Support Us

You are browsing the archive for Open Knowledge international Local Groups.

Introducing: MyData

Open Knowledge International - May 25, 2016 in Community, OK Finland, Privacy

this post was written by the OK Finland team

What is MyData?

MyData is both an alternative vision and guiding technical principles for how we, as individuals, can have more control over the data trails we leave behind us in our everyday actions.

The core idea is that we, you and I, should have an easy way to see where data about us goes, specify who can use it, and alter these decisions over time. To do this, we are developing a standardized, open, and mediated approach to personal data management by creating “MyData operators.”

Standardised operator model

A MyData operator account would act like an email account for your different data streams. Like an email, different parties can host an operator account, with different sets of functionalities. For example, some MyData operators could also provide personal data storage solutions, others could perform data analytics or work as identity provider. The one requirement for a MyData operator is that it lets individual receive and send data streams according to one interoperable set of standards.

What “MyData” can do?

“MyData” model does a few things that the current data ecosystem does not.

It will let you to re-use your data with a third party – For example, you could take data collected about your purchasing habits from a loyalty card of your favourite grocery store and re-use it in a financing application to see how you are spending your money on groceries.

It will let you see and change how you consent to your data use Currently,  different service providers and applications use complicated terms of service where most users just check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ once , without being entirely sure what they agree to.

It will let you change services – With MyData you will be able to take your data from one operator to another if you decide to change services.

mydata-banner-transp

Make it happen, make it right

MyData2016 conference will be held in Aug 31st- Sep 2nd in Helsinki Hall of Culture.

Right now, the technical solutions for managing your data according to MyData approach exist. There are many initiatives, emerging out of both the public and private sectors around the world, paving the way for human-centered personal data management. We believe strongly in the need to collaborate with other initiatives to develop an infrastructure in a way that works with all the complicated systems at work in the current data landscape. Buy your tickets for early bird discount before May 31st.

Follow MyData on social media for updates:

Twitter https://twitter.com/mydata2016 Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mydata2016/

Open Knowledge Network and Community updates – First steps of 2016

Mor Rubinstein - January 25, 2016 in Community, Community Stories, open knowledge

2015 was a great year for Open Knowledge, full of opportunities and challenges. We started many exciting new projects such as Open Trials, Budgets EU and the Route to PA, we had personnel changes (and a new CEO, Pavel Richter), and also we’ve refined our name to Open Knowledge International. In addition, we developed a community roadmap to help and strengthen the Open Knowledge Network and move it towards self governance and more effective collaboration in 2016.

Why do we need a community roadmap (and how is it different from a strategy)?

“A community roadmap gives direction to your community program. Your community strategy describes your destination. The roadmap helps steer you there. ​Roadmaps often look like project plans, detailing specific activities and the resources required. Roadmaps mark milestones in a community’s journey, making tracking progress easier.” – Community Roundtable e-book

Building a community roadmap for communities of knowledge and tech is hard work. Most guides for community building on the internet look at community members from a commercial perspective as users of a product or consumers. In the case of the Open Knowledge Network, we see our community members as influencers, innovators, contributors or leaders in their thematic and/or regional communities. What unites us is a common purpose of learning, sharing and creating powerful new forms of open knowledge. In the last two years we saw steady growth in the Network. In order to accommodate the needs of the evolving network, we should adapt and improve how we work together. We look forward to embarking on that journey with you.

The community roadmap examines 8 different competencies and allow us to reflect on our work and make it even better. It looks at Strategy, Leadership, Culture, Community Coordination, Content & Programming, Policies & Governance, Tools and Metrics & Measurement. The roadmap work will help us align priorities, better organise and plan within the network, communicate values and value throughout the Network.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014

This is why we decided that the first quarter of this year will be dedicated to community and network reboot. We see the Open Knowledge Network as a place for exchanging visions and ideas. We see Open Knowledge International as a central body that creates some of these ideas, but more so as a place that helps make connections between people with similar ideas, and helps promote other ideas and connect people from different parts of the network.

Every journey begins with a single step, so we decided to start with the basics: updating the network structure and procedures, taking into consideration every competency of the roadmap. In the next couple of weeks we will clarify our policies about how can anyone be a part of the Open Knowledge Network, either as a local organiser, or a leader or member of a local group or a chapter. We are clearly defining the responsibilities that each role has, and also adding the support that Open Knowledge International can provide at each level. We want to set clear expectations and continuously strive to work better together.

Until we will have clarity on those policies, we will not be able to process any new applications for local organizers / ambassadors. We will get back to those applications in March.

This month we will also take care of some long needed content updates to our website, newsletter, and blog, promote more widespread use of our discuss forum and refresh and rethink the use of our different wikis. This will all be done in coordination with the Network: we will share the guidelines for a community consultation on the guidelines our discourse forum. All members of the Network are welcome to participate. After the consultation is over, we will publish these guidelines on our website , hopefully by mid February.

We will update on the development of the community roadmap regularly. Be sure to follow our Twitter account and the community forum to get updates on time.

