The EU has committed to spending €959 988 million between 2014 and 2020. This money is disbursed through over 80 funds and programmes that are managed by over 100 different authorities. Where does this money come from? How is it allocated? And how is it spent?
Today we are delighted to announce the release of “Where Does Europe’s Money Go? A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources”, which aims to help civil society groups, journalists and others to navigate the vast landscape of documents and datasets in order to “follow the money” in the EU. The guide also suggests steps that institutions should take in order to enable greater democratic oversight of EU public finances. It was undertaken by Open Knowledge with support from the Adessium Foundation.
Groups of journalists on these projects have spent many months requesting, scraping, cleaning and assembling data to get an overview of just a handful of the many different funds and programmes through which EU money is spent. The analysis of this data has led to many dozens of news stories, and in some cases even criminal investigations.
Better data, documentation, advocacy and journalism around EU public money is vital to addressing the “democratic deficit” in EU fiscal policy. To this end, we make the following recommendations to EU institutions and civil society organisations:
Establish a single central point of reference for data and documents about EU revenue, budgeting and expenditure and ensure all the information is up to date at this domain (e.g. at a website such as ec.europa.eu/budget). At the same time, ensure all EU budget data are available from the EU open data portal as open data.
Create an open dataset with key details about each EU fund, including name of the fund, heading, policy, type of management, implementing authorities, link to information on beneficiaries, link to legal basis in Eur-Lex and link to regulation in Eur-Lex.
Extend the Financial Transparency System to all EU funds by integrating or federating detailed data expenditures from Members States, non-EU Members and international organisations. Data on beneficiaries should include, when relevant, a unique European identifier of company, and when the project is co-financed, the exact amount of EU funding received and the total amount of the project.
Clarify and harmonise the legal framework regarding transparency rules for the beneficiaries of EU funds.
Support and strengthen funding for civil society groups and journalists working on EU public finances.
Conduct a more detailed assessment of beneficiary data availability for all EU funds and for all implementing authorities – e.g., through a dedicated “open data audit”.
Build a stronger central base of evidence about the uses and users of EU fiscal data – including data projects, investigative journalism projects and data users in the media and civil society.
Our intention is that the material in this report will become a living resource that we can continue to expand and update. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.
Latest crime data shows that the UK is getting significantly more ‘peaceful’. Last month, the Institute for Economics and Peace published the UK Peace Index, revealing UK crime figures have fallen the most of all EU countries in the past decade. Homicide rates, to take one indicator, have halved over the last decade.
But the British public still feels that crime levels are rising. How can opening up crime data play a part in convincing us we are less likely to experience crime than ever before?
The ‘Perception Gap’
The discrepancy between crime data and perceptions of the likelihood of crime is particularly marked in the UK. Although it has been found that a majority of the public broadly trust official statistics, the figures are markedly lower for those relating to crime. In one study, 85% of people agreed that the Census accurately reflects changes in the UK, but only 63% said the same of crime statistics.
Credibility of Police Data
Police forces have been publishing crime statistics in the UK since 2008, using their own web-based crime mapping tools or via the national crime mapping facility (http://maps.police.uk/ and http://www.police.uk). This has been purportedly for the purpose of improving engagement with local communities alongside other policy objectives, such as promoting transparency.
But allegations of ‘figure fiddling’ on the part of the police have undermined the data’s credibility and in 2014, the UK Statistics Authority withdrew its gold-standard status from police figures, pointing to ‘accumulating evidence’ of unreliability.
But the credibility of the data has been called into question. Just recently, data relating to stop-search incidents for children aged under-12 was proved ‘inaccurate’. The site itself details many issues which call the accuracy of the data into question: inconsistent geocoding policies in police forces; “Six police forces we suspect may be double-reporting certain types of incidents“; ‘siloed systems’ within police records; and differing IT systems from regional force to force.
In summary, we cannot be sure the ‘data provided is fully accurate or consistent.’
The Role the Media Plays: If it Bleeds, it Leads
In response to persistent and widespread public disbelief, the policies of successive UK governments on crime have toughened: much tougher sentencing, more people in prison, more police on the streets. When the British public were asked why they think there is more crime now than in the past, more than half (57%) stated that it was because of what they see on television and almost half (48%) said it was because of what they read in newspapers [Ipsos MORI poll on Closing the Gaps. One tabloid newspaper, exclaimed just recently: “Rape still at record levels and violent crime rises” and “Crime shows biggest rise for a decade“. As the adage goes, If it Bleeds, it Leads.
But many remain less than convinced. According to official statistics, in 1999-2000, a black person was five times more likely than a white person to be stopped by police. A decade later, they were seven times more likely. One criminologist commented: “Claims that the Lawrence inquiry’s finding of institutional racism no longer apply have a hollow ring when we look at the evidence on police stops.” [Michael Shiner reported in the Guardian].
Equally, the police distrust the public too. The murder of two young, female police officers in Manchester in 2012 ignited the long-rumbling debate over whether the police should be armed. So the divide between the police and the public is a serious one.
Improving the presentation of crime statistics to make them more authoritative
Reviewing the availability of local crime and criminal justice data on government websites to identify opportunities for consolidation
Sharing of best practice and improvements in metadata and providing reassurance on the quality of police crime records.
