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Even after earthquakes, we need Open

Guest - August 29, 2013 in Featured Project, OKF Italy, Open Development, Open Government Data

The following guest post is by Chistian Quintili from Open Ricostruzione. Open Ricostruzione is an Italian civic project focused on people engagement after the earthquake which damaged cities of Emilia-Romagna in 2012

Open Ricostruzione is pleased to have a little corner in the OKF network. Our project, in short, is a website to monitor public funding and private donations raised to reconstruct public buildings damaged by the earthquake which hit Emilia Romagna in May 2012.

Emilia Romagna is a region in Northern Italy, which in 2012 experienced a series of devastating earthquakes, measuring up to 6.0 on the richter scale. Up to 45,000 people were made homeless, and 27 lost their lives. The cost of reconstruction so far is estimated at around €350 million, with projects including schools, hospitals, and the restoration of historical cultural sites. We want to make sure that this process is open, transparent and accountable.

The Emilia-Romagna region and the ANCI (the association of all Italian municipalities) gathered the relevant administrative data; and an association working on IT and civic participation, called Open Polis, developed special software for accessing the data in a user-friendly and easy way. You can find raw data, project by project, on a featured website named Sisma2012.

open ricostrizione

But Open Ricostruzione is more than this. Technology isn’t enough to “rebuild” democracy: our focus is on re-building citizens’ skills. Beyond smart cities, we need smart citizens. For this reason, ActionAid is organizing a series of workshops to train civil society activists to monitor reconstruction, providing juridical and data journalism skills with Dataninja (an Italian data journalism network).

Bondeno 29 giugno 2013

Today each of us can contribute to make reconstruction in Emilia and our institutions more accountable, and this is possible just using a mobile phone, a camera and an internet connection. This means we can, and should be, more responsible for and concerned by the rebuilding of a better society, better institutions and better nation.

We have the tools and we want to make it happen.

We’d love to hear from you, and you can follow us @Open_Ric for updates.

Open Ricostruzione is a project designed by Wikitalia and realized by Anci, Ancitel, ActionAid and Openpolis with the technical support of Emilia Romagna Region and the financial support of Cisco Italy

Italian government ditches transparency and open data

Stefano Costa - March 1, 2013 in OKF Italy, Open Government Data

This post is a translation of Il nostro contributo per salvare gli #OpenData originally published by Ernesto Belisario on Agorà Digitale. Most links point to documents and websites in Italian.

In the past few weeks I have been very involved with transparency (and therefore, open data) together with the friends of Agorà Digitale. Right when we were all busy with the Settimana della Trasparenza (Transparency Week), verifying if and how much the expenditure data from local and central Italian government is open (the resulting data is here), the cabinet accelerated the passage of a decree reorganizing all norms concerning transparency (decreto unico di riordino delle norme in materia di trasparenza).

This new version of the decree is said to be explicitly aimed towards a simplification of the existing norms and an augmentation of citizen rights. However the result is a huge step backwards for transparency and open data. Let’s see why. First, there is no attempt at introducing a true Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)-like legislation. Second, open data is ditched with the abolition of article 18 of the D. L. n. 83/2012, the so called “Decreto Sviluppo”, that was the most revolutionary and effective way to pursue transparency for expenditure data.

But there is more bad news. The Italian Data Protection Authority, who advised on the proposed changes, asked for even more pejorative steps further away from open data, for example prohibiting indexing and spidering by web search engines, making a mockery of any claim of “transparency”.

The Cabinet has been in a hurry to approve this decree before the coming elections – in such a hurry that they have forgotten to be transparent in the process! There has been no consultation on any level, either with other administrative bodies or with citizens and organizations dealing with transparency. This is rather the opposite of open and collaborative government – and it gets worse. The final text was approved without even being on the cabinet agenda: paradoxically for a norm on “transparency”, citizens had no idea that the decree was going to be passed.

Italy has been a member of the Open Government Partnership for more than a year, even hosting an international meeting just two months ago. Yet it seems public consultation and transparency need not feature in the political life of an OGP country.

AgoràDigitale, and OpenMediaCoalition partnered to submit comments and six proposals on the proposed changes to the transparency norms. The proposals touch three main themes:

a) open data is key for transparency. All the documents whose publication is mandatory according to the decree must be open data published in open formats. Expenditure data must be available for web spiders and engines to index, because – as David Eaves put it – “if it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist”.

b) open budget & open spending: public spending data is the most-wanted category of data – as shown by the success of initiatives like “Era della Trasparenza” (the Transparency Age). Therefore it is necessary to make all budget and spending data open.

c) freedom of information actcitizen access: our proposal aims at obtaining a true and full freedom of information act, that is currently missing from Italian legislation and unfortunately not on the political agenda.

We launched a public campaign to support our proposals, even though no one asked for our comments. The reaction from citizens was encouraging, and confirmed that they want a government that is actually transparent. With the election last week leaving Italian politics gridlocked by a hung parliament, we hope that all parties can unite behind the centraility of open data and transparency for legitimate democractic government.

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