As of January 1st 2016, Neal Bastek and Mor Rubinstein are working as the community coordinators / facilitators. Please email them at network@okfn.org for more questions or just raise them in the community forum!

Looking to hear your feedback and hope that this will take us one step forward as a community.

The Open Data Utopia of the Pampas

ruso - January 11, 2016 in Community Stories, OK Argentina

An Ad Hoc Introduction to Argentine Affairs

This post was written by Andres Snitcofsky an open government / data activist in Argentina. See Andres Medium account for more posts – https://medium.com/@rusosnith

Since a new government took office in Argentina, a party alliance called #Cambiemos (Let’s Change), a lot of things have changed. Less than one month has passed, and a lot of new directives (more than 40, some of them of the Urgent & Necessity kind) have been passed by the new administration.

Since the congress will reopen only in March, and the judiciary system is on leave until February, most of the announcements and deep political changes have been issued as government official orders: Decretos. This implies that these changes are instant, but those directives could be challenged by the legislative branch later this year (and they probably will be).

The Decretos thing may not be so important to foreign readers, but most of the #Cambiemos campaign was based on the premise of being respectful to the Republic Institutions, meaning to go “by the book” and to legislate bills about important topic in a democratic way.

Now, during the warm months of the southern summer, a philosophical debate arises: Form vs content. End goal vs means. Decree vs Debated Law.

This debate crosses the political spectrum that goes from the fanatics of the former government, now turned ‘opposition’, and the ones from the new administration, now ‘officials’. This debate does not discriminate and embraces almost all current political events.

Looking back

The Macri administration presents itself as The One who will bring order and light into the state. With only one month in office, and during the summer recess, they already started revising previous contracts with private enterprises, laws regarding the telecommunication monopolies, and firing lots of employees that were contracted in precarious and almost illegal ways by the state. If the previous administration had had better transparency and openness, we could be controlling how much of this “tidying up the mess” process is real thing, or if it’s just an excuse for lowering the state budget and adding even more precarization of the job market. It is not wise to hand over a state administration with lot’s of hidden numbers and unknown indexes, as it gives free play to the next in office to blame “la pesada herencia” (the heavy legacy) of the last one in charge, and do whatever they want with the excuse of fixing previous mistakes.

Crude example: As the inflation index since 2007 have been untrustworthy, the new government will need some time to build a good one. Till then, we won’t have even a fake one. And it will probably be the highest inflation times of the last two decades.

The Open Data Scene

This debate definitely didn’t skip the vibrant Argentinean open data community that just encountered its living example of the aforementioned dilemma:

Translation: “Today we signed a decree which is the starting point of a National Open Government”

The Modernization Minister announced this week that the new government is willing to move forward in the Open Government agenda, including Open Data portals and policies, open contracting and more open initiatives. How this agenda has been promoted? Of course, with a governmental official order, or Decreto.

Some will say that it’s just espejitos de colores (Spanish expression similar to ‘snake oil’), or that it’s just a gesture to make the open data fans happy. However, we cannot deny former experience of the new national administration: As the City of Buenos Aires government, they created one of the most advanced policies in the country related to open data. They built an egov initiative, they assembled a really innovative GovLab, and developed lots of open data and online citizen participation tools. If we compare Buenos Aires City to the rest of the cities and even the national level, it ranks at the top. However, if we compare the openness of Argentina with the rest of Latin America, we end up in a really bad position. And that’s even if we only compare ourselves to our smaller surrounding countries of Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, usually thought to be behindhand.

Currently, Argentina doesn’t have a Freedom of Information Law, or anything alike. The ruling party for the last 12 years has had plenty of commitments on their hands, but implemented just a few, and with little to no real empowerment. The only decree, signed in 2003 by Nestor Kirchner, lacked of political support and ended up being a bureaucratic path for those willing to question our government for access to public information. Most of those who tried filling a Information Request were even turned down. We are talking about asking basic information about your own country, through the channels built to do so, and not receiving a reply back. Or even worst, receiving one that’s almost satirical:

The President office in 2013, replying La Nacion’s Journalist @colmanromi that “the President’s salary datasheet wasn’t updated yet” when they erased one column of it to hide the actual salary.

For the last few years we didn’t even knew the poverty level.