It’s clear that the UK police recognise the importance of improving their publication of data. But it seems that opening data alone won’t fix the shattered trust between the public and the police, even if the proof that Britons are safer than ever before is there in transparent, easily navigable data. We need to go further back in the chain of provenance, scrutinise the reporting methods of the police for instance.
But this is about forgiveness too, and the British public might just not be ready for that yet.
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Open Knowledge project The Public Domain Review launches a major new fundraising drive, encouraging people to become Friends of the site by giving an annual donation.
For those not yet in the know, The Public Domain Review is a project dedicated to protecting and celebrating, in all its richness and variety, the cultural public domain. In particular, our focus is on the digital copies of public domain works, the mission being to facilitate the appreciation, use and growth of a digital cultural commons which is open for everyone.
We create collections of openly licensed works comprised of highlights from a variety of galleries, libraries, archives, and museums, many of whom also contribute to our popular Curator’s Choice series (including The British Library, Rijksmuseum, and The Getty). We also host a fortnightly essay series in which top academics and authors write about interesting and unusual public domain works which are available online.
Founded in 2011, the site has gone from strength to strength. In its 4 plus years it has seen contributions from the likes of Jack Zipes, Frank Delaney, and Julian Barnes – and garnered praise from such media luminaries as The Paris Review, who called us “one of their favourite journals”, and The Guardian, who hailed us as a “model of digital curation”.
This is all very exciting but we need your help to continue the project into the future.
We are currently only bringing in around half of the base minimum required – the amount we need in order to tick along in a healthy manner. (And around a third of our ideal goal, which would allow us to pay contributors). So it is of urgent importance that we increase our donations if we want the project to continue.
Hence the launch of a brand new fundraising model through which we hope to make The Public Domain Review sustainable and able to continue into the future. Introducing “Friends of The Public Domain Review” – https://publicdomainreview.org/support/
Image 1: one of the eight postcards included in the inaugural postcard set. The theme is “Flight” and the set will be sent out to all Friends donating $30/£20/€27.50 or more before 8th July. Source = http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00650258.
What is it?
This new model revolves around building a group of loyal PDR (Public Domain Review) supporters – the “Friends” – each of whom makes an annual donation to the project. This club of patrons will form the beating heart of the site, creating a bedrock of support vital to the project’s survival.
How can one become a Friend?
There is no fixed yearly cost to become a Friend – any annual donation will qualify you – but there is a guide price of $60 a year (£40/€55).
Are there any perks of being a Friend?
Yes! Any donation above $30 will make you eligible to receive our exclusive twice-a-year “postcard set” – 8 beautiful postcards curated around a theme, with a textual insert. Friends will also be honoured in a special section of the site and on a dedicated page in all PDR Press publications. They will also get first refusal in all future limited edition PDR Press creations, and receive a special end of year letter from the Editor.
How do I make my donation?
We’ve worked hard to make it as easy as possible to donate. You no longer have to use PayPal on the PDR site, but can rather donate using your credit or debit card directly on the site.
Become a Friend before 8th July to receive the inaugural postcard set upon the theme of “Flight”
Image 2: one of the eight postcards included in the inaugural postcard set. The theme is “Flight” and the set will be sent out to all Friends donating $30/£20/€27.50 or more before 8th July. Source = http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002722387/.
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In 2004 I founded a non-profit called Open Knowledge
The mission we set ourselves was to open up all public interest information – and see it used to create insight that drives change.
What sort of public interest information? In short, all of it. From big issues like how our government spends our taxes or how fast climate change is happening to simple, everyday, things like when the next bus is arriving or the exact address of that coffee shop down the street.
For the last decade, we have been pioneers and leaders in the open data and open knowledge movement. We wrote the original definition of open data in 2005, we’ve helped unlock thousands of datasets. And we’ve built tools like CKAN, that powers dozens of open data portals, like data.gov in the US and data.gov.uk in the UK. We’ve created a network of individuals and organizations in more than 30 countries, who are all working to make information open, because they want to drive insight and change.
But today I’m not here to talk specifically about Open Knowledge or what we do.
Instead, I want to step back and talk about the bigger picture. I want to talk to you about digital age, where all that glitters is bits, and why we need to put openness at its heart.
Gutenberg and Tyndale
To do that I first want to tell you a story. Its a true story and it happened a while ago – nearly 500 years ago. It involves two people. The first one is Johannes Gutenberg. In 1450 Gutenberg invented this: the printing press. Like the Internet in our own time, it was revolutionary. It is estimated that before the printing press was invented, there were just 30,000 books in all of Europe. 50 years later, there were more than 10 million. Revolutionary, then, though it moved at the pace of the fifteenth century, a pace of decades not years. Over the next five hundred years, Gutenberg’s invention would transform our ability to share knowledge and help create the modern world.
The second is William Tyndale. He was born in England around 1494, so he grew up in world of Gutenberg’s invention.
Tyndale followed the classic path of a scholar at the time and was ordained as a priest. In the 1510s, when he was still a young man, the Reformation still hadn’t happened and the Pope was supreme ruler of a united church across Europe. The Church – and the papacy – guarded its power over knowledge, forbidding the translation of the bible from Latin so that only its official priests could understand and interpret it.
