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The revolution will NOT be in Open Data

Guest - October 21, 2013 in Open Development, WG Development

The following guest post is by Duncan Edwards from the Institute of Development Studies.

I’ve had a lingering feeling of unease that things were not quite right in the world of open development and ICT4D (Information and communication technology for development), so at September’s Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva I took advantage of the presence of some of the world’s top practitioners in these two areas to explore the question: How does “openness” really effect change within development?

Inspiration for the session came from a number of conversations I’ve had over the last few years. My co-conspirator/co-organiser of the OKCon side event “Reality check: Ethics and Risk in Open Development,” Linda Raftree, had also been feeling uncomfortable with the framing of many open development projects, assumptions being made about how “openness + ICTs = development outcomes,” and a concern that risks and privacy were not being adequately considered. We had been wondering whether the claims made by Open Development enthusiasts were substantiated by any demonstrable impact. For some reason, as soon as you introduce the words “open data” and “ICT,” good practice in development gets thrown out the window in the excitement to reach “the solution”.

A common narrative in many “open” development projects goes along the lines of “provide access to data/information –> some magic occurs –> we see positive change.” In essence, because of the newness of this field, we only know what we THINK happens, we don’t know what REALLY happens because there is a paucity of documentation and evidence.

It’s problematic that we often use the terms data, information, and knowledge interchangeably, because:

Data is NOT knowledge.
Data is NOT information.
Information is NOT knowledge.
Knowledge IS what you know. It’s the result of information you’ve consumed, your education, your culture, beliefs, religion, experience – it’s intertwined with the society within which you live.

Understanding and thinking through how we get from the “openness” of data, to how this affects how and what people think, and consequently how they MIGHT act, is critical in whether “open” actually has any additional impact.

At Wednesday’s session, panellist Matthew Smith from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) talked about the commonalities across various open initiatives. Matthew argued that a larger Theory of Change (ToC) around how ‘open’ leads to change on a number of levels could allow practitioners to draw out common points. The basic theory we see in open initiatives is “put information out, get a feedback loop going, see change happen.” But open development can be sliced in many ways, and we tend to work in silos when talking about openness. We have open educational resources, open data, open government, open science, etc. We apply ideas and theories of openness in a number of domains but we are not learning across these domains.

We explored the theories of change underpinning two active programmes that incorporate a certain amount of “openness” in their logic. Simon Colmer from the Knowledge Services department at the Institute of Development Studies outlined his department’s theory of change of how research evidence can help support decision-making in development policy-making and practice. Erik Nijland from HIVOS presented elements of the theory of change that underpins the Making All Voices Count programme, which looks to increase the links between citizens and governments to improve public services and deepen democracy. Both of these ToCs assume that because data/information is accessible, people will use it within their decision-making processes.

They also both assume that intermediaries play a critical role in analysis, translation, interpretation, and contextualisation of data and information to ensure that decision makers (whether citizens, policy actors, or development practitioners) are able to make use of it. Although access is theoretically open, in practice even mediated access is not equal – so how might this play out in respect to marginalised communities and individuals?

What neither ToC really does is unpack who these intermediaries are. What are their politics? What are their drivers for mediating data and information? What is the effect of this? A common assumption is that intermediaries are somehow neutral and unbiased – does this assumption really hold true?

What many open data initiatives do not consider is what happens after people are able to access and internalise open data and information. How do people act once they know something? As Vanessa Herringshaw from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative said in the “Raising the Bar for ambition and quality in OGP” session, “We know what transparency should look like but things are a lot less clear on the accountability end of things”.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. Do citizens have the agency to take action? Who holds power? What kind of action is appropriate or desirable? Who is listening? And if they are listening, do they care?

Linda finished up the panel by raising some questions around the assumptions that people make decisions based on information rather than on emotion, and that there is a homogeneous “public” or “community” that is waiting for data/information upon which to base their opinions and actions.