We also signed up the Open Government Partnership, and tried to comply with a first action plan that was never fulfilled. In 2015 a new action plan was written, but it was not an action plan that was approved by the local CSOs. This has also been reflected in Global Open Data Index built by OKI and we can also (proudly for Mor Rubinstein) guess that the Minister is also looking at it:

“Argentina is in the 54 position in the open public data ranking. Our objective is to be in the top ten of the world”

 

Andres Ibarra, the Modernisation Minister, expresses his wishes to get into the top ten open countries in the world, at least in the Global Open Data Index. Even though this is not a vanity contest, we all share his wish to overcome years of delays and obscurantism. We know that the new government has lots of good, talented people pushing into the Open Side of the Force, not only in the technical but also in the political levels. However, we also know that the main party leading the #Cambiemos alliance has lots of politicians relying their power in non-open contracts, opaque ways of working and occluded information. That’s why we are happy with these announcements about moving into the openness, mostly because it demonstrates the political will of pushing forward an Open Government agenda, and because they are putting it out in the open, for everyone to learn about it (not only the NGO’s, CSO’s and nerds). But we are still suspicious about how much will actually change

a badge worn by CSO’s activists in OGP Summit 2015 in Mexico

 

 

That is also why we should keep pushing for a Free Access to Information Law to be discussed and legislated in the congress. Because a government order may be a good starting point, but we need something that makes transparency and openness a must, in all levels of the state and territory as well as something valued not just by the Presidency and his decrees but valued by the Argentine government as a whole. That’s why we should use this new momentum to show to the rest of our society how important this is. How it can help to fight corruption, improve participation, discover and implement best practices and even build jobs around opened data. Happily, inside the recently elected new congress, we have new voices pushing for a FOIA law, which will join the former ones and maybe bill it this year.  
 

Looking forward

We should support the sectors of the new administration that are willing to push forward the Open Data and OpenGov movement. We should also keep an eye on them, using the same tools they are giving us. We should keep fighting for a real Access to Information Law , and when the discussion gets into the law making machinery, we as civil society must continue to participate and make our voices be heard.

But most of all, we should keep spreading the word with our colleague citizens, sharing the pros and cons of this Open movements, teaching about privacy concerns and limits, helping them not to be afraid, and willing to use all of this openness to let the government know that we will be watching them!

Here is where I start thanking Mor Rubinstein and for Anca Matioc being my editors in this post and end up inviting all of you to share your opinion on the subject, my point of view, or both.


Open Data goes local in Nepal: Findings of Nepal Open Data Index 2015

Nikesh Balami - January 7, 2016 in OK Nepal, Open Data Index

Index whitepaper

Nepal Open Data Index 2015 – White Paper

The Local Open Data Index Nepal 2015 is a crowdsourced survey that examines the availability of Open Data at city level. The survey was conducted for the second time in Nepal by Open Knowledge Nepal. See our previous post that announced the local index here.

Background

For the decentralization of power from central authority to district, village and municipality levels, Nepal government use Local Self Governance Regulation, 2056 (1999). where Village Development Committee (VDC) and District Development Committees (DDC) both act as planners and program implementing bodies of the government. Where municipalities are also doing the same kinds of tasks but at smaller scale, it has created difficulties in understanding layers of governing units. This overlapping of powers and roles has also been found in the government data space; average citizens still don’t know which local governance units are responsible for the data they need. This highlights the importance of a survey around open data and publishing.

Global surveys such as the Global Open Data Index and Open Data Barometer taught us that availability of open data and participatory governance in Nepal is not reaching full potential in terms of everything from citizen readiness, to data release and data infrastructure in Nepal. Using World Wide Web Foundation terminology, in Nepal we are operating in a “capacity constrained” environment.

Furthermore, in Nepal citizen participation and using open data often makes more sense and is more powerful at local level as it is local governments that handle all national and international project for citizens and generates data from it. However, open data is still a new concept in Nepal and the central government has only just started releasing data, with data even less available at the local level.

Why do we need a Local Open Data Index in Nepal?

The Local Open Data Index is intended to help to put the discrepancies of local level on the map (literally!). Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Mapping the gaps will aid strategic planning and help create a framework for action and citizen engagement at all levels.

For local governments to adopt openness, they need to understand the what, why and how of opening up their data. Government need to learn why making data open is not only a means to make them accountable (or worse – alarmed), but also a tool to help them become more efficient and effective in their work. Governments need to understand that opening data is only the beginning of participatory governance, and for them to participate they need well defined and easy-to-adopt mechanisms.

The Local Open Data Index for Nepal will help in assessing the baseline of availability and nature of open data in Nepali cities. This will help to identify gaps, and plan strategic actions to make maximum impact.

Summary

A survey was done in 10 major cities of Nepal by open data enthusiasts and volunteers inside and outside of Open Knowledge Nepal. The cities chosen were Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Butwal, Chitwan, Dolakha, Dhading, Hetauda, Kavre, Lalitpur, and Pokhara. The datasets that we survey were Annual Budget, Procurement Contracts, Crime Statistics, Business Permits, Traffic Accident, and Air Quality.

Unsurprisingly, the largest municipality and the capital of Nepal – Kathmandu – ranked highest, followed by Pokhara and Chitwan.

Different datasets were available in all 10 cities in digital format on the government websites. All available datasets are free to access. However, none of the datasets were machine readable, nor were any datasets licensed with any of the standard open data licences.

Datasets regarding annual budgets and procurement contracts are easily available digitally, although not open in standard sense of the term. Datasets for air quality are virtually nonexistent. It is not clear whether data is available in categories such as Traffic Accidents or Business Permits.

