Support Us

You are browsing the archive for Open Government Data.

Open: A Short Film about Open Government, Open Data and Open Source

Guest - September 29, 2015 in Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, open knowledge

This is a guest post from Richard Pietro the writer and director of Open.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely familiar with the terms Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source. You probably understand how civic engagement is being radically transformed through these movements.

Therein lays the challenge: How can we reach everyone else? The ones who haven’t heard these terms and have little interest in civic engagement.

Here’s what I think: Civic engagement is a bad brand. If we’re to capture the attention of more people, we need to change its brand for the better.

When most people think of civic engagement, they probably imagine people in a community meeting somewhere yelling at each other. Or, maybe they picture a snooze-fest municipal planning and development consultation. Who has time to fit that in with everything else going on in their lives? I think most people would prefer to invest their spare time on something they’re passionate about; not sitting in a stuffy meeting! (If stuffy meetings ARE your passion, that’s cool too!)

Civic engagement is seen as dry and boring, or meant solely for the hyper-informed, hyper-engaged, policy-wonk. Between these two scenarios, you feel your voice will never be heard – so why bother? Civic engagement has bad PR. It isn’t viewed as fun for most people. Plus, I think there’s also an air of elitism, especially when it’s spoken as a right, duty, privilege, or punishment (judges issue community service as a punishment).

That’s why I’ve adopted a different perspective: Civic Engagement as Art. This was motivated via Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin” where he suggests that art shouldn’t only be thought of as fine art. Rather, he argues that art is a product of passion; art is creating something, and that’s what civic engagement is all about – creating something in your community that comes from passion.

I’m hoping that Open will introduce Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source to new people in simply because it is being done in a new way. My intention is to begin changing the civic engagement brand by having fun with it.

For example, I call myself an Open Government Fanboy, so Open uses as many pop-culture and “fanboy-type” references as we could squeeze in. As a matter of fact, I call the film a “spoofy adaptation” of The Matrix. What we did was take the scene where Morpheus is explaining to Neo the difference between the “Real World” and the “Matrix” and adapts it to the “Open World” versus the “Closed World.” We also included nods to Office Space, The Simpsons, Monty Python, and Star Trek.

As a bonus, I’m hoping that these familiar themes and references will make it easier for “newbies” to understand Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source space.

So, without further Apu (Simpsons fans will get it), I give you Open – The World’s first short film on Open Government, Open Data, and Open Source.

Watch Open


Writer and Director: Richard Pietro
Screenplay: Richard Pietro & Rick Weiss
Executive Producers: Keith Loo and Bruce Chau
Cinematographers: Gord Poon & Mike Donis
Technical Lead: Brian Wong
Composer and Sound Engineer: GARU
Actors: Mish Tam & Julian Friday

New Discussion Paper: “Democratising the Data Revolution”

Jonathan Gray - July 9, 2015 in Campaigning, Data Journalism, Open Data, Open Government Data, open knowledge, Policy, Research

Democratising the Data Revolution

“New technologies are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of data available, creating unprecedented possibilities for informing and transforming society and protecting the environment. Governments, companies, researchers and citizen groups are in a ferment of experimentation, innovation and adaptation to the new world of data, a world in which data are bigger, faster and more detailed than ever before. This is the data revolution.” – UN Data Revolution Group, 2014

What will the “data revolution” do? What will it be about? What will it count? What kinds of risks and harms might it bring? Whom and what will it serve? And who will get to decide?

Today we are launching a new discussion paper on “Democratising the Data Revolution”, which is intended to advance thinking and action around civil society engagement with the data revolution. It looks beyond the disclosure of existing information, towards more ambitious and substantive forms of democratic engagement with data infrastructures.1

It concludes with a series of questions about what practical steps institutions and civil society organisations might take to change what is measured and how, and how these measurements are put to work.

You can download the full PDF report here, or continue to read on in this blog post.

What Counts?

How might civil society actors shape the data revolution? In particular, how might they go beyond the question of what data is disclosed towards looking at what is measured in the first place? To kickstart discussion around this topic, we will look at three kinds of intervention: changing existing forms of measurement, advocating new forms of measurement and undertaking new forms of measurement.

