Guest blog post is cross-posted from the Publish What You Fund blog.
This is the third guest blog post from Open Steps, an initiative by two young Berliners Alex (a software developer from Spain) and Margo (a graduate in European politics from France) who decided to leave their daily lives and travel around the world for one year to meet people and organizations working actively in open knowledge related projects, documenting them on their website. Read also the first blog post and the second one.
After the first 6 months in East Europe and India, we landed in the Asian continent and had two and a half months to explore South-East Asia, Hong Kong and Japan. Starting first planning meetings and workshops in the Mekong Region, we rapidly understood there are not numerous organisations working on Open Knowledge there, compared to the previous visited countries.
In none of the countries we passed by in South-East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia & Laos) we could find a strong will from the public administration to promote Open Data (OD) or Open Government (OG) initiatives. However, each government has its own different experience. Let’s take a look at this in detail:
In Thailand, we got in contact with Opendream, a company focused on developing web and mobile apps around social issues, mostly using and released as Open Source. Organising our workshop in their offices brought us closer to the singular Thai Open Data history. A plan for releasing data to the public domain through an Open Data platform (which was built by Opendream members) had already been initiated under the mandate of the previous Prime Minister, but surprisingly dismissed few months afterwards when the power changed hands. At the time of our visit, this first attempt was not available anymore on the web and there was no plan to do a second one. Considering other kind of organisations than the public sector, we discovered Thai Netizen Network, a small group of advocates working on intellectual property. We met Arthit Suriyawongkul, its founder, who is also one of the activists working on the Thai adaptation of the Creative Commons license. According to him, the Open movement in Thailand can be summarized in a few individuals who might be connected via social networks but don’t represent in any case an active and regular meeting group.
In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia which was our next stop, Open Data is neither the priority of the government. But there, we could meet several organisations, mostly NGOs, and also gathered numerous students, journalists and human rights advocates as attendees at our events. This reflects a big interest in both data visualisation and data journalism. Our 3 workshops were respectively organised at the national high school for media practitioners (the DMC of the Royal University), with the German GIZ (the Public Agency for International Cooperation) and with Transparency International Cambodia. One of the organisations we particularly consider relevant to mention is Open Development Cambodia (ODC), which manages the only online platform in Cambodia where local data is being aggregated and shared. The elaborate map visualisations of this NGO are the proof that the civil society is active and that making use of data is already a know tool to bring awareness and to address specific issues Cambodia has to face. ODC’s team is working hard on it and together with the newly created OKFN local group, they are the ones leading the efforts. Not to forget is the great event they organised for the international Open Data Day this year.
What about Laos? The neighbouring country has an even more difficult situation than Thailand and we could not discover any initiative there which can be categorized as open, neither from the public administration nor from the civil society. In Vientiane, we met the IT-team behind the data portal of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental agency between Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, created to preserve the Mekong basin region and improve its water management. The data portal is a platform gathering and analysing data on (among others) water quality through various maps and reports. Sadly, due to national policies and the strict rules defined by the collaboration between these four countries, the data is not available as open but some fees and copyright apply for download and re-use.
South-East Asia can definitely not reflect all Asia and what we discovered during the rest of our journey was the antipode of the first three countries mentioned. We headed further East and arrived in Hong Kong, where we were already in contact since we left Berlin with two active organisations: DimSumLabs (hackerspace) and Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK). DimSumLabs offered us its space and ODHK its warm support to run our session in the big metropole. As they both have built a great community of activists and enthusiasts, the topic of Open Data and Open Cultures in general is large known and there was no need to present our usual beginners-targeted workshop. Instead of that, we prepared new contents and did a recap of the most exciting projects we had discovered so far. It resulted in a very interesting discussion about the status of Hong Kong as “Special Administration Region” of China. The city still remains under China´s rules (has no Freedom of Information Act) but its autonomy allows a “healthy” environment for OD/OG initiatives. The existence of the Open Data platform and Open Data challenges are a proof of it.
