Hong Kong; MosquitoWEB, Portugal; Zanzamapp in Italy; Muggenradar in the Netherlands; the Globe Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, USA/International and the Invasive Mosquito Project also in the USA.

The information displayed on Environment Live will allow managers to mitigate risk and reduce health threats while opening up an opportunity for concerned citizens to contribute their mosquito observations and possible solutions.  Citizen data will augment information already available from Government public health sources. Of which in Hong Kong, there is very little.

The new consortium has agreed to share current approaches to monitor the spread of key mosquito species and their breeding sites and to measure the nuisance value of the citizen mosquito experience to support health risk management.

The post was written by S.C. Edmunds and it was first published on Open Data Hong Kong’s website.

Follow Global Mosquito Alert from the ECSA website, and CitizenScience.Asia from its Facebook page. Participating projects from in this new network include DIYbio Hong Kong and their Hong Kong Barcode project, the crowdfunded BauhiniaGenome project, and the continuing efforts of Mosquito Alert in Hong Kong.

14 days ago

Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 09

What data do we need? The story of the Cadasta GODI fellowship

This blogpost was written by Lindsay Ferris and Mor Rubinstein   There is a lot of data out there, but which data users needs to solve their issues? How can we, as an external body, know which data is vital so we can measure it?  Moreover, what to do when data is published in so […] 18 days ago

This blogpost was written by Lindsay Ferris and Mor Rubinstein

 

There is a lot of data out there, but which data users needs to solve their issues? How can we, as an external body, know which data is vital so we can measure it?  Moreover, what to do when data is published in so many levels – local, regional and federal that is so hard to find?

Every year we are thinking about these questions in order to improve the Global Open Data Index (GODI), and make it more relevant to civil society. Having the relevant data characteristics is crucial for data use since without specific data it is hard to analysed and learn.

After the publication of the GODI 2015, Cadasta Foundation approached us to discuss the results of GODI in the land ownership category.  Throughout this initial, lively discussion, we noticed that a systematic understanding of land data in general, and land ownership data in particular, was missing. An idea emerged: What if we will We decided to bridge these gaps to build a systematic understanding of land ownership data for the 2016 GODI.

And so came to life the idea of the GODI fellowship. It was simple – Cadasta will have a fellow for a period of 6 months to explore the publication of data that is relevant to land ownership issues. The fellowship would be funded by Cadasta and the fellow would be an integral part of the team. OKI would give in-kind support of guidance and research. The fellowship goals were:

  • Global policy analysis of open data in the field of land and resource rights
  • Better definition for the land ownership dataset in the Global Open Data Index for 2016;
  • Mapping stakeholders and partners for the Global Open Data Index (for submissions);
  • Recommendations for a thematic Index;
  • A working paper or a series of blog posts about open data in land and resource ownership.

Throughout the fellowship, Lindsay conducted interviews with land experts, NGOs and government officials as well as on-going desk research on the land data publication practices across different contexts. She established 4 key outputs:

  1. Outlining the challenges of opening land ownership data. Blog post here.
  2. Mapping the different types of land data and their availability. Overview here.
  3. Assessing the privacy and security risks of opening certain types of land data. See our work here: cadasta.org/open-data/assessing-the-risks-of-opening-property-rights-data/

4.Identifying user needs and creating user personas for open land data.  User personas here.  

Throughout the GODI process, our aim is to advocate for datasets that different stakeholders actually need and that make sense within the context in which they are published. For example, one of the main challenges in land ownership is that data is not always recorded or gathered by the federal level, and is collect in cities and regions. One of the primary users of land ownership data are other government agencies. Having a grasp of this type of knowledge helped us better define the land ownership dataset for the GODI. Ultimately, we developed a thoughtful definition based on these reflections and recommendations.  

For us at OKI, having someone dedicated in an organisation that is an expert in a data category was immensely helpful. It makes the index categories more relevant for real life use  and help us to measure the categories better. It helps us to make sure our assumptions and foundation for the research are good. For Cadasta, having a person dedicate on open data helped to create a knowledge based and resources that help them look at the open data better. It was a win – win for both sides.

In fact, The work Lindsay was doing was very valuable for Cadasra that Lindsay time was extended at Cassata and she worked on writing a case study about open data and land in Sao Paulo and Land Debate final report and a paper on Open Data in Land Governance for the 2017 World Bank Land and Poverty Conference.

Going forward in the future of open data assessment, we believe that having this expert input in the design of the survey is crucial. Having only an open data lense can lead us to bias and wrong measurements. In our vision, we see the GODI tool as community owned assessment, that can help all fields to promote, find and use the data that is relevant for them. Interested of thinking the future of your field through open data? Write to us on the forum – https://discuss.okfn.org/c/open-data-index/global-open-data-index-2016

18 days ago

Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 22

OKI Agile: Scrum and sprints in open data

This is the third in a series of blogs on how we are using the Agile methodology at Open Knowledge International. Originating from software development, the Agile manifesto describes a set of principles that prioritise agility in work processes: for example through continuous development, self-organised teams with frequent interactions and quick responses to change (agilemanifesto.org). […] 6 days ago

This is the third in a series of blogs on how we are using the Agile methodology at Open Knowledge International. Originating from software development, the Agile manifesto describes a set of principles that prioritise agility in work processes: for example through continuous development, self-organised teams with frequent interactions and quick responses to change (http://agilemanifesto.org). In this blogging series we go into the different ways Agile can be used to work better in teams and to create more efficiency in how to deliver projects. The first posts dealt with user stories and methodologies: this time we go into using scrum and sprints to manage delivery of projects.

