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#OKStory

Heather Leson - July 9, 2014 in Events, Ideas and musings, Interviews, Network, OKFest, OKFestival, Open Knowledge Foundation

Everyone is a storyteller! Just one week away from the big Open Brain Party of OKFestival. We need all the storytelling help you can muster. Trust us, from photos to videos to art to blogs to tweets – share away.

The Storytelling team is a community-driven project. We will work with all participants to decide which tasks are possible and which stories they want to cover. We remix together.

We’ve written up this summary of how to Storytell, some story ideas and suggested formats.

There are a few ways to join:

  • AT the Event: We will host an in person meetup on Tuesday, July 15th to plan at the Science Fair. Watch #okstory for details. Look for the folks with blue ribbons.
  • Digital Participants: Join in and add all your content with the #okfest14 @heatherleson #OKStory tags.
  • Share: Use the #okstory hashtag. Drop a line to heather.leson AT okfn dot org to get connected.

We highlighted some ways to storytell in this brief 20 minute chat:

Make Some Story Noise

Heather Leson - July 4, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Network, OKFestival, Open Knowledge Foundation

Stories wanted! We’re building a community storytelling team starting with OKFestival. Whether you are in Berlin for the big event or across the globe, our goal is to co-create and compile all the best OKFestival Stories. Many of you tell stories with video, photo, images and text. Some of you are master wordsmiths and aggregators. One could even opine that hardware, art and code are very much stories. Well, at OKFestival we will run the gamut of all things open from science to education to balloon maps to budgets and graffiti.

The community will be sharing content across many tools using many methods. We are building an in person and remote Storytelling team to capture all the gems, visions and tidbits. Even if you are not at the event, you can be our eyes and curators.

(All the links are on our OKFest Storytelling wiki page)

We have a few ways you can participate: Suggest some stories, Join a Storytelling team (digital or in person) or Go rogue! Be sure use some of the recommended ways to share. We will be remixing this as we co-create our Community Playbook.

Make some noise – join our OKFestival Storytelling Team Learn more in our Community Session

  • Date: Wednesday, July 9 , 2014
  • Time: Date:July 9, 2014 Time: 08:00-9:00 EDT /12:00-13:00 UTC / 13:00- 14:00 BST /14:00 – 15:00 CEST (worldtimebuddy.com)
  • Register here

If you can’t join the hangout, please be sure to reach out to heather.leson AT okfn DOT org or neal.bastek AT OKFN DOT org. We’ll be sure to brief you and collaborate on the next steps.

We are the Community: Join our OKFest community summit

Guest - July 4, 2014 in OKFestival, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups

This is a guest blog post by Kersti from Open Knowledge Netherlands and Rayna from Open Knowledge France/OpenMENA. Both are leading the organisation of the Open Knowledge Community Summit with the support of the Open Knowledge Central team.

Less than two weeks to go until the global open community will meet in Berlin and at digital and physical fringe events all over the world. OKFestival is driven by the shared values and the enthusiasm for openness of hundreds of people from all cardinal directions.

We are all engaged with the Open Knowledge network for a reason, for a cause. But what is it that brings us together and how do we want to shape this community for the future? These are crucial questions and we wish to dedicate a full afternoon to discuss, define and shape it together!

WE ARE THE COMMUNITY and as such, we would like YOU to join a very special fringe event, the OKFestival Community Summit

Everyone is welcome to participate, whether you consider yourself an active member of the community or are simply interested in meeting people over an in-depth discussion about strengthening digital communities.

When and Where?

The OKFestival Community Summit will take place on Tuesday July 15th, 2014 from 13:00 to 16:00. We have booked a space at the OKFestival Venue, the Kulturbrauerei, and so you can find us in the Franz Club.

Why is this event important?

The OKFestival Community event offers the unique occasion for everyone to meet, discuss and craft our identity as the Open Knowledge community, the way we envision it and the way we can all continue to identify with it.

