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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!

Stop Secret Contracts: new global campaign launched

Theodora Middleton - February 27, 2014 in Featured

Today we at the Open Knowledge Foundation are launching a new global campaign, Stop Secret Contracts. Secret contracting leads to fraud, corruption, and unaccountability. It means the loss of millions of dollars of public money every year. Join our call to world leaders to end secrecy in public contracting.

Secrecy in contracting is leading to the loss of millions of dollars to corruption, mismanagement, and lining the pockets of unaccountable corporations. The global value of government contracts is estimated at $9.5 trillion, but even in countries with strong government transparency laws the contracting process is often opaque and unaccountable. In both Africa and the EU, estimates suggest that around $150 billion is lost annually to corruption and mismanagement.

While these numbers are staggering, the real cost is counted in the teachers who can’t be paid, the hospitals which have no medicines, and the roads which can’t be built. In the Niger Delta, over 2 million barrels of oil are extracted every day, and yet not a single new road has been built in the region for over ten years. In post-invasion Iraq, an estimated $60 billion was lost in defence and reconstruction contracts – money which could have enabled Iraq to build enough hospitals for the entire country to have a first-class health service. Across the world, the public is losing out to private interests.

Secrecy in contracting means a breakdown in public control over public money, which in its extreme forms endangers the health, futures, and lives of citizens. We must stop secret contracting now to restore trust and accountability between governments and the people.

The campaign already has over 30 organisational signatories including Global Witness, Integrity Action, the International Budget Partnership, the Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International, and we’re expecting many more to join. With local organisations in countries from Hungary to Nepal to South Sudan, we will be targeting governments at both national and international levels to secure reforms. We need your support to show governments the importance of this issue.

Rufus Pollock, Founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation said:

“Every year, millions of dollars of public money are lost to fraud, corruption, and payments to contractors that don’t deliver. Openness of key contracting information is essential to allow us to hold governments to account, and ensure that public money is used for public good.”

Gavin Hayman, Executive Director of Global Witness, said:

“One set of secret deals signed by the DRC government with obscure companies may have cost that state twice its annual education and health budget. Secrecy in how contracts are handed out and what they say robs citizens of the ability to know who got the contract, how they won and whether it was a good deal for their country”

Rueben Lifuka, board member of Transparency International, said:

“Secret contracts are never about public interest and only serve as conduits to satisfy the selfish interests of a few. Giving relevant information about public contracts to government entities, parliaments and civil society contributes to a more stable investment environment, and allows good governance and the rule of law to prevail.”

If you support the aims of the campaign please sign the petition at StopSecretContracts.org.

Help us make some noise about the campaign by tweeting on #SecretContracts or blogging about the issues.

If you’d like to be more involved with the campaign, get in touch with contact [at] stopsecretcontracts [dot] org

For more quotes and details, see our press release.

Open Knowledge Foundation Spain becomes an official Chapter

Theodora Middleton - February 25, 2014 in Featured, OKF Spain, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Uncategorized

We are really pleased to announce that Spain has become the latest Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Celebration of Light: Spain

Last night, during the inaugural I OKFN awards, organised by Open Knowledge Foundation Spain, the group announced to a packed room of open data advocates, government representatives, and community members that they have become an official Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The awards ceremony was established by Open Knowledge Foundation Spain to recognise the incredible efforts of individuals and groups around the world in open data, open knowledge and transparency. It therefore provided the perfect opportunity to recognise the incredible efforts of the group themselves, by announcing their transition to Chapter status.

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Getting to this point has taken a whole lot of work from a whole lot of people. With 50 paying members, and over 200 people on their mailing list, the organisation has deep community foundations. Around 1000 people have attended events organised by the Chapter in the last year, all of whom have helped bring them to this exciting stage. The group has developed amazingly fast, having only been established around a year ago, which is a testament to the immense dedication and determination of those involved.

The Chapter is strongly committed to transparency and openness within its own organisational structures. They have developed a format – “transparencia radical” or “extreme transparency” – which lays out best practices and mechanisms for ensuring genuine accountability and openness, and which aims to be reproducible and applicable in many contexts. Their board meetings are also open – you can view the video from November’s meeting here – and they aim for real time accounting transparency. In sum, Open Knowledge Foundation Spain has genuine participation and openness baked into its core, in a way which will undoubtedly be inspirational for other groups around the world.