The central government of Nepal has been slowly adopting open data as a policy, and has shown commitment through projects such as the Aid Management Platform, Election Data, and interactive visualization available in National Planning Commission website. The enthusiasm is growing, but, has not yet spread to local governing authorities.

Key Findings

  1. None of the data sets are completely open. All of them lack machine readability and standard licensing.
  2. Annual budget data is publicly available in almost all cities surveyed. Air quality data is not available in any city. Other datasets fall somewhere in between.
  3. The enthusiasm and progress shown by central government in terms of open data projects has yet to catch on at the local level.

Read more about it in the official white paper.

Beauty behind the scenes

Tryggvi Björgvinsson - August 5, 2015 in CKAN, OK Sweden, Open Data, open knowledge

Good things can often go unnoticed, especially if they’re not immediately visible. Last month the government of Sweden, through Vinnova, released a revamped version of their open data portal, Öppnadata.se. The portal still runs on CKAN, the open data management system. It even has the same visual feeling but the principles behind the portal are completely different. The main idea behind the new version of Öppnadata.se is automation. Open Knowledge teamed up with the Swedish company Metasolutions to build and deliver an automated open data portal.

Responsive design

In modern web development, one aspect of website automation called responsive design has become very popular. With this technique the website automatically adjusts the presentation depending on the screen size. That is, it knows how best to present the content given different screen sizes. Öppnadata.se got a slight facelift in terms of tweaks to its appearance, but the big news on that front is that it now has a responsive design. The portal looks different if you access it on mobile phones or if you visit it on desktops, but the content is still the same.

These changes were contributed to CKAN. They are now a part of the CKAN core web application as of version 2.3. This means everyone can now have responsive data portals as long as they use a recent version of CKAN.

New Öppnadata.se

New Öppnadata.se

Old Öppnadata.se

Old Öppnadata.se

Data catalogs

Perhaps the biggest innovation of Öppnadata.se is how the automation process works for adding new datasets to the catalog. Normally with CKAN, data publishers log in and create or update their datasets on the CKAN site. CKAN has for a long time also supported something called harvesting, where an instance of CKAN goes out and fetches new datasets and makes them available. That’s a form of automation, but it’s dependent on specific software being used or special harvesters for each source. So harvesting from one CKAN instance to another is simple. Harvesting from a specific geospatial data source is simple. Automatically harvesting from something you don’t know and doesn’t exist yet is hard.

That’s the reality which Öppnadata.se faces. Only a minority of public organisations and municipalities in Sweden publish open data at the moment. So a decision hasn’t been made by a majority of the public entities for what software or solution will be used to publish open data.

To tackle this problem, Öppnadata.se relies on an open standard from the World Wide Web Consortium called DCAT (Data Catalog Vocabulary). The open standard describes how to publish a list of datasets and it allows Swedish public bodies to pick whatever solution they like to publish datasets, as long as one of its outputs conforms with DCAT.

Öppnadata.se actually uses a DCAT application profile which was specially created for Sweden by Metasolutions and defines in more detail what to expect, for example that Öppnadata.se expects to find dataset classifications according the Eurovoc classification system.

Thanks to this effort significant improvements have been made to CKAN’s support for RDF and DCAT. They include application profiles (like the Swedish one) for harvesting and exposing DCAT metadata in different formats. So a CKAN instance can now automatically harvest datasets from a range of DCAT sources, which is exactly what Öppnadata.se does. For Öppnadata.se, the CKAN support also makes it easy for Swedish public bodies who use CKAN to automatically expose their datasets correctly so that they can be automatically harvested by Öppnadata.se. For more information have a look at the CKAN DCAT extension documentation.

Dead or alive

The Web is decentralised and always changing. A link to a webpage that worked yesterday might not work today because the page was moved. When automatically adding external links, for example, links to resources for a dataset, you run into the risk of adding links to resources that no longer exist.

To counter that Öppnadata.se uses a CKAN extension called Dead or alive. It may not be the best name, but that’s what it does. It checks if a link is dead or alive. The checking itself is performed by an external service called deadoralive. The extension just serves a set of links that the external service decides to check to see if some links are alive. In this way dead links are automatically marked as broken and system administrators of Öppnadata.se can find problematic public bodies and notify them that they need to update their DCAT catalog (this is not automatic because nobody likes spam).

These are only the automation highlights of the new Öppnadata.se. Other changes were made that have little to do with automation but are still not immediately visible, so a lot of Öppnadata.se’s beauty happens behind the scenes. That’s also the case for other open data portals. You might just visit your open data portal to get some open data, but you might not realise the amount of effort and coordination it takes to get that data to you.

Image of Swedish flag by Allie_Caulfield on Flickr (cc-by)

This post has been republished from the CKAN blog.

Document Freedom Day in Kathmandu, Nepal

Kshitiz Khanal - April 9, 2015 in Community, OK Nepal

On 2015’s Document Freedom Day, Open Knowledge Nepal organized a seminar on Open Standards at CLASS Nepal at Maitighar, Kathmandu.

