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Open Knowledge Foundation Spain becomes an official Chapter

Theodora Middleton - February 25, 2014 in Featured, OKF Spain, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Uncategorized

We are really pleased to announce that Spain has become the latest Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Celebration of Light: Spain

Last night, during the inaugural I OKFN awards, organised by Open Knowledge Foundation Spain, the group announced to a packed room of open data advocates, government representatives, and community members that they have become an official Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The awards ceremony was established by Open Knowledge Foundation Spain to recognise the incredible efforts of individuals and groups around the world in open data, open knowledge and transparency. It therefore provided the perfect opportunity to recognise the incredible efforts of the group themselves, by announcing their transition to Chapter status.


Getting to this point has taken a whole lot of work from a whole lot of people. With 50 paying members, and over 200 people on their mailing list, the organisation has deep community foundations. Around 1000 people have attended events organised by the Chapter in the last year, all of whom have helped bring them to this exciting stage. The group has developed amazingly fast, having only been established around a year ago, which is a testament to the immense dedication and determination of those involved.

The Chapter is strongly committed to transparency and openness within its own organisational structures. They have developed a format – “transparencia radical” or “extreme transparency” – which lays out best practices and mechanisms for ensuring genuine accountability and openness, and which aims to be reproducible and applicable in many contexts. Their board meetings are also open – you can view the video from November’s meeting here – and they aim for real time accounting transparency. In sum, Open Knowledge Foundation Spain has genuine participation and openness baked into its core, in a way which will undoubtedly be inspirational for other groups around the world.

Juan Lopez

The new Chapter have tonnes of exciting stuff coming up over the coming months. They have built a dynamic data journalism community in Spain, and will be hosting a major data journalism event in May, Periodismo Datos, as well as bringing out a new edition of the Data Journalism handbook in April. They are keen to support and collaborate with other Open Knowledge Foundation groups, particularly those in Spanish-speaking countries. Having already translated and launched a Spanish language version of the School of Data, Escuela de Datos, they hope to continue strengthening and growing the movement for open knowledge abroad as well as at home. Do get in touch with them for more details.

mar cabra

Rufus Pollock, founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, spoke to the attendees at the awards ceremony by video, saying:

“This is a great moment. We are delighted to recognise Open Knowledge Foundation Spain in this way. It is a really significant recognition of their achievement, their sustainability, and what they’ve already achieved within the community. It is brilliant to see the interconnection and flow of ideas between the Chapters, and Spain will undoubtedly inspire many others.”

Alberto Abella, President of the Open Knowledge Foundation Spain said:

“Many thanks to the team and all the members of the Open Knowledge Foundation Spain. Without their strong co-operation and dedication this would not have been possible. And of course, the best is yet to come in 2014!”

Images from top to bottom: Eduard Ereza and Jorge Martin, developers sued by local governments for using data from local webs to create apps; Juan Lopez de Uralde, Leader of the political party EQUO; and Mar Cabra, Vicepresident of Open Knowledge Foundation Spain.

Open Knowledge Foundation Newsletter, December 2013

Elaine Shaughnessy - December 2, 2013 in Newsletter, Uncategorized

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Hello and welcome to our latest news update on what is happening in and around the Open Knowledge Foundation. As we approach our 10th anniversary, we are reflecting on the open movement over the last decade and planning for the opportunities and challenges ahead. We are asking all of you what you think and to contribute to our community-wide survey to help us shape our future. Planning has also started for OKFestival in Berlin and now is the time to be thinking about how you would like to participate and what ideas, projects and contributions you can make to create an amazing event.

For the most up-to-the-minute info on all things Open, follow us on Twitter and on the blog.

And read our monthly Global community stories for more news – two this month: stories from Greece, Bangladesh, Argentina and Canada and Ireland and Germany.


Community Survey – share your thoughts!

What does Open Knowledge mean to you? Why are you involved? We are excited to be running our first survey to find out what you think. Help us shape the future of the Open Knowledge Foundation – we value your input. There are 24 questions and it will take approximately 10 minutes of your time. Deadline for responses is December 14, 2013 17:00 GMT. If you would like to know more, read our blogpost.
We will share the results and follow-up actions in January 2014. Thank you.