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The new Chapter have tonnes of exciting stuff coming up over the coming months. They have built a dynamic data journalism community in Spain, and will be hosting a major data journalism event in May, Periodismo Datos, as well as bringing out a new edition of the Data Journalism handbook in April. They are keen to support and collaborate with other Open Knowledge Foundation groups, particularly those in Spanish-speaking countries. Having already translated and launched a Spanish language version of the School of Data, Escuela de Datos, they hope to continue strengthening and growing the movement for open knowledge abroad as well as at home. Do get in touch with them for more details.

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Rufus Pollock, founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, spoke to the attendees at the awards ceremony by video, saying:

“This is a great moment. We are delighted to recognise Open Knowledge Foundation Spain in this way. It is a really significant recognition of their achievement, their sustainability, and what they’ve already achieved within the community. It is brilliant to see the interconnection and flow of ideas between the Chapters, and Spain will undoubtedly inspire many others.”

Alberto Abella, President of the Open Knowledge Foundation Spain said:

“Many thanks to the team and all the members of the Open Knowledge Foundation Spain. Without their strong co-operation and dedication this would not have been possible. And of course, the best is yet to come in 2014!”

Images from top to bottom: Eduard Ereza and Jorge Martin, developers sued by local governments for using data from local webs to create apps; Juan Lopez de Uralde, Leader of the political party EQUO; and Mar Cabra, Vicepresident of Open Knowledge Foundation Spain.

Open Data Day – what’s happening around the Open Knowledge Foundation global network

Christian Villum - February 21, 2014 in Featured, Open Data Day, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups

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With Open Data Day just around the corner – tomorrow, Saturday February 22, 2014, where over 100 events around the world will take place – it’s time to zoom out a bit and see what many of the Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups around the world are planning. So here we go, are you ready?

In the United Kingdom the event will focus on app making and general discussion of open data. Our friends in Japan are doing events in a whopping 31 cities (!), and in Denmark tomorrow’s event will have 4 different tracks focusing among other on visualizing environmental data and remixing public domain cultural heritage content into video clips. The group in Spain is running what we believe is one of the world’s first Open Data Award shows, and in France events in several cities across the country will highlight among other data from the Ministry of the Interior as well as the public domain through the hosting of a Public Domain Calculator session.

In Switzerland they are organizing an “Open Data Date” asking the federal, cantonal, and community media: where do we stand in terms of Open Data? The Iceland organizing group will be mapping open datasets and build some nice apps and visualisations on top of them. In Ireland they will be doing a booksprint, where they look for teaching and research materials in the public domain and work together to collate the information into a usable format for the general public, teachers and educators. The Burkina Faso organizers are planning an event with various presentations on open government, open parliament, Open Street Map, transit data, data journalism – and will be hosting data expeditions on gold revenue, energy supply data and public budgets.

The group in Finland will be hosting a two all-day Open Data Brunches, where food will be combined with various community project hacking activities. In Cambodia they are organising a local event in Phnom Penh with talks & networking – among other to introduce the Open Knowledge Foundation to a broader audience, talk about open culture, open development and much more. Indonesia is doing an open data for development workshop which will feature an idea challenge on how to apply open data principles and applications for national and subnational development. In Argentina they will do an open bicycle data expedition to find and open key transportation data sets from Argentina and other countries. These data sets will eventually be added to the local edition of the Local Open Data Census and to Bikestorming’s upcoming mobile app.

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In Egypt they will, among other, be translating various open data materials including the Open Data Handbook and School of Data tutorials – as well as blog and do budget scrapings. Last, but not least, they will be part of the global Local Open Data Census work:

Local Open Data Census work across the world

Some of the Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups will be working on a special shared project: The Local Open Data Census, which allows citizens around the world to run a local version of the popular Open Data Census. The first round of Local Census instances have now been activated, and many of the community-driven sprints to populate them with city-level data will take place tomorrow. For example, in the United States the Open Knowledge Foundation have teamed up with Code Across and Sunlight Foundation to jointly run a nationwide Local Open Data City Census hackathon. In China they will organize an online Census-a-thon to work on their new Local Open Data Census, and furthermore they will launch a new partnership network called “Open Data China” to bring different Chinese parties into together to collaborate on open data related projects and events. Germany is also combining many activities and will, alongside the Local Census sprint, be organizing an open data hackathon around health data. To see the full list of active Local Census instances (a rapidly growing list), go here. If you’re reading this and want to boot a Local Census of your own, you can request one here.

