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The Tragic Consequences of Secret Contracts

Theodora Middleton - April 14, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Stop Secret Contracts

The following post is by Seember Nyager, CEO of the Public and Private Development Centre in Nigeria, one of our campaign partners in the Stop Secret Contracts campaign

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Every day, through secret contracts being carried out within public institutions, there is confirmation that the interest of the public is not served. A few days ago, young Nigerians in Abuja were arrested for protesting against the reckless conduct of the recruitment exercise at the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) that led to the death of 19 applicants.

Although the protesters were later released, the irony still stings that whilst no one has been held for the resulting deaths from the reckless recruitment conduct, the young voices protesting against this grave misconduct are being silenced by security forces. Most heart-breaking is the reality that the deadly outcomes of the recruitment exercise could have been avoided with more conscientious planning, through an adherence to due process and diligence in the selection of consultants to carry out the exercise.

A report released by Premium times indicates that the recruitment exercise was conducted exclusively by the Minister of Interior who hand-picked the consultant that carried out the recruitment exercise at the NIS. The non-responsiveness of the Ministry in providing civic organizations including BudgIT and PPDC with requested details of the process through which the consultant was selected gives credence to the reports of due process being flouted.

The non-competitive process through which the consultant was selected is in sharp breach of the Public procurement law and its results have undermined the concept of value for money in the award of contracts for public services. Although a recruitment website was built and deployed by the hired consultant, the information gathered by the website does not seem to have informed the plan for the conduct of the recruitment exercise across the country which left Nigerians dead in its wake. Whilst the legality of the revenue generated from over 710,000 applicants is questioned, it is appalling that these resources were not used to ensure a better organized recruitment exercise.

This is not the first time that public institutions in Nigeria have displayed reckless conduct in the supposed administration of public services to the detriment of Nigerians. The recklessness with which the Ministry of Aviation took a loan to buy highly inflated vehicles, the difficulty faced by BudgIT and PPDC in tracking the exact amount of SURE-P funds spent, the 20 billion Dollars unaccounted for by the NNPC are a few of the cases where Nation building and development is undermined by public institutions.

In the instance of the NIS recruitment conducted three weeks ago, some of the consequences have been immediate and fatal, yet there is foot dragging in apportioning liability and correcting the injustice that has been dealt to Nigerians. On the same issue, public resources have been speedily deployed to silence protesters.

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It is time that our laws which require due process and diligence are fully enforced. Peaceful protests should no longer be clamped down because Nigerians are justified for being outraged by any form of institutional recklessness. The Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment exercise painfully illustrates that the outcomes of secret contracts could be deadly and such behaviour cannot be allowed to continue. We must stop institutional recklessness, we must stop secret contracts.

Ms. Seember Nyager coordinates procurement monitoring in Nigeria. Follow Nigerian Procurement Monitors at @Nig_procmonitor.

OKFestival 2014 Financial Aid Programme Launches Today!

Beatrice Martini - April 9, 2014 in Events, Featured, News, OKFest, OKFestival

The OKFestival 2014 Team is happy to announce that we are launching our Financial Aid Programme today! Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 4.55.39 PM We’re delighted to support and ensure the attendance of those with great ideas who are actively involved in the open movement, but whose distance or finances make it difficult for them to get to this year’s festival in Berlin. Diversity and inclusivity are a huge part of our festival ethos and we are committed to ensuring broad participation from all corners of the world. We’re striving to create a forum for all ideas and all people and our Financial Aid Programme will help us to do just that.

What: OKFestival, 15-17th July 2014, Berlin

How to Apply: Check out our Financial Aid webpage

Deadline: Sunday 4th May

Our Travel Grants cover travel and accommodation costs, and our aim is to get you to Berlin if you can’t quite make it there yourself. For more information on what we’ll cover – and what we won’t – how to apply, and what to expect if you do, have a look at our Financial Aid page.

  Image credit: Flickr user Andrew Nash

The School of Data Journalism 2014!

Milena Marin - April 3, 2014 in Data Journalism, Events, Featured, School of Data

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We’re really excited to announce this year’s edition of the School of Data Journalism, at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, 30th April – 4th May.