OK Festival _crop

OKFestival 2014, 15-18 July, Berlin – get involved!

The Open Knowledge Festival will gather open-powered communities, projects and individuals, both experienced and newcomers, from all around the world. Now is the time to get ready and we invite you to start meeting up, in person and online to think about what amazing projects and ideas you would like to participate in, and what contributions you can make. A new website will be ready soon and we will shortly call for proposals to shape the agenda together. More information is on our blog. Follow @OKFestival, share ideas and questions using the hashtag #OKFestival or write to us, and sign up for the festival newsletter for all upcoming OKFestival news. Get meeting, sharing and making!


Making news

We have signed a MoU with the BBC, a great step for openness. The first joint initiative will be with Wikimedia in January to coordinate the first ever “speakerthon”. Using the BBC’s vast radio archive, participants will tag and select snippets of notable individuals’ voices in order to upload them to Wikipedia articles as open content. More information.

The Open Knowledge Foundation has also joined more than 30 civil society organisations to sign an open letter urging for greater transparency around the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. It calls for an equal level of participation for policy makers, civil society, and members of the public with that of industry representatives.

We congratulate **Rufus Pollock for being elected an Ashoka Fellow** “the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs – men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems.” Rufus says that he is “honoured to accept the fellowship, but what is really exciting is seeing the work of the Open Knowledge Foundation on open data and open knowledge being recognised as a key aspect in driving positive social change in the twenty-first century”.

Spending Stories is officially launched! This new app helps citizens and journalists understand and compare financial data from news stories. If you would like to know more about the project, get in touch.

A new partnership has been announced between the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Open Knowledge Foundation France to map the Public Domain in France. The Guardian has called the Public Domain Review a ‘model of digital curation’ which showcases ‘the best and quirkiest texts, images and films the internet has to offer’. Check out the new PDR store with a selection of beautiful prints, t-shirts and other great gifts.

Crisis mappers NairobiBZay_O6IUAANCJq.jpg large

Making a difference

What does open data / open knowledge have to do with crisis mapping? Crowd-sourced digital maps created by online volunteers worldwide are powerful tools in humanitarian relief work. Volunteers worked 24/7 when Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines. At the International Conference of Crisis Mappers (ICCM) in Nairobi, Kenya, the School of Data hosted a full day pre-conference training session as part of the mentorship programme. To learn more read the blog report.

Our “Follow the Money” website was launched at the Open Government Partnership Summit and you can read about it and also follow the livestreamed panel discussion. If you are interested in using information about public money to hold decision-makers to account, then we hope you’ll join us and sign up.

The recent event which brought together a group of open education enthusiasts has resulted in the building of an Open Education Timeline. The timeline has now been ‘put online’ using TimeMapper and we need your help to ensure that includes all the most important dates and consists of good quality data! We’d like to make it the the most comprehensive Open Education Timeline to date! If you are interested in contributing then take a look at our post.

Enter the LinkedUp “Vidi” Competition, the second second competition in the LinkedUp Challenge. We’re inviting you to design and build innovative and robust prototypes that use open data for educational purposes. There are prizes to be won and we can offer support. Find out more on the LinkedUp Challenge website.

Coming up

  • Open Knowledge Foundation India is celebrating December as open knowledge month! If you’re in the area, join them.
  • Learn how opening data can transform society and how to do it, at a one-day introductory course on Friday, 6 December in London – there are a few places left.
  • Join the School of Data online Data Expedition to investigate the Nigerian extractives industry on December 7 with OpenOil. There is still time time to register.

Images: symbol by Natalie Swencki, CC-BY; OKFestival CC-BY; School of Data session at ihub for ICCM, CC-BY.

Open Knowledge Foundation and BBC sign Memorandum of Understanding

Sam Leon - November 27, 2013 in Press, Uncategorized

On Monday of this week, the Open Knowledge Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with the BBC. The BBC also signed separate memorandums with the Europeana Foundation, the Open Data Institute and the Mozilla Foundation.

Laura James, CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation, signs the MoU with James Purnell, BBC Director of Strategy and Digital.

The signing is an important step in cementing the relationship between the Open Knowledge Foundation and one of the world’s largest broadcasting organisations. It also marks a new commitment on the part of the BBC to embrace open data and open standards. James Purnell, Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC, said that this memorandum signalled that the BBC was “here for audience’s interests and not just the BBC’s” and that through it the BBC plans to find “find new ways to engage audiences”.