We are a fast-growing group of like-minded individuals who have had the pleasure of contributing to the rapid expansion of open knowledge community over the past few years. Such organic growth also poses new challenges and motivates us to rethink the way we interact with staff members and the different paths through which we can channel expertise and knowledge within the community. It is thus in our hands to shape a community that enables everyone to identify and engage with the path forward we choose to take!

Therefore, it will be imperative to shape this way forward together.

What will we discuss?

Through consultation with the community leading up to the festival, we have identified a handful of topics that we will discuss during the session:

  • How do we provide better support and follow-up to local groups, ambassadors, working groups and individual community members?
  • How do we develop mentorship opportunities and peer-to-peer support within the community?
  • How do we root more of some shape of organized effort in the Global South? What are the different challenges, depending on local contexts and more globally?
  • Community or organisation: how do we decide? Are we a network, a movement, a community — and what implications does that have for our structure and actions?
  • Community programming: what next? Co-building and interaction online.

There is still room for more ideas, so bring yours along!

We really hope you can join the summit. There are still tickets available — hurry up! If you would like to participate, sign up here!

Looking forward to seeing you all at the summit!

Open Knowledge Ireland celebrate FOI victory

Flora Fleischer - July 3, 2014 in OKF Ireland, Open Government Data

Open Knowledge Ireland are this week celebrating partial victory in their campaign against application fees for FOI requests. Here is their press release.

Ireland

Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes Minister Howlin’s announcement that Government has approved the removal of an application fee for Freedom of Information Requests

Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes the announcement by the Minister that the suggested reforms to the FOI fees regime includes the removal of the €15 application fee for non-personal requests.

On April 10th 2014 Open Knowledge Ireland together with a squad of Freedom of Information advocates for Ireland wrote an Open Letter to Minister Brendan Howlin asking to leverage the Government’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership as an opportunity to remove fees at all stages of FOI and AIE requests and appeals. The letter was signed by 74 signatories urging the Minister to consider the points outlined for his upcoming FOI bill.

On May 7th, at the Civil Society Day, which was held on the eve of the OGP Europe regional meeting, the upfront fees charged in Ireland for submission of FOI requests were brought to the attention of 120 civil society and government representatives from 30 countries.

And today we are pleased to see the Minister is taking a step in the right direction!

Denis Parfenov, Open Knowledge Ambassador for Ireland and one of the Founders of the Open Knowledge Chapter in Ireland, in his reaction today said that he “warmly welcomes this announcement”.

This is a great success story for all citizens and FOI advocates who were involved in pushing to drop FOI fees as part of Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. Open Knowledge Ireland together with Irish citizens and other Irish civil society organisations had been pushing to include a commitment on free FOI requests into the 2 year Action Plan and we are very pleased that the Minister has considered the recommendations of the Irish Civil Society OGP Network.

Flora, Co-Founder at Open Knowledge Ireland gives an early reaction to the announcement and has collated early voices from passionate FOI advocates in Ireland:

Open Knowledge Ireland is adopting a cautious position to the FOI reforms announced today. While we’re welcoming the announcements and Minister Howlin’s consideration of the Open Government Partnership principles, we still need to wait until we see the full set of proposed amendments in order to make an accurate assessment of the impact of all the changes.

Open Knowledge Festival streams, pt. 2: The Society Stream

Christian Villum - July 1, 2014 in OKFestival

This is a cross-post from the OKFestival blog, see the original here. Read also about the first stream we presented, the Knowledge Stream.

In this 3-post series, we turn the spotlight to the the narrative streams of this year’s Open Knowledge Festival. We’ve already highlighted the Knowledge stream; today’s stream of choice is Society. This stream is kindly supported by the Omidyar Network, although all sessions within the stream remain editorially independent.

Society Stream

“Knowledge and tools are never developed independent of society. What we know is a shaped by our experiences and tools we develop reflect our needs and our perspective. For open knowledge to effect change, we need to explore the role society, people, cultures and perspectives, play in the change process.”