It’s the third time we’ve run it (how time flies!), together with the European Journalism Centre, and it’s amazing seeing the progress that has been made since we started out. Data has become an increasingly crucial part of any journalists’ toolbox, and its rise is only set to continue. The Data Journalism Handbook, which was born at the first School of Data Journalism is Perugia, has become a go-to reference for all those looking to work with data in the news, a fantastic testament to the strength of the data journalism community.

As Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager at the EJC, said:

“This is really a must-attend event for anyone with an interest in data journalism. The previous years’ events have each proven to be watershed moments in the development of data journalism. The data revolution is making itself felt across the profession, offering new ways to tell stories and speak truth to power. Be part of the change.”

Here’s the press release about this year’s event – share it with anyone you think might be interested – and book your place now!


PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 3rd, 2014

Europe’s Biggest Data Journalism Event Announced: the School of Data Journalism

The European Journalism Centre, Open Knowledge and the International Journalism Festival are pleased to announce the 3rd edition of Europe’s biggest data journalism event, the School of Data Journalism. The 2014 edition takes place in Perugia, Italy between 30th of April – 4th of May as part of the International Journalism Festival.

#ddjschool #ijf13

A team of about 25 expert panelists and instructors from New York Times, The Daily Mirror, Twitter, Ask Media, Knight-Mozilla and others will lead participants in a mix of discussions and hands-on sessions focusing on everything from cross-border data-driven investigative journalism, to emergency reporting and using spreadsheets, social media data, data visualisation and mapping techniques for journalism.

Entry to the School of Data Journalism panels and workshops is free. Last year’s editions featured a stellar team of panelists and instructors, attracted hundreds of journalists and was fully booked within a few days. The year before saw the launch of the seminal Data Journalism Handbook, which remains the go-to reference for practitioners in the field.

Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager at the EJC said:

“This is really a must-attend event for anyone with an interest in data journalism. The previous years’ events have each proven to be watershed moments in the development of data journalism. The data revolution is making itself felt across the profession, offering new ways to tell stories and speak truth to power. Be part of the change.”

Guido Romeo, Data and Business Editor at Wired Italy, said:

“I teach in several journalism schools in Italy. You won’t get this sort of exposure to such teachers and tools in any journalism school in Italy. They bring in the most avant garde people, and have a keen eye on what’s innovative and new. It has definitely helped me understand what others around the world in big newsrooms are doing, and, more importantly, how they are doing it.”

The full description and the (free) registration to the sessions can be found on http://datajournalismschool.net You can also find all the details on the International Journalism Festival website: http://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2014

ENDS

Contacts: Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager, European Journalism Centre: laurent@ejc.net Milena Marin, School of Data Programme Manager, Open Knowledge Foundation, milena.marin@okfn.org

Notes for editors

Website: http://datajournalismschool.net Hashtag: #DDJSCHOOL

The School of Data Journalism is part of the European Journalism Centre’s Data Driven Journalism initiative, which aims to enable more journalists, editors, news developers and designers to make better use of data and incorporate it further into their work. Started in 2010, the initiative also runs the website DataDrivenJournalism.net as well as the Doing Journalism with Data MOOC, and produced the acclaimed Data Journalism Handbook.

About the International Journalism Festival (www.journalismfestival.com) The International Journalism Festival is the largest media event in Europe. It is held every April in Perugia, Italy. The festival is free entry for all attendees for all sessions. It is an open invitation to listen to and network with the best of world journalism. The leitmotiv is one of informality and accessibility, designed to appeal to journalists, aspiring journalists and those interested in the role of the media in society. Simultaneous translation into English and Italian is provided.

About Open Knowledge (www.okfn.org) Open Knowledge, founded in 2004, is a worldwide network of people who are passionate about openness, using advocacy, technology and training to unlock information and turn it into insight and change. Our aim is to give everyone the power to use information and insight for good. Visit okfn.org to learn more about the Foundation and its major projects including SchoolOfData.org and OpenSpending.org.

