Support Us

You are browsing the archive for Open Government Data.

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.

Ireland

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.

Stop the harassment of Hungarian NGOs by the government

Open Knowledge - June 11, 2014 in Open Government Data, Stop Secret Contracts

kmonitorlogoThe Hungarian government has started to target transparency and humanitarian NGOs.

The political climate in Hungary has been deteriorating sharply since the re-election of the government led by Viktor Orban. The latest indication of a harsher political environment is the harassment of humanitarian and transparency NGOs. The Hungarian government accuses the targeted NGOs to be connection to the opposition and to be under foreign influence on the basis that the NGOs in question received funds from the Norwegian civil society fund. Among the organisations are transparency NGOs, such as K-Monitor and Atlatszo – documenting and investigating corruption cases in Hungary. Open Knowledge maintains close contact and collaborations with K-Monitor including but not limited to the Stop Secret Contracts campaign and the School of Data.

Open Knowledge stands in solidarity with Hungarian civil society and NGOs. The selection and intimidation towards NGOs that act to increase transparency of the government is damaging to civil society and a healthy democracy. Independent civil society organisations are a key to hold up the checks and balances necessary in a democratic state. We urge the Hungarian government to stop the targeted harassment of NGOs immediately.

K-Monitor’s work on investigating corruption is important and aligned with many Open Knowledge activities around transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption. Open government information combined with an enabling environment for civil society is vital for accountability. Open information about public finances, budgets, spending and contracts is important and helps citizens understand what their government does. Among others K-Monitor collects public procurement data to help citizens understand what their government spends their money on.

If you are interested in this topic, join our global campaign to stop secret government contracting and secure critical open information to support NGOs like K-monitor in their work. (K-Monitor is a member of the StopSecretContracts.org coalition.)

Newsflash! OKFestival Programme Launches

Beatrice Martini - June 4, 2014 in Events, Free Culture, Join us, Network, News, OKFest, OKFestival, Open Access, Open Data, Open Development, Open Economics, Open Education, Open GLAM, Open Government Data, Open Humanities, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Open Research, Open Science, Open Spending, Open Standards, Panton Fellows, Privacy, Public Domain, Training, Transparency, Working Groups

At last, it’s here!

Check out the details of the OKFestival 2014 programme – including session descriptions, times and facilitator bios here!

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 4.11.42 PM

We’re using a tool called Sched to display the programme this year and it has several great features. Firstly, it gives individual session organisers the ability to update the details on the session they’re organising; this includes the option to add slides or other useful material. If you’re one of the facilitators we’ll be emailing you to give you access this week.

Sched also enables every user to create their own personalised programme to include the sessions they’re planning to attend. We’ve also colour-coded the programme to help you when choosing which conversations you want to follow: the Knowledge stream is blue, the Tools stream is red and the Society stream is green. You’ll also notice that there are a bunch of sessions in purple which correspond to the opening evening of the festival when we’re hosting an Open Knowledge Fair. We’ll be providing more details on what to expect from that shortly!

Another way to search the programme is by the subject of the session – find these listed on the right hand side of the main schedule – just click on any of them to see a list of sessions relevant to that subject.

As you check out the individual session pages, you’ll see that we’ve created etherpads for each session where notes can be taken and shared, so don’t forget to keep an eye on those too. And finally; to make the conversations even easier to follow from afar using social media, we’re encouraging session organisers to create individual hashtags for their sessions. You’ll find these listed on each session page.

We received over 300 session suggestions this year – the most yet for any event we’ve organised – and we’ve done our best to fit in as many as we can. There are 66 sessions packed into 2.5 days, plus 4 keynotes and 2 fireside chats. We’ve also made space for an unconference over the 2 core days of the festival, so if you missed out on submitting a proposal, there’s still a chance to present your ideas at the event: come ready to pitch! Finally, the Open Knowledge Fair has added a further 20 demos – and counting – to the lineup and is a great opportunity to hear about more projects. The Programme is full to bursting, and while some time slots may still change a little, we hope you’ll dive right in and start getting excited about July!