Moving beyond time and space

The creativity around the network for Open Data Day activities has even moved beyond time and space! In Belgium they started early this week and held a massive 3-day event titled Data Days that served as a lead-in to Open Data Day. And in the Czech Republic they will do a post-Open Data Day event next week by hosting a “Political Watchdog Workshop”. In the virtual sphere the brand new OpenMENA community of the Open Knowledge Foundation will host an online event across the MENA-region (Middle East, Northern Africa) – in an impressive three languages!

We hope as many people as possible around the world join to learn about open data! To see the full list of over 100 events across the globe, head over over to the Open Data Day website.

Photo by Hal990, CC BY-NC-SA.

Announcing the narrative streams at this year’s OKFestival and the call for session proposals

Beatrice Martini - February 20, 2014 in Events, Featured, OKFest, OKFestival

Now that the OKFestival website is live and tickets are on sale, we can share more details about the narrative streams that will run through the event. We’re also pleased to open the call for session proposals at this time.

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A Theory of Change

The programme for the 2014 edition of the festival is fuelled by a theory of change. Using this theory as our outline, the event provides an ideal opportunity for the open movement to come together to co-create the roadmap that will guide its next steps.

Our Theory: we believe that Knowledge, Tools and Society are the levers of Change. As such, Knowledge, Tools and Society will be the three streams that form the architecture of the programme.

Knowledge: Knowledge informs change. At OKFestival we’re keen to discuss ways of unlocking, expanding and sharing knowledge through open access, open research data, open educational resources, open science, data journalism and campaigning, data visualisation and literacy.

Tools: Tools enable change. We’ll be discussing facilitating the flow of knowledge through non profit technology, open source software, open hardware, design, architecture and urban planning.

Society: The group(s) who effect change.  Topics may include designing institutions, building communities and protecting environments. Additionally, powering economies through open government, transparency, open tech businesses, open development, open education, open culture, open sustainability and open economy will feature on the programme. Security and privacy-related topics also fit into this stream.

The festival will weave together these three streams of open knowledge innovation and impact. Each session will go deep within its realm as well as identifying interdisciplinary features that span different domains or disciplines.

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Submit your proposal

Never facilitated a session at an event before? Don’t let that stop you! We encourage proposals from folks who don’t often attend events and we’re ready to support you to run an awesome session. All you need to do is complete the form here by March 16, 2014, 23:59 CET.

We will be hosting two information hangouts on Proposing OKFestival Sessions in March. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or sign-up for our newsletter to learn more about them.

Please share this call far and wide!

The selection process

Once the deadline for proposals has passed, all submissions will be reviewed by the Programme Team. The proposals that we’ll select will consider:

  • Does the proposal advance the overall goal of the event and agenda (see the festival’s theory of change)?
  • Does the proposal give concrete value to participants via its proposed outcome?
  • Does the proposal offer unique benefit to the agenda?
  • Is the proposal interactive? Hint: slides and lectures strongly discouraged
  • Does the proposal value and build on OKFestival’s principles of inclusivity and diversity?

If you’d like some more guidance, check out our Programme FAQs. You can also find out more about the Programme team under the Programme tab.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas about how to shape the programme at this year’s festival!

Key details at a glance

  • Event: OKFestival 2014: 15 – 17th July in Berlin.
  • Deadline: The deadline to submit your session proposals is March 16, 2014, 23:59 CET.
  • Tickets: Earlybird tickets are currently on sale. Session coordinators will need to purchase a ticket to attend the festival so don’t miss out on the limited number that are on sale at the reduced price!

The Open Knowledge Festival 2014 website is now live!

