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Open Data Camp UK: Bursting out of the Open Data Bubble

Marieke Guy - February 24, 2015 in Events, open knowledge

“But nobody cares about Open Data”

This thought was voiced in many guises during last weekend’s Open Data Camp. Obviously not entirely true, as demonstrated by the 100+ people who had travelled to deepest Hampshire for the first UK camp of its kind, or the many more people involving themselves in Open Data Day activities around the world. However the sentiment that, while many of us are getting extremely excited about the potential of Open Data in areas including government, crime and health, the rest of the planet are ‘just not interested’ was very clear.

As a non-technical person I’m keen to see ways that this gap can be bridged.

Open Data Camp was a 2-day unconference that aimed to let the technical and making sit alongside the story-telling and networking. There was also lots of cake!

Open Data Camp t-shirts

Open Data Camp t-shirts

Open Data Board Game

After a pitch from session leaders we were left with that tricky choice about what to go for. I attended a great session led by Ellen Broad from the Open Data Institute on creating an Open Data board game. Creating a board game is no easy task but has huge potential as a way to reach out to people. Those behind the Open Data Board Game Project are keen to create something informative and collaborative which still retains elements of individual competition.

In the session we spent some time thinking about what data could underpin the game: Should it use data sets that affect most members of the general public (transport, health, crime, education – almost a replication of the national information infrastructure)? Or could there be data set bundles (think environmental related datasets that help you create your own climate co-op or food app)? Or what about sets for different levels of the game (a newbie version, a government data version)?

What became clear quite early on was there was two ways to go with the board game idea: one was creating something that could share the merits of Open Data with new communities, the other was something (complex) that those already interested in Open Data could play. Setting out to create a game that is ‘all things to all people’ is unfortunately likely to fail.

Discussion moved away from the practicalities of board game design to engaging with ‘other people’. The observation was made that while the general public don’t care about Open Data per se they do care about the result it brings. One concrete example given was Uber which connects riders to drivers through apps, now with mainstream use.

One project taking an innovative approach is Numbers that Matter. They are looking to bypass the dominant demographic (white, male, middle class, young) of technology users and focus on communities and explore with them how Open Data will affect their well-being. They’ve set out to make Open Data personal and relevant (serving the individual rather than civic-level participant). Researchers in the project began by visiting members of the general public in their own environment (so taxi drivers, hairdressers,…) and spoke to them about what problems or issues they were facing and what solutions could be delivered. The team also spent time working with neighbourhood watch schemes – these are not only organised but have a ‘way in’ with the community. Another project highlighted that is looking at making Open Data and apps meaningful for people is Citadel on the Move which aims to make it easier for citizens and application developers from across Europe to use Open Data to create the type of innovative mobile applications they want and need.

The discussion about engagement exposed some issues around trust and exploitation; ultimately people want to know where the benefits are for them. These benefits needs to be much clearer and articulated better. Tools like Open Food Facts, a database of food products from the entire world, do this well: “we can help you identify products that contain the ingredient you are allergic to“.

Saturday’s unconference board

Saturday’s unconference board

“Data is interesting in opposition to power”

Keeping with the theme of community engagement I attended a session led by RnR Organisation who support grassroots and minority cultural groups to change, develop and enhance their skills in governance, strategic development, operational and project management, and funding. They used the recent Release of Data fund, which targets the release of specific datasets prioritised by the Open Data User Group, to support the development of a Birmingham Data and Skills Hub. However their training sessions (on areas including data visualization, use of Tablau and Google Fusion tables) have not instilled much interest and on reflection they now realise that they have pitched too high.

Open Data understanding and recognition is clearly part of a broader portfolio of data literacy needs that begins with tools like Excel and Wikipedia. RnR work has identified 3 key needs of 3rd sector orgs: data and analysis skills; data to learn and improve activities; and measurement of impacts.