The signing ceremony was a formal recognition of the work the five organisations had done together and paved the way for future collaborations, some of which are already in the pipeline. In January 2014, for instance, the Open Knowledge Foundation, alongside the BBC and the Wikimedia community, will be coordinating the first ever “speakerthon”. Using the BBC’s vast radio archive, participants will tag and select snippets of notable individuals’ voices in order to upload them to Wikipedia articles as open content. Developers at the BBC are keen to use the crowdsourced data to tag other parts of the archive and automatically identify where else a given individual is speaking. This initiative is a great demonstration of the kind of benefit open data and open content can have for an organisation like the BBC. It allows them to simultaneously use their rich digital archive to improve existing open resources like Wikipedia, whilst developing new and innovative ways to harness the power of their audiences to improve their own digital assets (in this case through crowdsourced voice identification).

Collaborations like the “speakerthon”, which enable audiences to be contributors as well as consumers of broadcast media, can be a cause for concern for cultural institutions, especially those like the BBC which were born in the heyday of industrial one-way broadcasting. I commend the BBC for taking these first steps to re-configuring the traditional relationship it has with its audiences in allowing them a more participatory role.

That is not to say that the idea of open is somehow alien to the BBC, quite the opposite. The BBC has a long history of supporting technological innovation and using the benefits it bring to improve access to information. Indeed, in its Charter the BBC sets two of its central purposes: “to sustain citizenship and civil society” and “to help to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies”. In signing the memorandum of understanding on Monday, the BBC is affirming that it sees open data, open content and open standards as the key to connecting these two principles that are so deeply entrenched in its DNA.

As Bill Thompson, Head of Partnership Development at the BBC archive, said on Monday the memorandum marks only the first step in a long conversation between the five organisations. The challenge is to turn these words into actions and concrete collaborations that will unlock the potential of the BBC’s vast archive of culturally and historically-significant material.

What kind of collaborations between the BBC and the Open Knowledge Foundation would you like to see? What do you think are the possibilities for audience participation and technological innovation using open data at the BBC? Send us your ideas in the comments.

PRESS RELEASE: BBC signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Open Knowledge Foundation

Global Community Stories #6 (a): Greece, Bangladesh, Argentina and Canada

Christian Villum - November 27, 2013 in Featured, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Uncategorized

It is once again time to take a trip around the world and hear a bit about some of the great things that are happening in our growing network of Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups. Due to the sheer volume of activities and updates we want to share this month, our Global Community Stories post is coming to you in two instalments. Today, we’ll set our virtual feet down in Greece, Bangladesh, Canada and Argentina and later in the week we will share updates from Germany, Ireland and others.

Bangladesh: Afterthought from OKCon, Wikipedia collaboration, impressive media coverage and lots of events…

After participating in OKCon, the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva in September, our Bangladeshi friends wrote an article about the experience. The article was published as lead story in Bangla newspaper The Daily Prohom Alo (the highest circulated paper & leading bangla IT portal). Well done!

Also on the event side the group has been really active; they celebrated Software Freedom Day (SFD) by organizing a seminar about open source & open knowledge. Shortly after, the group organized a meetup as part of the global celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the GNU open software license. In late October they joined the Online Data Expedition on October 18-20 on Garment Factories around the world. This data expedition was arranged in collaboration with School of Data.

In other news our Ambassador in Bangladesh, Nurunnaby Chowdhury Hasive, was recently elected as Administrator of Bangla Wikipedia, which was covered in among other The Daily Star and C News Voice. Open Knowledge Foundation Bangladesh also partnered with Society for the Popularization of Science, Bangladesh (SPSB) recently and will onwards organize events and other activities together – for instance children science congresses.

Greece: Organizing app-competitions and improving the web presence…

Our Greek friends most recently held their first event as part of the Apps4Greece series in the city of Thessaloniki (see the presentation slides here – and plans are now being made to expand to other cities. Last week all co-organizers of the event participated in a press conference, where also Open Knowledge Foundation’s Sander van der Waal took part and gave a presentation. Several blog posts and publications newspapers documented the event, among other this one from the Karfitsa newspaper. Next the group is working on a complete overhaul of their website and project portfolio, stay tuned!