Throughout my time as a project manager of open data projects in The Public Knowledge Workshop in Israel and in Open Knowledge International, I have used various tools and methods to manage delivery of software and content development. I have used Trello, Asana and even a Google spreadsheet, but at the end of the day I am always going back to Github to run all of the project tasks, assisted by Waffle.

Many people that I spoke to are afraid of using GitHub for project management. To be fair, I am still afraid of Git, but GitHub is a different concept: It is not a code language, it is a repo site, and it has got really good functions and a very friendly user interface to use for it. So do not fear the Octocat!

Why Github?

  • As an open source community facing products, our code is always managed on Github. Adding another platform to deal with non-code tasks just adding more complications and syncing.
  • It is open to the community to contribute and see the progress and does not need permissions management (like Trello).
  • Unlike what people think – it is really easy to learn how to use Github web version, and it’s labels and milestones feature are helpful for delivery.

Why Waffle?

  • It syncs with Github and allows to show the tasks as Kanban.  
  • It allows to write estimates that hours of work for each task.

So far, working on Github for the project showed the following:

  1. Better cooperation between different streams of work
    Having one platform helps the team to understand what each function in the project is doing.  I believe that the coder should understand the content strategy and the community lead should understand the technical constraints while working on a project  It gives back better feedback and ideas for improving the product.
  2. Better documentation
    Having all in one place allows to create better documentation for the future.

So what did we do for GODI (the Global Open Data index) 2016?

  • Firstly, I have gathered all the tasks from the Trello and moved it to the Github.
  • I created tags that allow to differentiate between different types of tasks – content, design, code and community.
  • I added milestones and sorted out all tasks to fit their respective milestones of the project. I also created a “backlog” for all tasks that are not prioritise for the project but need to be done one day in the future. Each milestone got a deadline that responds to the project general deadlines.
  • I made sure that all the team members are part of the repository.
  • I organised Waffle to create columns – we use the default Waffle ones: Backlog, Ready, In Progress and Done.

Using one system and changing the work culture means that I needed to be strict on how the team communicates. It is sometimes unpleasant and needed me to be the “bad cop” but it is a crucial part of the process of enforcing a new way of working.  It means repetitive reminders to document issues on the issue tracker, ignoring issues that are not on GitHub and commenting on the Github when issues are not well documented.

Now, after all is in one system, we can move to the daily management of tasks.

Sprints

  • Before the sprint call
    • Make sure all issues are clear –  Before each sprint, the scrum master (in this case, also the project manager), make sure that all issues are clear and not vague. The SM will also add tasks that they think are needed to this sprint.
    • Organise issues – In this stage, prior to the sprint call, use the Waffle to move tasks to represent where you as a project manager think they are currently.
  • During the sprint call:
    • Explain to the team the main details about the sprint:  
      • Length of the milestone or how many weeks this milestone will take
      • Length of the sprint
      • Team members – who are they? Are they working part time or not?
      • Objectives for the sprint these derive from the milestone
      • Potential risks and mitigation
      • Go through the issues: yes, you did it before, but going through the issues with the team helps you as PM or SM to understand where the team is, what blocks them and creates a true representation of the tasks for the delivery team.
      • Give time estimates Waffle allows to give rough time estimates between 1-100 hours. Use it to forecast work for the project.
      • Create new tasksspeaking together gets the creative juices going. This will lead to creation of new issues. This is a good thing. Make sure they are labeled correctly.
      • Make sure that everyone understand their tasks: In the last 10 minutes of the sprint, repeat the division of work and who is doing what.
    • After the sprint call and during the sprint:
      • Make sure to have regular stand ups I have 30 minute stand ups, to allow the team to have more time to share issues. However, make sure not to have more than 30 minutes. If an issue demands more time to discuss, this means it needs its own dedicated call to untangle it, so set a call with the relevant team members for that issue.
      • Create issues as they arise – Don’t wait for the stand up or sprint kick-off call to create issues. Encourage the team and the community to create issues as well.
      • Always have a look at the issue trackerMaking sure all issues are there is a key action in agile work. I start everyday with checking the issues to make sure that I don’t miss critical work.
      • Hyper communicate – Since we are a remote team, it is best to repeat a message than not say it at all. I use Slack to make sure that the team knows that a new issue arise or if there is an outside blocker. I will repeat it on the team stand ups to make sure all team members are up-to-date.

    How do you manage you sprints and projects? Leave us a comment below!

     

    6 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 22

    New open energy data portal set to spark innovation in energy efficiency solutions

    Viderum spun off as a company from Open Knowledge International in 2016 with the aim to provide services and products to further expand the reach of open data around the world. Last week they made a great step in this direction by powering the launch of the Energy Data Service portal, which will make Denmark’s energy […] 6 days ago

    Viderum spun off as a company from Open Knowledge International in 2016 with the aim to provide services and products to further expand the reach of open data around the world. Last week they made a great step in this direction by powering the launch of the Energy Data Service portal, which will make Denmark’s energy data available to everyone. This press release has been reposted from Viderum‘s website at http://www.viderum.com/blog/2017/06/17/new-open-energy-data-portal-set-to-spark-innovation.