So as a final thought, here’s my (perhaps clumsy) 2013 update on Gil Scott Heron’s 1970 song “The Revolution will not be televised”:

“The revolution will NOT be in Open data,
It will NOT be in hackathons, data dives, and mobile apps,
It will NOT be broadcast on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube,
It will NOT be live-streamed, podcast, and available on catch-up
The revolution will not be televised”

Heron’s point, which holds true today, was that “the revolution” or change, starts in the head. We need to think carefully about how we get far beyond access to data.

Look out for a second post coming soon on Theories of Change in Open, and a third post on ethics and risk in open data and open development. And if you’re interested in joining the conversation, why not sign up to our Open Development mailing list

Image source: http://epicgraphic.com/data-cake/ Data cake metaphor developed by Mark Johnstone

An open goal that can’t be missed: 2015 and open data

Andrew Palmer - February 28, 2013 in Access to Information, Open Data, WG Development

STOP PRESS: UN holds consultation.

Okay, so this may not be the most groundbreaking of
introductions. It’s up there with such bombshells as “man catches bus” and “comedian tells joke” with but
stick with me … it’s important.

Today marks the first day of the UN’s post-2015 consultation on governance, jointly hosted by South
Africa and Germany. For the uninitiated, “post-2015” is the lingo that the UN has given to the process of
deciding what comes after the Millennium Development Goals which expire at the end of 2015.

africa computer

As you may recall, in amongst the commotion of the millennium bug the turn of the century was
accompanied by two significant actions by the UN. The first was the publication of ‘The Millennium
Declaration
’ which outlines the principles of cooperation for the twenty-first century and, incidentally, is
probably one of the finest documents to emerge from UN headquarters on First Avenue at 46th Street,
New York. The second was, at the time, the slightly less fanfared Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
which set targets for developing countries in areas such as halving absolute poverty, providing greater
access to education and reducing child mortality.

What we’ve learnt over the decade since the millenium is that what get measured counts. Wonderful prose and
narrative on the importance of governance and human rights are to be applauded (and we should drive
for more commitments), but when it comes to investing money governments have tended to focus on
more measurable gains. The upshot of all this means that the MDGs, and the targets and indicators that
they represent, have become the currency of twenty-first century development.

This brings me back to the UN post-2015 consultation on governance. If the lessons are to be learnt this
time round it is essential that the values and principles of accountability, transparency and participation
are translated into measurable goals, targets and indicators that are included as part of the goal
framework – not as the side note. Without an explicit push to improve the quality, timeliness and
availability of information any efforts to establish a transformational post-2015 agenda will only ever be
directed at an incomplete, and potentially inaccurate, picture.

At Development Initiatives we have been working on proposals for a goal on access to information as well as
proposals on open development with others. But alone we don’t have the all the answers or
the influence to make this happen. What is needed is for other members of the open data community to
be alert to the post-2015 process and how we can collectively use this forum to advance the cause for
open and better quality data. In short, we need your help to make sure the UN understand that this is an
open goal that can’t be missed.

If you’d like to find out more about the post-2015 process then please contact
andrew.palmer@devinit.org

Open Research Data Handbook Sprint – 15-16 February

Velichka Dimitrova - January 16, 2013 in Events, Featured, Open Data Handbook, Open Economics, Open Science, Open Standards, Sprint / Hackday, WG Development, WG Economics, WG Open Bibliographic Data, WG Open Data in Science

On February 15-16, the Open Research Data Handbook Sprint will happen at the Open Data Institute, 65 Clifton Street, London EC2A 4JE.

The Open Research Data Handbook aims to provide an introduction to the processes, tools and other areas that researchers need to consider to make their research data openly available.

Join us for a book sprint to develop the current draft, and explore ways to remix it for different disciplines and contexts.

Who it is for:

  • Researchers interested in carrying out their work in more open ways
  • Experts on sharing research and research data
  • Writers and copy editors
  • Web developers and designers to help present the handbook online
  • Anyone else interested in taking part in an intense and collaborative weekend of action

Register at Eventbrite

What will happen:

The main sprint will take place on Friday and Saturday. After initial discussions we’ll divide into open space groups to focus on research, writing and editing for different chapters of the handbook, developing a range of content including How To guidance, stories of impact, collections of links and decision tools.