Tyndale had an independent mind. There’s a story that he got into an argument with a local priest. The priest told him:
“We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s.”
“If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!”
What Tyndale meant was that he would open up the Bible to everyone.
Tyndale made good on his promise. Having fled abroad to avoid persecution, between 1524 and 1527 he produced the first printed English translation of the Bible which was secretly shipped back to England hidden in the barrels of merchant ships. Despite being banned and publicly burnt, his translation spread rapidly, giving ordinary people access to the Bible and sowing the seeds of the Reformation in England.
However, Tyndale did not live to see it. In hiding because of his efforts to liberate knowledge, he was betrayed and captured in 1534. Convicted of heresy for his work, on the 6th October 1536, he was strangled then burnt at the stake in a prison yard at Vilvoorden castle just north of modern day Brussels. He was just over 40 years old.
So let’s fast forward now back to today, or not quite today – the late 1990s.
I go to college and I discover the Internet.
It just hit me: wow! I remember days spent just surfing around. I’d always been an information junkie, and I felt like I’d found this incredible, never-ending information funfair.
And I got that I was going to grow up in a special moment, at the transition to an information age. We’d be living in this magical world, where the the main thing we create and use – information – could be instantaneously and freely shared with everyone on the whole planet.
But … why Openness
So, OK the Internet’s awesome …
Bet you haven’t heard that before!
BUT … – and this is the big but.
The Internet is NOT my religion.
The Internet – and digital technology – are not enough.
I’m not sure I have a religion at all, but if I believe in something in this digital age, I believe in openness.
This talk is not about technology. It’s about how putting openness at the heart of the digital age is essential if we really want to make a difference, really create change, really challenge inequity and injustice.
Which brings me back to Tyndale and Gutenberg.
Because, you see, the person that inspired me wasn’t Gutenberg. It was Tyndale.
Gutenberg created the technology that laid the groundwork for change. But the printing press could very well have been used to pump out more Latin bibles, which would then only have made it easier for local priests to be in charge of telling their congregations the word of God every Sunday. More of the same, basically.
Tyndale did something different. Something so threatening to the powers that be that he was executed for it.
What did he do? He translated the Bible into English.
Of course, he needed the printing press. In a world of hand-copying by scribes or painstaking woodcut printing, it wouldn’t make much difference if the Bible was in English or not because so few people could get their hands on a copy.
But, the printing press was just the means: it was Tyndale’s work putting the Bible in everyday language that actually opened it up. And he did this with the express purpose of empowering and liberating ordinary people – giving them the opportunity to understand, think and decide for themselves. This was open knowledge as freedom, open knowledge as systematic change.
Now I’m not religious, but when I talk about opening up knowledge I am coming from a similar place: I want anyone and everyone to be able to access, build on and share that knowledge for themselves and for any purpose. I want everyone to have the power and freedom to use, create and share knowledge.
Knowledge power in the 16th century was controlling the Bible. Today, in our data driven world it’s much broader: it’s about everything from maps to medicines, sonnets to statistics. Its about opening up all the essential information and building insight and knowledge together.
This isn’t just dreaming – we have inspiring, concrete examples of what this means. Right now I’ll highlight just two: medicines and maps.
Everyday, millions of people around the world take billions of pills, of medicines.
Whether those drugs actually do you good – and what side effects they have – is obviously essential information for researchers, for doctors, for patients, for regulators – pretty much everyone.
We have a great way of assessing the effectiveness of drugs: randomized control trials in which a drug is compared to its next best alternative.
So all we need is all the data on all those trials (this would be non-personal information only – any information that could identify individuals would be removed). In an Internet age you’d imagine that that this would be a simple matter – we just need all the data openly available and maybe some way to search it.
You’d be wrong.
Many studies, especially negative ones, are never published – the vast majority of studies are funded by industry who use restrictive contracts to control what gets published. Even where pharmaceutical companies are required to report on the clinical trials they perform, the regulator often keeps the information secret or publishes it as 8,000 page PDFs each page hand-scanned and unreadable by a computer.
If you think I’m joking I’ll give just one very quick example which comes straight from Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma. In 2007 researchers in Europe wanted to review the evidence on a diet drug called rimonabant. They asked the European regulator for access to the original clinical trials information submitted when the drug was approved. For three years they were refused access on a variety of grounds. When they did get access this is what they got initially – that’s right 60 pages of blacked out PDF.
We might think this was funny if it weren’t so deadly serious: in 2009, just before the researchers finally got access to the data, rimonabant was removed from the market on the grounds that it increased the risk of serious psychiatric problems and suicide.
This situation needs to change.
And I’m happy to say something is happening. Working with Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Pharma, we’ve just started the OpenTrials project. This will bring together all the data, on all the trials and link it together and make it open so that everyone from researchers to regulators, doctors to patients can find it, access it and use it.
Our second example is maps. If you were looking for the “scriptures” of this age of digital data, you might well pick maps, or, more specifically the geographic data on which they are built. Geodata is everywhere: from every online purchase to the response to the recent earthquakes in Nepal.