We think you’ll agree that Open Knowledge Festival 2014 is shaping up to be an action-packed few days – so if you’ve not bought your ticket yet, do so now! Come join us for what will be a memorable 2014 Festival!

See you in Berlin! Your OKFestival 2014 Team

Opening up governance: OpenMENA joins public consultation process in Tunisia

Rayna Stamboliyska - May 23, 2014 in Open Government Data, OpenMENA, Transparency

OGP.Dialogue

This is a cross-post from the OpenMENA blog. Find the original here.

Civil society group OpenGovTN have asked our OpenMENA collaboration of Local Groups to join a forthcoming national public consultation in Tunesia. This aims to build an action plan which will bring greater openness and more collaborative governance to Tunisia, and the process, referred to as OGP.Dialogue, will run starting 28 May until September 2014. And we are delighted to be part of it!

Some background, please?

As you may have heard, Tunisia recently joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Launched back in 2011, the OGP aims “to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, OGP has grown from 8 countries to the 64 participating countries. In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms.” Prior to expressing interest in joining the OGP, a country has to fulfill several eligibility requirements in four key areas (Fiscal Transparency, Access to Information, Income and Asset Disclosures, and Citizen Engagement). Jordan was actually the first MENA country to join the Partnership.

Tunisia officially joined the OGP earlier in 2014: the country has now to present an action plan where it lists the commitments it makes in order to increase openness, transparency and accountability in the governance process. As per the OGP requirements, after joining the program, the country’s government has to work with civil society to elaborate an action plan.

OGP.Dialogue

In comes OGP.Dialogue, the Tunisian national public consultation, initiated by civil society organisations and joined by the government in an effort to bolster a truly participatory process. More than 40 Tunisian NGOs has confirmed their involvement, Touensa being the initiative’s transparency watchdog and TACID Network coordinating local associations in order to include rural areas. Civil society members and government officials will thus strive to gather and narrow down a set of concrete and measurable commitments. These will be Tunisia’s action plan for the next two years: a roadmap to reforms in the areas of transparency, integrity and citizen participation.

OGP.Dialogue: bootstrapping a participatory governance

OGP.Dialogue will be organised in an ambitious yet strategised fashion. Impulsed by OpenGovTN, an umbrella collective coordinating numerous Tunisian NGOs, the OGP.Dialogue will include a few different yet complementary approaches:

The consultation process will start on 28 May 2014 and numerous NGOs will participate, either through on-site activities in the cities where they are based in or through traveling across the country. Thus, the widest possible number of people will be able to have a say and provide valuable citizen input to the forthcoming action plan.

In parallel, an online platform will be launched. Its aim is three-fold: first, it will enable even wider participation. Second, an important part of Tunisians live abroad; thus, an online platform will allow them to contribute. Third, the platform will help structure the contributions. Indeed, most of those will happen asynchronously and will emerge from many and diverse stakeholders. It is therefore crucial to safeguard these insights all by making them available throughout the whole duration of the consultation – and beyond.

In order to assess the progress of the whole process, an event will be held in the capital city of Tunis on 20 and 21 June. It will welcome a wide number of stakeholders: NGOs, government representatives, OGP Support Unit staff, external experts. The event will be a series of public discussions on the main OGP topics where a member of the civil society meets a government representative to discuss the proposed approach. This ‘reality check’ is needed in order to harmonise the efforts: the action plan is an endeavour that the Tunisian government takes seriously and it is also working on narrowing down concrete commitments.

For the discussion between the civil society and the government representative to be as smooth and fruitful as possible, a neutral, external expert will be moderating the exchange. This expert will in addition provide feedback on the different suggestions and expertise from other countries where s/he has already worked on the topic. The two-day event will culminate with a big show-and-tell and various media points so the widest possible audience can be informed in due time about the progress of the consultation.