The Society Stream at OKFestival will explore how communities are designing open institutions,  holding governments and corporations to account, developing open business models, ensuring the protection of privacy and ultimately shaping a more equitable world. We will explore how different contexts affect and cultural norms interact with open principles in the aim of deepening our understanding about how to to build more equitable societies. Here is just a taste of what you are in for:

Towards Transparent and Accountable Institutions: 

By opening up data and democratising access to information, citizens are better able to monitor how governments are spending money on their behalf or to determine where corporations are sourcing their materials. In the Society Stream we will take a closer look at how citizens using data and information to create more accountable and more transparency societies.

Citizens have the right to know how governments spend public money  and the creation of a usable and flexible Open Contracting data standard will ensure that, as the Open Contracting movement gathers pace, partners across the world can gain access to ‘joined up data’, supported by an ecosystem of tools and services, rather than facing many silos of disjointed contracting data. These efforts are intended to complement other efforts by organisations such as the Stop Secrets Contract campaign supported by Open Knowledge and others.

 City governments have to navigate their legal and institutional framework, political willingness and the capacity to be open. However, they must also consider the state of their data and the implications on the demand for open data,the choice of technology and its influence on democratising data creation and use, and the role of citizens and intermediaries in opening up a city. The session is unique as it allows for joint conversations among government officials from the four cities as well as groups that engage with them. The discussions will be situated in the intersection of data, technology and citizen participation, and will aim to develop a policy, advocacy and implementation road map for open cities that governments can adopt to respond to their local contexts.

Beyond Access: Opening Up Institutions and Processes through Participation

In the Society Stream we will move beyond access to look at how we can use participatory practices to open up traditionally closed institutions and processes.

This session will facilitate the learning process of embedding Public Lab methodology into DIY style making for environmental good. In this session, participants will learn the importance of grassroots co-creation in conceptualising tools and techniques for environmental health monitoring. It will demonstrate the importance of community involvement in methodological design, from the first step of problem identification, to show how open hardware and software tools can be scaled and replicated into other locations.

For more details on this session, check out Shannon’s interview with OKCast here

The UK Cabinet office will lead us in crowdsourcing ideas for a manifesto for an open data era – a social contract between government and citizens. By engaging people in the lead up to OKFestival using social media and then over the course of the 2 days of the festival, this session will collect ideas for inclusion in the manifesto that will ultimately be collaboratively drafted on the second day. At the end we will leave the manifesto online & invite people to comment on it over the following month.

Power, Surveillance and the Dark Side of Opening Up 

We recognise that opening up information and processes often challenges entrenched power structures and in the Society Stream we will explore how power and inclusion as well as government surveillance and privacy impact our ability to effect change.

What does creating knowledge access, designing tools for knowledge sharing, and implementation of “open society” mean for all users in context? When thinking about “open” in government, data, and society, the contextual factors that affect people’s needs often go neglected. These factors, in all their challenge and complexity, are important pieces of the open society puzzle.Drawing on an example from Reboot’s work, when building a citizen feedback tool to encourage engagement between government officials and citizens in Nigeria, we were working within political constraints affecting how, when, where, and what kind of service delivery would work. We also recognised cultural, logistical, and geographic challenges that affect people’s emotions and behaviours.

Open Government created a global movement using public data to create a better world. Snowden’s revelations about the role of NSA and other agencies spying on citizens came as a shock to the international open government community. How should we address illegal surveillance from an open government perspective? How should the open government community react to threats to privacy and other fundamental human rights? How do we address address issues related to data traffic and surveillance? This session will explore ethical, normative and empirical approaches to secure fundamental human rights in an age of open government and open data. The session aims to address a usually ignored yet crucial issue about human rights, open data and surveillance.

 

This year, Omidyar are sponsoring the Society track and we’re grateful to them for supporting conversations about the many ways knowledge and society intersect. Sessions in this track remain editorially independent unless marked as a sponsored session.

Omidyar logo

 

What has open data got to do with education?

Marieke Guy - June 27, 2014 in Open Education

“What has open data got to do with education?”

