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New Lobbying Transparency Working Group from the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation

Jonathan Gray - October 29, 2013 in Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation, Transparency

The Open Knowledge Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation are teaming up to convene a new global group on lobbying transparency.

We want civil society organisations, journalists and citizens around the world to be able to use information about lobbying to understand and report on the influence of big money on politics and to push for reforms in this area.

To this end we’d like to connect and support campaigners working to improve lobbying transparency around the world so that they can:

  • Learn about what each other are doing – including sharing updates and asking for advice about ongoing policy and advocacy work
  • Coordinate advocacy around lobbyist registers – to push for better lobbyist registries, and to ensure that they are published as machine readable open data, as per the Open Data Charter
  • Collaborate around shared areas of interest – from campaigns to mapping activities to tracking lobbying across borders

We’ll both be raising the importance of lobbying transparency in discussions and sessions around the Open Government Partnership Summit in London later this week. The Sunlight Foundation will also soon be releasing guidance on lobbying disclosure, based on their experience in the US and their in-depth research into global lobbying regulations.

If you’re working on lobbying transparency or interested in seeing what you can do in your country then please do come and join us on the lobbying-transparency group and introduce yourself.


Come and meet us at the Open Government Partnership Summit in London!

Beatrice Martini - October 29, 2013 in Events, Join us, Meetups, Network, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation


The Open Knowledge Foundation is involved with a number of events at and around the Open Government Partnership Summit this week. If you’re coming to the summit or any of the events around it, here is where you can find us.

Tuesday 29th October

If you’re going to the Open Data Institute’s Annual Summit, you can catch up with the Open Knowledge Foundation CEO Laura James who will be speaking there.

We’re having an informal Open Data Meetup at the Centre for Creative Collaboration on Tuesday night from 19:00-21:30. If you’re around come and join us for lightning talks, drinks and more!

Wednesday 30th October

On Wednesday we’re helping to run the Open Government Partnership Civil Society Day, before the main summit kicks off. We’re coordinating the unconference and will be involved in sessions on proactive transparency, privacy and more.

Thursday 31st October

At the OGP Festival, we’ll have information stands where you can come and talk to us, as well as a dedicated space with sessions on:

We’ll also be in the Festival Space for a drop in session on the new Open Data for Development project (17:15-18:45).

At the OGP Summit you can find us talking and participating at sessions on:

Friday 1st November

At the OGP Festival, you’ll still be able to find us at our Open Knowledge Foundation information stands, as well as at an igloo session on the OpenSpending project (13:00-14:00).

At the OGP Summit, you can come and join us at sessions on:

If you’re not in London, you’ll also be able to follow the live streams for many of these sessions, and we’ll be blogging and live tweeting throughout the event.

Government data still not open enough – new survey on eve of London summit

Open Knowledge - October 28, 2013 in Featured, Open Data Index, Open Government Data

In the week of a major international summit on government transparency in London, the Open Knowledge Foundation has published its 2013 Open Data Index, showing that governments are still not providing enough information in an accessible form to their citizens and businesses.


The UK and US top the 2013 Index, which is a result of community-based surveys in 70 countries. They are followed by Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Of the countries assessed, Cyprus, St Kitts & Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, Kenya and Burkina Faso ranked lowest. There are many countries where the governments are less open but that were not assessed because of lack of openness or a sufficiently engaged civil society. This includes 30 countries who are members of the Open Government Partnership.

The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas, including government spending, election results, transport timetables, and pollution levels, and reveals that whilst some good progress is being made, much remains to be done.

Rufus Pollock, Founder and CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation said:

Opening up government data drives democracy, accountability and innovation. It enables citizens to know and exercise their rights, and it brings benefits across society: from transport, to education and health. There has been a welcome increase in support for open data from governments in the last few years, but this Index reveals that too much valuable information is still unavailable.