Changing Existing Forms of Measurement

Rather than just focusing on the transparency, disclosure and openness of public information, civil society groups can argue for changing what is measured with existing data infrastructures. One example of this is recent campaigning around company ownership in the UK. Advocacy groups wanted to unpick networks of corporate ownership and control in order to support their campaigning and investigations around tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

While the UK company register recorded information about “nominal ownership”, it did not include information about so-called “beneficial ownership”, or who ultimately benefits from the ownership and control of companies. Campaigners undertook an extensive programme of activities to advocate for changes and extensions to existing data infrastructures – including via legislation, software systems, and administrative protocols.2

Advocating New Forms of Measurement

As well as changing or recalibrating existing forms of measurement, campaigners and civil society organisations can make the case for the measurement of things which were not previously measured. For example, over the past several decades social and political campaigning has resulted in new indicators about many different issues – such as gender inequality, health, work, disability, pollution or education.3 In such cases activists aimed to establish a given indicator as important and relevant for public institutions, decision makers, and broader publics – in order to, for example, inform policy development or resource allocation.

Undertaking New Forms of Measurement

Historically, many civil society organisations and advocacy groups have collected their own data to make the case for action on issues that they work on – from human rights abuses to endangered species.

Recently there have been several data journalism projects which highlight gaps in what is officially counted. The Migrant Files is an open database containing information about over 29,000 people who died on their way to Europe since 2000, collated from publicly available sources. It was created by a network of journalists (coordinated by J++) who were concerned that this data was not being systematically collected by European institutions. In a similar vein The Counted project from The Guardian records information about deaths in police custody in the US, explicitly in response to the lack of official data collection on this topic.

The Migrant Files

The Role of the Open Data Movement

The nascent open data movement has often focused on the release of pre-existing information about things which are already routinely measured by public institutions. Advocates have pushed for the release of datasets under open licenses in machine-readable formats to facilitate widespread re-use – whether to develop new applications and services, or to facilitate new forms of journalism and advocacy. Datasets are often published via data portals, of which there are now hundreds around the world at local, regional, national and supranational levels.

As well as opening up new datasets, some public institutions have implemented mechanisms to gather input and feedback on open data release priorities, such as:

  • Advisory panels and user groups – e.g. as the UK’s Open Data User Group (ODUG);
  • Dedicated staff – e.g. community management or “Chief Data Officer” positions;
  • User engagement channels – e.g. social media accounts, forums and mailing lists;
  • Data request mechanisms – e.g.’s dataset request service or the EU Open Data Portal’s “Suggest a Dataset” form;
  • Consultation processes – e.g. Open Government Partnership National Action Plans;
  • Solicitation for input around data standards – e.g. the US’s Federal Spending Transparency issue tracker on GitHub.

In principle these kinds of mechanisms could be used not just to inform priorities for the release of existing datasets – but also in order to facilitate engagement between institutions and civil society actors around what should be measured by the public sector and how.

To use a metaphor, if data can be compared to photography, then might the open data movement play a role in intervening not just around access and circulation of snapshots taken by public institutions, but also around what is depicted and how it is shot?

Questions for Discussion

We would like to catalyse discussion and gather input about how to increase civil society engagement around the data revolution and questions about what should be measured and how. To this end, we invite advocacy groups, journalists, public institutions, data users, researchers and others to respond to the following questions.

What Can Civil Society Groups Do?
  • What can civil society organisations do to engage with the data revolution?
  • What role might the nascent open data movement play in mediating between civil society organisations and public institutions around what should be measured?
  • What opportunities does the data revolution present for civil society organisations?
  • What are the best examples of democratic interventions to change, advocate or create new forms of measurement (both present and past)?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to greater civil society engagement with the data revolution? How might these be addressed?
  • Which kinds of transnational challenges and issues (e.g. climate change, tax base erosion) are currently inadequately dealt with by national data infrastructures?
  • What areas might new kinds of measurement make the biggest difference, and how?
  • What factors are most important in ensuring that data leads to action?
  • What might civil society groups do to flag potential risks and unwanted consequences of data infrastructures as well as their benefits?
What Can Public Institutions Do?
  • What can public institutions do to better understand the interests and priorities of civil society organisations around what should be measured?
  • Are there examples of where open data initiatives have facilitated significant changes to existing datasets, or the creation of new kinds of datasets?
  • Which kinds of mechanisms might be most effective in understanding and responding to the interests of civil society organisations around what is measured and how?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to public institutions responding more effectively to the data needs and interests of civil society groups? How might these be addressed?

How to Respond

We welcome responses on these and other topics via the channels below:

  1. In this context we understand data infrastructures as composites of technical, legal and social systems (e.g. software, laws, policies, practices, standards) involved in the creation and management of data. 