Argentina: Doing presentations across the country, working with School of Data and helping develop crisis situation software…

Our Argentinean friends did a School of Data presentation in August at Hacks Hackers Buenos Aires in the good company of journalists, programmers and designers from three continents. Later, in September, they held a Open Spending Meetup that was visited by Open Knowledge Foundation old-timer and Knight-Mozilla Fellow Friedrich Lindenberg – which was followed later that month by a presentation at the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology and University of La Plata. Lastly, they presented at the International Conference of Free Software in Technopolis.

The group has also started collaborations with other organizations such as Chequeado; a platform where the public discuss, study and verify president’s political speeches. The collaboration aims to put together a neat database and an application that makes it easier for citizens to engage. Further, on the project side, the group has been working on School of Data with Mexico. They set up workshops that teach how to use open data tools: Every Wednesday a specialist hosts a workshop on tools such as Open Refine, d3.js display, Timeliner, Github, Fusiontable and more. The group is also helping with the Citizen Emergency project: An application that alerts citizens in disaster situations such as during floods. Next step is to help develop the application towards a national implementation.

Canada: Starting the group, hosting meetups, contributing very actively to the Open Data Census…

Back in July, the group held Open Data Canada Meetup #1, which was dedicated to starting up the local group in Canada and was attended by around 30 people. Read some of the follow-up blog posts here and here.

The group has also very actively been contributing to the Open Data Census as part of both the sprint leading up to the G8 meeting in North Ireland in June, but also as part of the bigger sprint leading up to the Open Government Partnership Summit in London in October – shortly before which we released the Open Data Index.

They have also been supporting the research project across Canada by co-organizing a meetup for Québec with Dr. Renée Sieber (McGill University, Montréal) and Dr. Stéphane Roche (Université Laval, Québec City) – read more about that here and here.

Furthermore, they have been supporting the Popolo project to develop open government data specifications, focusing on the legislative branch of government, while remaining useful to a broad set of use cases.

Support has also been given to the use of an Open Agenda about Free-Open-Libre within an Agenda aggregator, the Agenda du Libre by Lastly, the group has promoted the CKAN open source data handling platform, which has subsequently been integrated into the City of Montréal Open Data Portal that launched just a few weeks ago. One of our Canadian Ambassadors, Diane Mercier, is the City of Montréal Open Data Project Manager.

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

Principles for Open Contracting

Guest - June 24, 2013 in Featured Project, Open Standards, Uncategorized

The following guest post is by the Open Contracting Partnership, announcing the release of their Principles for Open Contracting. It is cross-posted from their website.


Over the past year, the Open Contracting Partnership has facilitated a global consultation process to create a set of global principles that can serve as a guide for all of those seeking to advance open contracting around the world.

The principles reflect norms and best practices from around the world related to disclosure and participation in public contracting.

They have been created with the inputs and feedback of nearly 200 members the open contracting community from government, private sector, civil society, donor organizations, and international financial institutions. These collaborators contributed inputs from various sector-specific perspectives (such as service delivery, infrastructure, extractive industries, and land).

The Open Contracting Partnership welcomes all your questions, comments or feedback. Please contact us at


Preamble: These Principles reflect the belief that increased disclosure and participation in public contracting will have the effects of making contracting more competitive and fair, improving contract performance, and securing development outcomes. While recognizing that legitimate needs for confidentiality may justify exemptions in exceptional circumstances, these Principles are intended to guide governments and other stakeholders to affirmatively disclose documents and information related to public contracting in a manner that enables meaningful understanding, effective monitoring, efficient performance, and accountability for outcomes. These Principles are to be adapted to sector-specific and local contexts and are complementary to sector-based transparency initiatives and global open government movements.

