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The Global Open Data Index 2015 is live – what is your country status?

Open Knowledge - December 9, 2015 in Global Open Data Index, open knowledge

We are excited to announce that we have published the third annual Global Open Data Index. This year’s Index showed impressive gains from non-OECD countries with Taiwan topping the Index and Colombia and Uruguay breaking into the top ten at four and seven respectively. Overall, the Index evaluated 122 places and 1586 datasets and determined that only 9%, or 156 datasets, were both technically and legally open.

The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of data in thirteen key categories, including government spending, election results, procurement, and pollution levels. Over the summer, we held a public consultation, which saw contributions from individuals within the open data community as well as from key civil society organisations across an array of sectors. As a result of this consultation, we expanded the 2015 Index to include public procurement data, water quality data, land ownership data and weather data; we also decided to removed transport timetables due to the difficulties faced when comparing transport system data globally.

Open Knowledge International began to systematically track the release of open data by national governments in 2013 with the objective of measuring if governments were releasing the key datasets of high social and democratic value as open data. That enables us to better understand the current state of play and in turn work with civil society actors to address the gaps in data release. Over the course of the last three years, the Global Open Data Index has become more than just a benchmark – we noticed that governments began to use the Index as a reference to inform their open data priorities and civil society actors began to use the Index advocacy tool to encourage governments to improve their performance in releasing key datasets.

Furthermore, indices such as the Global Open Data Index are not without their challenges. The Index measures the technical and legal openness of datasets deemed to be of critical democratic and social value – it does not measure the openness of a given government. It should be clear that the release of a few key datasets is not a sufficient measure of the openness of a government. The blurring of lines between open data and open government is nothing new and has been hotly debated by civil society groups and transparency organisations since the sharp rise in popularity of open data policies over the last decade.

odi-600 While the goal of the Index has never been to measure the openness of governments, we have been working in collaborations with others to make the index more than just a benchmark of data release. This year, by collaborating with topical experts across an array of sectors, we were able to improve our dataset category definitions to ensure that we are measuring data that civil society groups require rather than simply the data that governments happen to be collecting.

Next year we will be doubling down on this effort to work in collaboration with topical experts to go beyond a “baseline” of reference datasets which are widely held to be important, to tracking the release of datasets deemed critical by the civil society groups working in a given field. This effort is both experimental and ambitious. Measuring open data is not trivial and we are keenly aware of the balance that needs to be struck between international comparability and local context and we will continue to work to get this balance right. Join us on the Index forum to join these future discussions.

Google Funds Frictionless Data Initiative at Open Knowledge

Open Knowledge - February 1, 2016 in News, open knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

We are delighted to announce that Open Knowledge has received funding from Google to work on tool integration for Data Packages as part of our broader work on Frictionless Data to support the open data community.

 

What are Data Packages?

The funding will support a growing set of tooling around Data Packages.  Data Packages provide functionality for data similar to “packaging” in software and “containerization” in shipping: a simple wrapper and basic structure for the transportation of data that significantly reduces the “friction” and challenges associated with data sharing and integration.

Data Packages also support better automation in data processing and do so without imposing major changes on the underlying data being packaged.  As an example, comprehensive country codes is a Data Package which joins together standardized country information from various sources into a single CSV file. The Data Package format, at its simplest level, allows its creator to provide information describing the fields, license, and maintainer of the dataset, all in a machine-readable format.

In addition to the basic Data Package format –which supports any data structure– there are other, more specialised Data Package formats: Tabular Data Package for tabular data and based on CSV, Geo Data Package for geodata based on GeoJSON. You can also extend Data Package with your own schemas and create topic-specific Data Packages like Fiscal Data Package for public financial data.  Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 8.57.44 AM

What will be funded?

The funding supports adding Data Package integration and support to CKAN, BigQuery, and popular open-source SQL relational databases like PostgreSQL and MySQL / MariaDB.

CKAN Integration

CKAN is an open source data management system that is used by many governments and civic organizations to streamline publishing, sharing, finding and using data. This project implements a CKAN extension so that all CKAN datasets are automatically available as Data Packages through the CKAN API. In addition, the extension ensures that the CKAN API natively accepts Tabular Data Package metadata and preserves this information on round-tripping.

BigQuery Integration

This project also creates support for import and export of Tabular Data Packages to BigQuery, Google’s web service querying massive datasets. This involves scripting and a small online service to map Tabular Data Package to BigQuery data definitions. Because Tabular Data Packages already use CSV as the data format, this work focuses on the transformation of data definitions.

General SQL Integration

Finally, general SQL integration is being funded which would cover key open source databases like PostgreSQL and MySQL / MariaDB. This will allow data packages to be natively used in an even wider variety of software that depend on these databases than those listed above.

 

These integrations move us closer to a world of “frictionless data”. For more information about our vision, visit: http://data.okfn.org/.

If you have any questions, comments or would like more information, please visit this topic in our OKFN Discuss forum.

Data OKFN

 

Open Data Day Mini Grants: back for 2016!

Mor Rubinstein - January 29, 2016 in Featured, Open Data Day, open knowledge

This year, on Saturday, the 5th of March, the fourth annual Open Data Day will take place. For us in Open Knowledge, Open Data Day is one of our favourite initiatives. This is a grassroot event that has no particular organisation behind it, and it is able to bring together people from all over the world to discuss, hack and promote open data. From Japan to Vancouver, Cape Town to Oslo, Brazil to Nepal, London and Greece, Open Data Day is a global celebration of openness. It helps us all raise awareness about openness of data in different fields across the world and It unites us once a year as a community.

Last year, Open Knowledge International started the mini grant scheme to support Open Data Day events across the world. As a volunteer based event, we know how a small chunk of money can make a great difference – from getting food to your hackathon to hiring a venue to whatever you need. In 2015, with the support of ILDA, Sunlight Foundation and the Caribbean Open Institute we were able to give 28 grants all over the world and to enrich Open Data Day.