OpenMENA will be there!

OpenMENA

OpenMENA founder, Rayna Stamboliyska, will be present for the 20-21 June OGP.Dialogue progress point. We are grateful to OpenGovTN to have invited us as being there is important: the OGP.Dialogue event is a great opportunity for the Open Knowledge values to be brought to an ever-growing number of people. Taking an active part to the building of the forthcoming OGP Tunisia action plan is a challenge OpenMENA is more than keen to address.

We are thus more than delighted to be partners and to participate to this grand endeavour of co-creating a more open and collaborative society in Tunisia.

All-star wrap-up of a month of Open Knowledge events all around the world – April 2014

Beatrice Martini - May 23, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Featured, Meetups, OKF France, OKF Greece, OKF Italy, OKF Switzerland, OKFN France, Open Access, Open Data, Open Data Index, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

Last month we asked the Open knowledge community to start sharing more details about the events we all run, to discover how many people are rocking Open Knowledge events all around the world! The community has been great at responding the call and now we’re glad to feature some of the April events we got reports (and pictures and videos!) from.

The winners of the Apps4Greece award have been announced! Check out the winning apps, aiming to improve the functionality of cities, businesses, services and develop entrepreneurship and innovation.

Organised by Open Knowledge France after the Paris Open Government Conference (April 24-25) during which France announced it’s joining the Open Government Partnership – and gathering more the 50 people! Featuring Open Knowledge founder’s Rufus Pollock and discussions about the state of Open Data in France, Open Data Index, French version of School of Data Ecole des Données (congratulations!) and more.

  • Open Access Days in Egypt (Cairo, Egypt – April 27-28) Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 11.07.36 AM Open Knowledge Egypt, among many other organizations and researchers, participated in the 2-day event driven by the aim to promote open access to researchers in Egypt and the Middle East, and plant a seed for future initiatives.

We’re so looking forward to hearing everything about your upcoming events! Some juicy ones in the pipeline:

So, what you’re waiting for? It’s time to share your stories for next months’ global roundup! Please submit your blogposts about your May events to the Community Tumblr (details about how/where here) by June 4 in order to be featured in our all-star monthly wrap-up to be published in June on the main Open Knowledge blog and channels! Thank you! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

VozData – new Argentinean citizen platform for opening data

Guest - May 1, 2014 in Open Government Data

VozData

This is a guest blog post by Florencia Coelho from La Nation in Argentina.

LA NACIÓN recently launched VozData, a collaborative platform that allows users to transform public documents from PDFs into a comprehensible structured database. In its first project, the site allows users to check and classify more than 6500 renditions of Senate’s expenses from 2010 to 2012 – and so far, just a few weeks in, over 4000 documents have been processed by users, referring to over 39M Argentinean Pesos in public expenditures.

VozData is linked from data section of lanacion.com – LNdata – and allows any citizen with an account on Facebook, Google+ or LA NACION to participate in creating structured data and classify these documents on public spending.

VozData

The results of this collaborative work are published on the website in real time in a ranking ordered by recipient and type of expense. There will also be a ranking of those users that have verified and classified more documents. VozData is the first of its type in Argentina and Latin America by which LA NACION promotes citizen participation, in a country with no FOIA law.

VozData

The LNData team leads this project, developed by two Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellows Manuel Aristarán and Gabriela Rodriguez together with Cristian Bertelegni.

Vozdata is inspired by Propublica´s Free the Files project and The Guardian´s MP´s Expenses where citizens also helped monitor and transform non structured documents hosted in Documentcloud, into a comprehensible dataset.

At the end of the project, all data will be made available in open formats (CVS, XLS, JSON). Additionally, the site source code will be released as open source shortly, inviting reuse by other media and, for instance, transparency activists worldwide. You can head here to try it out.

Photos courtesy of LA NACION.