Beatrice Martini - February 19, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, News, OKFest, OKFestival

We know you’re as excited as we are about this year’s Open Knowledge Festival, which will be taking place in Berlin from 15th – 17th July. Today, we’re pleased to unveil the new website for the event which includes the festival ticket shop, details of how to contribute to the programme and other key information about the event.

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OKFestival 2014 builds on many years of successful international open knowledge events hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation – including OKFestival 2012 and OKCon 2013 – to create a meeting that’s focused on turning knowledge into positive action. We hope to see you in Berlin this summer!

Tickets now on sale!

You can now buy earlybird tickets for OKFestival for 120€ per person. This includes the evening event on the 15th and both full days of the festival on the 16th and 17th. There are only a limited number of these tickets, so make sure you don’t miss out!

Once the earlybird tickets have gone, regular tickets will be released at 150€ per person. If you’re a student, we’re also offering tickets at a discounted rate of 100€ – you’ll need to show a valid student ID when you collect your name badge at the festival.

If you’re attending on behalf of an organisation, then the 350€ business ticket is the right one for you. As well as giving you food and drink vouchers, and a Berlin tour, the ticket is also transferable, meaning that you can let us know if you’re attending on one day of the festival and a colleague will be using the ticket on another day.

If you’ve got any questions about buying tickets, take a look at our ticket FAQs. If you’ve still got queries, you can get in touch with us directly: tickets@okfestival.org.

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Contribute to the festival programme

We’ll be sharing more information about the different topic streams that will form the structure of the OKFestival programme soon. We’ll then be asking for session proposals for each of the streams. So if you’ve got ideas about a discussion that you’d like to lead, a hack that you’d like to wrangle, or a group of people that you’d love to bring together to swop knowledge, please start shaping your ideas ready to let us know about them.

We’re also keen to see fringe events hosted in Berlin on the days around the Festival. These might be longer hacks, workshops or social events. While we won’t be able to provide a venue for these events, we’d love to hear from you if you’re thinking of putting one together.

Financial aid programme

OKFestival is a great opportunity to bring together an international crowd of open knowledge enthusiasts. To make the event as accessible as possible to all who would like to join us in Berlin, we’re offering financial aid packages to cover admission, travel and accommodation costs for a limited number of attendees. For more information on how to apply, keep an eye out for an announcement about the programme soon.

Sponsorship

OKFestival is made financially possible thanks to the generous support of sponsors. If you’d like to find out more about the opportunities to contribute to the event, please get in touch with us at sponsorship@okfestival.org.

Brazil becomes the Open Knowledge Foundation’s first Full Chapter in Latin America

Theodora Middleton - February 18, 2014 in Featured, OKF Brazil, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups

We’re delighted to announce that the Open Knowledge Foundation Brazil has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to become a, full, official Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. You can read the official announcement on our press page, and here their coordinator, Everton Alvarenga, tells us more.

In July 2011, during the Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin, the formation of a Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation in Brazil was proposed. It was exciting to see that global network of people opening up knowledge in several fields: government data, educational resources, scientific knowledge and cultural goods.

In Brazil, several groups and individuals had already been doing amazing projects related to open knowledge (or “conhecimento livre”, as we translate it), from volunteers involved in the Wikimedia projects to members of the civil society trying to reform our outdated copyright law, from professors and students advocating for open educational resources to researchers trying to improve the access to scientific knowledge, and from developers and journalists starting to use modern tools to improve data analysis to create stories to developers and activists raising awareness of the importance of government date to be open and giving examples on how to use the available data.

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In the same spirit that guides the global Open Knowledge Foundation Network as a whole, the Brazil Local Group has been working for the last 2 years to form a local network supporting open knowledge, which we call “Rede pelo Conhecimento Livre”. We have brought together a national network aiming to connect all the amazing actors of the free culture movement and open movement in the country. We place a high value on our community roots, emphasizing decentralized collaboration. We firmly believe that all the fantastic groups and individuals building towards openness in Brazil will be stronger together, and our main task is to facilitate this, be it through projects aligned with our mission to open all forms of knowledge or supporting the communities part of our network.