This year We are happy to announce that we will keep giving mini grants to support Open Data Day around the world. Open Knowledge will be able distribute a total amount of $7500 USD between different groups around the world. The mini grants will be in the sum of $250-$350 USD each and will serve Open Data Day 2016 events only. The deadline to all applications is Sunday, 14/2/2016.

indonesia

2015 Open Data Day participants in Indonesia

How to apply for the mini grants scheme?

First, add your event to the Open Data Day website and wiki. Then, fill out this FORM. NOTICE: Events that are not be registered on the Open Data Day website will not be considered for the grant.

Who can apply for a mini grant?

Any civil society group from anywhere around the world. We will give preference to current groups and affiliates groups that already work as part of the Open Knowledge Network, but we will consider other groups as well. Notice, we will not give this grant to governments.

Is there any topic that the event should focus on? No, it can be Open Science, Open GLAM, Open Gov… As long has it has something to do with Open Data. :-)

Are there any geographical restrictions? It doesn’t matter where your event is, you are welcome to apply. Please note that we will not fund two events in the same country, so we encourage groups to merge to one event as they can.

What is the catch? Do I have to do anything in return? Yes there is a small catch, but only for the sake of knowledge sharing and smooth operations!

  1. Since Open Data Day is really around the corner, we ask you to provide us all information for delivering your grant, within 3 working days after you have been notified you will get the grant.
  2. We do ask you to write a blog post that describes your event and what the group learned from it. We believe that in this way the Open Knowledge Network can learn better from one another and make better connections between people and ideas.

If my application is successful, how are you going to transfer us the money?

If your application was successful, you will be required to immediately provide sufficient Bank information in order to make payment. All payments will either be made via Paypal, or direct to you bank account.

When will you announce if I got the mini grant? We aim to notify all grant winners by Friday the 19/2/2016.

The deadline to all applications is Sunday, 14/2/2016.

For more information please ask in our forum, and one of us would be happy to assist. – https://discuss.okfn.org/c/network-and-community/open-data-day

Open Knowledge Network and Community updates – First steps of 2016

Mor Rubinstein - January 25, 2016 in Community, Community Stories, open knowledge

2015 was a great year for Open Knowledge, full of opportunities and challenges. We started many exciting new projects such as Open Trials, Budgets EU and the Route to PA, we had personnel changes (and a new CEO, Pavel Richter), and also we’ve refined our name to Open Knowledge International. In addition, we developed a community roadmap to help and strengthen the Open Knowledge Network and move it towards self governance and more effective collaboration in 2016.

Why do we need a community roadmap (and how is it different from a strategy)?

“A community roadmap gives direction to your community program. Your community strategy describes your destination. The roadmap helps steer you there. ​Roadmaps often look like project plans, detailing specific activities and the resources required. Roadmaps mark milestones in a community’s journey, making tracking progress easier.” – Community Roundtable e-book

Building a community roadmap for communities of knowledge and tech is hard work. Most guides for community building on the internet look at community members from a commercial perspective as users of a product or consumers. In the case of the Open Knowledge Network, we see our community members as influencers, innovators, contributors or leaders in their thematic and/or regional communities. What unites us is a common purpose of learning, sharing and creating powerful new forms of open knowledge. In the last two years we saw steady growth in the Network. In order to accommodate the needs of the evolving network, we should adapt and improve how we work together. We look forward to embarking on that journey with you.

The community roadmap examines 8 different competencies and allow us to reflect on our work and make it even better. It looks at Strategy, Leadership, Culture, Community Coordination, Content & Programming, Policies & Governance, Tools and Metrics & Measurement. The roadmap work will help us align priorities, better organise and plan within the network, communicate values and value throughout the Network.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014

This is why we decided that the first quarter of this year will be dedicated to community and network reboot. We see the Open Knowledge Network as a place for exchanging visions and ideas. We see Open Knowledge International as a central body that creates some of these ideas, but more so as a place that helps make connections between people with similar ideas, and helps promote other ideas and connect people from different parts of the network.

Every journey begins with a single step, so we decided to start with the basics: updating the network structure and procedures, taking into consideration every competency of the roadmap. In the next couple of weeks we will clarify our policies about how can anyone be a part of the Open Knowledge Network, either as a local organiser, or a leader or member of a local group or a chapter. We are clearly defining the responsibilities that each role has, and also adding the support that Open Knowledge International can provide at each level. We want to set clear expectations and continuously strive to work better together.

Until we will have clarity on those policies, we will not be able to process any new applications for local organizers / ambassadors. We will get back to those applications in March.

This month we will also take care of some long needed content updates to our website, newsletter, and blog, promote more widespread use of our discuss forum and refresh and rethink the use of our different wikis. This will all be done in coordination with the Network: we will share the guidelines for a community consultation on the guidelines our discourse forum. All members of the Network are welcome to participate. After the consultation is over, we will publish these guidelines on our website , hopefully by mid February.

We will update on the development of the community roadmap regularly. Be sure to follow our Twitter account and the community forum to get updates on time.

As of January 1st 2016, Neal Bastek and Mor Rubinstein are working as the community coordinators / facilitators. Please email them at network@okfn.org for more questions or just raise them in the community forum!

Looking to hear your feedback and hope that this will take us one step forward as a community.

The Open Data Utopia of the Pampas

ruso - January 11, 2016 in Community Stories, OKF Argentina

An Ad Hoc Introduction to Argentine Affairs

This post was written by Andres Snitcofsky an open government / data activist in Argentina. See Andres Medium account for more posts – https://medium.com/@rusosnith

Since a new government took office in Argentina, a party alliance called #Cambiemos (Let’s Change), a lot of things have changed. Less than one month has passed, and a lot of new directives (more than 40, some of them of the Urgent & Necessity kind) have been passed by the new administration.