Affirmative Disclosure

  1. Governments shall recognize the right of the public to access information related to the formation, award, execution, performance, and completion of public contracts.
  2. Public contracting shall be conducted in a transparent and equitable manner, in accordance with publicly disclosed rules that explain the functioning of the process, including policies regarding disclosure.
  3. Governments shall require the timely, current, and routine publication of enough information about the formation, award, execution, performance, and completion of public contracts to enable the public, including media and civil society, to understand and monitor as a safeguard against inefficient, ineffective, or corrupt use of public resources. This would require affirmative disclosure of:
    1. Contracts, including licenses, concessions, permits, grants or any other document exchanging public goods, assets, or resources (including all annexes, schedules and documents incorporated by reference) and any amendments thereto;
    2. Related pre-studies, bid documents, performance evaluations, guarantees, and auditing reports.
    3. Information concerning contract formation, including:
      1. The planning process of the procurement;
      2. The method of procurement or award and the justification thereof;
      3. The scope and specifications for each contract;
      4. The criteria for evaluation and selection;
      5. The bidders or participants in the process, their validation documents, and any procedural exemptions for which they qualify;
      6. Any conflicts of interest uncovered or debarments issued;
      7. The results of the evaluation, including the justification for the award; and
      8. The identity of the contract recipient and any statements of beneficial ownership provided;
    4. Information related to performance and completion of public contracts, including information regarding subcontracting arrangements, such as:
      1. General schedules, including major milestones in execution, and any changes thereto;
      2. Status of implementation against milestones;
      3. Dates and amounts of stage payments made or received (against total amount) and the source of those payments;
      4. Service delivery and pricing;
      5. Arrangements for ending contracts;
      6. Final settlements and responsibilities;
      7. Risk assessments, including environmental and social impact assessments;
      8. Assessments of assets and liabilities of government related to the contract;
      9. Provisions in place to ensure appropriate management of ongoing risks and liabilities; and
      10. Appropriate financial information regarding revenues and expenditures, such as time and cost overruns, if any.
  4. Governments shall develop systems to collect, manage, simplify and publish contracting data regarding the formation, award, execution, performance and completion of public contracts in an open and structured format, in accordance with the Open Contracting Data Standards as they are developed, in a user-friendly and searchable manner.
  5. Contracting information made available to the public shall be as complete as possible, with any exceptions or limitations narrowly defined by law, ensuring that citizens have effective access to recourse in instances where access to this information is in dispute.
  6. Contracting parties, including international financial institutions, shall support disclosure in future contracting by precluding confidentiality clauses, drafting confidentiality narrowly to cover only permissible limited exemptions, or including provisions within the contractual terms and conditions to allow for the contract and related information to be published.
  7. Participation, Monitoring, and Oversight

  8. Governments shall recognize the right of the public to participate in the oversight of the formation, award, execution, performance, and completion of public contracts.
  9. Governments shall foster an enabling environment, which may include legislation, that recognizes, promotes, protects, and creates opportunities for public consultation and monitoring of public contracting, from the planning stage to the completion of contractual obligations.
  10. Governments shall work together with the private sector, donors, and civil society to build the capacities of all relevant stakeholders to understand, monitor and improve public contracting and to create sustainable funding mechanisms to support participatory public contracting.
  11. Governments have a duty to ensure oversight authorities, including parliaments, audit institutions, and implementing agencies, to access and utilize disclosed information, acknowledge and act upon citizen feedback, and encourage dialogue and consultations between contracting parties and civil society organizations in order to improve the quality of contracting outcomes.
  12. With regard to individual contracts of significant impact, contracting parties should craft strategies for citizen consultation and engagement in the management of the contract.

OKFestival Topics of 2012 Announced, 2nd Call for Proposals Published, Experimentation Encouraged!

Kat Braybrooke - May 15, 2012 in Events, Featured, News, OKF Finland, OKFest, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Uncategorized

OKFestival 2012 Organising Team

For those looking for yet another reason to join us for OKFestival in Helsinki this September, the OKFestival Core Organising Team is proud to announce the inspiring public outcomes of our unconventional First Call for Proposals – and to request your participation for our Second Call to share your ideas in Finland.

As we’ve noted previously, because OKFestival is the first event of its kind, combining Open Knowledge Conference and Open Government Data Camp together for a week-long celebration of action and collaboration, we decided to take a risk by opening up over 2/3 of the week’s programme to you as festival participants.