This was the question yesterday’s online community session attempted to unravel.

During the session it was agreed that potential for open data in the education space is huge, with an increasing number of case-studies emerging and exciting data hackathons taking place. However there are also many discussions that still need to be had, for example:

What data should be collected within education institutions or for assessment? How do we evaluate this data i.e. what makes a good student/citizen? What makes a good school? What about pupil privacy and anonymisation? Can open data open up the education debate to a wider audience? Can approaches be global or do they need to be localized? Can open data ultimately lead to policy change and better education systems?

The session was facilitated by Heather Leson (community builder at Open Knowledge) and delivered on behalf of the Open Education Working Group, (http://education.okfn.org) with talks from:

  • Marieke Guy (Open Education Working Group, LinkedUp Project)
  • Otavio Ritter (Open education data researcher, Getulio Vargas Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), who shared his findings from work on paper involving a comparative analysis of school open data in England and Brazil and the availability (transparency) of government information related to primary/secondary education area.

If you missed it then not to worry, a video of the session is available and embedded below:

The slides from the session are also available:

If you are interested in discussing this topic further then the Open Education Working Group mailing list is just the place!

OKFestival Keynote Spotlight: Beatriz Busaniche

Katelyn Rogers - June 25, 2014 in Events, Featured

The Open Knowledge Festival team is thrilled to announce that Beatriz Busaniche will be joining us as a keynote speaker in Berlin this year. Beatriz Busaniche is a free software and culture expert and advocate, a board member of the Vía Libre Foundation in Argentina, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, a core team member at Creative Commons Argentina and a founding member of Wikimedia Argentina

     

Beatriz Busaniche’s “Freedom has Never Been Cheap – A Call to Action for Freedom and the Public Domain” will draw on the wealth of experience she has in fighting to keep the internet open and free. This talk will do more than simply explain how the public domain is at risk; Beatriz will call on all OKFestival participants to lead the way for the entire global open knowledge community.

Because ‘free’ as in ‘freedom’ has never come cheap, she will ask that we go beyond passive learning by joining forces and putting ourselves on the front line in the fight for a free public domain. To help us take those first steps, Beatriz will offer examples of and learnings from her own experiences as an activist fighting for the freedom of the public domain and, in doing so, her keynote will aim to truly address and impact the challenges which we are currently facing in the intellectual property debate.

Here is a sneak peak (in Spanish) of Beatriz speaking at TEDxCordoba, and as you may be able to see, we have a lot to look forward to!

Beatriz Busaniche’s Keynote will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by Creative Commons Board member and href=”https://webwewant.org/”>Wed We Want, Renata Avila. We will open up the discussion to questions from the audience as we begin to develop long term strategies for engaging the entire open knowledge movement in the defence of the public domain!

There are still tickets left, join Beatriz Busaniche and hundreds of other members of the global open knowledge community at OKFestival from July 15th to July 17th to share experiences, learn from peers and collectively build a stronger open knowledge movement. Don’t miss out, buy your OKFestival tickets today.

GitLaw: How The Law Factory turns the French parliamentary process into 300 version-controlled Open Data visualizations

Guest - June 25, 2014 in Featured Project

This is a guest blog post by the French NGO Regards Citoyens, which actively promotes public Open Data principles in France since 2009 and lobbying transparency since 2010. They create web projects using public data to provide tools for a better dialogue between citizens and representatives. Their most known initiative is a parliamentary monitoring website: NosDeputes.fr.

TheLawFactory.fr

Law is Code!

Over the last few years, a number of people have explored the idea of inverting Lawrence Lessig’s metaphor “code is law”, looking at the evolution of laws through the lens of coding tools. The parliamentary process is indeed so similar to a collaborative software development workflow that it is only natural to try and use a version control tool such as git to track individual legislative changes.