Since the congress will reopen only in March, and the judiciary system is on leave until February, most of the announcements and deep political changes have been issued as government official orders: Decretos. This implies that these changes are instant, but those directives could be challenged by the legislative branch later this year (and they probably will be).

The Decretos thing may not be so important to foreign readers, but most of the #Cambiemos campaign was based on the premise of being respectful to the Republic Institutions, meaning to go “by the book” and to legislate bills about important topic in a democratic way.

Now, during the warm months of the southern summer, a philosophical debate arises: Form vs content. End goal vs means. Decree vs Debated Law.

This debate crosses the political spectrum that goes from the fanatics of the former government, now turned ‘opposition’, and the ones from the new administration, now ‘officials’. This debate does not discriminate and embraces almost all current political events.

Looking back

The Macri administration presents itself as The One who will bring order and light into the state. With only one month in office, and during the summer recess, they already started revising previous contracts with private enterprises, laws regarding the telecommunication monopolies, and firing lots of employees that were contracted in precarious and almost illegal ways by the state. If the previous administration had had better transparency and openness, we could be controlling how much of this “tidying up the mess” process is real thing, or if it’s just an excuse for lowering the state budget and adding even more precarization of the job market. It is not wise to hand over a state administration with lot’s of hidden numbers and unknown indexes, as it gives free play to the next in office to blame “la pesada herencia” (the heavy legacy) of the last one in charge, and do whatever they want with the excuse of fixing previous mistakes.

Crude example: As the inflation index since 2007 have been untrustworthy, the new government will need some time to build a good one. Till then, we won’t have even a fake one. And it will probably be the highest inflation times of the last two decades.

The Open Data Scene

This debate definitely didn’t skip the vibrant Argentinean open data community that just encountered its living example of the aforementioned dilemma:

Translation: “Today we signed a decree which is the starting point of a National Open Government”

The Modernization Minister announced this week that the new government is willing to move forward in the Open Government agenda, including Open Data portals and policies, open contracting and more open initiatives. How this agenda has been promoted? Of course, with a governmental official order, or Decreto.

Some will say that it’s just espejitos de colores (Spanish expression similar to ‘snake oil’), or that it’s just a gesture to make the open data fans happy. However, we cannot deny former experience of the new national administration: As the City of Buenos Aires government, they created one of the most advanced policies in the country related to open data. They built an egov initiative, they assembled a really innovative GovLab, and developed lots of open data and online citizen participation tools. If we compare Buenos Aires City to the rest of the cities and even the national level, it ranks at the top. However, if we compare the openness of Argentina with the rest of Latin America, we end up in a really bad position. And that’s even if we only compare ourselves to our smaller surrounding countries of Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, usually thought to be behindhand.

Currently, Argentina doesn’t have a Freedom of Information Law, or anything alike. The ruling party for the last 12 years has had plenty of commitments on their hands, but implemented just a few, and with little to no real empowerment. The only decree, signed in 2003 by Nestor Kirchner, lacked of political support and ended up being a bureaucratic path for those willing to question our government for access to public information. Most of those who tried filling a Information Request were even turned down. We are talking about asking basic information about your own country, through the channels built to do so, and not receiving a reply back. Or even worst, receiving one that’s almost satirical:

The President office in 2013, replying La Nacion’s Journalist @colmanromi that “the President’s salary datasheet wasn’t updated yet” when they erased one column of it to hide the actual salary.

For the last few years we didn’t even knew the poverty level.

We also signed up the Open Government Partnership, and tried to comply with a first action plan that was never fulfilled. In 2015 a new action plan was written, but it was not an action plan that was approved by the local CSOs. This has also been reflected in Global Open Data Index built by OKI and we can also (proudly for Mor Rubinstein) guess that the Minister is also looking at it:

“Argentina is in the 54 position in the open public data ranking. Our objective is to be in the top ten of the world”

 

Andres Ibarra, the Modernisation Minister, expresses his wishes to get into the top ten open countries in the world, at least in the Global Open Data Index. Even though this is not a vanity contest, we all share his wish to overcome years of delays and obscurantism. We know that the new government has lots of good, talented people pushing into the Open Side of the Force, not only in the technical but also in the political levels. However, we also know that the main party leading the #Cambiemos alliance has lots of politicians relying their power in non-open contracts, opaque ways of working and occluded information. That’s why we are happy with these announcements about moving into the openness, mostly because it demonstrates the political will of pushing forward an Open Government agenda, and because they are putting it out in the open, for everyone to learn about it (not only the NGO’s, CSO’s and nerds). But we are still suspicious about how much will actually change

a badge worn by CSO’s activists in OGP Summit 2015 in Mexico

 

 

That is also why we should keep pushing for a Free Access to Information Law to be discussed and legislated in the congress. Because a government order may be a good starting point, but we need something that makes transparency and openness a must, in all levels of the state and territory as well as something valued not just by the Presidency and his decrees but valued by the Argentine government as a whole. That’s why we should use this new momentum to show to the rest of our society how important this is. How it can help to fight corruption, improve participation, discover and implement best practices and even build jobs around opened data. Happily, inside the recently elected new congress, we have new voices pushing for a FOIA law, which will join the former ones and maybe bill it this year.  
 

Looking forward

We should support the sectors of the new administration that are willing to push forward the Open Data and OpenGov movement. We should also keep an eye on them, using the same tools they are giving us. We should keep fighting for a real Access to Information Law , and when the discussion gets into the law making machinery, we as civil society must continue to participate and make our voices be heard.

But most of all, we should keep spreading the word with our colleague citizens, sharing the pros and cons of this Open movements, teaching about privacy concerns and limits, helping them not to be afraid, and willing to use all of this openness to let the government know that we will be watching them!