A group will also look at digital tools for presenting the handbook online, including ways to easily tag content for different audiences and remix the guide for different contexts.

Agenda:

Week before & after:

  • Calling for online contributions and reviews

Friday:

  • Seminar or bring your own lunch on open research data.
  • From 2pm: planning and initial work in the handbook in small teams (optional)

Saturday:

  • 10.00 – 10:30: Arrive and coffee
  • 10.30 – 11.30: Introducing open research – lightning talks
  • 11.30 – 13:30: Forming teams and starting sprint. Groups on:
    • Writing chapters
    • Decision tools
    • Building website & framework for book
    • Remixing guide for particular contexts
  • 13.30 – 14:30: Lunch
  • 14.30 – 16:30: Working in teams
  • 17.30 – 18:30: Report back
  • 18:30 – …… : Pub

Partners:

OKF Open Science Working Group – creators of the current Open Research Data Handbook
OKF Open Economic Working Group – exploring economics aspects of open research
Open Data Research Network - exploring a remix of the handbook to support open social science
research in a new global research network, focussed on research in the Global South.
Open Data Institute – hosting the event

Open Data Portal for Latin America

Caroline Burle - November 6, 2012 in OKF Brazil, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, WG Development, WG Open Government Data

Sharing governmental information in open, accessible and structured formats could substantially increase transparency and accountability in public policy design and implementation. Furthermore, it enables broad social engagement in the process. Hence, opening data and acknowledging the demands of the population that arise from this is key to promoting social equality and effective public administration.

Based on this premise, the project Open Data for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean has been implemented in partnership with W3C Brazil, the European Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), within the scope of the Observatory for the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (OSILAC) and the International Development and Research Center of Canada (IDRC).

The OD4D has 6 specific objectives:

  • To map out the main initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean for structured economic, social and environmental data sharing and to design a methodological framework to examine the relationship between opening data and the quality of public policies.
  • To study and discuss alternative strategies to foster technical training in governmental agencies and observatories in the region, thus implementing open data repositories for the design, monitoring and assessment of public policies.
  • To support research networks in Latin America and the Caribbean in producing new information and creating innovative applications and services based on open data.
  • To examine the relationship between more inclusive economic development and the opening of data in key economic segments.
  • To raise awareness among the community of public policy makers, public servants and researches of the potential of Open Data and appropriate strategies for its successful implementation.
  • To assess the potential of Open Data strategies in the design and implementation of public policies aimed at promoting economic development and social inclusion in Latin American countries and in the Caribbean.

The Portuguese version of this post is available on the OKF Brazil blog

Development Data Challenge

Laura Newman - August 31, 2012 in Events, External, School of Data, Sprint / Hackday, WG Development

Over the weekend of 25th and 26th August, the second event in a series of ‘Development Data Challenges’ took place at the Guardian’s offices in London.

What is a ‘Development Data Challenge’?

Development Data Challenges are an interesting concept. They draw together a disparate group of people (we had development experts, coders, designers, data wranglers, journalists and various intrigued individuals), and ask them to use data and technology in order to answer a development-related question.

The last Development Data Challenge took place in Washington DC in June, and the next will take place at OKFest in Helsinki this September. All are welcome!

In London, the day began with an entire wall covered in questions. All were interesting, but it soon became apparent that some were more feasible than others. Even after careful selection, several teams struggled to find the necessary data.

As Julia observed in her blog, ‘the leitmotiv continues to be data availability and data quality’‘if the model was only to continue to deliver those datasets already identified… that would not be good enough’.

The Chosen Projects

Over the course of the weekend, a host of teams worked on a variety of questions.

1. Mapping access to water in South Sudan

One of the most inspiring projects for me was ‘Watermap’. The team mapped wells and settlements in South Sudan, ultimately allowing you to identify the settlements that are furthest from their nearest water source.

By the end of day one, the team had already produced this visualisation – or at least an alpha version of it. By selecting various filters, you can pinpoint all wells across the country, explore a heatmap of settlements, and even see where all the natural waterways in the country flow. Take a look!