About the European Journalism Centre (www.ejc.net) The European Journalism Centre is an independent, international, non-profit foundation dedicated to maintaining the highest standards in journalism in particular and the media in general. Founded in 1992 in Maastricht, the Netherlands, the EJC closely follows emerging trends in journalism and watchdogs the interplay between media economy and media culture. It also hosts each year more than 1.000 journalists in seminars and briefings on European and international affairs.

The Open Knowledge Foundation Newsletter, April 2014

Theodora Middleton - April 2, 2014 in Featured, Newsletter

Hi!

After last month’s launch-fest, March has been a thoughtful month, with reflective and planning pieces taking centre-stage on our blog. Of course OKFestival has been ramping up since its launch, giving more detail on topics and running sessions to help with submitting proposals; however we’ve also had more from the Community Survey results, as well as guest posts dealing with ‘open washing’ and exploring what open data means to different people.

Keep checking in on the Community Stories Tumblr for the latest news on what people are doing around the world to push the agenda for Open Knowledge. This month’s updates come from India, Tanzania, Greece, Malta, Russia and Germany, and from OpenMENA (Middle East and North Africa) – the new group focusing on Open Knowledge in the Arab world.

Also, congratulations to our very own Rufus Pollock, named a Tech Hero for Good by NESTA :-)

OKFestival 2014

Plans have been moving at pace over the last month.

So many proposals came in, and so many people wanted more time to submit, we extended the deadline for proposals to March 30th. We’ll have to wait until May to learn if our proposals have been accepted, and later in May for the programme announcement, but many thanks to all who have proposed sessions – and good luck to you!

It’s not long to go now, so don’t forget to buy your ticket

If you need distraction from the wait, check out this flash-back to last year: the 2013 Open Reader, a collection of stories and articles inspired by Open Knowledge Conference 2013.

Stop Secret Contracts

Last month we launched our campaign for a stop to secret contracts, asking various organisations to partner with us and asking you who care about openness to sign up to show your support.

Spread the word to your colleagues, friends and family to show that we will not stand for corruption, fraud, unaccountability or backdoor deals.

Signatures not enough? To get more involved please contact us and help us stop secret contracts.

#SecretContracts

Coming Up

Easter Eggs 1

The School of Data heads to Perugia! Europe’s Biggest Data Journalism Event, from The European Journalism Centre, Open Knowledge and the International Journalism Festival, the School of Data Journalism takes place 30th April to 4th May. This event has an impressive programme with free entry to panel and workshops so check it out and register to save your place.

OGP grows to 62 countries. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) will welcome 8 new countries during April: ‘Cohort 4′ consists of Australia, Ireland, Malawi, Mongolia, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, Serbia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

And… Time-zone changes! It messes with schedules and deadlines, but adds to the fun of this time of year.

All the best from Open Knowledge!

Happy Spring Cleaning, Community Style

Heather Leson - April 1, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Featured, Network, OKF Projects, OKFestival, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Our Work, Working Groups

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Crazy about happy? Call it spring fever, but I am slightly addicted to the beautiful creativity of people around the world and their Happy videos (map). We are just one small corner of the Internet and want to connect you to Open Knowledge. To do this, we, your community managers, need to bring in the Happy. How can we connect you, meet your feedback, continue the spirit of global Open Data Day, and celebrate our upcoming 10 year anniversary as Open Knowledge? Tall order, but consider this.

Open Knowledge is a thriving network. We exist because of all of you and the incremental efforts each of you make on a wide-range of issues around the world. The way forward is to flip the community around. We will focus on connecting you to each other. Call it inspired by Happy or the Zooinverse mission, but we heard your input into the community survey and want to meet it.

Coffee smiley by spaceageboy

So, here are 4 key ways we aim to connect you:

1. Community Tumblr

Greece, MENA, and Tanzania – these are just some of the locations of Open Knowledge Stories on the Community Tumblr. We know that many of you have stories to tell. Have something to say or share? Submit a story. Just one look at the recent WordPress about 10 moments around the world gives me inspiration that the stories and impact exist, we just need to share more.