On the same line, Japan was a productive stop for our research. First, we visited the Mozilla factory, created last year in the centre of Tokyo. A fantastic open space for everyone to learn and work on the web, equipped with tools such as 3D printers and greatly designed with Open Source furnitures available for download and re-use. On our meeting, we discovered also about their new project called MozBus, a refurbished camping van turned into a nomadic web factory that can provide internet infrastructure at remote areas after natural disasters. The International Open Data Day (22nd February 2014) happened during our stay in this last stop in Asia and we participated in the event organised in Kyoto. There, volunteers from public and private sector and members of the OpenStreetMap Foundation scheduled an one-day workshop to teach citizens with different backgrounds and ages how to use OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia, with the main purpose to document and report historical buildings of the city. In addition, this event was also a good place to research about the status of OD/OG initiatives in Japan. If the government has worked on a strategy for many years (with focus on how can OD/OG make disaster management more efficient) and seems to be in the list of the much advanced countries; the national Open Data platform, launched in beta, dates from last December and there are, generally speaking, still improvements needed, particularly regarding the licenses applied for spending and budgeting data.
Although we would really have loved to, it was not possible for us to be all over the continent and discover all the projects and initiatives currently going on. Countries as Indonesia, Philippines or Taiwan present an advanced status regarding Open Data and we would definitely have had a lot to document if our route would have passed there. We invite you to read this sum-up about the Open Data situation in Asia (put together by a folk on the OKFN-Discuss mailing list after last year’s OKCon) to get a more detailed idea on the different contexts the Asian continent shows. It’s a very good read!
After Asia, keeping heading East, we are now reaching South-America and this is here where the last part of our one-year research begins. We have now four months to go through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru and the first contacts we could establish are really promising …. follow us to get updated!
The Open Knowledge Foundation will be re-running its one-day Introduction to Open Data on Friday 28 March.
Local governments and other organisations are looking at how they can release data they hold – unleashing creativity from local entrepreneurs, researchers, journalists, third-sector organisations and citizens, and helping to build economic activity as well as accountability and trust. The Open Knowledge Foundation’s vision of a world where open data improves lives means its job is to help get data released and used. For example, it built the software that powers the UK government’s widely-copied data portal and many others. Its School of Data works to empower civil society organisations, journalists and citizens with the skills they need to use data effectively in their efforts to create more equitable and effective societies.
The Introduction to Open Data aims to demystify the subject and give participants an understanding of the whats, whys and hows of the subject. The course is open to anyone who has an interest in Open Data in a professional capacity, and wants an introduction from one of the leading organisations in the field.
The course will give an overview of the following: What is Open Data; kinds of data; Benefits of Open Data; regulatory requirements; data licensing; data quality and formats; an introduction to Linked Data; planning an Open Data project; data portals; publishing data; community engagement.
The course is oriented towards organisations, such as local government councillors and officers, considering starting their own Open Data initiative. It could also be useful for organisations planning to work with or campaign for Open Data. It will be useful for those for whom Open Data is a bit of a mystery wanting to get an overview; decision makers who are supportive of the idea of Open Data, but need to understand what it will involve in technical terms; people responsible for the successful implementation of and Open Data project as well as staff who will be using or maintaing it, and anyone else interested in learning more about Open Data.
Feedback from the last session in December (above) include:
Other feedback included “A good overview that contained something for everyone in a diverse audience”; “Great session, great location, great participants!”; “A great introduction to the issue. Engaging delivery, more interesting than I expected!”
No technical or other background is needed – just an interest in learning more about Open Data.
The price for the day is £250, and an early-bird price of £200 will apply to registrations by 7 March. To register, visit the signup page. If you can’t make the date, the course will be running again on 20 May.
If you have any questions about the course, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We want to know how opening up data impact those in developing countries. The Partnership for Open Data (POD) is a partnership of institutions to research, support, train and promote open data in the context of low and middle income countries. We invite you to share with us your stories about how open data has positively impacted you, or those around you; technologically, politically, commercially, environmentally, socially, or in any other way.
How has Open Data impacted you and your community?