The analogy between both processes is deep: in each case, there is a group of people collaborating on a textual artifact (bill or program source code), proposing changes (amendments or patches), adopting or rejecting them (through votes or pull requests), and iterating until a stable, public version is made available (by promulgation or release). This new paradigm to think about legislation paves the way for new, innovative approaches of law-tracking. Some exciting work has already been made, most notably in Germany: the BundesGit project invites citizens to propose their own legal modifications as “pull requests”, and Gregor Aisch produced an unprecedented visualization of modifications to one law over 40 years of amendments.

Initiated in 2011, the Law Factory project worked on the French legislative process to answer a simple question: does the Parliament actually write the law, or are MPs only validating the executive’s drafts, as most people commonly assume? A collaboration between Regards Citoyens, an NGO that has monitored the French Parliament’s work through its project NosDéputés.fr since 2009, and two research laboratories at Sciences Po Paris, the médialab and the Centre d’études européennes, the project also sought support from all over the world.

Two international conferences, in June 2012 and May 2014, gathered in Paris activists, NGOs, researchers, public servants and journalists, in order to share projects and ideas from a wide range of expertise. In June 2013, a two-day DesignCamp with the italian info-designers of Density Design and the portuguese hacktivists of Manufactura Independente led to a collaboration with Density Design to forge innovative ways to represent and explore bills throughout the legislative process.

The Law Factory: browsing through 290 adopted bills

After three years, TheLawFactory.fr was finally released on May 28, 2014 as a free software web application, combining all available information on 290 bills promulgated since 2010. All of the text of these bills and their amendments, as well as contextual documents such as debate transcripts, are redistributed as open data, published as version-controlled text into git repositories, and made accessible through four interactive tools that enable users – researchers, journalists, lobbyists, citizens, legislators and legislative staff – to browse the legislative process under various levels of zoom.

Similar to a Gantt chart, the first visualization proposes to navigate through time and discover within the legislative agenda which bills were discussed, when, within which chamber and for how long. The display can be switched from the top menu to other views: a comparative one to compare the global time taken to study each bill, and a quantitative one to consider only the times when the text was actually being discussed and not just sitting in between the two chambers. The menu also contains filters to display only the most amended bills or those that took the most time to consider. Another feature allows the user to select a theme or legislative year.

Clicking on a bill provides (on the right) a small set of metrics offering a first estimate of a bill’s controversiality, including measures of how much the actual text grew and changed during the whole process, how many amendments were proposed and adopted and how many words were spoken during the debates. Contrary to popular belief, first analyses reveal that the French Parliament impacts the law writing process significantly: 74 % of the amended texts studied were modified by at least 50 %, and 61 % increased in length by at least 50 %. Only a handful of texts – highly controversial ones – reveal a decrease in volume by the end of the parliamentary process. Clicking on the button “Explorer les articles” allows the user to study the legislative process of each bill individually.

Studying each bill’s changes individually

All of the changes measured can be further explored in a second module for each bill. Each step of a bill’s legislative process is displayed as a column: the first draft proposal from the government or an MP on the left, followed by each version successively adopted in committee and plenary (by the Senate and the National Assembly) during a first reading, sometimes a conciliation committee, and quite often a few more readings. In each column, the text is split into articles or sections grouping multiple articles. Each article at each step is represented as a box with a proportional height to the actual length in characters of its text.

Switching the display view into a “compact mode” reveals how much the whole text actually grew at each step. New articles are marked in green, while those that have been removed are marked in red. All other aticles are shaded in grey depending on how much the text of their alineas was modified during that step so that any highly rewritten article can be quickly identified. Clicking on an article gives access on the right to the full text of the article at the step, and optionnally display the differences with the previous version as within developers usual code-diff tools.

Exploring the debates and amendments of the parliamentary process

When the text of a bill was modified at a step, a third tool is made accessible to explore all the related amendments via a folder icon in the column header. Each amendment is represented as a small square with the color of its originating political party and an ideogram revealing its resulting status: adopted, rejected or left out. Here again, clicking on an amendment reveals (on the right) the complete amendment text, its author(s) and an explanation of the amendment.