Draft Open Data Policy for Qatar

Rayna Stamboliyska - April 24, 2014 in Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Open MENA, Open Standards, Policy

The following post was originally published on the blog of our Open MENA community (Middle East and North Africa).

The Qatari Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (generally referred to as ictQATAR) had launched a public consultation on its draft Open Data Policy. I thus decided to briefly present a (long overdue) outline of Qatar’s Open Data status prior to providing a few insights of the current Policy document.

Public sector Open Data in Qatar: current status

Due to time constraints, I did not get the chance to properly assess public sector openness for the 2013 edition of the Open Data Index (I served as the MENA editor). My general remarks are as follows (valid both end of October 2013 and today):

  • Transport timetables exist online and in digital form but are solely available through non-governmental channels and are in no way available as Open Data. The data is thus neither machine-readable nor freely accessible — as per the Open Definition, — nor regularly updated.
  • Government budget, government spending and elections results are nowhere to be found online. Although there are no elections in the country (hence no election results to be found; Qatar lacks elected Parliament), government budget and spending theoretically exist.
  • Company register is curated by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, is available online for anyone to read and seems to be up-to-date. Yet, the data is not available for download in anything other than PDF (not a machine-readable format) and is not openly licensed which severely restricts any use one could decide to make out of it.
  • National statistics seem to be partly available online through the Qatar Information Exchange office. The data does not, however, seem to be up-to-date, is mostly enclosed in PDFs and is not openly licensed.
  • Legislation content is provided online by Al-Meezan, the Qatari Legal Portal. Although data seems available in digital form, it does not seem to be up-to-date (no results for 2014 regardless of the query). The licensing of the website is not very clear as the mentions include both “copyright State of Qatar” and “CC-by 3.0 Unported”.
  • Postcodes/Zipcodes seem to be provided through the Qatar Postal Services yet the service does not seem to provide a list of all postcodes or a bulk download. The data, if we assume it’s available, is not openly licensed.
  • National map at a scale of 1:250,000 or better (1cm = 2.5km) is nowhere to be found online, at least I did not manage to (correct me if I am wrong).
  • Emissions of pollutants data is not available through the Ministry of Environment. (Such data is defined as “aggregate data about the emission of air pollutants, especially those potentially harmful to human health. “Aggregate” means national-level or more detailed, and on an annual basis or more often. Standard examples of relevant pollutants would be carbon monoxides, nitrogen oxides, or particulate matter.”)

This assessment would produce an overall score of 160 (as per the Open Data Index criteria) which would rank Qatar at the same place as Bahrain, that is much lower than other MENA states (e.g., Egypt and Tunisia). A national portal exists but it does not seem to comprehend what open format and licensing mean as data is solely provided as PDFs and Excel sheets, and is the property of the Government. (The portal basically redirects the user to the aforementioned country’s national statistics website.) Lastly, information requests can be made through the portal.

The 2013 edition of the Open Data Barometer provides a complementary insight and addresses the crucial questions of readiness and outreach:

[There is] strong government technology capacity, but much more limited civil society and private sector readiness to secure benefits from open data. Without strong foundations of civil society freedoms, the Right to Information and Data Protection, it is likely to be far harder for transparency and accountability benefits of open data to be secured. The region has also seen very little support for innovation with open data, suggesting the economic potential of open data will also be hard to realise. This raises questions about the motivation and drivers for the launch of open data portals and platforms.

Screenshot from the Open Data Barometer 2013.

2014 Open Data Policy draft

Given the above assessment, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a draft Open Data Policy is being composed by ictQATAR. The document sets the record straight from the beginning:

Information collected by or for the government is a national resource which should be managed for public purposes. Such information should be freely available for anyone to use unless there are compelling privacy, confidentiality or security considerations by the government. [...] Opening up government data and information is a key foundation to creating a knowledge based economy and society. Releasing up government-held datasets and providing raw data to their citizens, will allow them to transform data and information into tools and applications that help individuals and communities; and to promote partnerships with government to create innovative solutions.