    Image credit: Jürgen Sandesneben, Flickr CC BY

    A revolutionary new online portal, which gives open access to Denmark’s energy data, is set to spark innovation in smart, data-led solutions for energy efficiency. The Energy Data Service, launched on 17 June 2017 by the CEO of Denmark’s state-owned gas and electricity provider Energinet, and the Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate, will share near real-time aggregated energy consumption data for all Danish municipalities, as well data on CO2emissions, energy production and the electricity market.

    Developers, entrepreneurs and companies will be able to access and use the data to create apps and other smart data services that empower consumers to use energy more efficiently and flexibly, saving them money and cutting their carbon footprint.

    Viderum is the technology partner behind the Energy Data Service. It developed the portal using CKAN, the leading data management platform for open data, originally developed by non-profit organisation Open Knowledge International.

    Sebastian Moleski, CEO of Viderum said: “Viderum is excited to be working with Energinet at the forefront of the open data revolution to make Denmark’s energy data available to everyone via the Energy Data Service portal. The portal makes a huge amount of complex data easily accessible, and we look forward to developing its capabilities further in the future, eventually providing real-time energy and CO2 emissions data.”

    Energinet hopes that the Energy Data Service will be a catalyst for the digitalisation of the energy sector and for green innovation and economic growth, both in Denmark and beyond.

    “As we transition to a low carbon future, we need to empower consumers to be smarter with how they use energy. The Energy Data Service will enable the development of innovative data based solutions to make this possible. For example, an electric car that knows when there is spare capacity on the electricity grid, making it a good time to charge itself.Or an app that helps local authorities understand energy consumption patterns in social housing, so they can make improvements that will save money and cut carbon”, said Peder Ø. Andreasen, CEO of Energinet.

    The current version of the Energy Data Service includes the following features:

    • API (Application Programme Interface) access to all raw data, which makes it easy to use in data applications and services
    • Downloadable data sets in regular formats (CSV and Excel)
    • Helpful user guides
    • Contextual information and descriptions of data sets
    • Online discussion forum for questions and knowledge sharing
    6 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 15

    The final Global Open Data Index is now live

    The updated Global Open Data Index has been published today, along with our report on the state of Open Data this year. The report includes a broad overview of the problems we found around data publication and how we can improve government open data. You can download the full report here. Also, after the Public Dialogue […] 13 days ago

    The updated Global Open Data Index has been published today, along with our report on the state of Open Data this year. The report includes a broad overview of the problems we found around data publication and how we can improve government open data. You can download the full report here.

    Also, after the Public Dialogue phase, we have updated the Index. You can see the updated edition here

    We will also keep our forum open for discussions about open data quality and publication. You can see the conversation here.

     

    13 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 13

    A Data Driven Look at Refugee Crime in Hong Kong

    This blog post is part of our summer series featuring updates from local groups across the Open Knowledge Network and was submitted by Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK). It was first published on Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK)’s website and has been written by Robert Porsch, a PhD student studying statistical genetics at the University of […] 15 days ago

    This blog post is part of our summer series featuring updates from local groups across the Open Knowledge Network and was submitted by Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK). It was first published on Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK)’s website and has been written by Robert Porsch, a PhD student studying statistical genetics at the University of Hong Kong, and has a general interest in all kinds of data analysis.

    Open Data Hong Kong participated in the 2017 International Open Data Day hackathon organised at the City University of Hong Kong. Some of the ODHK team pitched a project looking at refugee crime data (see the hackpad and our slides), which is being used as a political football in Hong Kong at the moment, despite there being a big data vacuum in this area. With no relevant data available from data.gov.hk, we’ve been forced to try and gather disparate data from FOI requests and other sources to assist local NGO’s such as Justice Centre Hong Kong in their policy work. This project attempted to fill some of the gaps and visualise this data.

    Arrests of Refugees in Hong Kong. Is there the “surge” the media is portraying?

    Like many societies in recent times, Hong Kong is having a heated discussion about immigration, with regards to refugees especially. A common belief here is that refugees commit more crime than the general population and that most criminals are of South East Asian ethnicity. Further, some have suggested that the increase in refugees has led to a general increase in crime within Hong Kong. This has led to strong comments by some politicians (e.g. Dominic Lee in Sham Shui Po calling for internment camps). However, there is surprisingly little public data available to base these on.

    Therefore, Open Data Hong Kong has attempted to acquire some data on the topic, especially Scott Edmunds who had to spend a lot of time collecting the data by contacting individual police districts and police regions in Hong Kong through Code on Access to Information requests (the Hong Kong equivalent to FOI). So here I will take a look at the data and see if I can find some answers.

    What does the data say? 

    It is important to note something of significance about refugees in Hong Kong; I was unable to find accurate figures on the total numbers of Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong, although according to the immigration department, there were around 9,618 people registered and claiming asylum in Hong Kong in 2014, 10,922 in 2015, and 9,981 in 2016. Official numbers will not count the unregistered and do not provide demographic breakdowns. Hong Kong never joined the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, and Asylum Seekers can only apply under the UN Convention Against Torture, or at least cite it as a reason for protection.

    Furthermore, the recognition rate is very low. About 0.16% of applicants are accepted (the global average is 27%). The application process is quite slow as well. This results in many applicants staying in the city for years without the possibility of deportation since asylum seeker whose application have been rejected cannot be deported due to in many cases a lack of extradition agreement with the corresponding home countries. During their stay,  applicants as well as those who are rejected, are not allowed to work, but the government provides some minimal rental, food and medical subsidy (For example, Hong Kong allocated HK$450 Million in the budget of 2013/2014). Some have suggested that these subsidies are too low to maintain a living in Hong Kong and provide incentives to be involved with criminal activities. The majority of claimants are from South and Southeast Asia.