The UK and US are leaders on open government data but even they have room for improvement: the US for example does not provide a single consolidated and open register of corporations, while the UK Electoral Commission lets down the UK’s good overall performance by not allowing open reuse of UK election data.

There is a very disappointing degree of openness of company registers across the board: only 5 out of the 20 leading countries have even basic information available via a truly open licence, and only 10 allow any form of bulk download. This information is critical for range of reasons – including tackling tax evasion and other forms of financial crime and corruption.

Less than half of the key datasets in the top 20 countries are available to re-use as open data, showing that even the leading countries do not fully understand the importance of citizens and businesses being able to legally and technically use, reuse and redistribute data. This enables them to build and share commercial and non-commercial services.


For the true benefits of open data to be realised, governments must do more than simply put a few spreadsheets online. The information should be easily found and understood, and should be able to be freely used, reused and shared by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose.

See also the these localized comments from our Local Groups: France, Egypt, Ireland, Taiwan, Germany and Danmark.

CONTACT: Open Knowledge Foundation on +44 (0)1223 422159 or

To see the full results:

For graphs of the data:


The Open Data Index is a community-based effort initiated and coordinated by the Open Knowledge Foundation. The Index is compiled using contributions from civil society members and open data practitioners around the world, which are then peer-reviewed and checked by expert open data editors. The Index provides an independent assessment of openness in the following areas: transport timetables; government budget; government spending; election results; company registers; national map; national statistics; legislation; postcodes / ZIP codes; emissions of pollutants.

Countries assessed (in rank order): United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, Moldova, Bulgaria, Malta, Italy, France, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Israel, Czech Republic, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Croatia, Isle Of Man, Japan, Serbia, Russian Federation, Ecuador, South Korea, Poland, Taiwan R.O.C., China, Indonesia, Hungary, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Jersey, Guernsey, Slovak Republic, Bermuda, Romania, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Singapore, Lithuania, South Africa, Cayman Islands, Egypt, Nepal, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Gibraltar, Belgium, Hong Kong, Barbados, Bahamas, India, Bahrain, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Kenya, British Virgin Is., Saint Kitts & Nevis, Cyprus. NB: a number of countries were not assessed, often because they were not open enough to have an active civil society able or free to safely carry out the research.

Open Data is information which can be freely used, reused and shared by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. Truly open data demands a range of both technical and legal qualities which ensure that anyone can reuse it freely, for maximum benefit, and the Open Data Index assesses all of these. The Open Definition sets out the principles which define “openness” in relation to data and content:

The Open Knowledge Foundation is an international non-profit working to open up information around the world so it can be used to empower citizens and organizations to build fair and sustainable societies. See:

The annual summit for the Open Government Partnership will take place in London on 31st October to 1st November. More details at:

Announcing our new declaration on open data – and inviting your feedback

John Wonderlich - October 22, 2013 in Featured, Global Open Data Initiative, Open Government Data

The Global Open Data Initiative partners, including the Open Knowledge Foundation, are excited today to share a draft Declaration on Open Data, and would welcome comments and feedback on its contents.

Open Data has enormous unfulfilled promise to change how governments work and to empower citizenship. Even as more governments and issue experts discover new potential in the public release of data, civil society groups still need clear guidelines and mechanisms for cooperation. Global Open Data Initiative hopes to help provide both, and we hope this draft declaration will help us fill that gap.

By building on existing efforts to gather guidelines and best practices, and by building a clear, joint voice made up of outside groups, Global Open Data Initiative hopes to provide a CSO-led vision for how open data should work.

Please give us your feedback

While we’re excited about the start we have, we want to hear from others too. Does this draft adequately describe open data’s promise, and the challenges we face in fulfilling it? Are there other issues it should cover? Are there additional standards, initiatives, or guidelines to which we should refer to (if even in an extended notes section)?

Click here to go to the Declaration on Open Data

Please read the declaration by following the link above and add your thoughts in a comment. For more in depth conversation, please join our discussion list.