The draft Policy paper then outlines that “all Government Agencies will put in place measures to release information and data”. The ictQATAR will be in charge of coordinating those efforts and each agency will need to nominate a senior manager internally to handle the implementation of the Open Data policy through the identification and release of datasets as well as the follow-up on requests to be addressed by citizens. The Policy emphasizes that “each agency will have to announce its “Terms of Use” for the public to re-use the data, requirement is at no fees”.

The Policy paper also indicates how the national Open Data portal will operate. It will be “an index to serve as gateway to public for dataset discovery and search, and shall redirect to respective Government Agencies’ data source or webpage for download”. Which clearly indicates that each individual Agency will need to create own website where the data will be released and maintained.

The proposed national Open Data portal is also suggested to operate as an aggregator of “all public feedback and requests, and the government agencies’ responses to the same”. Alongside, the portal will continue to allow the public to submit information requests (as per the freedom of information framework in the country). This is an interesting de facto implementation of the Freedom of Information Act Qatar still lacks.

The draft Policy further states:

Where an Agency decides to make information available to the public on a routine basis, it should do so in a manner that makes the information available to a wide range of users with no requirement for registration, and in a non-proprietary, non-exclusive format.

This is an interesting remark and constitutes one of my main points of criticism to the proposed paper. The latter neither contains a mention about what the recommended formats should be nor about licensing. Thus, one is left wondering whether the Agencies should just continue to stick to Microsoft Excel and PDF formats. If these were adopted as the default formats, then the released data would not be truly open as none of these two formats is considered open and the files are not machine-readable (a pre-requisite for data to be defined as open). Indeed, instead of going for a lengthy description of various formats, it would have been much more useful to elaborate on preferred format, e.g. CSV.

An additional concern is the lack of mention of a license. Even though the Policy paper does a great job emphasizing that the forthcoming data needs to be open for anyone to access, use, reuse and adapt, it makes no mention whatsoever about the envisioned licensing. Would the latter rely on existing Creative Commons licenses? Or would the ictQATAR craft its own license as have done other governments across the world?

An additional reason for concern is the unclear status of payment to access data. Indeed, the Policy paper mentions at least three times (sections 4.2 (i); 4.4 (ii); Appendix 6, ‘Pricing Framework’ indicator) that the data has to be provided at no cost. Yet, the Consultation formulates the question:

Open Data should be provided free of charge where appropriate, to encourage its widespread use. However, where is it not possible, should such data be chargeable and if so, what are such datasets and how should they be charged to ensure they are reasonable?

This question indicates that financial participation from potential users is considered probable. If such a situation materialized, this would be damaging for the promising Open Data Policy as paying to access data is one of the greatest barriers to access to information (regardless of how low the fee might be). Thus, if the data is provided at a cost, it is not Open Data anymore as by definition, Open Data is data accessible at no cost for everyone.

My personal impression is that the Policy draft is a step in the right direction. Yet the success of such a policy, if implemented, remains very much dependent on the willingness of the legislator to enable a shift towards increased transparency and accountability. My concerns stem from the fact that the national legislation has precedence over ictQATAR’s policy frameworks which may make it very difficult to achieve a satisfactory Open Data shift. The Policy draft states:

Agencies may also develop criteria at their discretion for prioritizing the opening of data assets, accounting for a range of factors, such as the volume and quality of datasets, user demand, internal management priorities, and Agency mission relevance, usefulness to the public, etc.

The possibility that an Agency might decide to not open up data because it would be deemed potentially harmful to the country’s image or suchlike is real. Given that no Freedom of Information Act exists, there is no possible appeal mechanism allowing to challenge a negative decision citing public interest as outweighing deemed security concerns. The real test for how committed to openness and transparency the government and its Agencies are will come at that time.