    To assess crimes committed by refugees in Hong Kong, I took a look at the data provided by Open Data Hong Kong, as well as publicly available census data and crime statistics. Unfortunately, not all police districts in Hong Kong were able to provide the criminal statistics of refugees. In fact, only West Kowloon region was able to provide a complete picture across their district. Furthermore, these numbers are arrest statistics and not convictions (ODHK has collected data showing roughly 50% of arrests result in convictions). So any conclusions should be viewed with care.

    Has there been an increase in arrests with the presence of refugees?

    This question is relatively easy to answer and I have plotted the overall number of arrests for each region by year below.

    As you can see there seems to be no overall dramatic increase in arrests for all of the regions. However, there is a slight increase in crime Kowloon East and West, but in general the trend points downwards. This would suggest crime in Hong Kong is not increasing.

    Arrests of refugees

    Since I only have limited data available about refugees in Hong Kong, I was only able to look at Kowloon West Region. Hence I compared the number of arrests of refugees with the total number of arrests within this region.

    Let me explain the plotted graph above in a bit more detail. I used data available for 2014 and 2015. Also, Hong Kong does not use the word ‘refugee’ because the territory has not signed the UN Refugee Convention, so the exact legal classifications are a bit vague. Nevertheless, some police stations have called refugees “Form 8” (F8) holders so I will use this phrase here as well. Thus, the graph above shows the number of F8 holders arrested between 2014 and 2015 in the Kowloon West region.

    So comparably, those arrest rates look quite small. Indeed in 2014 and 2015, the proportion of arrests of F8 holders was 4% and 5% respectively. So these numbers seem rather stable and would suggest no major change between 2014 and 2015, despite a slight increase in the number of refugees.

    Do refugees commit more crime than others?

    This question turned out to be much more difficult to answer than I thought. One problem is that I do not know how many refugees live in Kowloon West, further police districts are not the same as council districts. This makes it difficult to get a population estimate since the census data from 2011 only looked at council districts. Thus I am unable to answer this question with the current data. Only the availability of the exact arrest numbers of refugees for the whole of Hong Kong or the exact numbers of refugees living in Kowloon would help to answer this question.

    Conclusions 

    There is no evidence of an increase in crime in Hong Kong (at least from the available data), also there seems to be a slight increase from 2014 to 2015 (looks more like random noise to me). Arrests of F8 holders was relatively stable between 2014 and 2015. Intuitively I think the proportions of arrests of F8 holders are higher than one would expect given a small population of around 10,000 but one needs to keep in mind that arrests are not convictions. In general, the data is not really sufficient to make a conclusive statement. Except that HK is incredibly safe compared to other major cities (0.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2016; one of the lowest in the world).

    For more information about the work of Open Data Hong Kong, email the team: info-at-OpenDataHK.com; leave a comment on their Google+ page or join their regular meetups or events and engage with the community.

    15 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 09

    OK Greece sings an MoU with the Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT)

    On Friday, June 2, Open Knowledge Greece (OK Greece) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT), regarding the sharing and the analysis of transport data in the city of Thessaloniki, with the aim to predict traffic and improve mobility in the street. HIT’s Director Dr Evangelos Bekiaris and Dr […] 19 days ago

    On Friday, June 2, Open Knowledge Greece (OK Greece) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT), regarding the sharing and the analysis of transport data in the city of Thessaloniki, with the aim to predict traffic and improve mobility in the street.

    From left to right: Dr Jose Salanova – HIT’s Research Associate; Dr Charalampos Bratsas – OK Greece President; Dr Evangelos Bekiaris – HIT’s Director and Dr Georgia Aifadopoulou- HIT’s Deputy Director-Research Director

    HIT’s Director Dr Evangelos Bekiaris and Dr Georgia Aifadopoulou, HI Deputy Director – Research Director welcomed OK Greece President Dr Charalampos Bratsas at the Institute offices. Following the signing of the agreement, Mr Bratsas stressed:

    Today, we made another step towards the efficient use and management of data in the interests of citizens. We are very happy about this cooperation and we hope for its long-term growth.

    When asked about the aim of the agreement and HIT’s benefit from its cooperation with OK Greece, Mr Bekiaris said that HIT wants to take advantage of OK Greece’s know-how on the field of data analysis, in order to highlight its own data for the common good of both Thessaloniki and the rest of Greece, in a reliable and secure way that will open the data to the largest possible public.

    Among others, Mr Bekiaris also mentioned the benefit of this effort to the end-user. More specifically, he said:

    This MoU gives us the opportunity to operate data platforms, through which businesses will be able to derive the data they need, for free, in order to take initiatives and develop new services. There has not been such a thing in Greece yet, as there is in Finland, for example, but, along with OK Greece, we can develop something similar in the transport sector to allow Greek SMEs to use data and create new services, helping the public and the economy as a whole.

    Dr Georgia Aifadopoulou described the agreement as the beginning of a pioneering innovation for Thessaloniki, which will also have a multiplier effect for the rest of Greece. According to her, the HIT has been running a living lab on smart mobility in Thessaloniki for years, noting that it has been recognised at the European level by introducing Thessaloniki to the official list of the EU smart cities.