Over the last decade, Open Data initiatives have become increasingly popular with both governments and civil society organisations. Through these initiatives they hope to tap into its potential benefits of innovation, delivery of better services more cost effectively, combating climate change, improving urban planning, and reducing corruption; to name but just a few of the possibilities.
This is the chance to tell your inspiring stories, and get them published.
A grand prize of $1000 (USD) is on offer and there are 2 x $500 (USD) runner up prizes!
This competition is being run by the Open Knowledge Foundation as part of the Partnership for Open Data, a joint initiative of the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Open Data Institute, and The World Bank.
Closing Date: 24th March 2014
Winners will be announced within three weeks of the closing date. Terms and Conditions apply.
Let’s explore local open data around the world!
Local data is often the most relevant to citizens on a daily basis – be it rubbish collection times, local tax rates or zoning information. However, at the moment it’s difficult to know which key local datasets are openly available and where. Now, you can help change that.
We know there is huge variability in how much local data is available not just across countries but within countries, with some cities and municipalities making major open data efforts, while in others there’s little or no progress visible. If we can find out what open data is out there, we can encourage more cities to open up key information, helping businesses and citizens understand their cities and making life easier.
We’ve created the Local Open Data Census to survey and compare the progress made by different cities and local areas in releasing Open Data. You can help by tracking down Open Data from a city or region where you live or that you’re interested in. All you need to do is register your interest and we’ll get your Local Open Data Census set up and ready to use.
Open Data Day is coming – it’s on 22 February 2014 and will involve Open Data events around the world where people can get involved with open data. If you’re organising an open data event, why not include a Census-a-thon to encourage people to track down and add information about their city?
A Local Open Data Census for your city will help:
It’s really easy to contribute to an Open Data Census: there’s lots of documentation for them and a truly global community creating and using them. A City Census is a great way to get involved with open data for the first time, as the information is about things city residents really care about. Or if you’re more interested in regions, counties or states, you can take part a regional Census. (Some countries will have both regional and city Censuses, because of the way their local government information is organised.)
Sign up now to ensure your city and country have a Local Open Data Census up and running before Open Data Day, and let’s see how much open data about open data we can create this month! We’ll have more tips on how to run a successful Census-a-thon coming soon.
In 2012 we started an Open Data Census to track the state of country-level open data around the world. The 2013 results published as the first ever Open Data Index last Autumn covered 700 datasets across 70 countries, and have already proved useful in driving open data release around the world. We’re looking forward to updating the Census for 2014 later this year.
However, a lot of data that is most relevant to citizens’ everyday lives is at the local level. That’s why last year we ran a separate pilot, to measure release of open data at the local, city level – the City Open Data Census. We’ve learnt a lot from the experience and from the community who used the pilot, and we are now ready to offer a full Local Open Data Census to everyone, everywhere.
You can find out more on the new Census “Meta” site »
Census surveys of cities and regions will be run on a country-by-country basis, managed locally with local groups or other organisations. In the United States, we’re pleased to be collaborating with the Sunlight Foundation and Code for America. They are running a series of events for Open Data Day, CodeAcross (links here and here), including the city census for the US.
We also know that people will want to run their own specific Open Data Censuses focused on particular topics or datasets. If you’ve been wondering about the openness of pollution data, legal information, public finances or any other topic, we can set up a special Census to survey the datasets you care about, on a national or regional scale.
A Topical Census uses the platform built for the Open Data Census to run a similar, customised census, and publish the results in a simple and visually appealing way. The questionnaires, responses and results can be hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation, so you don’t have to worry about the technical side. If you are interested in running a Topical Open Data Census, get in touch with the Census team.
Note that we expect quite a bit of demand for local Censuses in the next few weeks. We will prioritise requests for Topical Censuses from groups who have more people ready to get involved, such as existing networks, working groups or interest groups around the topic, so please let us know a little about yourselves when you get in touch.
This is a guest post by Waltraut Ritter from Knowledge Dialogues and Opendata Hong Kong/Open Knowledge Foundation Hong Kong, who recently visited Myanmar as basis for this interesting account. She can be contacted on waltraut(a)opendatahk(dot)com.