So last month, we released the First Call for Proposals, crossing our fingers expectantly as we did it. A few of us on the Core Organising Team (photo) were, admittedly, a tad worried – would global communities rise to the challenge? Or would we be left alone in cyberspace without even a programme to our name? We presented the festival to audiences at FREE CITY in Tallinn, at Re:Publica in Berlin and to local stakeholders in Finland. And we waited in anticipation.

In the end, we didn’t have to worry at all. The response to our First Call for Proposals was both overwhelming and encouraging. Open knowledge and data enthusiasts around the world did take the reins – and now, a month later, we have a groundbreaking, action-focused programme planned in co-operation with citizen teams of Guest Programme Planners all over the world. For a summary of the Open Knowledge Festival planning process in 14 slides, see our first Slideshare presentation here.

As you'll see above, the First Call for Proposals allowed the Core Organising Team to determine the most important themes and salient ideas, the subjects of which are highlighted through our 13 guest-organised Topic Streams of 2012:

  1. Open Democracy and Citizen Movements
  2. Open Government Data
  3. Open Cities
  4. Open Design, Hardware & Manufacturing
  5. Open Cultural Heritage
  6. Open Development
  7. Open Research and Education
  8. Open Geodata
  9. Open Source Software
  10. Data Journalism and Data Visualization
  11. Gender / Diversity in Openness
  12. Open Business and Corporate Data
  13. Open Knowledge and Sustainability

The breadth of these topics is quite diverse - indeed, the variance is somewhat unprecedented for an event of this kind. Going through the topics above and learning more about how their Guest Programme Planners are determining the programming on the Public Planning Wiki, it's hard not to feel a sense of excitement about what's to come.

For the Second (and last!) Call for Proposals, we encourage ideas that further enrich each of these themes with new perspectives. We want your lightning talks, lectures, panel discussions, workshops, hackathons and all things in between. Let's fill Helsinki's streets with innovative new ideas, new collaborations between civil society and government, and new projects that provoke openness in unexpected ways.

It is our hope that together, these themes will illustrate the importance of diverse understandings within open knowledge and open data communities - and we look forward to seeing even more of you get involved in this inspiring process.

The Second Call for Proposals is here. Deadline for submission is June 1st - go to for details. And feel free to mix and remix the Slideshare presentation above for your own uses - it's meant to be shared!

Core Organising Team at work in Helsinki

LAPSI Design Award Competition

Sam Leon - December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

The following post is by Claudio Artusio who works for LAPSI, the European Network on Legal Aspects of Public Sector Information.

There is still 3 weeks left to apply to the 3rd LAPSI Award on the most user-friendly design of a PSI portal in the EU (

PSI (acronym for Public Sector Information) can be defined as the wide range of information that public sector bodies collect, produce, reproduce and disseminate in many areas of activity while accomplishing their institutional tasks. PSI may include (among others) social, economic, geographical, cadastral, weather, tourist, and business information.

The technological progress we experience every day in the modern digital age has drastically modified the procedures and broadened the opportunities for any citizen to reach and access information. In such a context, making information generated and collected by public sector entities available and re-usable is crucial; not only it provides citizens with a reliable knowledge regarding Government and public sector bodies activities, it also represents the initial material for public or private undertakings to come up with new added-value services and supply them to citizens.

Since PSI availability is crucial for fostering re-use initiatives, the very purpose of the Award is to support any initiative which can be beneficial to PSI re-use policies for moving forward.

The Award is open to public sector bodies, businesses and citizens who designed or manage a PSI portal in the EU.

A panel of experts will evaluate the submitted projects with regard to the user-friendly design of the portal; the originality and the layout appeal of the portal; the efficacy of the portal in facilitating the access of the PSI; the efficacy of the portal in fostering the awareness on legal aspects of PSI (such as competition, data protection and privacy, intellectual property rights).

The Award has received the support of Infocamere ( and as a result, the most user-friendly design of a PSI portal will be rewarded with a prize of 1,000 Euros.

Application must be submitted in English by 23rd of December 2011 (16:00 hrs CET).

The winner of the 3rd LAPSI Award will be announced during the second day of the Public Conference that will take place in Bruxelles, on 23rd and 24th January 2012.