    The lab gathers real-time information, through an ecosystem, built by a joint venture of local institutions, such as the Municipality of Thessaloniki, the Region of Central Macedonia, as well as the TAXI and commercial fleet operators. This ecosystem processes the available information, providing citizens with plenty of services, regarding traffic, the road conditions etc.

    She also stated that through this collaboration with OK Greece, we manage to open our data, also persuading other bodies to follow our example. Our goal is to expand the existing ecosystem and promote the exchange of know-how on open data. The choice of Thessaloniki, participating in a relevant competition, as the first city at the European level to pilot the Big Data Europe – Empowering Communities with Data Technologies project in the field of mobility and transport also constitutes a great opportunity to this direction.

    Dr Ms Aifadopoulou further stressed that the innovative nature of the MoU lies in the cooperation of bodies, coming from different scientific fields. According to her, data analysis is a big issue. The extraction of knowledge from data is another question. This is why we need both institutions in our venture: on the one hand, the HIT, which knows the field of mobility and on the other hand, OK Greece, which knows how to make the data analysis, offering the needed interpretations and explanations. Via this convergence, we will be able to create new knowledge for institutions, citizens, also improving the management of the transport system in Thessaloniki.  

    To read more about Open Knowledge Greece visit their website. You can also follow them on Twitter: @okfngr

    19 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 08

    The state of open licensing in 2017

    This blog post is part of our Global Open Data Index (GODI) blog series. Firstly, it discusses what open licensing is and why it is crucial for opening up data. Afterward, it outlines the most urgent issues around open licensing as identified in the latest edition of the Global Open Data Index and concludes with […] 20 days ago

    This blog post is part of our Global Open Data Index (GODI) blog series. Firstly, it discusses what open licensing is and why it is crucial for opening up data. Afterward, it outlines the most urgent issues around open licensing as identified in the latest edition of the Global Open Data Index and concludes with 10 recommendations how open data advocates can unlock this data. The blog post was jointly written by Danny Lämmerhirt and Freyja van den Boom.

    Open data must be reusable by anyone and users need the right to access and use data freely, for any purpose. But legal conditions often block the effective use of data.

    Whoever wants to use existing data needs to know whether they have the right to do so. Researchers cannot use others’ data if they are unsure whether they would be violating intellectual property rights. For example, a developer wanting to locate multinational companies in different countries and visualize their paid taxes can’t do so unless they can find how this business information is licensed. Having clear and open licenses attached to the data, which allow for use with the least restrictions possible, are necessary to make this happen.

    Yet, open licenses still have a long way to go. The Global Open Data Index (GODI) 2016/17 shows that only a small portion of government data can be used without legal restrictions. This blog post discusses the status of ‘legal’ openness. We start by explaining what open licenses are and discussing GODI’s most recent findings around open licensing. And we conclude by offering policy- and decisionmakers practical recommendations to improve open licensing.

    What is an open license?

    As the Open Definition states, data is legally open “if the legal conditions under which data is provided allow for free use”.  For a license to be an open license it must comply with the conditions set out under the  Open Definition 2.1.  These legal conditions include specific requirements on use, non-discrimination, redistribution, modification, and no charge.

    Why do we need open licenses?

    Data may fall under copyright protection.

    Copyright grants the author of an original work exclusive rights over that work. If you want to use a work under copyright protection you need to have permission.

    There are exceptions and limitations to copyright when permission is not needed for example when the data is in the ‘public domain’ it is not or no longer protected by copyright, or when your use is permitted under an exception.

    Be aware that some countries also allow legal protection for databases which limit what use can be made of the data and the database. It is important to check what the national requirements are, as they may differ.

    Because some types of data (papers, images) can fall under the scope of copyright protection we need data licensing. Data licensing helps solve problems in practice including not knowing whether the data is indeed copyright protected and how to get permission. Governments should therefore clearly state if their data is in the public domain or when the data falls under the scope of copyright protection what the license is.

    • When data is public domain it is recommended to use the CC0 Public Domain license for clarity.
    • When the data falls under the scope of copyright it is recommended to use an existing Open license such as CC-BY to improve interoperability.

    Using Creative Commons or Open Data Commons licenses is best practice. Many governments already apply one of the Creative Commons licenses (see this wiki). Some governments have chosen however to write their own licenses or formulate ‘terms of use’ which grant use rights similar to widely acknowledged open licenses. This is problematic from the perspective of the user because of interoperability. The proliferation of ever more open government licenses has been criticized for a long time. By creating their own versions, governments may add unnecessary information for users, cause incompatibility and significantly reduce reusability of data.  Creative Commons licenses are designed to reduce these problems by clearly communicating use rights and to make the sharing and reuse of works possible.

    The state of open licensing in 2017

    Initial results from the GODI 2016/17 show roughly that only 38 percent of the eligible datasets were openly licensed (this value may change slightly after the final publication on June 15).

    The other licenses include many use restrictions including use limitations to non-commercial purposes, restrictions on reuse and/or modifications of the data.  

    Where data is openly licensed, best practices are hardly ever followed

    In the majority of cases, our research team found governments apply general terms of use instead of specific licenses for the data. Open government licenses and Creative Commons licenses were seldom used. As outlined above, this is problematic. Using customized licenses or terms of use may impose additional requirements such as:

    • Require specific attribution statements desired by the publisher
    • Add clauses that make it unclear how data can be reused and modified.
    • Adapt licenses to local legislation

    Throughout our assessment, we encountered unnecessary or ambivalent clauses, which in turn may cause legal concerns, especially when people consider to use data commercially. Sometimes we came across redundant clauses that cause more confusion than clarity.  For example clauses may forbid to use data in an unlawful way (see also the discussion here).