The Appendix 6 is thus very imprecise regarding the legal and security constraints that might prevent opening up public sector data. Furthermore, the precedence of the national legislation should not be neglected: it for ex. prohibits any auditing or data release related to contracting and procurement; no tenders are published for public scrutiny. Although the country has recently established national general anti-corruption institutions, there is a lack of oversight of the Emir’s decisions. According to Transparency International Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index 2013, “the legislature is not informed of spending on secret items, nor does it view audit reports of defence spending and off-budget expenditure is difficult to measure”.

Note: I have responded to the consultation in my personal capacity (not as OpenMENA). Additional insights are to be read which I have chosen not to feature here.

From Health in the UK to Education in Nigeria – Stop Secret Contracts

Theodora Middleton - March 24, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Open Government Data, Public Money, Stop Secret Contracts

Today it was announced that fraud and error in the UK National Health Service are leading to the loss of around £7 billion each year. This could pay for about 250,000 new nurses, and comes at a time when the service is struggling more than ever under the pressures of austerity.

One of the main ways that money is lost is overcharging and underdelivery by contractors. Outsourcing of health provision to unaccountable contractors is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and it provides fertile ground for fraud and corruption. And the public has no effective means of redress when things go wrong.

In Nigeria, civil society groups are being denied access to crucial contracts being drawn up to bring about educational reforms. Nigeria has been found to be the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, and educational reform is undoubtedly needed.

But information about the contracts involved is being masked by “commercial sensitivity.” The lack of transparency stifles participation, reducing the likelihood of genuine innovation. An inclusive education system which meets the needs of all Nigerians will not be achieved when the process is shrouded in secrecy.

Across the world, contracting is the aspect of government which is most open to abuse. Governments hide behind claims of commercial sensitivity or national security to avoid exposing their contracts to public scrutiny.

stopsecretcontracts logo

This month we launched our Stop Secret Contracts campaign, calling on world leaders to open up the procurements process. At the most basic level, the contracting data must be made available to the public. This includes:

  1. The full text of contracts;
  2. Key documents such as pre-studies, bid documents, performance evaluations, guarantees, and auditing reports;
  3. Information about contract formation, such as planning process, procurement method, and evaluation criteria;
  4. Information about performance and completion, such as delivery schedules, status of implementation, payments and risk assessments.

But we also want to see stronger commitments towards participation and accountability, as laid out in the Open Government Guide. As contractors play a growing role in the delivery of public services everywhere, we must ensure that we do not lose democratic control over vital aspects of our societies.

We need YOU to help us spread the word. We need you to sign the petition so that this issue is taken seriously by the G20 and OGP. Organisations who are working on this crucial problem need to be able to show that many voices are united behind them.

Once you’ve signed, there’s more you can do to help. You could write a blog post – like our Bangladesh and Sweden Local Groups have done. You could follow @StopSecretContracts, and retweet interesting and relevant things using #SecretContracts. You could join the Open Contracting Partnership’s community of practice to get more involved with policy conversations. You could start contributing to the C20 Conversations, the civil society engagement process around this year’s G20 in Australia – especially in the governance group. You could check out the list of supporting organisations: if any of them are local to you, why not get in touch and see if you can help them push forward?

There’s a whole load of resources available if you’d like to learn more about open contracting and why it matters. The Open Contracting Partnership have produced these Global Principles for Open Contracting, and the Sunlight Foundation has these complementary guidelines for open data in procurements. This report, Publish What You Buy makes the case for openness, and this entry in the Open Government Guide is a great starting point for understanding the issues and the kinds of political commitments we need to see.

From next Monday we will be publishing a series of blog posts from different organisations who are supporting the Stop Secret Contracts campaign. If you have stories to share about the problems of secrecy in contracting, get in touch with contact@stopsecretcontracts.org

Open Data 1-day training on 28 March

Mark Wainwright - February 25, 2014 in Open Data, Open Government Data, Training

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.

What will it cover?

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.

Who is it for?

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.

What do people say about it?