Though you may not realize it, most maps are closed and proprietary – you can’t get the raw data that underpins the map, you can’t alter it or adapt it yourself.
But since 2004 a project called OpenStreetMap has been creating a completely open map of the planet – raw geodata and all. Not only is it open for access and reuse use the database itself is collaboratively built by hundreds of thousands of contributors from all over the world.
What does this mean? Just one example. Because of its openness OpenStreetMap is perfect for rapid updating when disaster strikes – showing which bridges are out, which roads are still passable, what buildings are still standing. For example, when a disastrous earthquake struck Nepal in April this year, volunteers updated 13,199 miles of roads and 110,681 buildings in under 48 hours providing crucial support to relief efforts.
The Message not the Medium
To repeat then: technology is NOT teleology. The medium is NOT the message – and it’s the message that matters.
The printing press made possible an “open” bible but it was Tyndale who made it open – and it was the openness that mattered.
Digital technology gives us unprecedented potential for creativity, sharing, for freedom. But they are possible not inevitable. Technology alone does not make a choice for us.
Remember that we’ve been here before: the printing press was revolutionary but we still ended up with a print media that was often dominated by the few and the powerful.
Think of radio. If you read about how people talked about it in the 1910s and 1920s, it sounds like the way we used to talk about the Internet today. The radio was going to revolutionize human communications and society. It was going to enable a peer to peer world where everyone can broadcast, it was going to allow new forms of democracy and politics, etc. What happened? We got a one way medium, controlled by the state and a few huge corporations.
Look around you today.
The Internet’s costless transmission can – and is – just as easily creating information empires and information robber barons as it can creating digital democracy and information equality.
We already know that this technology offers unprecedented opportunities for surveillance, for monitoring, for tracking. It can just as easily exploit us as empower us.
We need to put openness at the heart of this information age, and at the heart of the Net, if we are really to realize its possibilities for freedom, empowerment, and connection.
The fight then is on the soul of this information age and we have a choice.
A choice of open versus closed.
Of collaboration versus control.
Of empowerment versus exploitation.
Its a long road ahead – longer perhaps than our lifetimes. But we can walk it together.
In this 21st century knowledge revolution, William Tyndale isn’t one person. It’s all of us, making small and big choices: from getting governments and private companies to release their data, to building open databases and infrastructures together, from choosing apps on your phone that are built on open to using social networks that give you control of your data rather than taking it from you.
Let’s choose openness, let’s choose freedom, let’s choose the infinite possibilities of this digital age by putting openness at its heart.
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Open Knowledge in partnership with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is pleased to announce the launch of Data Journalism Ph 2015. Supported by the World Bank, the program will train journalists and citizen media in producing high-quality, data-driven stories.
In recent years, government and multilateral agencies in the Philippines have published large amounts of data such as the government’s recently launched Open Data platform. These were accompanied by other platforms that track the implementation and expenditure of flagship programs such as Bottom-Up-Budgeting via OpenBUB.gov.ph, Infrastructure via OpenRoads.ph and reconstruction platforms including the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub. The training aims to encourage more journalists to use these and other online resources to produce compelling investigative stories.
Data Journalism Ph 2015 will train journalists on the tools and techniques required to gain and communicate insight from public data, including web scraping, database analysis and interactive visualization. The program will support journalists in using data to back their stories, which will be published by their media organization over a period of five months.
Participating teams will benefit from the following:
A 3-day data journalism training workshop by the Open Knowledge and PCIJ in July 2015 in Manila
A series of online tutorials on a variety of topics from digital security to online mapping
Technical support in developing interactive visual content to accompany their published stories
Teams of up to three members working with the same print, TV, or online media agencies in the Philippines are invited to submit an application here.
Participants will be selected on the basis of the data story projects they pitch focused on key datasets including infrastructure, reconstruction, participatory budgeting, procurement and customs. Through Data Journalism Ph 2015 and its trainers, these projects will be developed into data stories to be published by the participants’ media organizations.
Join the launch
Open Knowledge and PCIJ will host a half-day public event for those interested in the program in July in Quezon City. If you would like to receive full details about the event, please sign up here.
Last December, Open Knowledge and Code for Africa joined forces to launch a new open government fellowship, a programme that seeks to empower open government pioneers by giving them the opportunity to test their ideas on how to best harness the power of digital technologies to improve the way governments and citizens interact.
Within weeks, we received over 450 applications from 34 countries to fill just four positions and today we are pleased to announce the selected fellows! We were truly amazed by the diversity, quality and creativity of so many of the applicants and are keen to support more fellows in subsequent iterations of the fellowship programme. Please do get in touch if you are interested in learning more about how you can support future fellows.
The fellowship will start in May and run through November, giving the fellows 6 months to develop their ideas into sustainable and impactful solutions to local challenges. Over the course of the fellowship both Code for Africa and Open Knowledge will provide support and mentorship for the fellows as they grapple with the challenges of taking an idea to fruition!
Read on to learn more about the 2015 cohort of Open Government Fellows and discover the exciting projects that they will be working on!