  2. See: Gray, J. & Davies, T (2015) “Fighting Phantom Firms in the UK: From Opening Up Datasets to Reshaping Data Infrastructures?”. Working paper available at: 

  3. See: Bruno, I., Didier, E., and Vitale, T. (eds) (2014) Statistics and Activism. Special issue of Partecipazione e conflitto. The Open Journal of Sociopolitical Studies. Available at: 

UK Crime Data: Feeling is Believing

Meg Foulkes - July 1, 2015 in Featured, Legal, Open Data, Open Government Data, open knowledge

Latest crime data shows that the UK is getting significantly more ‘peaceful’. Last month, the Institute for Economics and Peace published the UK Peace Index, revealing UK crime figures have fallen the most of all EU countries in the past decade. Homicide rates, to take one indicator, have halved over the last decade.

Crime Scene by Alan Cleaver, Flickr, CC-BY

Crime Scene by Alan Cleaver, Flickr, CC-BY

But the British public still feels that crime levels are rising. How can opening up crime data play a part in convincing us we are less likely to experience crime than ever before?

The ‘Perception Gap’

The discrepancy between crime data and perceptions of the likelihood of crime is particularly marked in the UK. Although it has been found that a majority of the public broadly trust official statistics, the figures are markedly lower for those relating to crime. In one study, 85% of people agreed that the Census accurately reflects changes in the UK, but only 63% said the same of crime statistics.

Credibility of Police Data

Police forces have been publishing crime statistics in the UK since 2008, using their own web-based crime mapping tools or via the national crime mapping facility ( and This has been purportedly for the purpose of improving engagement with local communities alongside other policy objectives, such as promoting transparency. But allegations of ‘figure fiddling’ on the part of the police have undermined the data’s credibility and in 2014, the UK Statistics Authority withdrew its gold-standard status from police figures, pointing to ‘accumulating evidence’ of unreliability.

The UK’s open data site for crime figures allows users to download street-level crime and outcome data in CSV format and explore the API containing detailed crime data and information about individual police forces and neighbourhood teams. It also provides Custom CSV download and JSON API helper interfaces so you can more easily access subsets of the data.

Crime map from

But the credibility of the data has been called into question. Just recently, data relating to stop-search incidents for children aged under-12 was proved ‘inaccurate’. The site itself details many issues which call the accuracy of the data into question: inconsistent geocoding policies in police forces; “Six police forces we suspect may be double-reporting certain types of incidents“; ‘siloed systems’ within police records; and differing IT systems from regional force to force.

In summary, we cannot be sure the ‘data provided is fully accurate or consistent.’

The Role the Media Plays: If it Bleeds, it Leads

In response to persistent and widespread public disbelief, the policies of successive UK governments on crime have toughened: much tougher sentencing, more people in prison, more police on the streets. When the British public were asked why they think there is more crime now than in the past, more than half (57%) stated that it was because of what they see on television and almost half (48%) said it was because of what they read in newspapers [Ipsos MORI poll on Closing the Gaps. One tabloid newspaper, exclaimed just recently: “Rape still at record levels and violent crime rises” and “Crime shows biggest rise for a decade“. As the adage goes, If it Bleeds, it Leads.

Crime Data and Mistrust of the Police

Those engaged in making crime figures meaningful to the public face unique challenges. When Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993, and the following public inquiry found institutional racism to be at the heart of the Met police, public trust towards the police was shattered. Since then, the police have claimed to have rid their ranks of racism entirely.

Police by Luis Jou García, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Police by Luis Jou García, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

But many remain less than convinced. According to official statistics, in 1999-2000, a black person was five times more likely than a white person to be stopped by police. A decade later, they were seven times more likely. One criminologist commented: “Claims that the Lawrence inquiry’s finding of institutional racism no longer apply have a hollow ring when we look at the evidence on police stops.” [Michael Shiner reported in the Guardian].

Equally, the police distrust the public too. The murder of two young, female police officers in Manchester in 2012 ignited the long-rumbling debate over whether the police should be armed. So the divide between the police and the public is a serious one.

A Different Tack?

In 2011, a review was undertaken by the UK Statistics Authority into Crime Data. Its recommendations included:

  • Improving the presentation of crime statistics to make them more authoritative
  • Reviewing the availability of local crime and criminal justice data on government websites to identify opportunities for consolidation
  • Sharing of best practice and improvements in metadata and providing reassurance on the quality of police crime records.