To make this possible, the hard work of many people was necessary. We have been participating in and organizing events to promote open knowledge in several ways: at the international and local level, and also in the context of Latin America. We are supporting an active open science working group, and supporting other civil society organization to understand the importance of open data, for example through our visualizations of budget data. Our group has also actively bringing the School of Data to Portuguese speakers and we are planning to continue with several activities in the following years. And there is more: with some of our partners, from academics to other civil society organizations, we have started to work as a hosting organization, making projects to happen in a more dynamic and less bureaucratic way. Being a very young organization, we are still building our governance with a focus on community-driven decision making whenever possible, and we are also working to have a channel for crowd-funded projects to achieve our goals.

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Going forward, we see big challenges and opportunities for Open Knowledge Brazil, the “Rede pelo Conhecimento Livre”. We see the OKF Brazil as a key driver for a truly participatory democracy in the country, with access to knowledge and openness in several sectors as a key to our development. One of main challenges will be to build an organization with sustainable projects and give continuity to several good initiatives from the civil society we have seen that ended in nothing, but we are willing to change that. And you all are very welcome to join our network through your collaboration or new projects we can make together!

What are you doing on Open Data Day?

Christian Villum - February 7, 2014 in Featured, Open Data Day

Open Data Day 2014 is February 22 – just two weeks away!

What: It’s a gathering of citizens in cities all around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data.
Why: To show support for and encourage the adoption open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments.
Where: All around the world, in person and online, in a timezone near you!

At the Open Knowledge Foundation, this is one of our favourite community initiatives of the year, and this time we had the honour to connect more globally than ever before, supporting and working with our fabulous Open Knowledge Foundation local and working groups and also connecting with other great groups active in the global open space.

We are hosting another G+ hangout for the whole Open Data Day community.

To join: Register for the “What are you doing Open Data Day?” G+ hangout.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 – 12:00 EST / 5.00pm GMT

It will recorded for those unable to attend. See the last ODD video.

Some inspiring community Initiatives (among so many!)

A handpicked selection of inspiring community initiatives happening on Open Data Day 2014. Is yours missing? Tell us everything about it!

Spain

In Spain there will be six events on Open Data Day. In Madrid Open Knowledge Foundation Spain will be organizing the first OKFN Award for Open Knowledge, Open Data and Transparency to recognize extraordinary efforts in the public and private sector on those subjects. Submission process is now open – see more info at http://premio.okfn.es. Additionally, there are events in Seville, Barcelona, Granada, Zaragoza and Vigo.

Canada

There are a number of Open Data Day events in Canada. The first ever Canada Open Data Summit will occur right before Open Data Day. Communities across the country are self-organizing events from Vancouver to Edmonton to Windsor to Sherbrooke. Heather Leson, OKF staffer, will participate in Toronto’s ODD in a roundtable discussion and OKF Ambassador, Diane Mercier, will be participating in Montreal’s Open Data Day hosted by Quebec Ouvert.

Argentina

In Argentina the Open Data Day event, organized by Buenos Aires Open Government Office, Ministry of Modernization, will focus on going out into the street to play with local data from the Buenos Aires data portal, and show neighbors some of the things that can be done with local data. For instance select street artists will join the team to process data and work on visualizations that will then afterwards be painted as street murals around Buenos Aires. The idea is to do something of greater impact to include not only the data community, but also a bigger audience by mixing street art and data. Read more here.

Germany

In Germany Open Data Day will be celebrated in 5 cities. In Berlin, it will be hosted by Wikimedia and put a focus on health and social structure data that the city releases specifically for the event. They will also use this as a launch event for Code for Germany, their new network of local hack groups called OK Labs. Read more on the German Open Data Day website.

Kenya

Kenya passed a new constitution in 2010 that created devolved administrative units (counties) which have been operational since March last year. For Open Data Day in Kenya, organized among other by Open Institute, Angani and pawa254 they are aiming to engage communities in the three major cities, Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa to take advantage of the new system to organize themselves to build a demand driven open data ecosystem in their communities. Activities around this involve talking to the local governments and institutions to open up their data and/or scraping the data from their website. Find out more at the Open Data Day Kenya website.