The Call for applications is available at:

The Submission form is available at:

The cost of closed data & the economics of open data

countculture - October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

This guest post by Chris Taggart was originally published on his blog at Chris is co-founder of OpenCorporates,  founder of OpenlyLocal, and member of the OKF open government working group 

Yesterday I received an email from a Cabinet Office civil servant in preparation for a workshop  tomorrow about the Open Data in Growth Review, and in it I was asked to provide:

an estimation of the impact of Open Data generally, or a specific data set, on UK economic growth…  an estimation of the economic impact of open data on your business (perhaps in terms of increase in turnover or number of new jobs created) of Open Data or a specific data set, and where possible the UK economy as a whole

My response:

How many Treasury economists can I borrow to help me answer these questions? Seriously.

Because that’s the point. Like the faux Public Data Corporation consultation that refuses to allow the issue of governance to be addressed, this feels very much like a stitch-up. Who, apart from economists, or those large companies and organisations who employ economists, has the skill, tools, or ability to answer questions like that.

And if I say, as an SME, that we may be employing 10 people in a year’s time, what will that count against Equifax, for example (who are also attending), who may say that their legacy business model (and staff) depends on restricting access to company data. If this view is allowed to prevail, we can kiss goodbye to the ‘more open, more fair and more prosperous‘ society the government says it wants.

So the question itself is clearly loaded, perhaps unintentionally (or perhaps not). Still, the question was asked, so here goes:

I’m going to address this in a somewhat reverse way (a sort of proof-by-contradiction). That is, rather than work out the difference between an open data world and a closed data one by estimating the increase from the current closed data world, I’m going to work out the costs to the UK incurred by having closed data.

Note that extensive use is made of Fermi estimates and backs of envelopes

  • Increased costs to the UK of delays and frustrations. Twice this week I have waited around for more than 10 minutes for buses, time when I could have stayed in the coffee shop I was working in and carried on working on my laptop had I known when the next bus was coming.
    Assuming I’m fairly unremarkable here and the situation happens to say 10 per cent of the UK’s working population through one form of transport or another, that means that there’s a loss of potential productivity of approx 0.04% (2390 minutes/2400 mins x 10%).
    Similar factors apply to a whole number of other areas, closely tied to public sector data, from roadworks (not open data) to health information to education information (years after a test dump was published we still don’t have access to Edubase) – just examine a typical week and think of the number of times you were frustrated by something which linked to public information (strength of mobile signal?). So, assuming that the transport is a fairly significant 10% of the whole, and applying it to the UK $2.25 trillion GDP we get £9000 million. Not includedloss of activity due to stress, anger, knock-on effects (when I am late for a meeting I make attendees who are on time unproductive too), etc
  • Knock-on cost of data to public sector and associated administration. Taking the Ordnance Survey as an example of a Shareholder Executive body, of its £114m in revenue (and roughly equivalent costs), £74m comes from the public sector and utilities.
    Although there would seem to be a zero cost in paying money from one organisation to another, this ignores the public sector staff and administration costs involved in buying, managing and keeping separate this info, which could easily be 30% of these costs, say 22 million. In addition, it has had to run a sales and marketing operation costing probably 14% of its turnover (based on staff numbers), and presumably it costs money collecting, formatting data which is only wanted by the private sector, say 10% of its costs.
    This leads to extra costs of £22m + £16m + £14m = £52 million or 45%. Extrapolating that over the Shareholder Executive turnover of £20 billion, and discounting by 50% (on the basis that it may not be representative) leads to additional costs of £4500 million. Not included: additional costs of margin paid on public sector data bought back from the private (i.e. part of the costs when public sector buys public-sector-based data from the private sector is the margin/costs associated with buying the public sector data).
  • Significant decreases in exchange of information, and duplication of work within the public sector (not directly connected with purchase of public sector data). Let’s say that duplication, lack of communication, lack of data exchange increases the amount of work for the civil service by 0.5%. I have no idea of the total cost of the local & central govt civil service, but there’s apparently 450,000 of them, earning, costing say £60,000 each to employ, on the basis that a typical staff member costs twice their salary. That gives us an increased cost of £1350 million. Not included: cost of legal advice, solving licence chain problems, inability to perform its basic functions properly, etc.
  • Increased fraud, corruption, poor regulation. This is a very difficult one to guess, as by definition much goes undetected. However, I’d say that many of the financial scandals of the past 10 years, from mis-selling to the FSA’s poor supervision of the finance industry had a fertile breeding ground in the closed data world in which we live (and just check out the FSA’s terms & conditions if you don’t believe me). Not to mention phoenix companies, one hand of government closing down companies that another is paying money to, and so on. You could probably justify any figure here, from £500 million to £50 billion. Why don’t we say a round billion. Not included: damage to society, trust, the civic realm
  • Increased friction in the private sector world. Every time we need a list of addresses from a postcode, information about other companies, or any other public sector data that is routinely sold, we not only pay for it in the original cost, but for the markups on that original cost from all the actors in the chain. More than that, if the dataset is of a significant capital cost, it reduces the possible players in the market, and increases costs. This may or may not appear to increase GDP, but it does so in the same way that pollution does, and ultimately makes doing business in the UK more problematic and expensive. Difficult to put a cost on this, so I won’t.
  • I’m also going to throw in a few billion to account for all the companies, applications and work that never get started because people are put off by the lack of information, high barriers to entry, or plain inaccessibility of the data (I’m here taking the lead from the planning reforms, which are partly justified on the basis that many planning applications are not made because of the hassle in doing them or because they would be refused, or otherwise blocked by the current system.)