It’s clear that the UK police recognise the importance of improving their publication of data. But it seems that opening data alone won’t fix the shattered trust between the public and the police, even if the proof that Britons are safer than ever before is there in transparent, easily navigable data. We need to go further back in the chain of provenance, scrutinise the reporting methods of the police for instance.

But this is about forgiveness too, and the British public might just not be ready for that yet.

Pioneering Fellowships Will Help Rewire Africa’s Governments

Katelyn Rogers - November 25, 2014 in Open Data, Open Government Data

Open Knowledge and Code for Africa launch pilot Open Government Fellowship Programme. Apply to become a fellow today. This blog announcement is available in French here and Portuguese here.

C4A_logo (1) OpenKnowledge_LOGO_COLOUR_CMYK PforOD

Do you want to help us build African governments and societies that are more accountable and responsive to citizens?

We are looking for the best ideas for harnessing the power of digital technologies & open data, to improve the way that governments & citizens interact.

Code for Africa and Open Knowledge are offering three pilot Open Government Fellowships to give outstanding changemakers the skills, tools and resources necessary to kickstart open government initiatives in their countries.

The six-month fellowships are intended to empower pioneers who are already working in the open data or civic engagement communities, and are designed to augment their existing ‘day jobs’ rather than remove them from their organisations. Successful fellows will therefore only be expected to work part-time on their fellowship projects (which could include new initiatives at their ‘day jobs’), but will receive strategic and material support throughout their fellowship.

This support will include a modest $1,000 per month stipend, a $3,000 seed fund to kickstart projects, a travel budget to attend local and international events, access to workspace in Code for Africa affiliate civic technology labs across the continent, and technology support from Code for Africa developers and data analysts. Fellows will also be able to tap into Open Knowledge’s School of Data networks and resource kits, and its global network of specialist communities, as well as Code for Africa affiliate communities such as Hacks/Hackers.

The deadline for applications is 15 December 2014. The fellowships are scheduled to start in February 2015 and run until July 2015.

We are looking for candidates that fit the following profile:

  • Currently engaged in the open government and/or related communities . We are looking to support individuals already actively participating in the open government community
  • Understands the role of civil society and citizen based organisations in bringing about positive change through advocacy and campaigning
  • Understands the role and importance of monitoring government commitments on open data as well as on other open government policy related issues
  • Has facilitation skills and enjoys community-building (both online and offline).
  • Is eager to learn from and be connected with an international community of open government experts, advocates and campaigners
  • Currently living and working in Africa. Due to limited resources and our desire to develop a focused and impactful pilot programme, we are limiting applications to those currently living and working in Africa. We hope to expand the programme to the rest of the world starting in 2015.

The fellowship will initially be limited to African countries where either Code for Africa or Open Knowledge have extensive resources or deep partnerships. Applicants should therefore be based in one of the following countries: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Tunisia, Tanzania, and Uganda. We hope to expand the initiative to include additional countries later in 2015.

The selection committee will pay particular attention to applicants’ current engagement in the open government movement at local, national and/or international level. The committee will also be interested in applicants’ ideas around proposed strategic partnerships and pilot projects for their fellowships. Neither Code for Africa nor Open Knowledge are being prescriptive about the proposed focus or scope for projects, but will prefer projects that demonstrate clear visions with tangible outputs. This could include fellows working with a specific government department or agency to make a key dataset available. It could also include helping communities use available data, or organising a series of events addressing a specific topic or challenge citizens are currently facing.

Successful candidates will commit to work on their fellowship activities a minimum of six days a month, including attending online and offline training, organising events, and being an active member both Open Knowledge and Code for Africa communities.

While the pilot fellowships are limited to 16 countries initially, we are exploring ways to expand it to other regions. Get in touch if you would like to work with us to do so.

Do you have questions? See more about the Fellowship Programme here and have a looks at this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. If this doesn’t answer your question, email us at Katelyn[dot]Rogers[at]

Not sure if you fit the profile? Drop us a line!

Convinced? Apply now to become a Open Government fellow. If you would prefer to submit your application in French or Portuguese, translations of the application form are available in French here and in Portuguese here.

The application will be open until the 15th of December 2014 and the programme will start in February 2015. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Joint Submission to UN Data Revolution Group

Rufus Pollock - October 16, 2014 in Featured, News, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy

The following is the joint Submission to the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution from the World Wide Web Foundation, Open Knowledge, Fundar and the Open Institute, October 15, 2014. It derives from and builds on the Global Open Data Initiative’s Declaration on Open Data.