We intended to pitch openness to a new audience in Nepal and help them learn documentation skills. As we could not hope to teach documentation and spreadsheets in less than a day, we utilized the cohort to teach them small bits of information and skills that they could take home and gather information about their current knowledge and pertinent needs so as to help ourselves plan future events and trainings.

The targeted audience were office bearers and representatives of labor unions in many private and government organizations in Nepal. We also invited some students of Computer Science and Information Technology (CSIT). Few of the students are core members of Open Knowledge Nepal team and have also represented us in Open Data Day 2015, Kathmandu. We invited the students to let them know about the audience they will have to work with, in days to come.

It was a lazy March afternoon in Kathmandu and participants were slowly turning in from around 2 pm. Organizers and the students had already begun with chitchats on open, tech, football and other stuffs while waiting for enough participants to begin the event formally. Participants kept coming in ones and twos until the hall was up to its limit (35+) and we started formally just after 3:00 PM (NST).

The event was started by Mr. Durga of CLASS Nepal by welcoming all participants and introducing CLASS Nepal to the participants. He then invited Mr. Lekhnath Pokhrel, representative of UNI-Global Union in the event. He requested all participants to take full advantage of seminar and announced they will be organizing useful events in coming future too. Nikesh Balami, our active member and Open Government lead followed with his presentation on “Open Knowledge, Open Data, Open Standards, and Open Formats.” He started by gathering information about participants’ organizational backgrounds. This lightened the settings as everybody opened up to each other. NIkesh introduced Open Knowledge Nepal and our activities to the hall (see the slides).

dfd_nepal1

Kshitiz Khanal, Open Access lead at Open Knowledge Nepal went next. This session was intended to be an open discussion and skill dissemination on documentation and spreadsheet basics. We started by asking everybody to share their experience, set of skills and the skills they would like to learn in the event.

dfd_nepal2

We were in for a surprise. While we had prepared to teach them pivot tables, our audience were interested to learn more basic skills. Most of our audience were familiar with documentation packages like Microsoft Word, some were using spreadsheets in work, and most of them had to use slides to present their work. We paired our students with our target audience so that one can teach other. Based on the requests, we decided to teach basic spreadsheet actions like sorting and filtering data, performing basic mathematical operations.

dfd_nepal3

We also explained basic presentation philosophy like use pictures in place of words whenever possible, using as less words as possible, and when we do – making them big, rehearsing before presenting. These sound like obvious but these are not commonplace yet because these were not taught anywhere as a part of curriculum to our audience. This was well received. We also had a strange request – how to attach a sound recording in email. We decided to teach how to use google drive. We demonstrated how google drive can be used to store documents and the links can be used to send any type of files by email.

There were few female participants as well. This was a good turnout when compared to most of our and other tech / open events in Kathmandu with nil female participation. One of our female participant said that while she wants to learn more skills, she doesn’t have time to learn at home while taking care of her children, and at office she mostly has her hands full with work.
Most of the work in many offices is documentation, and this day and age makes strong documentation skills almost mandatory. While having freedom in the sense of document freedom entails having access to proper tools, it also necessitates having the proper set of skills to use the tools.

We learned lessons in the status and interest of people like our audience and the level of skill that we need to begin with while preparing modules for other similar events.

See the photo stream here and find further detailed account here on the Open Knowledge Nepal blog.

We’re Hiring at Open Knowledge: Project Managers, Developers and Data Wranglers

Rufus Pollock - March 19, 2015 in Featured, Jobs, Open Knowledge international Local Groups

Open Knowledge are delighted to advertise several new open positions:

  • Project Manager – Open Data
  • Python Developer
  • Frontend Developer
  • Data Wrangler

A brief summary on each post can be found below. Full details and application forms can be found on http://okfn.org/about/jobs/.

 Project Manager – Open Data

We are looking for a professional and dynamic hands-on project manager to manage a portfolio of projects at Open Knowledge – an international, world-leading non-profit working on open data. The project management style will need to fit within our creative and innovative atmosphere, and should help us retain organisational flexibility and agility.

The projects requiring management will vary, but in general will range from £25k/several months/1-2 team members, to £500k+/several years/4-6 team members. Some projects will involve substantial software design and delivery and require good technical understanding and the ability to manage a technology delivery project. In general the project teams are made up of specialists who have a good sense of the area of work and may be able to be the public face of the project; the key role of the project manager is to ensure planning, delivery, tracking and reporting occurs reliably and to a good standard.

Open Knowledge’s partners and clients include national government bodies, NGOs, and organisations such as the World Bank. Projects funded by grants are delivered for philanthropic foundations, the European Commission (eg. through the FP7/H2020 programme) and others.

Find out more or apply »

Python Developer

Working in the fast-growing area of open data, we build open source tools to drive transparency, accountability and data-driven insight. Our flagship product CKAN runs official national data portals from the UK to Brazil, US to Australia and hundreds more around the world. We also build a variety of other open source software to help people access information and turn data into insight.