 
 
 

NEWSFLASH: Dominik Moritz has walked us through the process of the tools he used and what he did in order to create this visualisation on the School of Data blog. To get inspired by his Data Wrangling project, head over there and check it out!

2. Media and aid

Another team attempted to analyse how media coverage affects aid donations. Sounds simple? Far from it. As Katherine Purvis explains in her blog, ‘media coverage’ had to be reduced to the official YouTube channels of 31 reputable news organisations, ‘donations’ were those recorded by the Financial Tracking Service and ‘natural disasters’ had to be carefully selected (interestingly, no data could be found on donations after Hurricane Katrina). Even then, the data was difficult to wrestle with. But the team managed to come up with this visualisation. The x-axis is TV coverage per minute, the y axis is donations, and the size of the bubble represents the number of people affected. Interesting stuff.

3. Geo-locating Schools and Health Clinics in India

Given the time I have recently spent in India, I was particularly interested to watch this project progress.

The purpose of this project is to use geo-located data to map community services in India. The ultimate aim is to create simple mobile applications which would allow users to search for the nearest services. Primary user stories include: ‘Where is the nearest clinic?’ ‘When is the next vaccination day?’

The project has received data from the Karnataka Learning Partnership.

You can see the work in progress on the Konekta website, view the code on Github and see the data on the Datahub.

4. Aid projects in Malawi

Another team created an interactive visualisation, which geo-locates aid projects in Malawi by sector.

It’s worth having a play with their map. They managed to include a serious amount of information (amount of funding, status of project, donor agency) onto a visualisation that still looks friendly.

The data came from the Government of Malawi’s Aid Management Platform, and the relevant datasets can be found stored on the Datahub.

5. Tracing aid – from tax revenues to the ground

Another group attempted to trace the flow of aid money right from the point of collection to its actual expenditure. This was fraught with difficulty. Often, there are multiple links in the chain: e.g. DfID grant money to the World Bank, who sub-grant to local partners, who may even sub-grant again. How much gets where it is meant to go to? What percentage is lost along the way?

At present IATI data isn’t complete enough to really drill into these questions. The team was often stumped after a long chase by finding the dreaded words ‘Implementing Organisation: Other’. Before the task began, there had been all sorts of interesting discussion about if and how final impact could be measured – but there were many barriers to address before that stage could be reached. Nonetheless, some useful information was collected about aid flows. Perhaps there will be a future opportunity to take this further.

6. How good is IATI data?

The final group worked on a set of tools to examine the quality of data published by aid donors. The Guardian Development blog reported some of their early findings:

  • “Only 20% of IATI data files include information on what results – if any – have been achieved by aid projects.
  • Less than 0.002% include details on any conditions attached to donor funding.

Next steps include developing tests to examine what data has been published, and how useful it is, and to see how to weight different tests to get an overall data quality “score”.”

Find out more

  • By contributing offline, Rufus Pollock pulled together a neat list of the various tools that people were using during the day. If you used something else, you can add it via this spreadsheet

  • The Guardian Development blog have produced an excellent summary of the day, with links to much of the raw data and output code.

  • Come along for the next event in Helsinki!

  • … And don’t forget to check out Dominik’s post about Watermap on the School of Data blog.

Development Data Challenge – London, August 25-26

Velichka Dimitrova - August 21, 2012 in Events, Open Data, Open Government Data, Sprint / Hackday, WG Development

Where Do Development Questions Meet Development Data?

Development Data Challenge

  • Where: The Guardian (Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1P 2AP)
  • When: Saturday and Sunday, August 25-26 2012

This weekend in London, coders, designers, development experts, data wranglers and interested citizens and invited for the Development Data Challenge in London.

Join us at the Guardian for a weekend of data wrangling, visualising and challenging questions. Bringing together hacks and hackers, developers and development experts, we want to answer interesting and difficult questions about international development – and in the process, demonstrate the value of the amazing amount of new data that is now available.