Suhuyini Salim Shani
Suhuyini Salim Shani currently works at VOTO Mobile where he is the lead implementer on a project being rolled out in 4 districts in Ghana called Mobile for Social Inclusive Governance popularly called “All Voices Matter”. The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of marginalised groups and bring them to local government officers for informed decision making. Prior to joining Voto, he was an Assistant Development Planning Officer for one of the District Assemblies in Northern Region of Ghana.
Through the fellowship, Suhuyini will launch a project that is aimed at collecting on-the-ground information from citizens in the worst performing district (Karaga District) according to the Districts League Table (DLT) and engage them in a sustainable dialogue aimed at the development of the district. His work will establish baseline information on residents’ satisfaction with their performance and also figure out how to improve upon the development of the district from the ordinary citizens’ perspective.
Salim also wishes to learn from his co-fellows; “I know my colleagues in this fellowship will also come with brilliant ideas and I hope to learn and exchange ideas from them.”
Irene Ikomu is a Ugandan lawyer who has been running Parliament Watch Uganda for over a year and a half now and has always been keen to find new opportunities to develop her knowledge and network around access to information, transparency and accountability.
While the work Parliament Watch Uganda has done so far has been focused on tracking the institution as a whole, over the course of the fellowship, Irene will conceptualise and develop a model for tracking individual Members of Parliament. At the moment, tracking MP performance using technology is challenging given that key data, such as voting and attendance records, are not made readily available. Irene will therefore be using the opportunity to work with other data and technology experts to make this valuable data on Members of Parliament available to citizens in way that enables them track the performance of their representatives effectively and efficiently.
Irene is looking forward to exploring and experimenting with various ways of improving the dialogue between government and citizens. She is keenly aware that uploading data to a website is not going to transform the relationship between governments and citizens; as such, Irene hopes to learn from the experiences of the other fellows as well as the international open government community to ensure that she continues to focus on the end users and the objectives of Parliament Watch Uganda.
Claude K. Migisha
Claude Migisha K. is a Technologist with over 6 years of experience working at the intersection of Technology and human development. He pioneered the inception of The Rwanda Tech Innovation sphere by being the Founding Manager of kLab – a tech innovation hub and implementing THINK – a Millicom owned tech incubator, both based in Kigali, Rwanda. He worked as ICT4D expert in sectors ranging from education, health and youth empowerment with international organisations like; Jhpiego, World Relief, Kepler and GirlHub Rwanda. In 2013, representing tech entrepreneurs, he took part in the Open Data Readiness Assessment for Rwanda conducted by the World Bank and the Government of Rwanda, immediately realising the importance of having an open exchange of data between the government and citizens.
As a result, Claude and colleagues launched Sobanukirwa.rw, an access to information/data website in Rwanda, just a few weeks ago that seeks to foster open governance, transparency and accountability. It’s a citizen empowerment tool that lets anyone interact with government and private bodies to request the release of information/data. Claude will be taking advantage of the fellowship to continue to develop the platform, raise awareness for the platform with citizens and strengthen the relationship with the Government in order to ensure that the platform is useful to Rwandan society in general.
Over the course of the fellowship, Claude hopes to acquire new skills and experience on how to best use new technologies to open up government, increase transparency & accountability and most importantly strengthen citizen engagement. He is keen to learn from the experiences of his peers in other countries developing similar platforms. By the end of his fellowship, he would like to see a large number of Rwandan citizens and government officials engaging on Sobanukirwa.
Seember Nyager is currently based in Nigeria and has spent the better part of the last decade promoting increased disclosure of information pertaining to the utilisation of public resources. Her expertise and interest lies in the utilisation of the law, media and technology to promote and push forward inclusive governance in Nigeria. She began her career a decade ago at the African Radio Drama Association where, among other radio programs, they tested the efficacy of the radio as an ICT tool to improve access to information for young rural women farmers.
Currently, she runs Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) where she coordinated the development and deployment of the 1st version of a robust ICT procurement monitoring portal in Nigeria which won the Global Procurement Innovation Challenge in 2012. She was one of 17 other open contracting practitioners convened by the World Bank Institute to author the 1st edition of the Open Contracting Guide. Additionally, as part of her current role at PPDC, she pioneered the ranking of FOI compliance among Nigerian public institutions, pioneered the constituency projects platform ,conducts legal research on FOI, and coordinates FOI litigation.
Her primary objective of the fellowship is to advocate for an increase in proactive disclosure as well as the the development and deployment of data standards, especially the open contracting data standard, across public service. She shall initiate discussions around available platforms through which open contracting data can be customised and used across public services with the goal of linking data on public resources (from budget appropriations to budget releases to individual projects). This would enable every interested party, including community members, track the utilisation of public resources.
By the end of the fellowship, she hopes to acquire new skills in articulating the benefits of open governance in a way that pushes people in public service to partner with civil society as champions the cause.
I am delighted to announce we have found the newest member of the Open Knowledge team: Pavel Richter joins us as our new CEO!
Pavel’s appointment marks a new chapter in the development of Open Knowledge, which, over the last ten years, has grown into one of the leading global organisations working on open data and open knowledge in government, research, and culture.