Here is where I start thanking Mor Rubinstein and for Anca Matioc being my editors in this post and end up inviting all of you to share your opinion on the subject, my point of view, or both.


Open Data goes local in Nepal: Findings of Nepal Open Data Index 2015

Nikesh Balami - January 7, 2016 in Local Open Data Index, OKF Nepal, Open Data Index

Index whitepaper

Nepal Open Data Index 2015 – White Paper

The Local Open Data Index Nepal 2015 is a crowdsourced survey that examines the availability of Open Data at city level. The survey was conducted for the second time in Nepal by Open Knowledge Nepal. See our previous post that announced the local index here.

Background

For the decentralization of power from central authority to district, village and municipality levels, Nepal government use Local Self Governance Regulation, 2056 (1999). where Village Development Committee (VDC) and District Development Committees (DDC) both act as planners and program implementing bodies of the government. Where municipalities are also doing the same kinds of tasks but at smaller scale, it has created difficulties in understanding layers of governing units. This overlapping of powers and roles has also been found in the government data space; average citizens still don’t know which local governance units are responsible for the data they need. This highlights the importance of a survey around open data and publishing.

Global surveys such as the Global Open Data Index and Open Data Barometer taught us that availability of open data and participatory governance in Nepal is not reaching full potential in terms of everything from citizen readiness, to data release and data infrastructure in Nepal. Using World Wide Web Foundation terminology, in Nepal we are operating in a “capacity constrained” environment.

Furthermore, in Nepal citizen participation and using open data often makes more sense and is more powerful at local level as it is local governments that handle all national and international project for citizens and generates data from it. However, open data is still a new concept in Nepal and the central government has only just started releasing data, with data even less available at the local level.

Why do we need a Local Open Data Index in Nepal?

The Local Open Data Index is intended to help to put the discrepancies of local level on the map (literally!). Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Mapping the gaps will aid strategic planning and help create a framework for action and citizen engagement at all levels.

For local governments to adopt openness, they need to understand the what, why and how of opening up their data. Government need to learn why making data open is not only a means to make them accountable (or worse – alarmed), but also a tool to help them become more efficient and effective in their work. Governments need to understand that opening data is only the beginning of participatory governance, and for them to participate they need well defined and easy-to-adopt mechanisms.

The Local Open Data Index for Nepal will help in assessing the baseline of availability and nature of open data in Nepali cities. This will help to identify gaps, and plan strategic actions to make maximum impact.

Summary

A survey was done in 10 major cities of Nepal by open data enthusiasts and volunteers inside and outside of Open Knowledge Nepal. The cities chosen were Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Butwal, Chitwan, Dolakha, Dhading, Hetauda, Kavre, Lalitpur, and Pokhara. The datasets that we survey were Annual Budget, Procurement Contracts, Crime Statistics, Business Permits, Traffic Accident, and Air Quality.

Unsurprisingly, the largest municipality and the capital of Nepal – Kathmandu – ranked highest, followed by Pokhara and Chitwan.

Different datasets were available in all 10 cities in digital format on the government websites. All available datasets are free to access. However, none of the datasets were machine readable, nor were any datasets licensed with any of the standard open data licences.

Datasets regarding annual budgets and procurement contracts are easily available digitally, although not open in standard sense of the term. Datasets for air quality are virtually nonexistent. It is not clear whether data is available in categories such as Traffic Accidents or Business Permits.

The central government of Nepal has been slowly adopting open data as a policy, and has shown commitment through projects such as the Aid Management Platform, Election Data, and interactive visualization available in National Planning Commission website. The enthusiasm is growing, but, has not yet spread to local governing authorities.

Key Findings

  1. None of the data sets are completely open. All of them lack machine readability and standard licensing.
  2. Annual budget data is publicly available in almost all cities surveyed. Air quality data is not available in any city. Other datasets fall somewhere in between.
  3. The enthusiasm and progress shown by central government in terms of open data projects has yet to catch on at the local level.

Read more about it in the official white paper.

Unlocking Election Results Data: Signs of Progress but Challenges Still Remain

Open Knowledge - December 24, 2015 in Global Open Data Index

This blog post was written by the NDI election team -Michael McNulty and Benjamin Mindes

How “open” are election results data around the world? Answering that question just became much easier. For the first time, the Global Open Data Index 2015 assessed election results data based on whether the results are made available at the polling station level. In previous years, the Index looked at whether election results were available at a higher (constituency/district) level, but not at the polling station level.

As a result, the 2015 Global Open Data Index provides the most useful global assessment to date on which countries are and are not making election results available in an open way. It also highlights specific open data principles that most countries are meeting, as well as principles that most countries are not meeting. This helps inform the reform agenda for open election data advocates in the months and years ahead.

Before we take a look at the findings and possible ways forward, let’s first consider why the Global Open Data Index’s shift from constituency/district level results to polling station results is important. This shift in criteria has shaken up the rankings this year, which has caused some discussion about why polling station-level results matter. Read on to find out!

Why are Polling Station-level Election Results Important?

Meets the open data principle of “granularity”

A commonly accepted open data principle is that data should be made available at the most granular, or “primary,” level — the level at which the source data is collected. (See the 8 Principles of Open Government Data principle on Primary; and the G8 Open Data Charter section on Quality and Quantity.) In the case of election results, the primary level refers to the location where voters cast their ballots — the polling station. (See the Open Election Data Initiative section on Granularity. Polling stations are sometimes called precincts, polling streams, or tables depending on the context) So, if election results are not counted at the polling station level and/or only made available in an aggregate form, such as only at the ward/constituency/district level, then that dataset is not truly open, since it does not meet the principle of granularity. (See the Open Election Data Initiative section on Election Results for more details.)