    Standard open licenses are intended to reduce legal ambiguity and enable everyone to understand use rights. Yet many licenses and terms contain unclear clauses or are not obvious to what data they refer to. This can, for instance, mean that governments restrict the use of substantial parts of a database (and only allow the use of insignificant parts of it). We recommend that governments give clear examples which use cases are acceptable and which ones are not.

    Licenses do not make clear enough to what data they apply.  Data should include a link to the license, but this is not commonly done. For instance, in Mexico, we found out that procurement information available via Compranet, the procurement platform for the Federal Government, was openly licensed, but the website does not state this clearly. Mexico hosts the same procurement data on datos.gob.mx and applies an open license to this data. As a government official told us, the procurement data is therefore openly licensed, regardless where it is hosted. But again this is not clear to the user who may find this data on a different website. Therefore we recommend to always have the data accompanied with a link to the license.  We also recommend to have a license notice attached or ‘in’ the data too. And to keep the links updated to avoid ‘link rot’.

    The absence of links between data and legal terms makes an assessment of open licenses impossible

    Users may need to consult legal texts and see if the rights granted to comply with the open definition. Problems arise if there is not a clear explanation or translation available what specific licenses entail for the end user. One problem is that users need to translate the text and when the text is not in a machine-readable format they cannot use translation services. Our experience shows that it was a significant source of error in our assessment. If open data experts struggle to assess public domain status, this problem is even exacerbated for open data users. Assessing public domain status requires substantial knowledge of copyright – something the use of open licenses explicitly wants to avoid.

    Copyright notices on websites can confuse users. In several cases, submitters and reviewers were unable to find any terms or conditions. In the absence of any other legal terms, submitters sometimes referred to copyright notices that they found in website footers. These copyright details, however, do not necessarily refer to the actual data. Often they are simply a standard copyright notice referring to the website.

    Recommendations for data publishers

    Based on our finding we prepared 10 recommendations that policymakers and other government officials should take into account:

    1. Does the data and/or dataset fall under the scope of IP protection? Often government data does not fall under copyright protection and should not be presented as such. Governments should be aware and clear about the scope of intellectual property (IP) protection.
    2. Use standardized open licenses. Open licenses are easily understandable and should be the first choice. The Open Definition provides conformant licenses that are interoperable with one another.
    3. In some cases, governments might want to use a customized open government license. These should be as open as possible with the least restrictions necessary and compatible (see point 2). To guarantee a license is compatible, the best practice is to submit the license for approval under the Open Definition.
    4. Exactly pinpoint within the license what data it refers to and provide a timestamp when the data has been provided.
    5. Clearly, publish open licensing details next to the data. The license should be clearly attached to the data and be both human and machine-readable. It also helps to have a license notice ‘in’ the data.
    6. Maintain the links to licenses so that users can access license terms at all times.
    7. Highlight the license version and provide context how data can be used.
    8. Whenever possible, avoid restrictive clauses that are not included in standard licenses.
    9. Re-evaluate the web design and avoid confusing and contradictory copyright notices in website footers, as well as disclaimers and terms of use.
    10. When government data is in the public domain by default, make clear to end users what that means for them.

     

    20 days ago

    DBpedia News - Jun 07

    Galway is calling for the next DBpedia Community Meeting.

    We are happy to announce that the 9th DBpedia Community meeting will be held in Galway, Ireland on June 21st 2017. DBpedia will be part of the Language, Data and Knowledge conference (LDK) in Galway. This new biennial conference series aims at bringing together researchers from across disciplines. The DBpedia Meeting is part of the … Continue reading Galway is calling for the next DBpedia Com 21 days ago

    We are happy to announce that the 9th DBpedia Community meeting will be held in Galway, Ireland on June 21st 2017. DBpedia will be part of the Language, Data and Knowledge conference (LDK) in Galway. This new biennial conference series aims at bringing together researchers from across disciplines. The DBpedia Meeting is part of the conference and is scheduled for the last day.

    Only few seats are left: So come and get your ticket to be part of the 9th DBpedia Community meeting in Galway.

    Highlights

    • Keynote #1: Logainm.ie data use cases by Brian Ó Raghallaigh (Dublin City University & Logainm)
    • Keynote #2: Wikimedia in Ireland: A Monumental Undertaking by Sharon Flynn (NUI Galway & Wikimedia Ireland)
    • DBpedia Association hour
    • A session about Irish Linked data projects (and DBpedia)

    Quick Facts

    Schedule

    Please check our schedule for the 9th DBpedia Community meeting here: http://wiki.dbpedia.org/meetings/Galway2017

    Evening Event

    The social event will be held in the evening (starting at 6pm) at the PorterShed around the topic How to exploit data commercially? featuring several short impulse talks. We still have some remaining slots and would welcome you to present your success stories as well as use cases, but also tell us about your problems regarding the commercialisation of data. If you are interested in presenting, please email dbpedia@infai.org.