The Worldbank Knowledge Economy Index ranks Myanmar as second lowest among 157 countries across all key variables relating to ICT, innovation, education and economic incentive/institutional regime; Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perception Index lists Myanmar in the bottom group of countries, and the most recent Internet World Statistics (2012) shows that internet penetration is around 1%, although with the entry of two international telecom operators, Telenor and Ooredoo, rolling out voice and data services nationwide starting this month, these figures are expected to move up fast.
The growth of internet access in Myanmar will predominantly be mobile internet access. 7% of the population use mobile phones; the lowest cost for an Android smartphone (with Myanmar font) is 60-70 USD and a SIM card with data services cost between 5 and 130 USD, depending on the channel through which one gets access to a SIM. Huawei’s smartphones are the market leader at the moment, followed by Samsung. With the opening of the country in the past 2-3 years, what are the prospects for building the foundations for a knowledge society?
Recent reports and studies about Myanmar (ADB 2012, Cheesman 2012, McKinsey 2013) describe the backwardness of everything related to information, from information laws, information access, ICT infrastructure to internet governance. Building the soft infrastructure, capacity, skills and mindset is another challenge. Nwe Nwe Aye says that the government in Myanmar is still heavily circumscribed by secrecy and lack of transparency, and that there is “no sense of political rule as a participative process”* The culture of an authoritarian society is hard to throw off, and technology may act as a catalyst, but there are quite a few countries with excellent ICT infrastructure and non-existing or low civic rights and public transparency as well.
Reporters without Borders and the Burma Media Association claim that “the structure of the new Burmese Internet as modified in 2010 gives the authorities more surveillance options, while reserving the fastest and best-quality access for the government and military”. They say that Burma’s use of Blue Coat technologies (the Silicon Valley tech company providing internet censorships equipment and services such as Deep Packet inspection) in government agencies raises questions about internet filtering policy and surveillance.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which resumed operations in Myanmar in 2013, is advising the government on ICT strategy and public administration reform. Following their tender for the development of an e-Governance Master Plan, it was just announced a few days ago that IT services provider Infosys will be appointed as advisor for the 1.5m USD project, which also includes a six month training for 100 engineering students. Building ICT capacity is the basis for information and data management across the public sector, and also the basis for any Open Data initiative. All major global tech companies are preparing their investment plans for the country, many of them coupled with education or civil society collaborations.
Myanmar has an active civil society working on various aspects of information society, from press freedom to civic-driven public libraries, such as Beyond Access, an organization that aims to transform the country’s vast network of 5000 public libraries into connected information and service hubs, MIDO (Myanmar ICT development organization, which organized the first internet freedom forum in Yangon last year), and the Myanmar Blogger Society, which now collaborates with telecom provider Ooredoo. These networks and organisations could play an important role in building the soft infrastructure of the future information society.
Another initiative with potentially wide reach is the introduction of Wikimedia Zero, whereby the Wikimedia Foundation through a partnership with Telenor, gives free access to the “sum of human knowledge” (Jimmy Wales) without incurring data usage charges.
The legal side of Myanmar’s information and internet governance also needs to be reformed. Currently there exist a number of outdated but still valid laws, such as the “Burma Official Secrets Act” from 1932, instated by the British Colonial regime, which is part of the ongoing discussions on constitutional reform ahead of the 2015 elections. (http://wvw.burmalibrary.org/docs15/Burma_Code-Vol-II-ocr-tu.pdf, p182-189). This year, however, there is a great opportunity to introduce open data initiatives in Myanmar: the country is conducting its first nationwide census in 31 years. Supported by UN organisations, the data collection will take place in March and April, and provide a sound basis for all further socio-economic development.
Reliable information has been a scarce resource in the past decades, and the country data compiled by various international organisations such as UNDP, ITU, and Worldbank has many gaps or only shows estimates, e.g. the figures of the country’s population range between 52 and 64 million. Data about livelihood, economy, and exact size of the many ethnic groups in the country is vague. The latter is widely discussed in the media in the preparation of the census http://www.mmfreedom-daily.com/?p=13669. Ethnic groups are worried that the census survey may not reflect the real size of the different groups due to classification problems.