What I haven’t included is reduced utilisation of resources (e.g empty buses, public sector buildings – the location of which can’t be released due to Ordnance Survey restrictions, etc), the poor incentives to invest in data skills in the public sector and in schools, the difficulty of SMEs understanding and breaking into new markets, and the inability of the Big Society to argue against entrenched interests on anything like and equal footing.

And this last point is crucial if localism is going to mean more rather than less power for the people.

So where does that leave us. A total of something like:

£17,850 million.

That, back of the envelope-wise, is what closed data is costing us, the loss through creating artificial scarcity by restricting public sector data to only those pay. Like narrowing an infinitely wide crossing to a small gate just so you can charge – hey, that’s an idea, why not put a toll booth on every bridge in London, that would raise some money – you can do it, but would that really be a good idea?

And for those who say the figures are bunk, that I’ve picked them out of the air, not understood the economics, or simply made mistakes in the maths – well, you’re probably right. If you want me to do better give me those Treasury economists, and the resources to use them, or accept that you’re only getting the voice of those that do, and not innovative SMEs, still less the Big Society.

Footnote: On a similar topic, but taking a slightly different tack is the ever excellent David Eaves on the economics of Toronto’s transport data. Well worth reading.


Open Commons Region Linz

Theodora Middleton - September 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

The following guest post is by Thomas Gegenhuber, Naumi Haque and Stefan Pawel, who are involved in Open Commons Linz.

In 2010, the City of Linz, Austria completed a year-long study of an “Open Commons Region” for government. The findings of the study introduce a framework for open government, with the goal of creating a vibrant public-private ecosystem that includes public administration, corporations, arts communities, educational institutions, and citizens. The focus is on local governments, who are closest to the people and have an opportunity to use principles of transparency, participation and collaboration to improve services in areas that directly affect local communities, such as education,
transportation, connectivity, and culture.

In 1979 Linz became a place for experimenting with digital culture by creating the “Ars Electronica.” The initiative is part avant-garde festival, part competition, part on-going showcase for excellence in digital art, and part media art lab providing artistic expertise for R&D projects. The City of continued by addressing basic accessibility with the Hotspot Initiative and has expanded the scope of open government with initiatives such as the Public Space Server, the Creative Commons Subsidy Model, and the first steps towards open data.

The study “Open-Commons-Region Linz” was conducted by the IT department of the city in collaboration with the Johannes Kepler University. The report summarizes the role of local government in establishing an Open Commons Region. In the past, public funds for economic development have been focused largely on capital infrastructure like roads and institutions. In a
knowledge economy, it makes sense to also invest in intellectual growth, shared data, and ideas. In this context, the role of the government is to create a framework for public knowledge, draft appropriate legislation, build awareness, and support budding initiatives set forth by citizens and
private enterprises.

The Open Commons Region Linz is working on a platform called “Clickservice”, like SeeClickFix or FixMyStreet, and on an Open Government Data platform. The Open Government Data platform will also be open for other smaller cities around Linz, but also for institutions and companies. Both
projects will start this autumn.

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