    Sponsors and Acknowledgments

    LDK2017 For hosting the meeting.
    Institute for Applied Informatics For supporting the DBpedia Association.
    OpenLink Software For continuous hosting of the main DBpedia Endpoint.
    ADAPT research centre For supporting the DBpedia Association.
    ALIGNED – Software and Data Engineering For funding the development of DBpedia as a project use-case and covering part of the travel cost.
    PorterShed For hosting the evening event.

    In case you want to sponsor the 9th DBpedia Community Meeting, please contact the DBpedia Association via dbpedia@infai.org.

    Organisation

    • Tatiana Gornostay, TILDE
    • Rob Brennan, ADAPT research centre
    • Felix Sasaki, DFKI GmbH
    • Bianca Pereira, The Insight Centre for Data Analytics
    • Caoilfhionn Lane, The Insight Centre for Data Analytics
    • Jimmy O’Regan, ITUT, Trinity College Dublin
    • Julia Holze, DBpedia Association
    • Sandra Prätor, DBpedia Association
    • Sebastian Hellmann, DBpedia Association and AKSW, Uni Leipzig

    We are looking forward to meeting you in Galway!

    Check our website for further updates, follow us on #twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.

    Your DBpedia Association

    21 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 05

    Impact Series: Improving Data Collection Capacity in Non-Technical Organisations

    Open Knowledge International is a member of Open Data for Development (OD4D), a global network of leaders in the open data community, working together to develop open data solutions around the world. In this blog, David Opoku of Open Knowledge International talks about how the OD4D programme’s Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund and  Embedded Fellowships are helping build […] 23 days ago

    Open Knowledge International is a member of Open Data for Development (OD4D), a global network of leaders in the open data community, working together to develop open data solutions around the world. In this blog, David Opoku of Open Knowledge International talks about how the OD4D programme’s Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund and  Embedded Fellowships are helping build the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa to explore the challenges and opportunities of becoming alternative public data producers.

    Nana Baah Gyan was an embedded fellow who worked with Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) in Ghana to help with their data needs.

    Context 

    Due to the challenge of governments providing open data in Africa, civil society organisations (CSOs) have begun to emerge as alternative data producers. The value these CSOs bring includes familiarity of the local context or specific domain where data may be of benefit.  In some cases, this new role for CSOs serves to provide additional checks and verification for data that is already available, and in others to provide entire sets of data where none exists. CSOs now face the challenge of building their own skills to effectively produce public data that will benefit its users. For most CSOs in low-income areas, building this capacity can be long, logistically-intensive, and expensive.

    Figure 1: CSOs are evolving from traditional roles as just data intermediaries to include producers of data for public use. Original image by Schalkwyk, Francois; Canares, Michael; Chattapadhyay, Sumandro; Andrason, Alexander (2015): Open Data Intermediaries in Developing Countries.

    Through the Open Data for Development (OD4D) program, Open Knowledge International (OKI) sought to learn more about what it takes to enable CSOs to become capable data collectors. Using the Africa Open Data Collaboration (AODC) Fund and the OD4D embedded fellowship programmes, we have been exploring the challenges and opportunities for CSO capacity development to collect relevant data for their work.

    Our Solution

    The AODC Fund provided funding ($15000 USD) and technical support to the Women Environmental Programme (WEP) team in Abuja, Nigeria, that was working on a data collection project aimed at transparency and accountability in infrastructure and services for local communities. WEP was supported through the AODC Fund in learning how to design the entire data collection process, including recruiting and training the data collectors, selecting the best data collection tool, analysing and publishing the findings, and documenting the entire process.

    Figure 2: Flowchart of a data collection process. Data collection usually requires several components or stages that make it challenging for non-technical CSOs to easily implement without the necessary skills and resources.

    In addition, the embedded fellowship programme allowed us to place a data expert in the Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) team for 3 months to build their data collection skills. ACA, which works on land issues in Ghana, has been collecting data on various community members and their land. Their challenge was building an efficient system for data collection, analysis and use. The data expert has been working with them to design and test this system and train ACA staff members in using it.

    Emerging Outcomes

    Through this project, there has been an increased desire within both WEP and ACA to educate their staff members about open data and its value in advocacy work. Both organisations have learned the value of data and now understand the need to develop an organisational data strategy. This is coupled with an acknowledgement of the need to strengthen organisational infrastructure capacity (such as better emailing systems, data storage, etc.) to support this work.

    The hope is that both organisations will have greater knowledge going forward on the importance of data, and have gained new skills in how to apply it in practice. WEP, for instance, has since collected and published their dataset from their project and are now making use of the Kobo Toolbox along with other newly acquired skills in their new projects. ACA, on the other hand, is training more of its staff members with the Kobo Toolbox manual that was developed, and are exploring other channels to build internal data capacity.

    Lessons

    These two experiences have shed some more light on the growing needs of CSOs to build their data collection capacity. However, the extent of the process as depicted in Figure 1 shows that more resources need to be developed to enhance the learning and training of CSOs. A great example of a beneficial resource is the School of Data’s  Easy Guide to Mobile Data Collection. This resource has been crucial in providing a holistic view of data collection processes to interested CSOs.

    Another example is the development of tools such as the Kobo Toolbox, which has simplified a lot of the technical challenges that would have been present for non-technical and low-income data collectors.

    Figure 3: CSO-led data collection projects should be collaborative efforts with other data stakeholders.

    We are also learning that it is crucial to foster collaborations with other data stakeholders in a CSO-led data collection exercise. Such stakeholders could include working with academic institutions in methodology research and design,  national statistics offices for data verification and authorisation, civic tech hubs for technical support and equipment, telecommunication companies for internet support, and other CSOs for contextualised experiences in data collection.