Among the group some observations were made on the use of data by community groups including the need for timely data (“you need to show people today“) and relevant information driven by community needs (“nobody cares about Open Data but they do care about stopping bad things from happening in their area“). An example cited was of a project to stop the go ahead of a bypass in Hereford, they specifically needed GIS data. One person remarked that “data is interesting in opposition to power“, and we have a role to support here. Other questions raised related to the different needs of communities of geography and communities of interest. Issues like the longevity of data also come in to play: Armchair Auditor is a way to quickly find out where the Isle of Wight council has been spending money, unfortunately a change in formats by the council has resulted in the site being comprimised.

Sessions were illustrated by Drawnalism

Sessions were illustrated by Drawnalism

What is data literacy?

Nicely following on from these discussions a session later in the day looked at data literacy. The idea was inspired by an Open Data 4 Development research project led by Mark Frank and Johanna Walker (University of Southampton) in which they discovered that even technically literate individuals still found Open Data challenging to understand. The session ended up resulting a series of questions: So ‘what exactly is data literacy’? Is it a homogeneous set of expertise (e.g. finding data), or is the context everything? Are there many approaches (such as suggested in the Open Data cook book or is there a definitive guide such as the Open Data Handbook or a step by step way to learn such as through School of Data. Is the main issue asking the right questions? Is there a difference between data literacy and data fluency? Are there two types of specialism: domain specialism and computer expertise? And can you offset a lack of data expertise with better designed data?

The few answers seemed to emerge through analogies. Maybe data literacy is like traditional literacy – it is essential to all, it is everyone’s job to make it happen (a collaboration between parents and teachers). Or maybe it is more like plumbing – having some understanding can help you understand situations but then you often end up bringing in an expert. Then again it could be more like politics or PHSE – it enables you to interact with the world and understand the bigger picture. The main conclusion from the session was that it is the responsibility of everyone in the room to be an advocate and explainer of Open Data!

“Backbone of information for the UK”

The final session I attended was an informative introduction to the National Information infrastructure an iterative framework that lists strategically important data and documents the services that provide access to the data and connect it to other data. It intended as the “backbone of information” for the UK, rather like the rail and road networks cater for transport. The NII team began work by carrying out a data inventory followed by analysis of the quality of the data available. Much decision making has used the concept of “data that is of strategic value to country” – a type of ‘core reference data’. Future work will involve thinking around what plan the country needs to put into play to support this core data. Does being part of the NII protect data? Does the requirement for a particular data set compel release? More recently there has been engagement with the Open Data user group / transparency board / ODI / Open Knowledge and beyond to understand what people are using and why, this may prioritise release.

It seems that at this moment the NII is too insular, it may need to break free from consideration of just publicly owned data and begin to consider privately owned data not owned by the government (e.g. Ordnance Survey data). Also how can best practices be shared? The Local Government Association are creating some templates for use here but there is scope for more activity.

With event organiser Mark Braggins

With event organiser Mark Braggins

Unfortunately I could only attend one day of Open Data Camp and there was way too much for one person to take in anyway! For more highlights read the Open Data Camp blog posts or see summaries of the event on Conferieze and Eventifier. The good news is that with the right funding and good will the Open Data Camp will become an annual roving event.

Where did people come from?

Where did people come from?

Building a Free & Open World-wide Address Dataset

tomlee - February 23, 2015 in Featured Project, Open Data

Skærmbillede 2015-02-20 kl. 09.50.25

Finding your way through the world is a basic need, so it makes sense that satellite navigation systems like GPS and Galileo are among open data’s most-cited success stories. But as wonderful as those systems are, they’re often more useful to robots than people. Humans usually navigate by addresses, not coordinates. That means that address data is an essential part of any complete mapping system.

Unfortunately, address data has historically been difficult to obtain. At best, it was sold for large amounts of money by a small set of ever-more consolidated vendors. These were often the product of public-private partnerships set up decades ago, under which governments granted exclusive franchises before the digital era unveiled the data’s full importance. In some cases, data exclusivity means that the data simply isn’t available at any price.