Switching the view into a “grouped mode” and ordering the amendments per political party gives a visual estimate of the origin of all adopted modifications. This can also help visualize parliamentary obstruction, for example, when a political group purposely floods the debate to slow it down with hundreds of amendments destined to fail.

A last visualization, accessible via a discussion icon in the column header, proposes to get to the root of the bill changes: the actual discussions between the members of the parliament at a selected step. Presidents, rapporteurs, government members and the different parliamentary party groups share the speaking time differently during the successive parts of the debate, beginning with a general discussion, followed with a focus on each article and related amendments individually. Throughout these steps, each group of speakers is represented as a stream graph, each step being a box with a size proportional to the number of words spoken per subject.

This visualization aids the user to identify highly debated articles and evaluate the evolving position of each political party on a text. Once again, clicking on a box displays on the right the detailed list of the speakers, with links to the actual minutes of the debate as republished oat NosDéputés.fr and NosSénateurs.fr, offering an unprecedented way to trace the discussions related to specific modifications of the law in just a few clicks.

How does it work?

Like with most projects handling parliamentary data, at least two thirds of the development time had to be spent not on building the visual exploration tools, but on collecting, assembling, cleaning and processing the data. The French Senate has made great efforts towards open data over the past couple years and recently started distributing complete dumps of some of their databases on a daily basis. On the other hand, the National Assembly remains hermetic to any sign of openness, most probably due to its members’ irrational fears of already existing activity rankings by the press…

Ultimately, the Senate’s efforts were only marginally useful for this initiative. Data related to amendments and debates was already preprocessed and waiting to be reused within NosDéputés.fr and NosSénateurs.fr’s databases, only requiring some adjustments and enrichments to their APIs in order to provide direct access to a specific bill’s debates, which can now also benefit other interested users.

But the missing data required here was the version-controlled legislative one: the actual text of the bills at each step of the parliamentary process. Both chambers only publish these as HTML and PDF documents, requiring the extraction of the desired information with automated . Transforming this into data requires parsing the various layouts and scraping the legislative structure and text out of each document. At this stage only half of the work is achieved; the biggest challenge is to autocomplete the many missing pieces within the text . For what are likely practical syntaxic reasons, the texts published by the two chambers often do not include unmodified articles or pieces of articles, letting the reader, hence our robots, crawl though a maze of previous versions to look for the actual missing pieces of text.

Once the data was finally assembled and the code published as a free software, it could be redistributed for anyone to reuse as an open data API tree giving access to each data file used to display the visualizations, as well as all source data that was assembled to generate it.

Following the GitLaw ideas, it only seemed natural to also host version-controlled git repositories for each one of the bills: as within a computer programme project, a bill’s articles become text files, and at the date of each step of the parliamentary process, an institution commits a new version for each article it modified. Using the free software GitLab, anyone can browse the repositories on a web platform, and, like on GitHub, propose their own amendments by “forking” a project and submitting their “pull request”.

What’s next?

Still, the automated handling of the sources’ discrepancies remains imperfect. Our robots fail today over 125 of the texts promulgated since 2010, which means our corpus represents only 70% of the considered texts. We remain confident that we will soon be able to process the majority of the missing bills on one hand, and further on to integrate texts during their on-going adoption process, allowing anyone to access the detailed version of a text with the proposed amendments during the debates. If some of the parsing errors are clearly identified as procedure issues for financial laws for instance, some exceptional cases will certainly reach the limits of automation, as for this erratum we encountered which further “amends” the adopted text that was published.

This whole work will always retain a variety of complex challenges unless the institutions step forward. This is only one example of the many reasons why Parliaments all over the world should progressively migrate their legislative processes towards fully integrated routines into their information systems. Let’s just imagine how both the institutions themselves and the societies they serve would benefit from the positive externalities which can only emerge from parliamentary openness and transparency.