Japan

In Japan a whopping 31 cities are participating in Open Data Day, which is being prepared in an impressive fashion. Last week the organizers — which include Code For Japan and Open Knowledge Foundation Japan — held an Open Data Day press conference to inform of the activities that were being planned; an event that was even covered in national media. Additionally, the group organized a pre-event a few days ago in which some of their fellow local organizers presented plans for Open Data Day activities in different areas (see some of the presentation slides: Open Street Map, ODD Chiba. You can keep track of everything on the Open Data Day Japan website.

After so much inspiration – time to roll up our sleeves!

Call to Action #1: Join Open Data Day!

Call to Action #2: Share your stories!

  • We’re collecting info about Open Data Day 2014 events all around the world, organised by the Open Knowledge Foundation community or by any other open community happy to connect with us (welcome! We’re so happy to connect with you!). Add info about your event here!

  • We’ll then gather all the information and resources about your initiatives in a wrap-up blogpost on the OKF main blog and (in this case, only if you feel comfortable about being recognised as part of the OKF community) spread the word about your work also on our OKF Community Stories Tumblr!

Let’s get making and building with open data!

Announcing the Local Open Data Census

Rufus Pollock - February 4, 2014 in Featured, Open Data, Open Data Census

Let’s explore local open data around the world!

Local data is often the most relevant to citizens on a daily basis – be it rubbish collection times, local tax rates or zoning information. However, at the moment it’s difficult to know which key local datasets are openly available and where. Now, you can help change that.

We know there is huge variability in how much local data is available not just across countries but within countries, with some cities and municipalities making major open data efforts, while in others there’s little or no progress visible. If we can find out what open data is out there, we can encourage more cities to open up key information, helping businesses and citizens understand their cities and making life easier.

We’ve created the Local Open Data Census to survey and compare the progress made by different cities and local areas in releasing Open Data. You can help by tracking down Open Data from a city or region where you live or that you’re interested in. All you need to do is register your interest and we’ll get your Local Open Data Census set up and ready to use.

Get in touch about surveying open data in your city or region »

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Investigate your local open data on Open Data Day

Open Data Day is coming – it’s on 22 February 2014 and will involve Open Data events around the world where people can get involved with open data. If you’re organising an open data event, why not include a Census-a-thon to encourage people to track down and add information about their city?

A Local Open Data Census for your city will help:

  • new people learn about open data by exploring what’s available and relevant to them;
  • you compare open data availability in your city with other cities in your country;
  • local government identify data that local people and businesses are interested in using;
  • and more data get opened up everywhere!

It’s really easy to contribute to an Open Data Census: there’s lots of documentation for them and a truly global community creating and using them. A City Census is a great way to get involved with open data for the first time, as the information is about things city residents really care about. Or if you’re more interested in regions, counties or states, you can take part a regional Census. (Some countries will have both regional and city Censuses, because of the way their local government information is organised.)

Sign up now to ensure your city and country have a Local Open Data Census up and running before Open Data Day, and let’s see how much open data about open data we can create this month! We’ll have more tips on how to run a successful Census-a-thon coming soon.

Register your interest in a local census

The history behind the Local Open Data Census

In 2012 we started an Open Data Census to track the state of country-level open data around the world. The 2013 results published as the first ever Open Data Index last Autumn covered 700 datasets across 70 countries, and have already proved useful in driving open data release around the world. We’re looking forward to updating the Census for 2014 later this year.

However, a lot of data that is most relevant to citizens’ everyday lives is at the local level. That’s why last year we ran a separate pilot, to measure release of open data at the local, city level – the City Open Data Census. We’ve learnt a lot from the experience and from the community who used the pilot, and we are now ready to offer a full Local Open Data Census to everyone, everywhere.

You can find out more on the new Census “Meta” site »

Local partners

Census surveys of cities and regions will be run on a country-by-country basis, managed locally with local groups or other organisations. In the United States, we’re pleased to be collaborating with the Sunlight Foundation and Code for America. They are running a series of events for Open Data Day, CodeAcross (links here and here), including the city census for the US.

[Sunlight Foundation] [Code for America]

And there’s more: Topical Open Data Censuses

We also know that people will want to run their own specific Open Data Censuses focused on particular topics or datasets. If you’ve been wondering about the openness of pollution data, legal information, public finances or any other topic, we can set up a special Census to survey the datasets you care about, on a national or regional scale.