Fortunately, the situation is improving. Scores of governments are beginning to recognize that address data is an important part of their open data policy. This is thanks in no small part to the community of advocates working on the issue. Open Knowledge has done important work surveying the availability of parcel and postcode data, both of which are essential parts of address data. OpenAddresses UK has recently launched an ambitious plan to collect and release the country’s address data. And in France, the national OpenStreetMap community’s BANO project has been embraced by the government’s own open data portal.

This is why we’re building OpenAddresses.io, a global community collecting openly available address data. I and my fellow OpenAddresses.io contributors were pleased to recently celebrate our 100 millionth address point:

Getting involved in OpenAddresses is easy and can quickly pay dividends. Adding a new dataset is as easy as submitting a form, and you’ll benefit by improving a global open address dataset in one consistent format that anyone can use. Naturally, we also welcome developers: there are interesting puzzles and mountains of data that still need work.

Our most important tools to gather more data are email and search engines. Addresses are frequently buried in aging cadastral databases and GIS portals. Time spent hunting for them often reveals undiscovered resources. A friendly note to a person in government can unlock new data with surprising success. Many governments simply don’t know that citizens need this data or how to release it as an open resource.

If you work in government and care about open data, we’d like to hear from you. Around the world, countries are acknowledging that basic geographic data belongs in the commons. We need your help to get it there.

#openbelgium15, the Open Data Discussion after Open Data Day

Guest - February 23, 2015 in Events, OKF Belgium

This is a guest blog post by Pieter-Jan Pauwels from Open Knowledge Belgium.

Skærmbillede 2015-02-25 kl. 14.23.29

This past weekend has been buzzing with activities around the world during #OpenDataDay. In Belgium however they saved their strength for this week in order to host the #openbelgium15 conference, featuring industry examples, community workshops and much more. Over 180 people are gathering in Namur to attend and you can too via streaming. The whole day Open Knowledge Belgium will broadcast activities for the online audience.

“Auditorium Félicien Rops” is the plenary session hall and also the workshop room for “Open Data Tools & Standard” and “Local Open Data”. The “Plein Ciel” hall will host the “Open Transport session” as well as the “Open Science session”.

You can let us know what you think through the hashtag #openbelgium15 on Twitter, or read much more about the conference on the official website. Enjoy!

Auditorium Félicien Rops (plenary sessions):

Here are the highlights of what is keeping us busy – and information on how you can get involved in helping us drive Open Knowledge forward, no matter where you are based. Check out our Storify recap, or German- and French-language blogs for further coverage.

To see the Events Calendar for 2015, scroll on down.

2014 in review

#sports

Our hackdays went global, with Milan joining Basel and Sierre for a weekend of team spirit and data wrangling. The projects which resulted ranged from the highly applicable to the ludicrously inventive, and led us to demand better from elite sport. The event was a starting point for the Open Knowledge Sports Working Group, aiming to “build bridges between sport experts and data scientists, coaches and communities”. We’re right behind you, Rowland Jack!

#international

The international highlight of the year was a chance for a sizeable group of our members to meet, interact and make stuff with the Open Knowledge community at OK Festival Berlin. Unforgettable! Later in the year, the Global Open Data Index got journalists knocking on our doorstep. However, the recently opened timetable data is not as open as some would like to think – leading us to continue making useful apps with our own open Transport API, and the issuing of a statement in Errata.

#community

The yearly Opendata.ch conference attracted yet again a big crowd of participants to hear talks, participate in hands-on workshops, and launch exciting projects (e.g. Lobbywatch). We got some fantastic press in the media, with the public encouraged to think of the mountains of data as a national treasure. At our annual association meeting we welcomed three new Directors, and tightened up with the Wikimedia community inviting us to develop open data together.

#science

CERN’s launch of an open data portal made headlines around the world. We were excited and more than a little dazzled by what we found when we dug in – and could hardly imagine a better boost for the upcoming initiative OpenResearchData.ch. Improving data access and research transparency is, indeed, the future of science. Swiss public institutions like the National Science Foundation are taking note, and together we are making a stand to make sure scientific knowledge stays open and accessible on the Internet we designed for it.