Civil Society Day and Unconference at the OGP

Irina Bolychevsky - October 16, 2013 in Events, Open Government Data

The Open Government Partnership Summit is the primary forum for the global community of openness reformers from all backgrounds – government, civil society and private sector – to come together and engage with each other. We’ve been helping organise the OGP Civil Society Day – the day before the Summit – which will provide an informal opportunity for over 400 civil society actors that are involved in OGP to connect, interact, learn and strategize.

If you’re coming along, make sure to join us at the Unconference, which we will be running all day in parallel with the main sessions.


  • What? The Open Government Partnership Civil Society Day and Unconference
  • When? Wednesday 30th October, 8.30 – 17.00
  • Where? University of London Union, Malet Street.
  • Social media: Follow #CSOday #OGP13
  • More details: on the event page

What will we be talking about?

The objective of the day is that the OGP civil society community is energized, broadened, connected and, overall, is prepared for both the OGP Summit and for engaging with the OGP process in their own countries. The day will address these themes:

Broaden: why and how to broaden the actors, issues and countries involved in OGP
Deepen: how to deepen the partnerships, push the level of ambition and create better plans
Connect: network with people working in different countries and on different issues, but facing similar realities
Inspire: hear inspiring stories from across the globe and explore new open government frontiers


Create your own agenda! Is there a discussion that needs to happen? Do you want to ask questions, present finding for feedback or write up best practices or principles? We will be holding ‘Unconference’ sessions alongside the main agenda for the whole day.

Propose a 30 minutes session on the day or sign up to do a 5 minute talk on your project, organisation or cause in one of the two ‘lightning talk’ sessions. Get in touch if you have an idea for this now.

More info

To see the full programme, click here
The event is now fully booked.

Open Government Partnership (OGP) Logo

The OGP Civil Society Day is organised by the OGP, the OGP Civil Society Coordination Team, the Open Knowledge Foundation and Involve. Specific sessions are prepared by Access Info Europe, Alianza Regional, OpenCorporates, Open Rights Group, Publish What You Pay, World Resource Institute and the Transparency & Accountability Initiative.

Dear Prime Minister, Please increase the ambition of the UK’s open government commitments

Jonathan Gray - October 8, 2013 in Open Data, Open Government Data

The Open Knowledge Foundation is part of a group of civil society organisations behind an open letter to the UK Prime Minister urging him to increase the ambition of the UK’s open government commitments in the run up to the Open Government Partnership Summit in London later this month.

This isn’t just about the UK. The UK has an opportunity to take leadership in a number of key areas – such as beneficial ownership and financial transparency – which will affect developments in many other countries around the world.

Our letter is reproduced in full below.

An open letter to the Prime Minister on the UK’s open government commitments

Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street

Cc: The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP (Deputy Prime Minister),
Rt Hon Francis Maude MP (Minister for the Cabinet Office),
Nick Hurd MP (Minister for Civil Society)

8 October 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

The end of October is a critical moment for open government in the UK and beyond. The UK will publish its second open government National Action Plan, host the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit, and hand over the baton of chairing the OGP. We hope that the Government will mark this important occasion by announcing a series of ambitious commitments towards greater openness, building on the leadership shown at the G8 Summit.

We welcome the emphasis that you have placed on the principles of open government both domestically and internationally and your ambition of becoming ‘the most open and transparent government in the world’. The true strength of your Government’s efforts will ultimately be judged by the level of new ambition in the commitments made and delivered through the action plan launched on 31 October at the Summit in London.

For the UK Plan, while progress has been made in finding common ground on a number of important issues, we are concerned by the absence of any truly ambitious new commitments. With three weeks to go, we call on you to take a lead in delivering such commitments:

  1. Make public who owns and controls companies and trusts, by publishing a beneficial ownership register that meets the standards set out in the Open Data Charter. A public register would support good corporate governance and a clean and respected business environment, as well as lift the veil of secrecy that the corrupt and the criminal use to hide their identity.

