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1-day Open Data training, London, 6 December

Mark Wainwright - November 6, 2013 in Events, Open Data, Open Government Data, Training

The Services team of the Open Knowledge Foundation will be running a public version of its one-day introductory training course on Open Data, on Friday, 6 December in central London. 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. Places are limited, so to register your interest, please sign up here.

Note: If your organisation is interested in in-house training, we have a programme of courses we can offer, including this introductory course as well as a 5-day course for Open Data managers. Contact for more information.

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 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 the project as well as staff who will be using or maintaing it, and anyone else interested in learning more about Open Data. No technical background is

What do I need?

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


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 has unparalleled expertise in the area, having been active in Open Data since 2004. Among many other projects it built the original version of the UK government’s highly successful data portal, and its School of Data runs courses to enable citizens and civil society organisations to make effective use of data.

Registration and cost

The price for the day is £250. To register your interest in attending, please sign up here. An early-bird price of £200 will apply to registrations by 17 November, and places are limited to 12, so get in touch!

Open government should be about accountability and social justice, not just the digital economy

Jonathan Gray - November 5, 2013 in Featured, Open Government Data, Policy


An edited version of this article was featured in The Guardian on 4th November 2013.

“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress.” Thus spoke President Obama at the UN General Assembly in September 2010.

This initial call to action gave rise to a new initiative called the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Last week senior government officials and campaigners from around 60 countries gathered in London for the OGP’s second annual summit to announce new voluntary commitments to open government, and for talks about freedom of information, civic participation, whistleblower protection, corporate accountability, and many other things.

Prime Minister David Cameron opened the event with the announcement that the UK would be cracking down on hidden company ownership – in a move which was widely celebrated by transparency, anti-corruption and tax justice campaigners. Elaborate networks of shell companies are often used for a range of illicit and unethical activities – from corruption to arms trafficking, terrorist financing to illegal tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. Making the true owners of companies part of the public record will enable journalists, campaigners and others outside government to start to unpick and expose these dark networks and the money that flows through them.

Apart from this announcement, one of the focal points for Cameron’s talk was the importance of open government for economic growth and innovation. Alluding to the work of Amartya Sen, he contended that open governments are conducive to economic prosperity, whereas “closed governments breed poverty”. In the discussion following his speech he talked about the potential of digital data from governments as “an enormous wealth creator”.

Cameron’s speech typified a broader pivot in open government discourse in recent years from political accountability and social justice towards economic growth and digital innovation, from holding power to account to supporting startups. In recent years senior officials from the US and the UK have started alluding to a trinity of “open governments, open societies, and open economies” in high level transparency talks, as well as to the potential of digital technologies and digital information for innovative new businesses and growth. In addition to the kinds of panels you might expect at a transparency summit, there were also sessions on public-private partnerships, entrepreneurs in civic innovation, and smart cities. Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee remarked in his closing talk, “for me always the most exciting piece of it at the end of the day is economic value”.

What is open government really all about? What should it be about? Last year two researchers at Princeton wrote a paper about the increasing ambiguity of the phrase ‘open government’ in its contemporary usage – contending that while it used to carry a “hard political edge”, referring to “politically sensitive disclosures of government information” pushed for by transparency and accountability campaigners, it now increasingly refers to technologies for sharing information and “politically neutral” regimes of disclosure which allow even the most draconian and regressive of governments to self-describe as ‘open’.

In other words, they argued, open government advocates risk conflating technological openness with political openness – of associating the openness and usability of information, software, standards, and the digital architecture of government with the openness of official institutions and processes to the citizens they are supposed to serve. While sometimes it may be more more comfortable for governments to highlight their plans to ‘go digital’ or to enable new businesses by opening up official data, transparency advocates in should not be distracted from its mission to enable citizens to hold power to account and to fight for social and environmental justice.

Perhaps part of the issue is the way in which open government is increasingly considered to be a tool for transforming inputs into the desired outputs, agnostic as to who is using it and for what purpose. To take a crass example: surely open government should not be about making public institutions even more permeable to the influence of big money – whether fossil fuel lobbyists or large companies seeking lucrative contracts. To take another example, the current government under Cameron’s leadership has also generally been very canny in steering the UK’s transparency agenda to support its politics of austerity, encouraging citizens to “join the hunt for government savings” and to “root out waste” – perhaps not a priority for local citizen groups fighting to protect frontline public services.

Surely what matters is not openness per se, but way in which this openness is used to improve the lives of citizens: to reduce inequality, to bring more people out of poverty, to tackle corruption and injustice, to increase access to education and healthcare, to mitigate the effects of catastrophic changes in the earth’s climate, and so on. In other words to ensure that states and public institutions are being used to promote the wellbeing of citizens, rather than the interests of wealthy and powerful elites. Perhaps open government talks might benefit from being less procedural and more substantive in their approach. For example, by foregrounding issues rather than instruments, values rather than processes, and through greater engagement with citizens and campaigners who usually have little to do with open government policy formation about the transparency and accountability challenges they face.

The Open Government Partnership has potential to be a hugely invaluable way for citizens and civil society groups to engage with the civil servants and state officials who represent them. It is an opportunity for them to have frank discussions about their aspirations and concerns in an impartial extra-national context. But for this to happen, the OGP must keep its focus firmly on how states can better serve and be more responsive to the needs of citizens, and should not be sidetracked by commercial opportunity or digital ephemera.