#politics

Swiss openness in politics was waymarked in 2014 with a motion regarding Open Procurement Data passing through parliament, legal provisions to opening weather data, the City of Zürich and Canton of St.Gallen voting in commitments to transparency, and fresh support for accountability and open principles throughout the country. This means more work and new responsibility for people in our movement to get out there and answer tough questions. The encouragement and leadership on an international level is helping us enormously to work towards national data transparency, step by step.

#government

The Swiss Open Government Data Portal launched at OKCon 2013 has 1’850 datasets published on it as of January 2015, now including data from cantons and communes as well as the federal government. New portals are opening up on a cantonal and city level, more people are working on related projects and using the data in their applications to interact with government. With Open Government Data Strategy confirmed by the Swiss Federal Council in April, and established as one of the six priorities of the federal E-Government action plan, the project is only bound to pick up more steam in the years ahead.

#finance

With Open Budget visualisations now deployed for the canton of Berne and six municipalities – including the City of Zurich, which has officially joined our association – the finance interest group is quickly proving that it’s not all talk. Spending data remains a big challenge, and we look forward to continuing the fight for financial transparency. This cause is being boosted by interest and support from the next generation, such as the 29 student teams participating in a recent Open Data Management and Visualization course at the University of Berne.

#apps/#apis

We may be fast, but our community is faster. Many new open data apps and APIs have been released and enhanced by our community: New open data projects were released by the community: such as WindUndWetter.ch and SwissMetNet API, based on just-opened national weather data resulting from a partial revision of the Federal Act on Meteorology and Climatology. Talk about “hold your horses”: a city waste removal schedule app led to intense debate with officials over open data policy, the results making waves in the press and open data developers leading by doing.

#culture

An OpenGLAM Working Group started over the summer, and quickly formed into a dedicated organising committee of our first hackathon in the new year. Towards this at least a dozen Swiss heritage institutions are providing content, data, and expertise. We look forward to international participants virtually and on-location, and your open culture data!

What’s coming up in 2015

Even if we do half the things we did in ‘14, a big year is in store for our association. Chances are that it will be even bigger: this is the year when the elections of the Federal Council are happening for the first time since our founding. It is an important opportunity to put open data in the spotlight of public service. And we are going to be busy running multiple flagship projects at the same time in all the areas mentioned.

Here are the main events coming up – we will try to update this as new dates come in, but give us a shout if we are missing something:

Getting involved

So, happy new year! We hope you are resolved to make more of open data in 2015. The hardest part may be taking the first step, and we are here for sport and support.

There is lots going on, and the easiest way to get started is to take part in one of the events. Start with your own neighbourhood: what kind of data would you like to have about your town? What decisions are you making that could benefit from having a first-hand, statistically significant, visually impressive, and above all, honest and critical look at the issue?

Lots is happening online and offline, and if you express interest in a topic you’re passionate about, people are generally quick to respond with invitations and links. To stay on top of things we urge you to join our mailing list, follow us on social media, and check out the maker wiki and forum. Find something you are passionate about, and jump right in! Reach out if you have any questions or comments.

Open Knowledge Belgium: Bringing Together Open Communities, Policy Makers & Industry

Katelyn Rogers - February 5, 2015 in open knowledge

Open Knowledge Belgium to host The Second Edition of Open Belgium in Namur on Feb 23rd, 2015! Register Today!

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On 23 February, Open Knowledge Belgium is hosting the second edition of Open Belgium, an event expected to attract over 200 people, coming together to learn and discuss the growing open knowledge movement in Belgium. This year Open Knowledge Belgium is hosting the conference, together with our Walloon colleagues and partners, at the Palais des Congrès in Namur.

OpenBelgium 2015 Teaser from Open Knowledge Belgium on Vimeo.