  2. Enable public scrutiny of all organisations in receipt of public money, by opening up public sector contracts and extending transparency standards and legislation. Endorse and implement a system of ‘Open Contracting’, ensuring public disclosure and monitoring of contracting from procurement to the close of projects, and amend the Freedom of Information Act so that all information held by a contractor in connection with a public service contract is brought within its scope.

  3. Bring lobbying out into the open in the UK, by developing a robust, compulsory register of lobbyists. An open and comprehensive register would allow public scrutiny of who is lobbying whom, what they are seeking to influence and how much is being spent in the process.

Ambitious commitments such as these will not only send a clear message about the UK’s commitment to open government at home, but will lead by example and demonstrate the level of ambition expected of other countries as they draft their own national action plans.

Yours sincerely,

Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
Anne Thurston, Director, International Records Management Trust
Anthony Zacharzewski, Director, The Democratic Society
Cathy James, Chief Executive, Public Concern at Work
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Chris Taggart, Co-founder & CEO, Open Corporates
Claire Schouten, Programme Director, Integrity Action
David Hall-Matthews, Managing Director, Publish What You Fund
Emily Gerrard, Director, Development Research and Training UK
Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns, Global Witness
Javier Ruiz, Campaigner, Open Rights Group
Dr Laura James, CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation
Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
Miles Litvinoff, Coordinator, Publish What You Pay UK
Richard Murphy, Director, Tax Research
Simon Burall, Director, Involve
Tamasin Cave, Director, Spinwatch
Tim Davies, Director, Practical Participation

Global Open Data Initiative moving forward

Christian Villum - October 4, 2013 in Featured, Open Government Data, Uncategorized

(This is a cross-post from the Global Open Data Initiative blog.)

The Global Open Data Initiative is a coalition of civil society organisations working together in the area of open government data and open government.

Our basic goal is that citizens will have full and open access to the government data that is needed in order to build effective government and governance.

The Global Open Data Initiative will serve as a guiding voice internationally on open data issues. Civil society groups who focus on open data have often been isolated to single national contexts, despite the similar challenges and opportunities repeating themselves in countries across the globe. The Global Open Data Initiative aims to help share valuable resources, guidance and judgment, and to clarify the potential for government open data across the world.

Provide a leading vision for how governments approach open data. Open data commitments are among the most popular commitments for countries participating in the Open Government Partnership. The Global Open Data Initiative recommendations and resources will help guide open data initiatives and others as they seek to design and implement strong, effective open data initiatives and policies. Global Open Data Initiative resources will also help civil society actors who will be evaluating government initiatives.

Increase awareness of open data. Global Open Data Initiative will work to advance the understanding of open data issues, challenges, and resources by promoting best practices, engaging in online and offline dialogue, and supporting networking between organizations both new and familiar to the open data arena.

Support the development of the global open data community especially in civil society. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have a key role to play as suppliers, intermediaries, and users of open data, though at present, relatively few organizations are engaging with open data and the opportunities it presents. Most CSOs lack the awareness, skills and support needed to be active users and providers of open data in ways that can help them meet their goals. The Global Open Data Initiative aims to help CSOs, to engage with and use open data whether whatever area they work on – be it climate change, democratic rights, land governance or financial reform.

Our immediate focus is on two activities:

  1. To consult with members of the CSO community around the world about what they think is important in this area
  2. Develop a set of principles in collaboration with the CSO community to guide open government data policies and approaches and to help initiate, strengthen and further elevate conversations between governments and civil society.

Watch this space for further updates.

Join the conversation

To get involved join the Global Open Data Initiative discussion group:

Visit this group

Next Steps on “Follow the Money” – from OKCon to the Open Government Partnership Summit

Jonathan Gray - October 4, 2013 in OKCon, Open Data, Open Government Data, Public Money

The following post is from Alan Hudson, Policy Director (Transparency & Accountability) at ONE and Jonathan Gray, Director of Policy and Ideas at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Last month we announced the Open Knowledge Foundation and ONE’s plans to support and strengthen the community of activists and advocacy organisations working to enable citizens to follow the money and hold decision-makers to account for the use of public money.