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s hopes for the Open Government Partnership

Jonathan Gray - October 30, 2013 in Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy


Tomorrow campaigners and officials from over 60 countries will gather in London for the second annual summit of the Open Government Partnership, a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to strengthening the transparency and accountability commitments of its member states.

Over the past few months we’ve been involved in extensive consultations and talks to give input to the UK’s National Action Plan, hoping that the UK taking leadership in key areas will spur other countries to follow suit. We’re also organising and participating in numerous events and sessions at and around this week’s summit on topics that we think deserve attention.

What do we hope will happen this week? Following are some of the areas we’ll be particularly keeping an eye on over the coming days.

Ending secrecy around company ownership

We hope the UK and other governments commit to cracking down on phantom firms by creating open, public registers of who really owns and controls companies. This has been a major campaigning point for many of the civil society organisations involved in the process of developing the UK’s National Action Plan and we and many others will be watching keenly for announcements in this area tomorrow and Friday.

Enabling citizens to ‘Follow the Money’

We hope that the Open Government Partnership member countries will commit to opening up information about public money so that citizens can hold decision-makers to account. Crucially this should not just be spending and budgets, but also things like contracts and revenues from public assets like natural resources and land. We’ll be discussing this in our ‘Follow the Money’ session – in particular focusing on the needs of campaigners in developing countries. If you’re interested in this area, you can sign up on our recently launched Follow the Money site.

Putting carbon emissions transparency on the open government agenda

We’d like to see more OGP countries making carbon emissions transparency a key part of their open government commitments. In particular we’d like corporate carbon emissions reporting requirements to result in the publication of machine readable open databases. We’d also like to see more timely, granular, and accessible data from governments at both national and subnational levels, and more initiatives to engage citizens around progress on tracking carbon pollution reduction.

Who’s lobbying?

We think every country in the world should have a lobbyist register that shows who is lobbying whom for what, to help to safeguard against big money having an unfair influence in politics. And we think it is essential that lobbyist registers are published as open data. We hope to see announcements in this area from OGP countries, and discussion about how to improve transparency around who’s lobbying. If you’re interested in this area you can join the new working group that we recently launched with the Sunlight Foundation.

‘Follow the Money’ with ONE and the Open Knowledge Foundation at the Open Government Partnership

Jonathan Gray - October 30, 2013 in Campaigning, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Public Money

As the Open Government Partnership summit kicks off, we’re pleased to launch a new website for the emerging ‘Follow the Money’ network,, supported by ONE and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

If you’re interested in using information about public money to hold decision-makers to account, then we hope you’ll join us. Fill in your details on the site and we’ll be in touch.

At our session at the Open Government Partnership Summit tomorrow we’ll be looking at what we might be able to do to support campaigners who want to ‘follow the money’ around the world – especially in developing countries. The session will be live-streamed (at 15.45 PM GMT, Thursday October 31st) and we’ll be posting further details shortly (for more information about Thursday’s session and the Follow the Money campaign download this fact sheet).

In the meantime you can also join the conversation on Twitter with the #followthemoney hashtag.

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The role of data in European democracy

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


Cross-posted from the Digital Agenda for Europe Blog.

This week campaigners and officials from over 60 countries around the world are meeting in London for the Open Government Partnership Summit to discuss how to make governments more open. A major focus will be how to make official information available and accessible for all.

At the Open Knowledge Foundation we believe that the ability to access and reuse digital information is an increasingly important part of democracy in the 21st century.

Countries around the world are unlocking their data to enable new kinds of digital services and new ways for citizens to understand and participate in official decision-making processes – from e-democracy websites to data driven journalism and campaigning.

What role might better access to information play in democratising the EU?

The institutions, agencies and bodies of the European Union collect and hold all kinds of information about Europe – about everything from unemployment, crime, and quality of life to how EU funds are disbursed, who is lobbying, and progress on cutting carbon pollution.

Much of this information is essential to understanding the composition and functioning of the EU and its 28 member states, and necessary for evidence based advocacy, reportage and policy formation.

The European Union Open Data Portal is a laudable first step in giving European citizens, civil society organisations and the media access to this information in a single place, with an explicit green light to share and reuse it.

What now? There are two things that we’d like to see happening next.

Firstly we’d like to see more citizens, journalists and civil society groups engaging with the EU about what kinds of data they’d like to see released next, and ideas for how to improve the quality of the data that is currently available via the portal. There might be some requests that are very ambitious – such as information that would require new legislation or policy measures to collect. Other requests that might be relatively straightforward – such as releasing information which can easily be made available, but simply has not been published yet. In both cases, we’d like to see an ongoing conversation between EU institutions and European citizens that will help to inform priorities for release. If you have datasets you’d like to see released or improved, please let us know via the public EU Open Data mailing list. You can also use the suggest a dataset form on the European Union Open Data Portal to contact the EU open data team directly.

Secondly we’d like to see more people using EU data to improve public understanding, transparency and accountability of European institutions and processes. If you know of interesting journalistic, campaigning or educational projects which use EU data to improve awareness or provide context around an issue, we’d love to hear about them. Or if you have ideas about projects that you think would help citizens understand and engage with the EU – let us know. You can contact us via Twitter (on @OKFN) or via this online submission form.

We want to see European data being used to support greater participation, public understanding and openness around EU institutions and processes. If you share this hope, please let us and the EU open data team know about what information you think needs to be released next and how it should be put to work.

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 International - 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.

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