Do you know of any interesting and relevant datasets? Can you clean and wrangle data? You might be able to turn that data into an awesome app. Maybe you can make data look beautiful and tell an amazing story. Or maybe you just have a great idea.

Please sign up to attend the event: Eventbite page

DDC

Call for research proposals: open data in developing countries

Tim Davies - August 10, 2012 in Open Data, Open Government Data, WG Development, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

The Web Foundation and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are looking to fund case study research on the emerging impacts of open data in developing countries.

Open data policies are spreading across the world: but how does open data play out on the ground in different settings? What is needed for the potential transparency and accountability, innovation and enterprise, and social inclusion benefits of open data to be realised? How are different actors using open data to support good governance, better decision making, and better development outcomes? Those are just a few of the questions that were explored at the ‘Critical Development Perspectives on Open Government Data’ workshop held in Brasilia just before the 2012 Open Government Partnership conference this April, where the Open Data Research network was initially established.

Building on that workshop, the Web Foundation and IDRC call is looking for researchers and research institutions based in the global south to develop detailed case studies of where open data is interacting with different governance and development issues – from setting and monitoring budgets, to developing smart city infrastructures, or improving the use of funds for agricultural improvement. Selected cases will form part of a research network over 2013, coming together to look at cross cutting themes highlighted by the different case studies.

The project will fund a series of detailed case studies that examine the emerging impacts of specific on-going open data initiatives that address key development themes. Potential cases include:

  • Open data in local and national budgeting processes
  • Open data for legislation processes and elections
  • Open data in judicial systems
  • Open data for smarter cities
  • Open data for the delivery of privately provided public services
  • Open data for the regulation of markets (e.g. extractive industries)
  • Open data for the welfare and empowerment of marginalized groups and communities (e.g. data for small farmers)
  • Open data and international development

Funding of between USD$25,000 and USD$75,000 per case is available, and the application deadline is 10th September. Find the full call and more details at www.opendataresearch.org

Aid Data: From XML to Visualisations – IATI data in OpenSpending

Mark Brough - June 5, 2012 in Open Government Data, Open Spending, Open Standards, WG Development

Are the World Bank and Department for International Development (DfID) spending money on projects in similar sectors and countries? Does all aid to Kenya go the North-East? How much aid in total did India receive last year?

Until recently, it was impossible to know. But now, thanks to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), we’ve been able to start to answer these questions – making the aid process more transparent, which is crucial for making it more effective.

IATI is a political agreement by the world’s major donors – including international banks, private foundations and NGOs – on a common way to publish aid information. It also defines a technical standard for exactly how that information should be published, IATI-XML.

So far, 29 donors representing 74% of Official Development Finance (ODF) have committed to publishing to IATI. A further 13 donors representing 45% of ODF have already published, and 12 NGOs and foundations have published their own data.

This post details how we converted each donor’s data, using simple scripts and open source tools, from raw XML data in the IATI Registry into a consolidated dataset and then, via loading into OpenSpending to visualisations like those shown above and an easy-to-use RESTful API.

From this....

... to this.

Getting the Data Together

Full details of how we got the data together are in this case study on OpenSpending … but to summarize:

  • We grabbed a list of all the IATI data files via the IATI Registry API (the IATI registry is running CKAN so this is very easy)
  • We converted the data to an SQLite database and a simplified CSV format and posted these on the IATI dataset on the DataHub
  • Modelled and loaded it into OpenSpending, creating views to visualize it in basic forms.

What you can see

You can now explore the complete dataset of aid data released so far through IATI, exploring the aggregate and detailed data on OpenSpending. You can drill down through the data and look at it from different perspectives, from exploring the largest sectors in a country, to different implementing organisations in that sector, to looking at all the projects implemented by a single organisation.

Drill down from one layer…

IATI 1

… to the next – we’re zooming in on China here, breaking down by flow type…

IATI China Zoom

… and you can switch between breakdowns – slicing data here up by organisations implementing the aid…

IATI China Implementing Organisation

… and here by funding organisation

IATI China Funding Organisation

More details

We’ve also just put together a briefing on how we worked with the IATI data on OpenSpending.org. The briefing covers in depth what IATI is, using the IATI registry, consolidating data into a simple format, loading data into OpenSpending and using the API.