The Open Knowledge Community Tumblr

2. Wiki Reboot

As with every spring cleaning, you start by dusting a corner and end up at the store buying bookshelves and buckets of paint. The Open Knowledge wiki has long been ridden with spam and dust bunnies. We’ve given it a firm content kick to make it your space. We are inspired by the OpenStreetMap community wiki.

What next? Hop on over and create your Wiki User account – Tell us about yourself, See ways to Get Involved and Start Editing. We think that the wiki is the best way to get a global view of all things Open Knowledge and meet each other. Let’s make this our community hub.

3. Community Sessions

We have a core goal to connect you to each other. This April we are hosting a number of online community events to bring you together. Previously, we had great success with a number of online sessions around Open Data Day and OKFestival.

The Community Sessions can be in a number of forms: a scheduled IRC chat, a community Google hangout, a technical sprint or hackpad editathon. We are using the wiki to plan. All events will be announced on the blog and be listed in the main Open Knowledge events calendar.

Wiki planning for the Community Sessions:

The first session is Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 14:30 UTC/10:30 ET. We will host an IRC chat all about the wiki. To join, hop onto irc.freenode.net #okfn. IRC is a free text-based chat service.

4. OkFestival

OKFestival is coming soon. You told us that events is one of the biggest ways that you feel connected to Open Knowledge. As you many know, there are regular online meetups for School of Data, CKAN and OpenSpending Communities. Events connect and converge all of us with location and ideas.

Are you planning your own events where you live or on a particular open topic? We can help in a few ways:

  • Let us know about the events you’re running! Let’s discover together how many people are joining Open knowledge events all around the world!
  • Never organized an event before or curious to try a new type of gathering? Check out our Events Handbook for tips and tricks and contact our Events Team if you have questions or feedback about it
  • Want to connect with other community members to talk about your events, share skills, create international series of events together? Ping our global mailing list!

Have some ideas on how we can bring on the happy more? Drop us a line on the okfn-discuss mailing list or reach out directly – heather DOT leson AT okfn DOT org.

(Photo by SpaceAgeBoy)

How many people are rocking Open Knowledge events around the world? Let us know!

Beatrice Martini - April 1, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, Meetups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

OKF_HK

We’re getting to know each other more every day on mailing lists and through surveys, we know that plenty of you populate and build groundbreaking projects and communities through our network of 42 local groups, 20 working groups, infinite number of projects and beyond. Now, we’d like to know more about your Open Knowledge events (what can be called such a thing? Have look here) and in particular how many people join them! We want our gathering community to grow and want to know and understand how it grows so how we can best support its sustainable development.

ODD2

Call for action: let’s discover how many people love Open Knowledge events!

Step 1

When you run an Open Knowledge event, submit an article about it to the Open Knowledge Community Stories Tumblr. Your article can be short and sweet but should at least tell about:

  • what / where / how (topic, offline or online location, format, goals)
  • how many people attended – lets see how Open Kowledge is growing all around the world!
  • outcomes and / or upcoming plans for the future

In addition to that, anything you’d like to add – pictures, quotes and links to post-event reports by attendees of the event, graphs – is very welcome and much appreciated!

Step 2

At the end of each month we’ll write a crowded wrap-up blogpost about all the Open Knowledge events which took place in the previous weeks, to be published on the main Open Knowledge blog, and we’ll know how many people around the world are taking action gathering together to build the future of Open Knowledge.

Do you have an event in the pipeline in April? Run it, have fun!, and report it on the Tumblr by the end of April – it’ll be featured on our first wrap-up post to be published in early May!

Tackling the Resource Curse: Civil Society’s Fight for Better Access to Information and Open Contracting in Côte d’Ivoire

Katelyn Rogers - March 31, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Stop Secret Contracts

This is a guest blog from our campaign partner Integrity Action, adapted from its original posted on their website here. This is the first in a series of blog posts from partner organisations of our #SecretContracts campaign. If you have stories to share about the problems of secrecy in contracting, get in touch with contact@stopsecretcontracts.org

Tackling the Resource Curse: Civil Society’s Fight for Better Access to Information and Open Contracting in Côte d’Ivoire

To date, many natural resource rich countries are plagued by rampant corruption, repression and poverty. We seem to have become accustomed to reading about tiny oil-rich countries such Equatorial Guinea – surely one of the world’s best examples of the resource curse. A country where large oil reserves fund the lavish lifestyles of the elite while the majority of the population finds itself in the undesirable position of having their basic human and economic rights not met.