Pavel has a rich and varied background including extensive time both in business and in the non-profit sector. In particular, Pavel brings his experience from over five years as the Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland: under his leadership, it grew to more than 70 staff, an annual budget of nearly 5 million Euros, and initiated major new projects such as Wikidata. Pavel’s engagement follows an extensive international search, led by a team including members of the Board of Directors as well as a Community Representative.
Personally, I am delighted and excited to welcome Pavel as CEO. This appointment represents an important step in the development of Open Knowledge as an organisation and community. Over the last decade, and especially in the last five years, we have achieved an immense amount.
Going forward one of our most important opportunities – and challenges – will be to forge and catalyse a truly global movement to put openness at the heart of the information age. Pavel’s experience, insight and passion make him more than equal to this task and I am thrilled to be able to work with him, and support him, as he takes on this role.
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Open Knowledge today announced plans to develop Open Trials, an open, online database of information about the world’s clinical research trials funded by The Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The project, which is designed to increase transparency and improve access to research, will be directed by Dr. Ben Goldacre, an internationally known leader on clinical transparency.
Open Trials will aggregate information from a wide variety of existing sources in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the data and documents related to all trials of medicines and other treatments around the world. Conducted in partnership with the Center for Open Science and supported by the Center’s Open Science Framework, the project will also track whether essential information about clinical trials is transparent and publicly accessible so as to improve understanding of whether specific treatments are effective and safe.
“There have been numerous positive statements about the need for greater transparency on information about clinical trials, over many years, but it has been almost impossible to track and audit exactly what is missing,” Dr. Goldacre, the project’s Chief Investigator and a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, explained. “This project aims to draw together everything that is known around each clinical trial. The end product will provide valuable information for patients, doctors, researchers, and policymakers—not just on individual trials, but also on how whole sectors, researchers, companies, and funders are performing. It will show who is failing to share information appropriately, who is doing well, and how standards can be improved.”
Patients, doctors, researchers, and policymakers use the evidence from clinical trials to make informed decisions about which treatments are best. But studies show that roughly half of all clinical trial results are not published, with positive results published twice as often as negative results. In addition, much of the important information about the methods and findings of clinical trials is only made available outside the normal indexes of academic journals.
“This project will help to shed light on both good and bad practices by the sponsors of clinical trials,” Stuart Buck, LJAF Vice President of Research Integrity, explained. “If those sponsors become more transparent about their successes and failures, medical science will advance more quickly, thus benefitting patients’ health.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Open Knowledge on the use of the Open Science Framework (OSF) for this project. Open Trials is a great example of how the free, open source OSF infrastructure can be utilized by the community in different ways to increase transparency in scientific research,” Andrew Sallans, Center for Open Science Partnerships Lead, explained.
Open Trials will help to automatically identify which trial results have not been disclosed by matching registry data on trials that have been conducted against documents containing trial results. This will facilitate routine public audit of undisclosed results. It will also improve discoverability of other documents around clinical trials, which will be indexed and, in some cases, hosted. Lastly, it will help improve recruitment for clinical trials by making information and commentary on ongoing trials more accessible.
“This is an incredible opportunity to identify which trial results are being withheld,” Rufus Pollock, President and Founder of Open Knowledge, explained. “It is the perfect example of a project where opening up data and presenting it in a usable form will have a direct impact—it can literally save lives. We’re absolutely delighted to partner with Ben Goldacre, a leading expert and advocate in this space, as well as with the Center for Open Science and LJAF to conduct this groundbreaking work.”
The first phase of the Open Trials project is scheduled for completion in March 2017. For project updates, please follow @opentrials on twitter
Open Data Day 2015, which took place on February 21, was celebrated in hundreds of communities around the world. In this blog series, we have been highlighting the discussions and outcomes of a small selection of the hacks, data dives and meetups that were organised that day. In this fourth post in the series, we will be looking at a selection of events that took place in Africa, from Tunisia to South Africa and Nigeria to Kenya! If you want to learn more about what transpired in other parts of the world, check out our recaps posts on Asia, the Americas and Europe.
Open Data Day was rocking this year on the African continent, here is just a sample of some of the incredible events that were organised through open community members!
As far as we can tell, the award for largest open data day event in the world goes to the open data community in Yaoundé, Cameroon who managed to pile 2,000 people into the amphitheater at the University of Yaoundé to learn about open data and its potential to improve the lives of citizens in Cameroon. Furthermore, as if 2,000 people in an university amphitheater on a Saturday afternoon wasn’t impressive enough, the event had 5,000 registered participants and incredible online engagement.
The NetSquared Yaoundé community brought together students, open data experts and professors to listen and learn about the importance of open data and specifically the benefits that open data can bring education, economic development, citizen engagement and government transparency and accountability. In a keynote talk, the president of the College of Law and Political Science at the University of Yaoundé emphasised the importance open data for researchers in Cameroon and West Africa as a whole, highlighting that access to open data allows researchers to better understand the challenges they are facing and to developed evidence based and locally specific solutions.
Our hats are off to the open data community in Cameroon, what an exceptional result!