A Topical Census uses the platform built for the Open Data Census to run a similar, customised census, and publish the results in a simple and visually appealing way. The questionnaires, responses and results can be hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation, so you don’t have to worry about the technical side. If you are interested in running a Topical Open Data Census, get in touch with the Census team.

Note that we expect quite a bit of demand for local Censuses in the next few weeks. We will prioritise requests for Topical Censuses from groups who have more people ready to get involved, such as existing networks, working groups or interest groups around the topic, so please let us know a little about yourselves when you get in touch.

Britain ‘shines light of transparency’ on secret lobbying. Just kidding.

Jonathan Gray - January 28, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Open Government Data, Policy, Transparency

The following article is cross-posted from OpenDemocracy.

David Cameron’s lobbying bill exposes the hollowness of his muscular claims about cracking down on crony capitalism. Britain’s democracy remains under corporate capture.

influenceindustry Image: Government wants to register Lobbying Agencies alone (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency)

Today the government’s proposed Lobbying Bill will go into parliamentary ping-pong between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. If this Bill passes without significant amendments it will do nothing to stop secret corporate lobbying, making a mockery of the coalition’s open government aspirations.

Every year an estimated £2 billion is spent attempting to influence decisions in Westminster, an amount that is topped only by spending in Washington and Brussels. Even more than its counterparts across the channel and across the pond, London’s lobbying industry has been able to operate in the dark, free from scrutiny and interference: unregulated, unrecorded and unimpeded.

Four years ago next month, just before the 2010 general election, David Cameron announced his intention, if elected, to tackle the “unhealthy influence” of “secret corporate lobbying”. He pledged to “sort out” what he called “crony capitalism”, to shine the “light of transparency” on lobbying, and to force our political system to “come clean about who is buying power and influence”.

The theme of his speech was “rebuilding trust in politics”. He attacked then Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s “secretive, power-hoarding, controlling” government, and its handling of the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal.

Transparency has since become a major theme of the coalition government under Cameron, who has claimed repeatedly that he wants to “fix our broken politics” and make the UK “the most open and transparent government in the world”.

Fast forward to the government’s proposed lobbying bill, tabled for discussion in parliament today. The second part of the bill has been widely criticised for gagging charities during election periods. The first part, which outlines plans for the lobbying registry, has received less public attention.

Far from shining a light on the activities of the influence industry, the proposed registry would exclude the vast majority of commercial lobbyists, covering as little as 5 per cent of all lobbying activity. Among the excluded, all ‘in-house’ lobbyists — those based at major corporations, banks, consultancies, law firms, accountancy firms. Even the registered lobbyists would not be required to give the public information about what they are asking for, who they are meeting with, or how much they are spending.

How do the government’s proposals compare with a real statutory register of lobbyists? Here’s an illustration from The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency:

registerproposals

Unless it is scrapped and rewritten or major amendments are made – both exceedingly unlikely – the lobbying bill will make a mockery of the UK’s open government purported aspirations. It will leave the British public none the wiser as to how big money and big business are distorting the fabric of public political discourse and decision-making, and to what end. It will do nothing to shed light on how powerful corporate interests are exerting their influence to shape what is politically possible and politically likely – from inaction on climate change and corporate tax avoidance, to fracking, energy prices and the privatisation of public services.

Even a decent registry of lobbyists would give us just a faint sketch of the impact of corporate lobbying on our democracy. The fight for transparency is just a first step that must not distract us from the bigger and more important fight to push back against the malign, distorting, anti-democratic influence of big money and big business on politics.

The passage of the proposed lobbying bill into law would represent a manifest failure of the current government to take even the most elementary of steps to live up to its pre-election promises to tackle secret corporate influence. It will no doubt be remembered as an historic missed opportunity and an astonishing defeat at the first hurdle – making the UK’s claims to global leadership in government openness and accountability look like a joke.

The Open Knowledge Foundation and the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency have launched a petition asking the UK government to scrap and rewrite the lobbying bill. You can sign here. It is endorsed by Access Info, the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Watch, Greenpeace, Integrity Action, Involve, the Open Rights Group, Spinwatch, the Sunlight Foundation, Unlock Democracy, War on Want and the World Development Movement.

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