A few weeks ago at OKCon 2013 we had a brainstorming session with a group of leading financial transparency and open data organisations to define next steps for the collaboration.

We had an excellent turnout including many of the key organisations promoting financial transparency such as Development Initiatives, Publish What You Fund, Publish What You Pay, the Revenue Watch Institute, the Sunlight Foundation, the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, and Transparency International.

Participants in the session shared their experience of trying to follow the money – the challenges and opportunities – and explored how we might collectively join the dots between various efforts to promote transparency. We talked about creating better data standards so information is easier to connect and compare, sharing resources and information about the flow of public money, and how to ensure that transparency initiatives meet the needs of campaigners pushing for change.

The top two priorities identified were as follows. First, mapping the ‘Follow the Money’ space to get a better sense of who is doing what to follow flows of public money from revenue to results, across different sectors and in different countries around the world. Second, doing much more to understand what citizens and civil society organisations need to help them to follow the money and collecting use-cases of how joining the transparency dots will help.

We’re currently planning ‘Follow the Money’ activities around the Open Government Partnership Summit in London on 31st October to 1st November, where we will continue the conversation – in particular focusing on the needs of campaigners in developing countries.

If you or your organisation are interested in joining us to Follow the Money, you can get in touch via the following form.

Open Data developments in Asia

Guest - October 3, 2013 in Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups

The following guest post is by Waltraut Ritter, a member of Opendata Hong Kong, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Local Group. It is the first of two posts exploring the current state of open data in Asia.

Hong Kong Panoramic

The Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva attracted delegates from 55 countries, indicating that open, public data is indeed becoming a global movement around the world.

How is Open Data adopted in Asia, the largest continent of this planet where 60 per cent of the world’s population live?

Asia has some of the most advanced internet economies, as well as some of the least developed countries with hardly any access to information or information infrastructure, neither analogue nor digital.

At OKCon, 26 participants from 11 Asian countries were present, including Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia. In this blog, I focus on selected East Asian and Pacific countries: New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea (North Asian and Pacific nations); and Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (South-East Asian nations). Getting reliable data from all 49 Asian countries would require much more research, and these countries are grouped together in the Worldbank Knowledge Economy Index.

Myanmar river life

Despite being grouped together in the Worldbank Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), these countries have vastly different economic rankings. New Zealand achieved the highest Knowledge Economy score, closely followed by Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, whereas Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar score lowest in all KEI categories (ICT, education, economic incentive and institutional regime, innovation). Other key indicators relevant for Open Data development are the Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International), the World Internet Statistics and the Democracy Index (EIU) as a measure for general governance and functioning of government.

According to the 2012 World Internet Statistics, the overall internet penetration in Asia is only 27.5 per cent, but this still means the Asian continent is home to more users than any other, with over 1 billion. Internet penetration across the listed countries ranges from 1 per cent in Myanmar to 88 per cent in New Zealand; again with a wide gap between North and South East Asia (except for Singapore with 75 per cent).

Vietnam i  Camboya 2007

South East Asia has often been described as “information black hole” in scholarly research on national information strategies, with many governments restricting or denying access to information to their citizens, often based on the assumption that government information by default is a secret. Earlier this month, the government of Vietnam enacted the “Decree 72” which limits the use of blogs and social media to “providing or exchanging personal information”, and prohibits them from being used to disseminate news or even information from government sites. The law also bans content which could be “harmful” to national security or which opposes the government. This kind of restriction is based on the perception that governments own the information and can control its use, and that information-empowered citizens and businesses are potentially dangerous.

While North Asian countries, as well as New Zealand and Australia, mostly have Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in place (with the exception of Hong Kong); in South East Asia, FOI laws are more the exception than the rule. Even in the otherwise highly developed information economy of Singapore, there are many areas where the government argues that information needs to be kept confidential in the public interest, which explains why citizens cannot access and analyse data related to the size of assets in the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), a sovereign wealth fund owned by the Government of Singapore.