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, open data day was attended by technologists, programmers, hackers, students, activists and NGOs, all of whom came together to grow the local open knowledge community, introduce newcomers to civic hacking and demonstrate the incredible storytelling power of data and data driven projects. Overall, the event was a great success. Several open data projects were presented and a number of open data challenges were identified discussed (for example, the lack of open licence, FOIA, and reluctance of government agencies to share data). Together, participants, shared their strategies to overcome these challenges and brainstormed an effective best path forward.
Participants acknowledged the very real challenge that the open movement is facing in Tanzania as some civil society groups still fail to see the value of coming together to collectively raise a louder voice in demanding open government data. Ultimately, participants determined that the open movement in Tanzania would benefit from increased community building efforts and targeting new partners in order to push the open agenda forward with a larger, more joined-up, base. The participants also determined that there was a need to encourage government officials to attend events like this in the future.
In Nigeria, the open data community organised Benin City’s first open data hackathon with resounding success.
The goal of the event was simple, to raise awareness for open data by using the agricultural sector as an example and demonstrating how data was being used by entrepreneurs in the sector. By the end of the day, organisers hoped that they would generate a pool of ideas on how to stimulate innovation within the agricultural sector through data driven applications and were pleased to report that a number of ideas emerged from the day’s discussion. Keynote presentations were used to introduce key concepts and provide examples of open data. Subsequently, participants were asked to get their hands dirty and actually work with data and think about solutions to challenges within the sector.
Open Data Day participants in Benin City worked with agriculture data from the state’s open data portal – www.data.edostate.gov.ng. The emerging projects are still in development phase and are not yet online but organisers were incredibly excited to see participants working with the data the government has been publishing!
Kampala, Uganda was bustling with open data day activities this year, so much so that hackathons were carried out across two weekends!
On February 28th, Reality Check organised an open data day event for journalists, researchers, entrepreneurs, students and technologists. This followed up on data storytelling from the week before. Participants learned about the strengths and weaknesses of tools like videos, pictures, charts as well as about the various tools that are available. Participants learned how to clean and visualise data it in order to use it for effective storytelling. New visualisations were created as well. .. Check it out here.
The participants discussed the progress that had been made over the past year, specifically focusing on what worked and what didn’t, in order to plan better for the year to come. The event was a great success and created such excitement among participants that many of them want to meet and discuss the subject on a monthly basis! In addition, a new google group as well as facebook page were opened to allow people can keep in touch and continue to engage with one another online as well as offline.
Finally, in February in Kampala, open data related activities were not limited to one off hackathons> check out the awesome Code for Africa Bootcamp organised the following week! February was a busy month for open data in Uganda!
In Tunisia, Clibre organised a meetup with a diverse group of participants to celebrate open data day 2015! There were a number of participants with little to no technical knowledge and the goal of the meetup was to expose all participants to the concept of open data and open government as well as to discuss the legal implications of open government in light of the new Tunisian constitution.
Following the presentations and discussion, a number of initiatives using Open Data in Tunisia were presented. M. Nizar Kerkeni, president of the CLibre Association, presented the new open data portal developed for the city of Sayada. At the end of the day, after having had the chance to play around with the new data portal, M. Ramzi Hajjaji from CLibre announced that an official web portal for the city of Monastir would be launched soon, inspired by the portal developed for the city of Sayada.
You can check out a full report of the day (in French) on their website, along with a number of videos (in Arabic)!
Open Data Day in Mombasa, Kenya was celebrated by organising four separate focus groups in order to explore the potential of open data in the following key areas: security, economy, education & conservation.
The conservation group looked at data on everything from marine and wildlife conservation to the conservation of historic buildings and sites in Mombasa. They looked for various datasets, analysed the data and created various data visualisations documenting pertinent trends. The group exploring the potential of open data on the economy built a prototype for an open tendering system for the government of Kenya, scoping the necessary features and potential impact. The participants exploring open data in education brainstormed various ways in which open data could help parents and students make more informed choices about where they go to school. Finally, in the security group, participants discussed and hacked on ways that they could use open data to combat corruption and fraud.
In South Africa, Code for South Africa organised an Data Easter Egg Hunt! If you want to find out more, check out the awesome video they made on the day!
Tags: Africa, Open Data DayComments Off on Open Data Day 2015 Recap #4: Hacks, Meet Ups and Data Exploration in Africa!
(This post was co-written by Open Knowledge and Fabrizio Scrollini from ILDA)
In our follow-up series about Open Data Day 2015, which took place on February 21 across the world, we will now highlight some of the great events that took place across the Latin America and the Caribbean. See our previous post about Asia-Pacific and Europe.
The Americas saw a lot of activity during this Open Data Day. Events, hackathons, formal and informal discussions were some of the activities in which the continent engaged through the day. There is an emerging movement with different levels of experience, maturity and resources but with lots of enthusiasm and great perspectives for the future.
The Argentine Open Data Community came together to participate in a full day of activities in Buenos Aires, organized by Open Knowledge embassador, Yamila Garcia. Different members of the community presented their experience in lighting talks that took place throughout the day. Presenters shared experiences about their work in the federal government, Buenos Aires municipality, media, hacking space and advocacy. In a different room, round tables were set up in order to deliberate and plan on the future of open data in Argentina. Subjects like Innovation and the upcoming elections. Hopefully, Ideas will be taken forward and will help to shape the eco-system of Open Data in Argentina. Read more about the event here.