Promotes transparency and public confidence

Transparency means that each step is open to scrutiny and that there can be an independent verification the process. If results aren’t counted and made public at the polling station level, there is a clear lack of transparency, because there is no way to verify whether the higher-level tabulated results can be trusted. This makes election fraud easier to conceal and mistakes harder to catch, which can undermine public confidence in elections, distort the will of the voter, and, in a close election, even change the outcome.

For example, let’s imagine that a tabulation center is aggregating ballots from 10 polling stations. Independent observers at two of those polling stations reported several people voting multiple times, as well as officials stuffing ballot boxes. If polling station results were made available, observers could check whether the number of ballots cast exceeds the number of registered voters at those polling stations, which would support the observers’ findings of fraud. However, if polling station level results aren’t made available, the results from the two “problem” polling stations would be mixed in with the other eight polling stations. There would be no way to verify what the turnout was at the two problem polling stations, and, thus, no way to cross-check the observers’ findings with the official results.

Reduces tension

Election observers can combine their assessment of the election day process with results data to verify or dispel rumors at specific polling stations, but only if polling station-level results are made public.

Bolsters public engagement
When voters are able to check the results in their own community (at their polling station), it can help build confidence and increase their engagement and interest in elections. Also, civil society groups, political parties and candidates can use polling station-level turnout data to more precisely target their voter education and mobilisation campaigns during the next elections.

Aligns with an emerging global norm

Making results available at the polling station level is rapidly becoming a global norm. In most countries, political parties, election observers, the media, and voters have come to expect nothing less than for polling station level results to be posted publicly in a timely way and shared freely.

The 2015 Open Data Index shows how common this practice has become. Of the 122 countries studied, 71 of them (58%) provide election results (including results, registered voters, and number of invalid and spoiled ballots) at the polling station level. There are some significant differences across regions, however. Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia had the lowest percentage of countries that provide polling station level results data (42% and 41% respectively). Eastern Europe and Latin America have the highest percentage of countries with 71% each.

What Does the Index Tell Us about How to Open Up and Use Election Data?

Drawing on the 2015 Global Open Data Index findings and on open election data initiatives at the global, regional and national levels, we’ve highlighted some key priorities below.

1. Advocacy for making polling-station level results publicly available

While most countries make polling-station level results available, over 40% of the 112 countries researched in the Global Open Data Index still do not. At a regional level, Sub Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East & North Africa have the furthest to go.

2. Ensuring election results data is truly open

Making election data available is good first step, but it can’t be freely and easily used and redistributed by the public if it is not truly “open.” Election data is open when it is released in a manner that is granular, available for free online, complete and in bulk, analyzable (machine-readable), non-proprietary, non-discriminatory and available to anyone, license-free and permanent. Equally as important, election data must be released in a timely way. For election results, this means near real-time publication of provisional polling station results, with frequent updates.

The Global Open Data Index assesses many of these criteria, and the 2015 findings help highlight which criteria are more and less commonly met across the globe. On the positive side, of the 71 countries that make polling-station level results available, nearly all of them provide the data in a digital (90%), online (89%), public (89%) and free (87%) manner. In addition, 92% of those 71 countries have up-to-date data.

However, there are some significant shortcomings across most countries. Only 46% of the 71 countries provided data that was analyzable (machine readable). Similarly, only 46% of countries studied provided complete, bulk data sets. Western Europe (67%) had the highest percentage of countries providing complete, bulk data, while Middle East & North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa (both 38%) had the lowest percentage of countries doing so.

3. Not just election results: Making other types of election data open

While election results often get the most attention, election data goes far beyond results. It involves information relating to all aspects of the electoral cycle, including the legal framework, decisionmaking processes, electoral boundaries, polling stations, campaign finance, voter registry, ballot qualification, procurement, and complaints and disputes resolution. All of these categories of data are essential assessing the integrity of elections, and open data principles should be applied to all of them.

4. Moving from transparency to accountability

Opening election data helps make elections more transparent, but that’s just the beginning. To unlock the potential of election data, people need to have the knowledge and skills to analyze and use the data to promote greater inclusiveness and public engagement in the process, as well as to hold electoral actors, such as election management bodies and political parties, accountable. For example, with polling station data, citizen election observer groups around the world have used statistics to deploy observers to a random, representative sample of polling stations, giving them a comprehensive, accurate assessment of election day processes. With access to the voters list, many observer groups verify the accuracy of the list and highlight areas for improvement in the next elections.

Despite the increasing availability of election data, in most countries parties, the media and civil society do not yet have the capacity to take full advantage of the possibilities. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is developing resources and tools to help equip electoral stakeholders, particularly citizen election observers, to use and analyze election data. We encourage more efforts like this so that the use of election data can reach its full potential.

For more on NDI’s Open Election Data Initiative, check out the website (available in English, Spanish and Arabic) and like us on Facebook.

Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund Winners Announced

Katelyn Rogers - December 21, 2015 in open knowledge

Open Knowledge International and the Open Data for Development program are pleased to announce the seven projects that have been shortlisted to receive support from the Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund (AODC Fund)*. The AODC Fund is a partnership with the organisers of the First Africa Open Data Conference and it was designed to provide seed support to empower Africa’s emerging open data civic entrepreneurs to build their data communities, to improve the delivery of services to citizens, and to achieve sustainable development global goals.

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The Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund intends to provide between USD 10,000 and USD 15,000 to each one of the initiatives. In this final, non-competitive, phase , these initiatives will further develop their work plans and explore how to leverage the OD4D network to advance their initiatives.

The grants will be coordinated by Open Knowledge as part of the Open Data for Development program, a global partnership funded by the International Development Research Centre, the World Bank, UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Global Affairs Canada. OD4D brings together a network of leading open data partners working together to harness the potential of open data initiatives to enhance transparency and accountability as well as facilitate public service delivery and citizen participation in developing countries. The overall goal of the OD4D program is to scale innovative approaches that have been proven to work, and strengthen coordination amongst open data initiatives to ensure they benefit citizens in developing countries.