Next steps & get involved.

For those keen to put coding knowledge to good use to further the IATI mission, some ideas below:

  • Use the API – you can use OpenSpending’s API to build applications – read the briefing for more ideas and instructions
  • Review our scripts for converting IATI data. We’ve been compiling a list of known issues with possible future extensions such as geo-coding, reconciling organisations and handling currencies.

What’s in the data, what’s still to come

The dataset contains current and future spending by major aid donors representing 44% of ODF, with disbursement data running up to the current month in some cases. It also contains commitment data up to 2016 from one donor (and from multiple donors up to 2014).

However, the data does not contain any information from donors who have not yet published to IATI, and it also does not yet include results, project documents or geo-coded data.

Future projects might include:

  • Validation – to ensure that data is properly formatted and uses standard codelists;
  • Adding results, geo-coding and project documents to the OpenSpending visualisation – some of this is already available in the original source data, but has not yet been incorporated to this dataset;
  • Other visualisations – for example, a map, and activity and transaction views;
  • Running the dataset compilation automatically – so that it runs on a server nightly, is up-to-date and imports the latest version to OpenSpending as it’s updated.

The future

Eventually what we’d like to see is something like this: an integrated dataset of aid and budgets in each country, so that the full picture of resource flows is available.

PWYF Uganda

Which country will be next to join up their aid and budgetary flows? You can get in touch with us via the mailing list if you have any questions about this project or the data.

This post was written by Mark Brough. It is cross-posted on the OpenSpending blog.

Can Open Data help conflict prevention?

Catherine Dempsey - April 11, 2012 in External, Featured Project, Open Data, Open Geodata, Open Government Data, WG Development, WG Open Government Data

We’re in the planning stages of a conflict prevention project called PAX and open data perspectives have fed into our thinking in its processes and structures.

PAX aims to provide early warnings of emerging violent conflict, through an online collaborative system of data sharing and analysis. We’re still in the early stages of exploration and experiment, but the principle is that open data could help provide warnings of emerging violent conflict, enabling governments, NGOs and citizens to take action to prevent it escalating. PAX’s premise is that by collaborating on timely analysis of data, we may be able to ring the alarm on emerging situations much faster than with yesterday’s closed and hierarchical systems.

Openness permeates PAX’s approach, from data to processes to software. Our sources would include everything that we can get governments, NGOs and corporations to share, in addition to the direct voice of conflict-affected people –
through citizen reporting, mobiles, social media and so on. We’re looking at using open source software for sharing and reporting, with Ushahidi’s original mapping platform and their soon-to-be released revamped SwiftRiver platform.

SwiftRiver is a platform for sorting through huge flows (rivers) of information in times of crisis. It uses crowdsourcing methods not only to gather information, but also in the process of sorting and analysis. Those with local knowledge and local language are invited to join a transparent conversation about the value of any one piece of data – Is it of questionable authenticity? Could it be false information put out by the perpetrators of violence? Is it out of date? What’s the location?

With the results of that analysis, citizens can hold their governments to account on their efforts to prevent conflict. We hope to provide a new lever with which to ask governments to fulfil their responsibility to protect where populations are in danger.

The #Kony2012 campaign from Invisible Children demonstrated the power of a population calling on their government to take action to prevent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) atrocities. But the information they presented to
their public was widely criticised for being inaccurate and out of date. Wouldn’t this type of call to action be more powerful where the information on perpetrators of violence against civilians was more accurate and timely, through online verification, amplifying the voices of affected people?

Opening up direct communication with conflict-affected people could enable them to ask for the kind of action and resources they really want. Less well-known is the Invisible Children’s LRA Tracker project (a collaboration with
Resolve) which uses mapping and realtime reporting (including reports from people affected in the region) to shine a light on LRA attacks throughout the remote border area between Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and
Central African Republic.