Yet the picture is not all ‘doom and gloom’. Shifting the focus to countries such as Côte d’Ivoire allows for a different picture to emerge. Here, civil society organisations (CSOs) such as Social Justice have been working hard to ensure that extractive sector revenues benefit all members of society.

So how did local CSOs in Côte d’Ivoire bring about this incremental step change? In Jacqueville and d’Angovia, they began by working with people of influence to lobby local government and corporates to ensure improved access to contracts. Upon receipt of the contractual information, they organised information meetings with the communities and helped citizens develop strategies to better negotiate their entitlements, thereby ensuring that health care centres, maternity hospitals, schools and water towers were built.

Ensuring that communities have access to contractual information has been far from easy to achieve. Social Justice and other CSOs in Cote D’Ivoire have encountered frequent resistance from corporates as well as government officials, citing a lack of laws and regulations as reasons why open contracting has not become mainstream practice within the sector. Social Justice and other CSOs have tirelessly communicated the tangible benefits for local communities if open contracting was to be institutionalised and properly regulated. Moreover, they encouraged the formation of a resource centre tasked with working on access to information and freedom of information issues.

A significant step toward open contracting in Cote D’Ivoire is the recent adoption of an access to information law. Social Justice and other CSOs now rely heavily on the new law as well as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Standard adopted in May 2013 in their continuous demand for open contracting.

There is no doubt that it would be all to easy to remain skeptical, yet Social Justice’s work in Cote d’Ivoire shows that access to contractual information enables communities, impacted by extractive sector activities, to ensure that key stakeholders within the sector live up to their social and economic responsibilities.

The Stop Secret Contracts campaign is designed to push the issue of open contracting up the international policy agenda. Join the campaign by signing the petition and spreading the word at StopSecretContracts.org

Find out more about Social Justice here: https://www.facebook.com/socialjusticecotedivoire2

Photo: Monitors from Social Justice at the Logement de Maitre in Adjue, Jaqueville, funded by gas company Foxtrot

From Health in the UK to Education in Nigeria – Stop Secret Contracts

Theodora Middleton - March 24, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Open Government Data, Public Money, Stop Secret Contracts

Today it was announced that fraud and error in the UK National Health Service are leading to the loss of around £7 billion each year. This could pay for about 250,000 new nurses, and comes at a time when the service is struggling more than ever under the pressures of austerity.

One of the main ways that money is lost is overcharging and underdelivery by contractors. Outsourcing of health provision to unaccountable contractors is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and it provides fertile ground for fraud and corruption. And the public has no effective means of redress when things go wrong.

In Nigeria, civil society groups are being denied access to crucial contracts being drawn up to bring about educational reforms. Nigeria has been found to be the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, and educational reform is undoubtedly needed.

But information about the contracts involved is being masked by “commercial sensitivity.” The lack of transparency stifles participation, reducing the likelihood of genuine innovation. An inclusive education system which meets the needs of all Nigerians will not be achieved when the process is shrouded in secrecy.

Across the world, contracting is the aspect of government which is most open to abuse. Governments hide behind claims of commercial sensitivity or national security to avoid exposing their contracts to public scrutiny.

stopsecretcontracts logo

This month we launched our Stop Secret Contracts campaign, calling on world leaders to open up the procurements process. At the most basic level, the contracting data must be made available to the public. This includes:

  1. The full text of contracts;
  2. Key documents such as pre-studies, bid documents, performance evaluations, guarantees, and auditing reports;
  3. Information about contract formation, such as planning process, procurement method, and evaluation criteria;
  4. Information about performance and completion, such as delivery schedules, status of implementation, payments and risk assessments.

But we also want to see stronger commitments towards participation and accountability, as laid out in the Open Government Guide. As contractors play a growing role in the delivery of public services everywhere, we must ensure that we do not lose democratic control over vital aspects of our societies.