To the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution

Societies cannot develop in a fair, just and sustainable manner unless citizens are able to hold governments and other powerful actors to account, and participate in the decisions fundamentally affecting their well-being. Accountability and participation, in turn, are meaningless unless citizens know what their government is doing, and can freely access government data and information, share that information with other citizens, and act on it when necessary.

A true “revolution” through data will be one that enables all of us to hold our governments accountable for fulfilling their obligations, and to play an informed and active role in decisions fundamentally affecting their well-being.

We believe such a revolution requires ambitious commitments to make data open; invest in the ability of all stakeholders to use data effectively; and to commit to protecting the rights to information, free expression, free association and privacy, without which data-driven accountability will wither on the vine.

In addition, opening up government data creates new opportunities for SMEs and entrepreneurs, drives improved efficiency and service delivery innovation within government, and advances scientific progress. The initial costs (including any lost revenue from licenses and access charges) will be repaid many times over by the growth of knowledge and innovative data-driven businesses and services that create jobs, deliver social value and boost GDP.

The Sustainable Development Goals should include measurable, time-bound steps to:

1. Make data open by default

Government data should be open by default, and this principle should ultimately be entrenched in law. Open means that data should be freely available for use, reuse and redistribution by anyone for any purpose and should be provided in a machine-readable form (specifically it should be open data as defined by the Open Definition and in line with the 10 Open Data Principles).

  • Government information management (including procurement requirements and research funding, IT management, and the design of new laws, policies and procedures) should be reformed as necessary to ensure that such systems have built-in features ensuring that open data can be released without additional effort.
  • Non-compliance, or poor data quality, should not be used as an excuse for non-publication of existing data.
  • Governments should adopt flexible intellectual property and copyright policies that encourage unrestricted public reuse and analysis of government data.

2. Put accountability at the core of the data revolution

A data revolution requires more than selective release of the datasets that are easiest or most comfortable for governments to open. It should empower citizens to hold government accountable for the performance of its core functions and obligations. However, research by the Web Foundation and Open Knowledge shows that critical accountability data such as company registers, land record, and government contracts are least likely to be freely available to the public.

At a minimum, governments endorsing the SDGs should commit to the open release by 2018 of all datasets that are fundamental to citizen-state accountability. This should include:

  • data on public revenues, budgets and expenditure;
  • who owns and benefits from companies, charities and trusts;
  • who exercises what rights over key natural resources (land records, mineral licenses, forest concessions etc) and on what terms;
  • public procurement records and government contracts;
  • office holders, elected and un-elected and their declared financial interests and details of campaign contributions;
  • public services, especially health and education: who is in charge, responsible, how they are funded, and data that can be used to assess their performance;
  • constitution, laws, and records of debates by elected representatives;
  • crime data, especially those related to human rights violations such as forced disappearance and human trafficking;
  • census data;
  • the national map and other essential geodata.

    • Governments should create comprehensive indices of existing government data sets, whether published or not, as a foundation for new transparency policies, to empower public scrutiny of information management, and to enable policymakers to identify gaps in existing data creation and collection.

 3. Provide no-cost access to government data

One of the greatest barriers to access to ostensibly publicly-available information is the cost imposed on the public for access–even when the cost is minimal. Most government information is collected for governmental purposes, and the existence of user fees has little to no effect on whether the government gathers the data in the first place.

  • Governments should remove fees for access, which skew the pool of who is willing (or able) to access information and preclude transformative uses of the data that in turn generates business growth and tax revenues.

  • Governments should also minimise the indirect cost of using and re-using data by adopting commonly owned, non-proprietary (or “open”) formats that allow potential users to access the data without the need to pay for a proprietary software license.

  • Such open formats and standards should be commonly adopted across departments and agencies to harmonise the way information is published, reducing the transaction costs of accessing, using and combining data.

4. Put the users first

Experience shows that open data flounders without a strong user community, and the best way to build such a community is by involving users from the very start in designing and developing open data systems.

  • Within government: The different branches of government (including the legislature and judiciary, as well as different agencies and line ministries within the executive) stand to gain important benefits from sharing and combining their data. Successful open data initiatives create buy-in and cultural change within government by establishing cross-departmental working groups or other structures that allow officials the space they need to create reliable, permanent, ambitious open data policies.

  • Beyond government: Civil society groups and businesses should be considered equal stakeholders alongside internal government actors. Agencies leading on open data should involve and consult these stakeholders – including technologists, journalists, NGOs, legislators, other governments, academics and researchers, private industry, and independent members of the public – at every stage in the process.