For the Open Data community, engaging with Myanmar government, public sector organisations, and civil society, could help to build an inclusive knowledge society, where the benefits of data, information and knowledge are available for all. Such an engagement would certainly not be a short-term project.
*in: Nick Cheesman et. al. (ed.) Myanmar’s Transition: Openings, Obstacles and Opportunities. ISEAS Singapore 2012
Thanks to Htaike Htaike Aung of MIDO (Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation) for information on internet governance.
The Open Data Partnership for Development Scoping Terms of Reference deadline has been extended until January 13, 2014. We have received some great submissions and want to give more people the best opportunity to tackle the project. Truly, we recognize that the holiday season is a busy time.
The Open Data Partnership for Development Scoping Terms of Reference opened on December 11, 2013 and will close on January 13, 2014 at 17:00 GMT.
Help us get a current state Open Data Activity snapshot to guide our decisions for the Open Data Partnership for Development programmes. Proposals for a Scoping Analysis will address two objectives:
More about Open Data Partnership for Development
Happy New Year.
This is a guest post from Rayna Stamboliyska and Pierre Chrzanowski of the Open Knowledge Foundation France
Etalab, the Prime Minister’s task force for Open Government Data, unveiled on December 18 the new version of the data.gouv.fr platform (1). OKF France salutes the work the Etalab team has accomplished, and welcomes the new features and the spirit of the new portal, rightly summed up in the website’s baseline, “share, improve and reuse public sector data”.
OKF France was represented at the data.gouv.fr launch event by Samuel Goëta in the presence of Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister of France, Fleur Pellerin, Minister Delegate for Small and Medium Enterprises, Innovation, and the Digital Economy and Marylise Lebranchu, Minister of the Reform of the State. Photo credit: Yves Malenfer/Matignon
Etalab has indeed chosen to offer a platform resolutely turned towards collaboration between data producers and re-users. The website now enables everyone not only to improve and enhance the data published by the government, but also to share their own data; to our knowledge, a world first for a governmental open data portal. In addition to “certified” data (i.e., released by departments and public authorities), data.gouv.fr also hosts data published by local authorities, delegated public services and NGOs. Last but not least, the platform also identifies and highlights other, pre-existing, Open Data portals such as nosdonnees.fr (2). A range of content publishing features, a wiki and the possibility of associating reuses such as visualizations should also allow for a better understanding of the available data and facilitate outreach efforts to the general public.
We at OKF France also welcome the technological choices Etalab made. The new data.gouv.fr is built around CKAN, the open source software whose development is coordinated by the Open Knowledge Foundation. All features developed by the Etalab team will be available for other CKAN-based portals (e.g., data.gov or data.gov.uk). In turn, Etalab may more easily master innovations implemented by others.
The new version of the platform clearly highlights the quality rather than quantity of datasets. This paradigm shift was expected by re-users. On one hand, datasets with local coverage have been pooled thus providing nation-wide coverage. On the other hand, the rating system values datasets with the widest geographical and temporal coverage as well as the highest granularity.
The platform will continue to evolve and we hope that other features will soon complete this new version, for example:
Given this new version of data.gouv.fr, it is now up to the producers and re-users of public sector data to demonstrate the potential of Open Data. This potential can only be fully met with the release of fundamental public sector data as a founding principle for our society. Thus, we are still awaiting for the opening of business registers, detailed expenditures as well as non-personal data on prescriptions issued by healthcare providers.
Lastly, through the new data.gouv.fr, administrations are no longer solely responsible for the common good that is public sector data. Now this responsibility is shared with all stakeholders. It is thus up to all of us to demonstrate that this is the right choice.
Read Etalab’s press release online here
Last week I gave the Open Knowledge Foundation’s first 1-day Introduction to Open Data training course. Participants from a diverse group of organisations joined me at Friends House in London for a day of presentations, discussions and workshops.
The course course covers the basic concepts – what does it mean for data to be ‘open’? What are the reasons for Open Data and why is it such a hot topic? – as well as a range of things that organisations planning to release data need to consider. Licensing, collection, data protection, open data portals, community-building and more were all discussed during the day.