Feedback from the last session in December (above) include:

  • “A great introduction to the world of open data that’s left me keen to find out even more” Saira, ONE)
  • “Excellent overview of the key concepts regarding open data” (Jon Hill, London Borough of Barnet)
  • “Good introduction to the most important aspects of Open Data” (Laura Meggiolaro, International Land Coalition)

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!”

What do I need?

No technical or other background is needed – just an interest in learning more about Open Data.

Registration and cost

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 training@okfn.org.

More training opportunities

Never miss a training update, sign up below and get notified about the latest training offerings from the Open Knowledge Foundation:

<

div id=”audience”>

Gauging the needs and challenges of the global open data community

Guest - February 21, 2014 in Global Open Data Initiative, Open Government Data

facebook-cover

This is a guest blog post by Julia Keserü, International Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation, which partners alongside ao. the Open Knowledge Foundation in the Global Open Data Initiative. Originally featured on the blog of the initiative.

A few months back, the Global Open Data Initiative (GODI) sought input from the transparency community to learn more about the needs and challenges associated with open data. We wanted to know what definitions, guidelines and resources the community relies on, what is missing to improve the work of our fellow practitioners and how a global initiative might be helpful to boost reform.

Through a survey and a series of interviews, we gathered anecdotes, lessons and inspiration from about 80 individuals in 32 different countries with diverse professional backgrounds – research/education, business/consulting, advocacy. What follows is a summary of our most interesting findings. For more, take a look at the full report here.

Open data – standards, guides and definitions

Most interviewees agreed that the basic definition of open data is government proactively publishing data online. However, in many countries, data is frequently perceived as a product of civil society organizations’ efforts – through freedom of information requests or website scraping – rather than a timely and trustable resource provided by governments. Practical openness is also seen as being contingent on the usability of data to those who are seeking to create change with it.

Despite widespread agreement that standards are important, in practice, the interviewees did not seem to be overly focused on them. In some regions, such as Latin America, practitioners are often unaware that open data standards and guidelines existed, due in part to the limited availability of Spanish language resources. Many noted that the term open data is too dry and technical, which might impede evangelizing efforts.

The community

Global networks seem to play an extremely important role in sharing knowledge and learning from each others’ experiences. Many are eager for GODI to help connect the different strands of the open data movement and provide a place for people to come and find potential partners and collaborators. A few mentioned a need to connect those working on open data at the national level to the international conversation and spread the word beyond the existing transparency community.

Interacting with governments

As expected, knowledge of open data is typically isolated within relevant departments and branches of government. Opening up data for ensuring transparency and accountability is still too often met with resistance and suspicion. Several organizations and individuals noted that their ability to interact and engage with public officials diminishes notably when they are seeking politically sensitive datasets — like company registers, budgets, or campaign finance information. There was widespread agreement that achieving data disclosure policies required a combination of both legislative and persuasive tactics.

Challenges

Unsurprisingly, the challenges faced by the majority of people we heard from could be boiled down to politics, access to data, data quality, and engagement. Many faced political resistance from governments unwilling to release data in the first place and the lack of good freedom of information laws in many countries is still inhibiting the development of open data.

On top of these, there is a certain confusion around open data and big data, and the community is in desperate need of credible impact studies that can provide a strong theory of change. Some regions, such as the African continent, are historically known to be burdened by issues of poor infrastructure and connectivity – data needs to be presented in more innovative ways there.

Opportunities for the open data community

There was a general consensus that a better networked global open data community could improve the way organizations collaborate, find partners, and prevent duplicating efforts. Many agreed that a large civil society alliance could offer the clout necessary to push for national agendas around open government. It could also help the reform agenda by articulating an open data solution that fits into the domain of transparency and create a feedback loop for accountability.

And lastly: the open data community would benefit immensely from a more clearly defined evidence base and theory of change associated with open data. We need proof that open data can be valuable in a variety of country contexts and for a variety of reasons such as economic development, accountable government or more effective public sector management.

Get Updates