  • Stakeholders both inside and outside government should be fully involved in identifying priority datasets and designing related initiatives that can help to address key social or economic problems, foster entrepreneurship and create jobs. Government should support and facilitate the critical role of both private sector and public service intermediaries in making data useful.

5. Invest in capacity

Governments should start with initiatives and requirements that are appropriate to their own current capacity to create and release credible data, and that complement the current capacity of key stakeholders to analyze and reuse it. At the same time, in order to unlock the full social, political and economic benefits of open data, all stakeholders should invest in rapidly broadening and deepening capacity.

  • Governments and their development partners need to invest in making data simple to navigate and understand, available in all national languages, and accessible through appropriate channels such as mobile phone platforms where appropriate.

  • Governments and their development partners should support training for officials, SMEs and CSOs to tackle lack of data and web skills, and should make complementary investments in improving the quality and timeliness of government statistics.

6. Improve the quality of official data

Poor quality, coverage and timeliness of government information – including administrative and sectoral data, geospatial data, and survey data – is a major barrier to unlocking the full value of open data.

  • Governments should develop plans to implement the Paris21 2011 Busan Action Plan, which calls for increased resources for statistical and information systems, tackling important gaps and weaknesses (including the lack of gender disaggregation in key datasets), and fully integrating statistics into decision-making.

  • Governments should bring their statistical efforts into line with international data standards and schemas, to facilitate reuse and analysis across various jurisdictions.

  • Private firms and NGOs that collect data which could be used alongside government statistics to solve public problems in areas such as disease control, disaster relief, urban planning, etc. should enter into partnerships to make this data available to government agencies and the public without charge, in fully anonymized form and subject to robust privacy protections.

7. Foster more accountable, transparent and participatory governance

A data revolution cannot succeed in an environment of secrecy, fear and repression of dissent.

  • The SDGs should include robust commitments to uphold fundamental rights to freedom of expression, information and association; foster independent and diverse media; and implement robust safeguards for personal privacy, as outlined in the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

  • In addition, in line with their commitments in the UN Millennium Declaration (2000) and the Declaration of the Open Government Partnership (2011), the SDGs should include concrete steps to tackle gaps in participation, inclusion, integrity and transparency in governance, creating momentum and legitimacy for reform through public dialogue and consensus.


This submission derives and follows on from the Global Open Data Inititiave’s Global Open Data Declaration which was jointly created by Fundar, Open Institute, Open Knowledge and World Wide Web Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation with input from civil society organizations around the world.

The full text of the Declaration can be found here:

Brazilian Government Develops Toolkit to Guide Institutions in both Planning and Carrying Out Open Data Initatives

Guest - October 7, 2014 in Open Data, Open Government Data

This is a guest post by Nitai Silva of the Brazilian government’s open data team and was originally published on the Open Knowledge Brazil blog here.

Recently Brazilian government released the Kit de Dados Abertos (open data toolkit). The toolkit is made up of documents describing the process, methods and techniques for implementing an open data policy within an institution. Its goal is to both demystify the logic of opening up data and to share with public employees observed best practices that have emerged from a number of Brazilian government initiatives.

The toolkit focuses on the Plano de Dados Abertos – PDA (Open Data Plan) as the guiding instrument where commitments, agenda and policy implementation cycles in the institution are registered. We believe that making each public agency build it’s own PDA is a way to perpetuate the open data policy, making it a state policy and not just a transitory governmental action.

It is organized to facilitate the implementation of the main activities cycles that must be observed in an institution and provides links and manuals to assist in these activities. Emphasis is given to the actors/roles involved in each step and their responsibilities. It also helps to define a central person to monitor and maintain the PDA. The following diagram summarizes the macro steps of implementing an open data policy in an institution:


Processo Sistêmico de um PDA


Open data theme has been part of the Brazilian government’s agenda for over three years. Over this period, we have accomplished a number of important achievement including passing the Lei de Acesso à Informação – LAI (FOIA) (Access to Information Law), making commitments as part of our Open Government Partnership Action Plan and developing the Infraestrutura Nacional de Dados Abertos (INDA) (Open Data National Infrastructure). However, despite these accomplishments, for many public managers, open data activities remain the exclusive responsibility of the Information Technology department of their respective institution. This gap is, in many ways, the cultural heritage of the hierarchical, departmental model of carrying out public policy and is observed in many institutions.