The jam-packed programme is not to be missed! With over 35 speakers, the objective of the day is unpack challenges, explore opportunities and learn about technological developments as they relate to Open Data and Open Knowledge. The event presents an ideal opportunity to exchange best practices with national and international experts.

The conference program includes:

The conference will open with a panel discussion on the state-of-play of open data and open knowledge in Belgium, followed by a series of keynote talks and eight participatory workshops!

State-of-play Session

A panel discussion on Open data in Belgium, with representatives from the federal and regional governments.

A Series of Keynotes

  1. Jörgen Gren of DG Connect on the future of Open Data in Europe
  2. Dimitri Brosens of the institute of Nature and Forests (INBO) becoming an open research institut
  3. Thomas Hermine (Nextride) and Antoine Patris (TEC) on how opening up Walloon public transport data offers new opportunities and economic value.

Eight Participatory Workshops:

Following the keynotes, participants will have the opportunity to participate in eight workshops focused on specific themes and organised by national and international experts.

  1. Open Transport, from data source to journey planner (moderated by Pieter Colpaert)
  2. Open Culture, tackling barriers with benefits (Barbara Dierickx)
  3. Open Tools, using tools to release the full Open Data potential (Philippe Duchesne)
  4. Open Tourism, the importance of framing the scheme online efforts (Raf Buyle)
  5. OpenStreetMap, the importance of working with communities (Ben Abelshausen)
  6. Open Science, going beyond open access (Gwen Franck)
  7. Local Open Data efforts in Belgium (Wouter Degadt)
  8. Emerging Open Data business models (Tanguy De LESTRE).

Open Knowledge Belgium will close the day with networking drinks on a rooftop terrace overlooking the city of Namur.

View the full programme and all the speakers on the website.

Practical information and registration

  • Date and Location: Monday, February 23, 2015 in [Namur Palais des Congrès](http://2015.openbelgium.be/practical/)
  • Admission: € 130 – [Register online](http://2015.openbelgium.be/registrations/)
  • Contact the organisers: pieter-jan.pauwels@okfn.org

India’s Science and Technology Outputs are Now Under Open Access

Sridhar Gutam - February 3, 2015 in OKF India, Open Access

This is a cross-post from the Open Knowledge India blog, see the original here.

oaIndiaAs a new year 2015 gift to the scholars of the world, the two departments (Department of Biotechnology [DBT] and Department of Science and Technology [DST]) under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India had unveiled Open Access Policy to all its funded research.

The policy document dated December 12, 2014 states that “Since all funds disbursed by the DBT and DST are public funds, it is important that the information and knowledge generated through the use of these funds are made publicly available as soon as possible, subject to Indian law and IP policies of respective funding agencies and institutions where the research is performed“.

As the Ministry of Science and Technology funds basic, translational and applied scientific research in the country through various initiatives and schemes to individual scientists, scholars, institutes, start-up, etc., this policy assumes very significance and brings almost all the science and technology outputs (here published articles only) generated at various institutes under Open Access.

The policy underscores the fact that by providing free online access to the publications is the most effective way of ensuring the publicly funded research is accessed, read and built upon.

The Ministry under this policy has set up two central repositories of its own (dbt.sciencecentral.in and dst.sciencecentral.in) and a central harvester (www.sciencecentral.in) which will harvest the ful-text and metadata from these repositories and other repositories of various institutes established/funded by DBT and DST in the country.

According to the Open Access policy, “the final accepted manuscript (after refereeing, revision, etc. [post-prints]) resulting from research projects, which are fully or partially funded by DBT or DST, or were performed using infrastructure built with the support of these organizations, should be deposited“.

The policy is not only limited to the accepted manuscripts, but extends to all scholarship and data which received funding from DBT or DST from the fiscal year 2012-13 onwards.

As mentioned above that many of the research projects at various institutes in the country are funded by DBT or DST, this policy definitely, encourage the establishment of Open Access Institutional Repositories by the institutes and opening up of access to all the publicly funded research in the country.

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