Sometimes laws are in place, but they are not fully applied. In Thailand, the country’s Official Information Act (OIA) was enacted in 1997, but “the concept of freedom of information is totally new to both Thai state officials and to the people. Thai society thus needs some time to learn more about the Information Law. State officials have to understand the procedures of law enforcement better so that they know how to provide information services and disclose information to meet public requests. Meanwhile, people should recognize their right to know and know how to utilize the Information Act as a means of access to state information. Thai society should recognize information law as an essential part of establishing accountable and transparent government and as a crucial part of eventually building up civil society” (Quote by N. Seriak, Office of Official Information Commission). In 2000, the law was therefore amended to include strategic guidelines on how to promote and develop the acknowledgement of the Act’s content, its utilization, the mechanism and the procedures to utilize the Act to meet people’s right to access information. This example illustrates that the idea of open information also requires a new way of thinking about information, both for government officials and citizens.

New Zealand Beach

Only 4 of the listed 15 countries are full democracies according to the EIU index – New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea; they are also members of the OECD. The majority of countries in Asia fall into the categories of “flawed” democracies (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia), Singapore is a “hybrid system” and at the bottom are authoritarian governments such as Vietnam, Laos (lowest overall score) and Myanmar, which is now currently moving into another phase of political governance. In August this year, Myanmar officially ended censorship, thereby jumping up to 151st out of 179 countries in the World Press Freedom index.

There are few economic studies about the tangible and intangible value of open information, perhaps because the causality is not directly measurable, most of the time. On the other hand, it might be easier to analyse examples on the cost of non-open data, in hindsight of events where data was not available.

This will be the topic of the 2nd part of this blog on Open Data Developments in Asia.

Images: Hong Kong Panoramic by Francisco Martins, CC-BY-NC; Myanmar river life by eGuide Travel, CC-BY; Vietnam y Camboya by Carles Company Soler, CC-BY-SA; Singapore by Arian Zwegers, CC-BY; New Zealand Beach by Abaconda, CC-BY-SA

Open Assets in Argentina

Guest - September 30, 2013 in Data Journalism, Featured Project, Open Government Data

The following guest post is by Florencia Coelho, from Argentinian daily La Nacion.

In Argentina, where a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has yet to be signed, LA NACION and three transparency NGOs – Poder Ciudadano, ACIJ (Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia) and Fundación Directorio Legislativo joined efforts to produce the first site to open information on the assets of public servants, making their asset declarations available online.

The first stage of the web site contains more than 600 asset declarations from public servants from each of the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Priority was given to data on key positions within each branch as well as data on candidates in the upcoming October 2013 legislative elections.

Each NGO specialized in monitoring transparency and accountability of certain branches, presenting the necessary public information requests and processing the data received.

The information requested was received in print copies; therefore, in addition to entering the data, the teams also scanned the original requests, erasing any sensitive personal information before uploading them to DocumentCloud where they are linked to each asset declaration on the web site.

Teams collaborated with more than 30 volunteers who manually entered the data and cross checked every unit of content in a marathon six-day “check-a-thon”. Throughout the project cycle, the teams worked online using collaborative tools like Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets and Trello.

The database and the web site were designed and developed by LA NACION data and multimedia teams from Our Knight Mozilla Opennews fellow collaborated in optimizing the application and search tools. This news application, now in beta, will open data in machine readable formats for everyone to reuse.

The Open Asset Declarations website is being launched in a particular political context. A new law was recently passed which omits asset information on public officials´ spouses and children, thereby reducing the content previously available. Family asset information is vital to depict an accurate picture of the public officials´ wealth and key to any investigation on illicit enrichment.


A “Check-a-thon” last week, comparing paper originals of statements with spreadsheet versions*

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