We need YOU to help us spread the word. We need you to sign the petition so that this issue is taken seriously by the G20 and OGP. Organisations who are working on this crucial problem need to be able to show that many voices are united behind them.

Once you’ve signed, there’s more you can do to help. You could write a blog post – like our Bangladesh and Sweden Local Groups have done. You could follow @StopSecretContracts, and retweet interesting and relevant things using #SecretContracts. You could join the Open Contracting Partnership’s community of practice to get more involved with policy conversations. You could start contributing to the C20 Conversations, the civil society engagement process around this year’s G20 in Australia – especially in the governance group. You could check out the list of supporting organisations: if any of them are local to you, why not get in touch and see if you can help them push forward?

There’s a whole load of resources available if you’d like to learn more about open contracting and why it matters. The Open Contracting Partnership have produced these Global Principles for Open Contracting, and the Sunlight Foundation has these complementary guidelines for open data in procurements. This report, Publish What You Buy makes the case for openness, and this entry in the Open Government Guide is a great starting point for understanding the issues and the kinds of political commitments we need to see.

From next Monday we will be publishing a series of blog posts from different organisations who are supporting the Stop Secret Contracts campaign. If you have stories to share about the problems of secrecy in contracting, get in touch with contact@stopsecretcontracts.org

Deadline to submit your OKFestival 2014 session proposals extended to March 30!

Beatrice Martini - March 14, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, News, OKFest, OKFestival

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  • Event: OKFestival – July 15-17, 2014. Berlin, Germany.
  • Call for Proposals: Find the call, FAQs and the submission form here
  • Deadline: Deadline extended! New deadline to submit your proposals is March 30, 2014.
  • Tickets: Early Bird tickets are now on sale!

This year’s OKFestival Call for Proposals was due to end on Sunday and our spreadsheets were filling up with dozens of amazing session amazing sessions ideas over the last few weeks. We’ve had lots of questions from you about your proposals, answered heaps of Twitter messages asking for hints about the best way to design a workshop, and hosted live helpouts to talk about how you can collaborate with each other.

So, excited by your enthusiasm and fuelled by your contagious energy, we have decided to extend the deadline for this year’s proposals.

You now have two full extra weeks!New deadline: March 30. And this time we’re serious!

Keep sending your brilliant, groundbreaking, collaborative proposals. We’re looking forward to reviewing them all!

Tips & Tricks – A Hangout for OKFestival Session Planners

Beatrice Martini - March 5, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, News, OKFest, OKFestival

The Open Knowledge Festival call for session proposals is now open!

The better the proposals, the better the festival, so we’re inviting you to put on your thinking caps and come up with revolutionarily brilliant ideas for sessions at OKFestival 2014.

We know you can do it, and we know you’ll make this festival a huge success by bringing your input to it. To help you fine-tune your ideas –  and ask any burning questions  that you may have – the Festival Programme Team are going to be on hand via online hangouts over the next week to give you some pointers.

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In fact, we’re happy to announce three new tools to help make the magic happen:

  • we’ve created a public mailing list which you can use to connect and team up with other session planners, to share ideas, plans and tips for OKFestival sessions

  • we’ve created a brand-new webpage on our festival site with tips to help you build and facilitate the best sessions possible for/at OKFestival

  • we’re hosting two live hangouts (links below) where you can ask for advice or input on your ideas from us, and exchange tips with each other to help make your proposal shine

Hangouts will be held on Friday, March 7 at 21:00 GMT (22:00 CET/ 13:00 PST/ 16:00 EST) and on Monday, March 10, at 10:00 GMT (11:00 CET/ 13:00 EAT/ 18:00 HKT). We’ll be interacting with you live via etherpad and Twitter – #okfestsessions – as well as via the Google+ Hangouts Q&A App where you can post your questions on the day. The hangouts will be streamed direct to our YouTube channel and G+ page.

If you can’t join us for whatever reason, don’t worry - the resultant YouTube videos will be archived so you can watch them later and you can also continue to read and contribute to the etherpad after the hangouts.

We’re looking forward to building this year’s programme with you!

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