The eight participants came from organisations including Barnet council, the BBC, Global Witness and the African Development Bank. What united them was a need to learn more about open data – either with a view to publishing it, or equipping themselves with the tools to campaign more effectively for data release.
Thankfully, participants didn’t have to listen to me all day, since their range of experience and knowledge led to lively and fruitful discussions through the day. The course was well-received to judge from the feedback, which included ‘Excellent overview of the key concepts regarding Open Data’; ‘Great session, great location, great participants!’; and my favourite response, ‘A great introduction to the issue. Engaging delivery, more interesting than I expected!’
The course will run again in the new year. No dates are fixed yet but to express an interest in attending, or in running the course in-house for your organisation, contact email@example.com.
This article by Rufus Pollock, Founder and Director of the Open Knowledge Foundation, is cross-posted from “Telefonica Digital Hub” released on 5 December 2013.
Every day we face challenges – from the personal such as the quickest way to get to the work or what we should eat to global ones like climate change and how to sustainably feed and educate seven billion people. Here at the Open Knowledge Foundation we believe that opening up data – and turning that data into insight – can be crucial to addressing these challenges, and building a society in which is everyone – not just the few – are empowered with the knowledge they need to understand and effect change.
Open data and open knowledge are fundamentally about empowerment, about giving people – citizens, journalists, NGOs, companies and policy-makers – access to the information they need to understand and shape the world around them.
Through openness, we can ensure that technology and data improve science, governance, and society. Without it, we may see the increasing centralisation of knowledge – and therefore power – in the hands of the few, and a huge loss in our potential, individually and collectively, to innovate, understand, and improve the world around us.
Open Data is data that can be freely accessed, used, built upon and shared by anyone, for any purpose. With digital technology – from mobiles to the internet – increasingly everywhere, we’re seeing a data revolution. It’s a revolution both in the amount of data available and in our ability to use, and share, that data. And it’s changing everything we do – from how we travel home from work to how scientists do research, to how government set policy.
Now much of that data is personal, data about you and what you do – what you buy (your loyalty card, your bank statements), where you go (your mobile location or the apps you’ve installed) or who you interact with online (Facebook, Twitter etc). That data should never be “open”, freely accessible to anyone – its your data, and you should control who has access to it and how it is used.
But there’s a lot of data that isn’t personal. Data like the government’s budget, or road maps, or train times, or what’s in that candy bar, or where those jeans were made, or how much carbon dioxide was produced last year … Data like this could and should be open if the governments and corporations who control it can be persuaded to unlock it.
And that’s what we’ve been doing at the Open Knowledge Foundation for the last decade: working to get governments and corporations to unlock their data and make it open.
We’re doing this because of the power of open data to unleash innovation, creativity and insight. It has potential to empower anyone – whether it is an entrepreneur, an activist or a researcher – to get access to information and use it as they see fit. For example, citizens in Ghana using data on mining to ensure they get their fair share of tax revenues to pay for local schools and hospitals, or a startup like Open Healthcare UK using drug prescription data released by the UK government to identify hundreds of millions of pounds of savings for the health services.
It’s key to remember here that real impact doesn’t come directly from open data itself – no one’s life is immediately improved by a new open data initiative or an additional open dataset. Data has to be turned into knowledge, information into insight – and someone has to act on that knowledge.
To do that takes tools and skills – tools for processing, analysing and presenting data, and skills to do that. This is why this is another key area of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s work. With projects like SchoolofData we’re working to teach data skills to those who need them most, and in Open Knowledge Foundation Labs we’re creating lightweight tools to help people use data more easily and effectively.
Finally, it’s about people, the people who use data, and the people who use the insights from that data to drive change. We need to create a culture of “open data makers“, people able and ready to make apps and insights with open data. We need to connect open data with those who have the best questions and the biggest needs – a healthcare worker in Zambia, the London commuter travelling home – and go beyond the data geeks and the tech savvy.
Image “Neon Sign Open” by Justin Cormack, CC-BY