    Learn more about this project:

    23 days ago

    Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) News - Jun 02

    How participatory budgeting can transform community engagement – An interview with Amir Campos

    For most municipalities, participatory budgeting is a relatively new approach to include their citizens directly in the decision making for new investments and developments in their community. Fundación Civio is a civic tech organisation based in Madrid, Spain that develops tools for citizens that both reveal the civic value of data and promote transparency. The […] 26 days ago

    For most municipalities, participatory budgeting is a relatively new approach to include their citizens directly in the decision making for new investments and developments in their community. Fundación Civio is a civic tech organisation based in Madrid, Spain that develops tools for citizens that both reveal the civic value of data and promote transparency. The organisation has developed an online platform for participatory budgeting processes, both for voting and monitoring incoming proposals, that is currently being tested in three Spanish municipalities.

    Diana Krebs (Project Manager for Fiscal Projects at OKI) talked with Amir Campos, project officer at Fundación Civio, on how tech solutions can help to make participatory budgeting a sustainable process in communities and what is needed beyond from a non-tech point of view.

    Amir Campos, Project officer at Fundación Civio

    Participatory budgeting (PB) is a relatively new form for municipalities to engage with their citizens. You developed an online platform to help to make the participatory process easier. How can this help in order to turn PB in an integrative part of community life?

    Participatory budgets are born with the desire to democratise power at a local level, to “municipalise the State”, with a clear objective, that these actions at local level serve as an example at a regional and national level and foster change in State participation and investment policies. This aim for the democratisation of power also represents a struggle for a better distribution of wealth, giving voice to the citizens, taking them out of political anonymity every year, making local investment’s needs visible much faster than any traditional electoral process. Participatory budgeting is a tough citizen’s marking of their local representatives.

    The tool we have designed is powerful but easy to use because we have avoided the development of a tool that only technical people would use. Users are able to upload their own data (submitting or voting proposals, comments, feedback, etc. in order to generate discussions, voting processes, announcements, visualisations, etc.) It has a more visual approach that clearly differentiates our solution from existing solutions and gives further value to it. Our tool is targeted at administrators, users and policy makers without advanced technical skills and it is online, presented as Software as a Service (SaaS), avoiding the need for users to download or install any special software.

    All in all, out tool, will bring the experience of taking part in a process of participatory budgeting closer to all citizens. Once registered, its user-friendliness and visual features will keep users connected, not only to vote proposals but also to monitor and share them, while exercising effective decision-making actions and redistributing available resources in their municipality. Along with off-line participatory processes, this platform gives voice to citizens, vote and also gives them the possibility of making their public representatives more accountable through its monitoring capabilities. The final aim is to enable real participatory experiences, providing solutions that are easy to implement by all stakeholders involved, thus strengthening the democratic process.

    Do you think that participatory budgeting is a concept that will be more successful in small communities, where the daily business is less ruled by political parties’ interest and more by consent of what the community needs (like new playgrounds or sports parks)? Or can it work in bigger communities such as Madrid as well?

    Of course! The smaller the community, the better the decision-making process, not only at the PB level but at all levels. Wherever there is a “feeling” of a community it is much easier to generate agreements oriented towards the common good. That is why in large cities there are always more than one PB process at the same time, one at the neighborhood level, and another at the municipal level (whole city), to engage people at the neighborhood level and push them to vote at the city level. Examples such as Paris or Madrid, which use on-line and off-line platforms use that division, instead, small town halls, such as Torrelodones, open just a single process for the whole municipality. All process need municipal representatives commitment and citizens engagement, connected to a culture of participation, for harvesting successful outcomes.

    Do you see a chance that PB might increase fiscal data literacy if communities are more involved in deciding on what the community should spend tax money on?

    Well, I am not sure about an improvement on fiscal data literacy, but I am absolutely convinced that citizens will better understand the budget cycle, concepts and the overall approval process. Currently, in most cases, budget preparation and approval has been a closed-door process within administrations. Municipal PB implementations will act as enabling processes for citizens to influence budget decisions, becoming actual stakeholders of the decision-making process and auditing budget compromised vs. actual spending and giving feedback to the administrations.

    Furthermore, projects implemented thanks to a PB will last longer since citizens will take on a commitment to the project implemented, their representatives and their peers with whom individuals will have to agree once and will easily renew this agreement.

    The educational resources available for citizens in the platform will help also to improve the degree of literacy. They provide online materials to better understand the budget period, terms used or how to influence and monitor the budget.

    What non-tech measures and commitments do a municipal council or parliament need to take so that participatory budgeting will become a long-term integrative part of citizens’ engagement?

    They will have to agree as a government. One of the key steps to maintain a Participatory Budgets initiative over time is to legislate on this so that, regardless of the party that governs the municipality, the Participatory Budgeting processes keep running and a long-lasting prevalence is achieved. Porto Alegre (Brazil) is a very good example of this; they have been redistributing their resources at the municipal level for the last 25 years.

    Fundación Civio is part of the EU H2020 project openbudgets.eu, where it collaborates with 8 other partners around topics of fiscal transparency.

     

    26 days ago
    pluto.models/1.4.0, feed.parser/1.0.0, feed.filter/1.1.1 - Ruby/2.0.0 (2014-11-13/x86_64-linux) on Rails/4.2.0 (production)