We’re looking for a python developer to join our team who is smart, quick-to-learn and interested in contributing to a fast-growing and exciting area. You can be based anywhere – we operate as a virtual, online team – and can offer a flexible working structure – we care about delivery, not being 9-5 at your desk!

Find out more or apply »

Data Wrangler

Work on cutting edge data-driven, high impact open knowledge projects with a world-leading non-profit in areas ranging from government finances to health-care.

We are looking for someone with good experience in “small-to-medium” data wrangling (e.g. you’ve been scraping in python for a while, have a deep love for CSV … ). You must be a self-starter, capable of working remotely and taking initiative as well as working effectively in a team with others.

Find out more or apply »

Frontend Developer

We are looking for talented front-end developers to work with us on an ongoing, freelance basis on a variety of open-source data-driven projects ranging from healthcare to illegal logging.

Find out more or apply »

Open Knowledge Russia: Experimenting with data expeditions

Guest - March 11, 2015 in Featured, OK Russia, Open Education, open knowledge, WG Open Education

As part of Open Education Week #openeducationwk activities we are publishing a post on how Open Knowledge Russia have been experimenting with data expeditions. This a follow up post to one that appeared on the Open Education Working Group Website which gave an overview of Open Education projects in Russia.

Anna

Anna Sakoyan

The authors of this post are Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko, who together have founded DataDrivenJournalism.RU.

Irina

Irina Radchenko

Anna is currently working as a journalist and translator for a Russian analytical resource Polit.ru and is also involved in the activities of NGO InfoCulture. You can reach Anna on Twitter on @ansakoy, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. She blogs in English at http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/.

Irina Radchenko is a Associate Professor at ITMO University and Chief Coordinator of Open Knowledge Russia. You can reach Irina on Twitter on @iradche, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. She blogs in Russian at http://iradche.ru//.


1. DataDrivenJournalism.RU project and Russian Data Expeditions

The open educational project DataDrivenJournalism.RU was launched in April 2013 by a group of enthusiasts. Initially it was predominantly a blog, which accumulated translated and originally written manuals on working with data, as well as more general articles about data driven journalism. Its mission was formulated as promoting the use of data (Open Data first of all) in the Russian-language environment and its main objective was to create an online platform to consolidate the Russian-speaking people who were interested in working with data, so that they can exchange their experiences and learn from each other. As the number of the published materials grew, they had to be structured in a searchable way, which resulted in making it look more like a website with special sections for learning materials, interactive educational projects (data expeditions), helpful links, etc.

russia1

On one hand, it operates as an educational resource with a growing collection of tutorials, a glossary and lists of helpful external links, as well as the central platform of its data expeditions; on the other hand, as a blog, it provides a broader context of open data application to various areas of activity, including data driven journalism itself. After almost two years of its existence, DataDrivenJournalism.RU has a team of 10 regular authors (comprised of enthusiasts from Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia, Sweden and UK). More than a hundred posts have been published, including 15 tutorials. It has also launched 4 data expeditions, the most recent in December 2014.

The term data expedition was first coined by Open Knowledge’s School of Data, which launched such peer-learning projects both in online and offline formats. We took this model as the basic principle and tried to apply it to the Russian environment. It turned out to be rather perspective, so we began experimenting with it, in order to make this format a more efficient education tool. In particular, we have tried a very loose organisational approach where the participants only had a general subject in common, but were free to choose their own strategy in working with it; a rather rigid approach with a scenario and tasks; and a model, which included experts who could navigate the participants in the area that they had to explore. These have been discussed in our guest post on Brian Kelly’s blog ‘UK Web Focus’.

Our fourth data expedition was part of a hybrid learning model. Namely, it was the practical part of a two-week’s offline course taught by Irina Radchenko in Kazakhstan. This experience appears to be rather inspiring and instructive.

2. International Data Expedition in Kazakhstan

The fourth Russian-language data expedition (DE4) was a part of a two-week’s course under the auspices of Karaganda State Technological University taught by Irina Radchenko. After the course was over the university participants who sucessfully completed all the tasks within DE4 received a certificate. Most interesting projects were later published at DataDrivenJournalism.RU. One of them is about industry in Kazakhstan by Asylbek Mubarak who also tells (in Russian) about his experience of participating in DE4 and also about the key stages of his work with data. The other, by Roman Ni is about some aspects of Kazakhstan budget.

First off, it was a unique experience of launching a data expedition outside Russia. It was also interesting that DE4 was a part of a hybrid learning format, which combined traditional offline lectures and seminars with a peer-learning approach. The specific of the peer-learning part was that it was open, so that any online user could participate. The problem was that the decision to make it open occurred rather late, so there was not much time to properly promote its announcement. However, there were several people from Russia and Ukraine who registered for participation. Unfortunately none of them participated actively, but hopefully, they managed to make some use of course materials and tasks published in the DE4 Google group.

russia2

This mixed format was rather time-taking, because it required not only preparation for regular lectures, but also a lot of online activity, including interaction with the participants, answering their questions in Google group and checking their online projects. The participants of the offline course seemed enthusiastic about the online part, many found it interesting and intriguing. In the final survey following DE4, most of the respondents emphasised that they liked the online part.