The pressure for openness, more information, transparency and the existence
of many non-governmental projects seeking to open up satellite imagery to the
wider public, is contributing to an environment where the governments are increasingly willing to share
their own government data on conflict regions. Following a stream of satellite imagery projects to document human rights abuses (see George Clooney’s Satellite Sentinel project, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among others), a number of declassified images of Homs in Syria were publicly released by the US government (through US Ambassador Ford’s Facebook page), in a new move to expose atrocities there.

Some of the most interesting projects have got stuck in early on, so that they are prepared and proactive when it comes to gathering and analysing realtime data. The Syria Tracker crisismapping deployment launched shortly after the
protests began and is now the longest running mapping project covering the violence across the country. Working with volunteers both within and outside Syria, they are systematically recording information, mapping it, and creating a vital record of atrocities by the Syrian government.

Here we have civilians collecting and publishing data which governments are certainly not publishing, and may not even be collecting. This form of openness by citizens puts pressure on governments to improve their own documentation and publication – and we hope it may also encourage them to respond to events in the way that the people on the ground want them to.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on the project, you can find out more at http://www.paxreports.org/.

Wanted – Open Data practitioners to work with Charities for an ‘Open data-day’

Theodora Middleton - November 30, 2011 in Events, External, Open Data, WG Development, WG Open Government Data

The following guest post is by Ed Anderton from the Nominet Trust, who provide support to organisations to increase access to the internet, online safety and education.


The Nominet Trust is providing funding for a set of 10 ‘data-days’ with a range of UK Charities – more details of our offer to Charities can be found here.
We’re looking for Open Data experts to match with these Charities: ideally we’re after a combination of experience of building open data applications and working with civil society organisations. So far we’ve had expressions of interest from Charities in the South-West, West Midlands, North-West, East of England and the South-East, so it would be great to find Open Data experts based in different parts of the country.
Tim Davies from Practical Participation has kindly put together some helpful guidance for Charities (see below) on how they might best use an ‘open data-day’: this is also intended to give you a good idea of what the role of the open data consultant may involve.

I am managing the project and will be providing support throughout, including setting objectives, drawing up contracts and documenting what happens on each of the 10 days.

If you are interested please drop me an email or find me on Twitter – @ejanderton


Planning an Open Data Exploration Day

How can open data make a difference to the charity sector?

An open data day offers a quick-fire way to find out, and is designed to identify how charities can be both publishers and users of open data, giving you the skills to understand, work with and make the most of open data.

The dataset route:

  • You identify a dataset created or owned by your organisation that you want to do more with. This could be details of members of your networks; data from a survey you conduct; performance statistics; a research dataset you have put together; or any other dataset used in your day-to-day work.

  • You work with the ‘open data day’ consultant to identify the potential value of publishing this as open data; to practical steps involved; and the ways it could be used. For some datasets (where there are no personal data or rights issues to deal with), it might be possible to publish them right away, either for a limited pilot just on the day itself, or as a new open data release that you will continue to work with. (For example, the consultant could work with you to release data that was previously published as tables in a written report that were not easy to re-use.)

  • You work to create some rapid prototypes based on this data, demonstrating the potential of its open release.This could involve the consultant providing hands-on training to a small team of staff in using freely available open data tools like Google Refine and Fusion Tables (for creating maps and bubble charts), or Tableau (for in depth data visualisation). Alternatively, you could challenge your consultant to spend a few hours working on a rapid prototype using more advanced computer programming approaches to present back to you an example of open data possibilities.

  • At the end of the day you present the results to your colleagues. You might have a new sustainable product, or just a prototype. The learning from the day will be captured in a report which provides a draft roadmap for future explorations of open data in the organisation, and giving a case study of the potential of open data publishing.

The issue route

  • You identify an issue you are working on where open data from government or civil society could be useful to your work.
  • The open data day consultant works with you to locate open data sources that relate to this issue.
  • You work together to create some rapid prototypes showing how this data can be accessed, explored and analysed using open data tools.
  • You explore ways to build these sources of open data into your day-to-day work and identify a draft strategy for making more use of open data sources.

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