The shortlisted initiatives are:

  • CoST Tanzania, Tanzania: Tanzania is implementing programmes to improve service delivery in a wider variety of sectors such as education, health, water and transportation with a number of programmes involving the construction of facilities and other forms of infrastructure. However, stakeholders complain about the poor quality of infrastructure, often alluding to corruption and lack of accountability. Through the AODC Fund, CoST TZ will work to address this challenge by advocating for transparency in procurement of infrastructure projects through the disclosure of contracts information, by building the capacity of Procuring Entities (PEs) to disclose information and by sensitising key stakeholders, especially CSOs, to use disclosed data to hold authorities accountable.
  • AfroLeadership, Cameroon: This project seeks to fight corruption, improve local accountability and ensure effective service delivery by collecting and publishing approved budgets and accounts for all local authorities in Cameroon on the OpenSpending Cameroon platform. Furthermore, in order to ensure that the data made available is taken up and used to hold government to account, AfroLeadership will work to strengthen the capacity of journalists and civil society actors to understand budget data by providing a number of offline trainings and developing online resources and courses, all in collaboration with School of Data and the international OpenSpending team at Open Knowledge International.
  • Outbox, Uganda: The rapidly expanding capital of Uganda, is experiencing some obvious growing pains and while the current administration is doing their best to increase the living conditions of the inhabitants through beautification efforts, road and transportation projects etc, it remains obvious that Kampala’s environment is suffering. This project aims to make these challenges visible through data and allow the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and other stakeholders more effectively manage the impact of an ever-growing population through data-driven policies and projects. Outbox, in collaboration with the Things Network in Amsterdam, will develop an environment station to measures different environmental indicators such as temperature, air pressure, humidity, sound, ultrasound and light, install three stations and publish their measurements online in real time. Outbox will then take our data and advocate with it directly at Kampala City Council and other stakeholders and show them how they can use the data we publish in doing their daily work.
  • The Association of Freelance Journalists, Kenya: While sectors such as education, health, buisness and the environment are of critical importance to the people of Kenya and there is a substantial amount of data available that could be used to tell compelling stories about the challenges Kenya is facing in these sectors, at present, journalists still lack the capacity to use the data effectively for storytelling. As such, the AFJ will lead a project to unpack data journalism in Kenya by building the capacity of Kenyan journalists to use data and assist journalists in producing data driven stories.
  • HeHe Labs, Rwanda: HeHe is a mobile technologies research and innovation lab with the vision to transform Africa into a knowledge society by connecting its people to relevant information and services. Their mission is to leverage the growth in ICTs by building meaningful mobile technology solutions for the African continent. Through this project, HeHe Labs will work to improve service delivery in all sectors through a six month training programme designed to train young people how to use technology to solve local challenges.
  • Women Environmental Programme, Nigeria: Many problems have bedevilled the local government budgeting in Nigeria. This project will specifically evaluate the causes of failure in the local government areas and how effective budget control bring about efficient governance in the local government systems.
  • Press Union of Liberia, Liberia: There is a severe limitation of data that the ordinary people can access in Liberia. Through this project, a select team of journalists will be trained in data journalism, and a lesser number of community radio stations – in rural Liberia – will be provided computers, cameras and digital recorders to expand their programs through the use of social media. The journalists will learn to access links to a variety of data and to upload local data sources to a web portal operated by the Press Union of Liberia.

The Open Data for Development is looking forward to collaborating with all the grant recipients in 2016!

*The grants are pending on the expected renewal of the partnership between the International Development Research Centre and the World Bank Development Grant Facility for the third year of the OD4D Program.

Global Open Data Index 2015 – Taiwan Insight

Open Knowledge - December 16, 2015 in Global Open Data Index

** This insight was written by TH Schee OK Taiwan ambassador **

Taiwan has surprisingly topped the Global Open Data Index 2015, and it’s not without questions as how this could be have been achieved without further examination. Even though Taiwan has been very active and recognised as one of the hotspot of open data, little is known on actual landscape outside the island. Take a look at tech president , Nieman Lab,  and Science & Technology Law Institute of Taiwan for more context.

To give some background to the seemingly odd result, context is needed to better understand how the Index has shaped Taiwan’s overall effort and awareness of it since 2013, and possibly even more so in the long run.

According to the “Freedom of the Press 2015”, Taiwan is considered among the top in Asia Pacific, along with Japan, Australia and New Zealand. It’s extremely vigorous, diverse and free environment of press freedom has served a facilitating catalyst to any communities, not just limited to the journalistic world, but also the public and private sectors which are part of the broader “reuse” groups of public sector information to engage in a way that enthusiasts in neighboring countries and economies can only shy away for safety reasons. To put it in simple terms, you are literally free and able to enjoy more freedom to interpret data, check the integrity of it, report it, or even use it to hold your government accountable in litigation.

The country staggeringly claims the world’s highest penetration of Facebook users to overall population. This has also contributed to a fast, and to some degrees even vicious, cycle of feedback loops on public discourse of any datasets released from dozens of data portals. This has greatly enhanced visibility of the agenda carried on by the #GODI15 on the island.

Taiwan in #GODI15

Taiwan in #GODI15

From the government perspective, another major contributing factor has been the establishment of the formalised mechanism on public consultation, in forms of dedicated committees in all ministries. A total of 30+ were established in first half of 2015, and seat rotation on a 1~2 year nominal terms is enacted, with majority of members from the government plus selected few from civil society, academia and private sectors. This has served very well to raise awareness of Open Knowledge and the #GODI15 inside the government, and serious actions were taken to study the #GODI15 in detail as early as 2013. This proves to be somewhat controversial in the final outcome, but we are seeing how the Index has formally affected the perception and assessment of its own mandates and initiatives in Taiwan. The discourse around #GODI15 is public in meeting minutes that are available through taking a look at http://data.gov.tw.