The initial level of the participants was very uneven. Some of them knew how to program and work with data bases, others had hardly ever been exposed to working with data. DE4 main tasks were build in a way that they could be done from scratch based only on the knowledge provided within the course. Meanwhile, there were also more advanced tasks and techniques for those who might find them interesting. Unfortunately, many participants could not complete all the tasks, because they were students and were right in the middle of taking their midterm exams at university.

russia3

Compared to our previous DEs, the percentage of completed tasks was much higher. The DE4 participants were clearly better motivated in terms of demonstrating their performance. Most importantly, some of them were interested in receiving a certificate. Another considerable motivation was participation in offline activities, including face-to-face discussions, as well as interaction during Irina’s lectures and seminars.

russia4

russia5

Technically, like all the previous expeditions, DE4 was centered around a closed Google group, which was used by the organisers to publish materials and tasks and by participants to discuss tasks, ask questions, exchange helpful links and coordinate their working process (as most of them worked in small teams). The chief tools within DE4 were Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Refine and Infogr.am. Participants were also encouraged to suggest or use other tools if they find it appropriate.

42 people registered for participation. 36 of them were those who took the offline course at Karaganda State Technical University. Those were most active, so most of our observations are based on their results and feedback. Also, due to the university base of the course, 50% of the participants were undergraduate students, while the other half included postgraduate students, people with a higher education and PhD. Two thirds of the participants were women. As to age groups, almost a half of the participants were between 16 and 21 years old, but there was also a considerable number of those between 22 and 30 years old and two above 50.

13 per cent of the participants completed all the tasks, including the final report. According to their responses to the final survey, most of them did their practical tasks by small pieces, but regularly. As to online interaction, the majority of respondens said they were quite satisfied with their communication experience. About a half of them though admitted that they did not contribute to online discussions, although found others’ contributions helpful. General feedback was very positive. Many pointed out that they were inspired by the friendly atmosphere and mutual helpfulness. Most said they were going to keep learning how to work with open data on their own. Almost all claimed they would like to participate in other data expeditions.

3. Conclusions

DE4 was an interesting step in the development of the format. In particular, it showed that an open peer-learning format can be an important integral part of a traditional course. It had a ready-made scenario and an instructor, but at the same time it heavily relied on the participants’ mutual help and experience exchange, and also provided a great degree of freedom and flexibility regarding the choice of subjects and tools. It is also yet another contribution to the collection of materials, which might be helpful in future expeditions alongside with the materials from all the previous DEs. It is part of a process of gradual formation of an educational resources base, as well as a supportive social base. As new methods are applied and tested in DEs, the practices that proved best are stored and used, which helps to make this format more flexible and helpful. What is most important is that this model can be applied to almost any educational initiative, because it is easily replicated and based on using free online services.

How Open Data Can Change Pakistan

Nouman Nazim - March 9, 2015 in OK Pakistan, Open Knowledge international Local Groups

This is a cross-post from the brand new Open Knowledge Pakistan Local Group blog. To learn more about (and get in touch with) the new community in Pakistan, go here.

pakistan

Pakistan is a small country with a high population density. Within 796,096 square kilometres of its territory, Pakistan has a population of over 180 million people. Such a large population poses immense responsibilities on the government. Majority of the population in Pakistan is uneducated, living in rural areas, with a growing influx of the rural people to the urban areas. Thus we can say that the rate of urbanization in Pakistan is raising rapidly. This is a major challenge to the civic planners and the Government of Pakistan.

Data from World Bank

The wars of the last century made people realize that further violence on such a large scale cannot be afforded and better coordination and communication should be promoted between the nations. So along with many other concepts and new technologies, there was also a school of thought which raised the voice for easing the restrictions on government data.

Open data, as the name suggests, is the concept of making government data available for everyone to use, reuse and reproduce without the conventional restrictions of copyrights, patents and other laws of protection of content. ~Open Definition

There are a lot of advantages of making data open for public and free to be used and reproduced by anyone. First of all is the main reason of knowledge, it increases by sharing. And quite literally governments around the world have tried and tested this method. Many countries of the world are now opting for easing the restrictions on their public administration proceedings, statistics and relevant data related to public affairs. The value created from easing these laws is beyond calculation. Several government organizations collect different types of data for their functioning. This data is made available to the masses, individuals and organizations alike will help in bringing much improvements and innovations in their respective fields. A lot of countries have gone for this stance and they are a testament to the fact that opening up data for reuse and reproduction is beneficial for the state in general.