The launch of the toolkit is the first of a series of actions prepared by the Ministry of Planning to leverage open data initiatives in federal agencies, as was defined in the Brazilian commitments in the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The next step is to conduct several tailor made workshops designed to support major agencies in the federal government in the implementation of open data.

Despite it having been built with the aim of expanding the quality and quantity of open data made available by the federal executive branch agencies, we also made a conscious effort to make the toolkit generic enough generic enough for other branches and levels of government.

About the toolkit development:

It is also noteworthy to mention that the toolkit was developed on Github. Although the Github is known as an online and distributed environment for develop software, it has already being used for co-creation of text documents for a long time, even by governments. The toolkit is still hosted there, which allows anyone to make changes and propose improvements. The invitation is open, we welcome and encourage your collaboration.

Finally I would like to thank Augusto Herrmann, Christian Miranda, Caroline Burle and Jamila Venturini for participating in the drafting of this post!

A Data Revolution that Works for All of Us

Rufus Pollock - September 24, 2014 in Featured, Open Data, Open Development, Open Government Data, Our Work, Policy

Many of today’s global challenges are not new. Economic inequality, the unfettered power of corporations and markets, the need to cooperate to address global problems and the unsatisfactory levels of accountability in democratic governance – these were as much problems a century ago as they remain today.

What has changed, however – and most markedly – is the role that new forms of information and information technology could potentially play in responding to these challenges.

What’s going on?

The incredible advances in digital technology mean we have an unprecedented ability to create, share and access information. Furthermore, these technologies are increasingly not just the preserve of the rich, but are available to everyone – including the world’s poorest. As a result, we are living in a (veritable) data revolution – never before has so much data – public and personal – been collected, analysed and shared.

However, the benefits of this revolution are far from being shared equally.

On the one hand, some governments and corporations are already using this data to greatly increase their ability to understand – and shape – the world around them. Others, however, including much of civil society, lack the necessary access and capabilities to truly take advantage of this opportunity. Faced with this information inequality, what can we do?

How can we enable people to hold governments and corporations to account for the decisions they make, the money they spend and the contracts they sign? How can we unleash the potential for this information to be used for good – from accelerating research to tackling climate change? And, finally, how can we make sure that personal data collected by governments and corporations is used to empower rather than exploit us?

So how should we respond?

Fundamentally, we need to make sure that the data revolution works for all of us. We believe that key to achieving this is to put “open” at the heart of the digital age. We need an open data revolution.

We must ensure that essential public-interest data is open, freely available to everyone. Conversely, we must ensure that data about me – whether collected by governments, corporations or others – is controlled by and accessible to me. And finally, we have to empower individuals and communities – especially the most disadvantaged – with the capabilities to turn data into the knowledge and insight that can drive the change they seek.

In this rapidly changing information age – where the rules of the game are still up for grabs – we must be active, seizing the opportunities we have, if we are to ensure that the knowledge society we create is an open knowledge society, benefiting the many not the few, built on principles of collaboration not control, sharing not monopoly, and empowerment not exploitation.

Open data for Development Training Starts Tomorrow!

Katelyn Rogers - September 16, 2014 in Open Data, Open Government Data

This is a guest post written by Justyna Krol of the UNDP and originally posted on the UNDP blog.

>> Is data literacy the key to citizen engagement in anti-corruption efforts?

Access to open data is transforming the way we live of our lives, and the conversation in our region is just beginning.

Governments are opening their data, joining the Open Government Partnership, and trying to work together with the civil society organizations and the private sector to build an open data ecosystem in their countries.

This Wednesday, public officials from fifteen countries in the region will meet in Istanbul for the Open Data for Social and Economic Development Training.


In two days of intensive sessions, we will be discussing a number of pressing topics.

On the day one, the focus will be on the arguments for and against implementation of the open data agenda in the region.

We will look at how best to build an open data ecosystem in the country. Three sessions will provide space to discuss country-specific experiences with opening the data, alongside some of the challenges governments in the region might face.

The second day will be devoted to the technical aspects. We will analyze what it means to really open the data, where to start, and how much does it cost. We will test a few useful tools, and discuss the follow-up to the event for individual countries.

For those of you, who are interested in joining the event online, we are going to live stream the first session delivered by the World Bank on Wednesday (9:00 AM EEST).

A presentation by Oleg Petrov and Andrew Stott will be followed by a panel discussion with experts from Moldova, fYR Macedonia, and Kosovo* sharing their experiences in opening governmental data.