The third contributing factor is slightly uncomfortable because the government has supported some very disputable mandates, including possible release of personal data in form of open format from the National Healthcare Insurance Program without prior agreement from insurants. It has dearly caused major concerns from several human right groups and the civil society are still waiting for court verdict because a class action has been filed against the government. The case raised a whole new spectrum of understanding on issues that open data initiatives might bring a forth among transparency groups and the congress, and has created a much broader community base around provocative but valuable issues that we generally find it challenging to foster from top-down, technology-driven initiatives.

The upcoming Presidential election is set to take place in less than 40 days from now and it’s widely agreed that the agenda on open data and policies would be carried out in the new government. The best thing so far has never been the ranking, but a true dialogue among local and even regional stakeholders. The #GODI15 has only served a fresh start for Taiwan, and without it, sincere and reasoned debates would not even surface.

Forbes Philippines & BlogWatch win best story award as Data Journalism PH wraps up

Sam Leon - December 15, 2015 in Data Journalism

At the end of November, Open Knowledge, School of Data and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) wrapped-up their six-month data journalism training for media organisations in the Philippines, the first of its kind.

Over 100 journalists and civil servants gathered at the Cocoon Hotel in Quezon City to see the twelve participating media teams present their work and listen to keynotes from The Guardian’s Caelainn Barr, Undersecretary Richard Moya (Open Data Task Force Philippines), Kenneth Abante (Department of Finance) and Rogier Van Den Brink (World Bank) on the interplay between government open data and public integrity journalism.

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Kenneth Abante from the Department of Finance speaking at the wrap-up event of Data Journalism PH 2015

The World Bank funded programme equipped participating newsrooms with the tools and techniques for mining the ever increasing volumes of public data being published by Philippine government departments via their national government data portal, data.gov.ph. After an initial intensive three-day training in July 2015 the teams received regular remote training sessions on data skills from Open Knowledge and editorial support from PCIJ as they progressed with their proposed data stories. Teams worked on diverse topics from probing who really benefits from the the Philippines’ Bottom Up Budgeting initiative to following where money allocated to the reconstruction effort after Typhoon Yolanda actually went.

Five of the twelve participating teams were able to publish their stories before the event with a number of teams finalising their articles for print publications in the new year. Forbes Philippines and BlogWatch were awarded prizes for best story by PCIJ and Open Knowledge based on the originality of their stories, their approach to data collection and the strength of their narrative. Forbes Philippines collected data from the SEC on independent directors and correlated this with company performance to give a unique view on corporate accountability in the Philippines. BlogWatch persevered with a range of large publicly available datasets on aid and reconstruction. The team also took to social media to crowdsource information that was missing in order to follow the money that was plugged into various projects in the wake of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.

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Winning teams BlogWatch (Jane Uymatiao & Noemi Lardizabal-Dado) and Forbes Philippines (Lala Rimando & Lorenxo Subido) with Sam Leon (Open Knowledge) and Malou Mangahas (PCIJ)

Philippine Star ran an analysis of data published by the Department for Education on how many new schools were being built that would not have access to electricity and water. Business World looked at new trends in investment amongst Filipino citizens and summarised their results in an infographic. Calbayog Post investigated how projects approved under the Bottom Up Budgeting scheme in Samar Province had performed. The Financial Times produced a visual slideshow on the Philippines’ dependence on renewables and the opportunities for hydro power using data published by the Department of Energy. You can read the published stories below with the exception of Forbes Philippines’ which will be published in their January 2016 editions. Other participating teams including Rappler, PCIJ, Interaksyon, ABS-CBN, Bloomberg, Inquirer were not able to publish in time for the deadline, but hope to publish their stories in the coming weeks.

The Philippines has made substantial progress in recent years in government transparency. Launching a national government open data portal in 2014 and setting up an Open Data Task Force within the civil service to catalyse further open data releases across national and local government. The programme demonstrated the promise of open data by enabling participating journalists to shed light on issues of critical national importance to the broader public. It also put into sharp focus areas that needed more work from publishing government departments. Too many critical datasets were incomplete, not maintained actively, contained inconsistencies that made them difficult to analyse and were not available for free.

A selection of the online tutorials, data recipes and training material have been made available for all to use on the project website including guides to using a range of tools such as Infogr.am, CartoDB, Import.io and DocumentCloud.

Data-driven articles produced as part of the programme

Forbes Philippines and BlogWatch were awarded prizes for best story by PCIJ and Open Knowledge based on the originality of their stories, their approach to data collection and the strength of their narrative.

Testimonials from some of the participant journalists

“The workshop allowed me to be braver in pursuing irregularities and anomalies with the help of data, but also to be careful in making conclusions. It’s a nice intro to data journalism.” – Michael Joseph Bueza, Rappler

“Data Journalism PH 2015 is a workshop every serious journalist should take. More than teaching me practical skills – how to create maps, infographics, and spreadsheets – it made me realize how important it is to use hard facts, as opposed to merely relying on statements, to create a public that is more informed and more critical.” – Patricia Aquino, Interaksyon

“A great program! PCIJ has always set the standard for investigative journalism. Open Knowledge did a great job teaching us data journalism and the different skills it requires. Looking forward to continuing to work with the whole PCIJ team. The reports of the other teams were informative as well. Thumbs up to the whole group.” – Nestor Corrales, Inquirer

“The best journalism program ever that united my writing and analysis skills.” – Rommel Rutor, Calbayog Post

“It was a great chance to know how and why consumers and processors of data (i.e. the journalists) are seeking more from the producers of data (government, private sector). “ – Lala Rimando, Forbes Philippines

“It was a great opportunity to be part of this programme. I’m really interested in improving my technical and editorial skills on data mining and thanks to PCIJ and Open Knowledge, I’ve really learned a lot.” – Kia Obang, BusinessWorld Publishing