Pakistan, as a developing country can learn much and more by opening the restrictions on data. There are many areas in which open data can bring a change in the functioning of government. Some of these areas include self-empowerment, improved efficiency of government services, the effect of policies and their impact on the public. If such type of data is open for all then many departments of government can be improved as the data will be available at hand to avoid future mistakes. Releasing data on operations / services of different government departments can help gain insight into the performance of these departments and further developments can be made or new policies crafted.

Education is one of the biggest problems of Pakistan which is hindering her progress as a developing nation. There are numerous cases in the government run schools of Pakistan where absenteeism on the part of teachers is very high and some schools are aptly called ghost schools because they exist only on paper. Now if the data on these schools were made public not only will the public hold the administration accountable but these schools will also function properly in the future. Alif Ailaan and Sustainable Development Policy Institute established Pakistan Data Portal to share and disseminate education related data in Pakistan.

Often times it has always been observed that the public money is mishandled by the politicians and bureaucrats due to which Pakistan ranks at 126 in Global Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Open data will help us better control such inefficiencies and with the data available to the general public, it will be ensured that the public money is handled maturely, transparently and to high standards of accountability. These are just a few of the many ways in which open data can bring a positive change in Pakistan.

Walkthrough: My experience building Australia’s Regional Open Data Census

Stephen Gates - March 6, 2015 in Featured Project, OK Australia

Skærmbillede 2015-03-06 kl. 11.27.11

On International Open Data Day (21 Feb 2015) Australia’s Regional Open Data Census launched. This is the story of the trials and tribulations in launching the census.

Getting Started

Like many open data initiatives come to realise, after filling up a portal with lots of open data, there is a need for quality as well as quantity. I decided to tackle improving the quality of Australia’s open data as part of my Christmas holiday project.

I decided to request a local open data census on 23 Dec (I’d finished my Christmas shopping a day early). While I was waiting for a reply, I read the documentation – it was well written and configuring a web site using Google Sheets seemed easy enough.

The Open Knowledge Local Groups team contacted me early in the new year and introduced me to Pia Waugh and the team at Open Knowledge Australia. Pia helped propose the idea of the census to the leaders of Australia’s state and territory government open data initiatives. I was invited to pitch the census to them at a meeting on 19 Feb – Two days before International Open Data Day.

A plan was hatched

On 29 Jan I was informed by Open Knowledge that the census was ready to be configured. Could I be ready be launch in 25 days time?

Configuring the census was easy. Fill in the blanks, a list of places, some words on the homepage, look at other census and re-use some FAQ, add a logo and some custom CSS. However, deciding on what data to assess brought me to a screaming halt.

Deciding on data

The Global census uses data based on the G8 key datasets definition. The Local census template datasets are focused on local government responsibilities. There was no guidance for countries with three levels of government. How could I get agreement on the datasets and launch in time for Open Data Day?

I decided to make a Google Sheet with tabs for datasets required by the G8, Global Census, Local Census, Open Data Barometer, and Australia’s Foundation Spatial Data Framework. Based on these references I proposed 10 datasets to assess. An email was sent to the open data leaders asking them to collaborate on selecting the datasets.

GitHub is full of friends

When I encountered issues configuring the census, I turned to GitHub. Paul Walsh, one of the team on the OpenDataCensus repository on GitHub, was my guardian on GitHub – steering my issues to the right place, fixing Google Sheet security bugs, deleting a place I created called “Try it out” that I used for testing, and encouraging me to post user stories for new features. If you’re thinking about building your own census, get on GitHub and read what the team has planned and are busy fixing.

The meeting

I presented to the leaders of Australia’s state and territory open data leaders leaders on 19 Feb and they requested more time to add extra datasets to the census. We agreed to put a Beta label on the census and launch on Open Data Day.

Ready for lift off

The following day CIO Magazine emailed asking for, “a quick comment on International Open Data Day, how you see open data movement in Australia, and the importance of open data in helping the community”. I told them and they wrote about it.

The Open Data Institute Queensland and Open Knowledge blogged and tweeted encouraging volunteers to add to the census on Open Data Day.

I set up Gmail and Twitter accounts for the census and requested the census to be added to the big list of censuses.

Open Data Day

No support requests were received from volunteers submitting entries to the census (it is pretty easy). The Open Data Day projects included:

  • drafting a Contributor Guide.
  • creating a Google Sheet to allow people to collect census entries prior to entering them online.
  • Adding Google Analytics to the site.

What next?

We are looking forward to a few improvements including adding the map visualisation from the Global Open Data Index to our regional census. That’s why our Twitter account is @AuOpenDataIndex.

If you’re thinking about creating your own Open Data Census then I can highly recommend the experience and there is great team ready to support you.

Get in touch if you’d like to help with Australia’s Open Data Census.

Stephen Gates lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He has written Open Data strategies and driven their implementation. He is actively involved with the Open Data Institute Queensland contributing to their response to Queensland’s proposed open data law and helping coordinate the localisation of ODI Open Data Certificates. Stephen is also helping organise GovHack 2015 in Brisbane. Australia’s Regional Open Data Census is his first project working with Open Knowledge.