To watch this session, join us the hangout on air or simply play this video:

And of course, we’ll be tweeting!

I am proud to say that the event is co-sponsored by the Partnership for Open Data, which also means that we will have with us fantastic experts and trainers from: the World Bank, the Open Data Institute and the Open Knowledge Foundation. What a treat!

Join us online this Wednesday and Thursday and stay tuned for post-event blog posts and presentations!


Open Government countries ranking 2013 (based on OGP data)

Guest - August 22, 2014 in Open Government Data

This is a guest post by Alberto Abella, head of the Spanish Chapter of Open Knowledge, and originally appeared at

Open Government (ogov) is possibly next democracy’s milestone.

Should you care about open government? Possibly, because it guarantees transparency and accountability. But not only IMHO. In 2014 this passive role for the citizens is not enough. The disruptive point about open government is the use of collective intelligence to take smarter political decisions for current and future challenges.

OGP is a global organization with 64 member countries helping each other to implement open government policies. Its members publish and deploy yearly an open goverment plan with specific actions. These plans are reviewed not only by countries’ authorities but also by the civil society. This social dialogue review include an Independent Reporting Mechanism.


Let’s review results for 2013. Raw data for this analysis are published by OGP, and anybody can download them (commitments and achievements).Good!

Find in the graph 2013 results about what countries really implement of their plans.In order to get these results four factors have been taken into account :

First, if the action is specific of an ogov approach, second, if the action really impact on current politics, third if the action is new or is the same from past years. And last but not least, if the action has been really implemented completely, partially, or even withdrawn.

Three medals goes to Slovakia, Moldova and Croatia.

You can find the metric to create this graph here. It is true that metric is far from being perfect, so I expect you comments.

The good performers

Good performers are those countries which provide tiny ambitious plans but they implement quite above average. There are 3 remarkable countries Paraguay, Denmark and Czeck Republic. Data


What about the pretenders? Pretenders are those who provide very ambitious plans but fail in implementation.

The three pretenders are Estonia, Romania and Greece out of those who are in the first 25. Data.

Last but they are the least

These countries does not provide their information on time, so the analysis ranks them at the bottom

USA, UK, South Africa, Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil. Data

Over ambition is tempting in politics. Here you can find a classification of the countries’ plans based on the ambition of their actions, in terms of impact, new actions and ogov relevance.

Wait and see 2014.

Open Knowledge Ireland celebrate FOI victory

Flora Fleischer - July 3, 2014 in OKF Ireland, Open Government Data

Open Knowledge Ireland are this week celebrating partial victory in their campaign against application fees for FOI requests. Here is their press release.


Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes Minister Howlin’s announcement that Government has approved the removal of an application fee for Freedom of Information Requests

Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes the announcement by the Minister that the suggested reforms to the FOI fees regime includes the removal of the €15 application fee for non-personal requests.

On April 10th 2014 Open Knowledge Ireland together with a squad of Freedom of Information advocates for Ireland wrote an Open Letter to Minister Brendan Howlin asking to leverage the Government’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership as an opportunity to remove fees at all stages of FOI and AIE requests and appeals. The letter was signed by 74 signatories urging the Minister to consider the points outlined for his upcoming FOI bill.

On May 7th, at the Civil Society Day, which was held on the eve of the OGP Europe regional meeting, the upfront fees charged in Ireland for submission of FOI requests were brought to the attention of 120 civil society and government representatives from 30 countries.

And today we are pleased to see the Minister is taking a step in the right direction!

Denis Parfenov, Open Knowledge Ambassador for Ireland and one of the Founders of the Open Knowledge Chapter in Ireland, in his reaction today said that he “warmly welcomes this announcement”.

This is a great success story for all citizens and FOI advocates who were involved in pushing to drop FOI fees as part of Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. Open Knowledge Ireland together with Irish citizens and other Irish civil society organisations had been pushing to include a commitment on free FOI requests into the 2 year Action Plan and we are very pleased that the Minister has considered the recommendations of the Irish Civil Society OGP Network.

Flora, Co-Founder at Open Knowledge Ireland gives an early reaction to the announcement and has collated early voices from passionate FOI advocates in Ireland:

Open Knowledge Ireland is adopting a cautious position to the FOI reforms announced today. While we’re welcoming the announcements and Minister Howlin’s consideration of the Open Government Partnership principles, we still need to wait until we see the full set of proposed amendments in order to make an accurate assessment of the impact of all the changes.

Get Updates