“Open data seems like an issue reserved for a select number of people, but it’s a subject that so many people need to be familiar with. Learning more about it through the programme can give you the right tools to turn open data into powerful analysis.” – Kyle Subido, Forbes Philippines

“If you want to learn how to dig into huge data, you gotta take this training. “ – Jose Gerwin Babob, Calbayog Post

“As a reporter covering different beats, including survey results, the training helped me learn new skills that would make me more effective in writing investigative stories by correctly analyzing and interpreting datasets. I really appreciate the efforts of the PCIJ and the Open Knowledge in coming up with such training for journalists like us. This will be a very good addition to our resumes. :-)” – Helen Flores, Philippine Star

“Had a grand time. Learned about the existence of free online tools which could potentially take off about 25% of my previous workload.” – Dan Paurom, Inquirer

“The Data Journalism Philippines 2015 is a timely program for Filipino journalists who are interested in making sense of the huge amount of data that are readily available online. The things that we have learned during the duration of the program equipped us with the necessary skills needed to produce quality data-driven articles for our respective organizations.” – Jan Victor Mateo, Philippine Star

The State of Open Data in Southeast Asia

Open Knowledge - December 15, 2015 in open knowledge

*** This blog post was written by Hazwany Jamaluddin from Sinar Project in Malaysia ***

There are few countries in Southeast Asia region – Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Singapore, East Timor and Malaysia – that are falling behind in the global open data movement, while others – Indonesia and Philippines – are advancing as members of Open Government Partnership. So, how are these countries in Southeast Asia doing relatively to the rest of the world and with each other?

How open is Southeast Asia?

There several notable trends that we see in the region. There are different sets of restrictions that are mostly related to the access to Internet, Freedom of Expression (FOE) policies, Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) Laws and Open Government policies.

The following are 3 environmental constraints that are affected by these restrictions:

    • 1. Lack of capacity of government to maintain infrastructure and websites; incomplete and inaccessible published official information.
    • 2. Limited open data knowledge from the respective government officials.
    • 3. Limited capacity and open data knowledge of CSOs to take advantage or to ask for open data.

South East Asia in the 2015 index

So, what does this look like on the ground?

In Malaysia, freedom of expression is lacking with very limited freedom of information, limited capacity for open data programs and unclear government policies for open data. Data displayed in Open Government portal are incomplete and not in open data format with support of open licensing. Despite having Freedom of Information Enactment (FOIE) in two states – Penang and Selangor – civil liberties and the public suffers from barriers of entry. Requests must be made in person when submitting a form on the counter with addition to steep request fees. Moreover, requests made via email are not accepted. The implementation quality of FOIE is lacking due to inadequate training among officers and awareness to the public. These challenges are exacerbated as the federal government is protected within the federal territory where the FOIE and FOIA does not exist.

In contrast to Indonesia, the emergence of Open Government policy and FOIA in Philippines and Thailand have broadened the perspective on accessing and collecting valuable data in machine readable format with support of open licensing. Having said that, there are no guarantees that FOIA in Indonesia ensures the public’s right to fully access official information due to the culture of secrecy inherited from the Soeharto era. For both Philippines and Thailand, having open government portal does not guarantee the compatibility and the quality of data. This also is indicative of the readiness of government to share valuable data openly that could be used for both short and long term planning on grassroots developments across the country.

In Singapore, there is no FOIA whereby information disclosure is regulated in a variety of informal and formal ways. The informal culture of secrecy inherited by the dominant People’s Action Party (PAP) drew public scrutiny and repression. Thus, citizens are unable to enjoy their right of access to information.

In Cambodia, there is no clear FOI provisions that currently exist in domestic law. Furthermore, the assertion of the Draft Law on access to information may conceal the government’s wrongdoings and limit access to information. In result, these restrictions leads to very limited capacity building open data programs and advocacy that are lacking whilst sharing almost similar restrictions in FOI laws and FOE policies in Vietnam, East Timor, Lao PDR and Myanmar. Consequently, abuses of power continue to prevail when government is not open or accountable.

Credit to Leigh Griffiths

When analyzing the results of the Index, 2 key issues arose with regards to the impact of Global Open Data Index in disenfranchised communities.

      • 1. Where do we measure the accessibility between decision makers and disenfranchised communities such as single parents, people with disabilities, elderly, youth and children?
      • 2. How can we show (and share) with the communities around the world about the reality of relationships and engagements between decision makers and disenfranchised communities?

From budgeting to legislature to welfare, transparency and accountability are lacking. Official governmental websites have poor navigation for content, and often not up to date. With these difficulties, it is hard for CSOs to find valuable information that could measure the state of open data availability in their country.

For countries like Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, while having benefits of open data policies and Freedom of Information Act placed at the national level, it is uncertain that the open data has reached the sub-national level. Usage, reliability and compatibility of open data is more important at the sub-national level for CSOs because this is where development planning actually takes place.

The state of “openness” becomes more restricted for countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, East Timor, Singapore and Malaysia. The absence of Lao PDR and Vietnam in Index reflects that valuable information is inaccessible and does not exist on official government websites. The low scores of Myanmar, East Timor, Cambodia and Malaysia also reflects of the incomplete informations from official government websites.

Global Open Data Index has becoming a very useful toolkit and international platform for CSOs to come together regionally in identifying data gaps and needs, and search common grounds to see how data can support their goals. However, at this point, it is uncertain to say the least that there is impact for local communities. In the future, it would be useful and important to have localized data in promoting local governance accountability and transparency. Hopefully, the Global Open Data Index will also be a platform to support Sustainable Development Goals monitoring and will also inspire countries to develop their localised version of the Open Data Index.

There is a need for capacity building on open data by making local communities understand the importance of open data, training/coaching people to make use of open data and putting the pressure of policy makers to implement better Freedom of Information policy, better open data policy and better open government policy.

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