Brazil held 6 events in 6 different cities this Open Data Day. In the small Sao Carlos, there was a roundtable discussion about open data policies. The group tried to convince local authorities about the importance of having open data policies that can help build a more transparent and open political process.
In Teresina, the local group took a more hands on approach. The local hacker club organised hackathon and all the outcomes were shared under open knowledge licence. San Paulo was also in a coding mood and orginized a hackathon with the LabHacker, PoliGNU, Thacker and Comptroller General of São Paulo (SP-CGM) to promote the use of dataset and the creation of new apps in the fields of Water, Health and transport (See summary of the event here).
In Chile, Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente took a different approach and moved open data from the virtual space to the streets. As Felipe Alvarez mentions in his blog post, members of Ciudadano Inteligente got out of the office in Santiago and went to meet the citizens in Valparaíso, the second biggest city in Chile. Their objective was simple – to engage with citizens and to know what data they would like to see open. Some interesting topics came up such as expenditure on conservation efforts and local festivals as well as civil rights issues.
In addition, the guys invited participants to join AbreLATAM, the regional un-conference that will take place this year in Santiago, Chile.
The Uruguayan community was busy around a cup of fresh coffee plotting on how to use local government data to visualize women’s right issues. For four hours engineers, designers, communication people and policy wonks tried some ideas and look for available open data on this topic. With geographical data available and wikipedia, the team took on the task to visualize streets that are named after notable women in Montevideo. The results were a bit discouraging but expected: only 100 out of 5000 streets in Montevideo are named after women. This result catalysed a small community that worked for two weeks on developing this interactive website that acknowledges and explain the role that these women played in Uruguayan history. No doubt, this was a very productive open data day for this country!
Paraguayans did not have enough with one day so they had a whole week for open data activities! Groups like TEDIC took the streets hand in hand with government officials to paint murals with data. Also the government launched the national open data portal among other initiatives that are fostering the nascent open data scene in Paraguay
In central America “Ticos” are building their open data community. Abriendo Datos Costa Rica is a nascent initiative which co-organised the Costa Rica open data day reaching out to other civil society stakeholders. The event had a wide variety of participants and topics focusing mostly on what data relevant to society should the government open next. Hopefully, open data day is just the beginning for more activities in the country. You can see some of their pics here.
In El Salvador a group of civil society organised a roundtable to discuss uses of open data in journalism. Taking a deep look into journalistics practices in El Salvador and Costa Rica the group discussed how to use open data in their day to day assignments. El Salvador has one of the few open data portals that is run by civil society in the region.
Peru saw an epic event organised by the Community Open Data Peru in Lima, where local specialists share knowledge and developed projects together during the whole day. The event galvanised the local open data community which is now spreading through other communities in Peru. Peruvians are very keen to work in several projects and this event may be big stepping stone for a more sustainable and diverse open data community in Peru.
In Guatemala Accion Ciudadana organised a day based on exploring the community need and their understanding of open data. Participants identified how open data could help their community in daily and strategic issues. The event showed the different levels of understanding participants had about open data. Social Tic Executive Director Juan Manuel Casanueva delivered a training based on community’s perceptions of Open Data. This was one of the first activities in Guatemala about open data and probably one of the many to come!
As usual, the Mexican community know how to party with data. In Mexico city, hundred people came to celebrate open data accompanied by Parilla and beer. Participants could choose to go to one of the four workshops that were offered, participate in a hackathon for sustainability or to discover new findings in a data expedition. In addition, a conversation around the state of openness in Mexico developed after the presentation of the the Mexican local and global index results and participant raised ideas for how to grow the local community.
In Panama IPANDETEC, organized an awesome day which involved a hackathon, documentary screenings, conferences and workshops. The event was set up in collaboration by the chapters in Panama Floss, Wikimedia, Mozilla, Fedora and Creative Commons, as well as IPANDETEC.
In Medellin Fundación Gobierno Abierto invited school of data fellows to deliver trainings about scraping data. Furthermore the community also spent time to reflect on the regional and local science of open data, as well as get into developing ideas for further action, advocating for open data all across Colombia, both nationally and locally.
[credit to Mona School of Business & Management]
In the Caribbean a great event took place at the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) and organized by the Open Caribbean Institute. The day kicked off by Dr. Maurice McNaughton, who delivered a 1 hour workshop data visualization based on online resources from School of Data. Then, fuelled by Coffee and Pizza, the students divided into three team where they started to develop data visualizations in three fields – the 2015-2016 Budget, High school track and field data and Development Alert!, an online tool for increasing transparency and public engagement on projects that impact the environment and public health. One on the visualizations, a dashboard for field and track data is now available online here. Over all, it seems like a great start to many more Open Data Day in the Caribbeans!
All in all the region is showing a vibrant community evolving, showing different degrees of resources and levels of understanding of open data. This is then complex but also presents an opportunity to engage and support more groups here. We could not support as many as we wanted to but this ODDay shows that open data in the Americas is here to stay. Check out some more detailed reports in Spanish on the open data day activities on the Yo Gobierno website (see also here), in this blog post from DAL and this one from BID.