Anyone curious to see more on the subject should feel free to browse through the hours of video captation of the latest Open Legislative Data Conference :)

Capture your events

Heather Leson - June 24, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Featured, OKFest, OKFestival

We’re on a skillshare craze leading up to OKFestival. A few weeks ago we hosted a session all about how to create great videos with our guest Sam Muirhead. This week we are inviting you to join a Photography Skillshare. Events is one of the top ways that you are involved in Open Knowledge. So, while we might be focused on OKFest, the skills transcend storytelling any event.

Photography Skillshare

Join us on Thursday, June 26, 2014 for a Photography Skillshare. The team and community will share best practices in photos as well as

  • Times: Thursday, June 26, 2014 @ 9:30 EDT/ 13:30 UTC/ 14:30 BST/15:30 CEST
  • To join

We will record it to share back in case your timezone or work schedule is different.

Video Skillshare

Does your video or photos look like this? While it is super artistic, it might not show your story in the best context. While the camera for this session was not playing nice, the content is full of all kinds of tips and resources to make your video shine. Thanks to Sam Muirhead of Camera Libre for donating his time. See the G+ hangout notes for a stack of resources to help your video learning.

Note: Community Sessions are taking a break for the summer. Stay tuned for more sessions in the future.

The Business Case for Open Data

Martin Tisne - June 23, 2014 in Business, Open Data

Martin Tisné, Omidyar Network’s director, policy (UK) and Nicholas Gruen, economist and CEO of Lateral Economics, last week unveiled in Canberra the report, Open for Business. It is the first study to quantify and illustrate the potential of Open Data to help achieve the G20’s economic growth target. Martin makes the economic case for open data below.

Manhattan

The G20 and Open Data: Open for Business

Open data cuts across a number of this year’s G20 priorities and could achieve more than half of the G20’s 2% growth target.

The business case for open data

Economic analysis has confirmed the significant contribution to economic growth and productivity achievable through an open data agenda. Governments, the private sector, individuals and communities all stand to benefit from the innovation and information that will inform investment, drive the creation of new industries, and inform decision making and research. To mark a step change in the way valuable information is created and reused, the G20 should release information as open data.

In May 2014, Omidyar Network commissioned Lateral Economics to undertake economic analysis on the potential of open data to support the G20’s 2% growth target and illustrate how an open data agenda can make a significant contribution to economic growth and productivity. Combining all G20 economies, output could increase by USD 13 trillion cumulatively over the next five years. Implementation of open data policies would thus boost cumulative G20 GDP by around 1.1 percentage points (almost 55%) of the G20’s 2% growth target over five years.

Recommendations

Importantly, open data cuts across a number of this year’s G20 priorities: attracting private infrastructure investment, creating jobs and lifting participation, strengthening tax systems and fighting corruption. This memo suggests an open data thread that runs across all G20 priorities. The more data is opened, the more it can be used, reused, repurposed and built on—in combination with other data—for everyone’s benefit.

We call on G20 economies to sign up to the Open Data Charter.

The G20 should ensure that data released by G20 working groups and themes is in line with agreed open data standards. This will lead to more accountable, efficient, effective governments who are going further to expose inadequacy, fight corruption and spur innovation.

Data is a national resource and open data is a ‘win-win’ policy. It is about making more of existing resources. We know that the cost of opening data is smaller than the economic returns, which could be significant. Methods to respect privacy concerns must be taken into account. If this is done, as the public and private sector share of information grows, there will be increasing positive returns.

The G20 opportunity

This November, leaders of the G20 Member States will meet in Australia to drive forward commitments made in the St Petersburg G20 Leaders Declaration last September and to make firm progress on stimulating growth. Actions across the G20 will include increasing investment, lifting employment and participation, enhancing trade and promoting competition.

The resulting ‘Brisbane Action Plan’ will encapsulate all of these commitments with the aim of raising the level of G20 output by at least 2% above the currently projected level over the next five years. There are major opportunities for cooperative and collective action by G20 governments.

Governments should intensify the release of existing public sector data – both government and publicly funded research data. But much more can be done to promote open data than simply releasing more government data. In appropriate circumstances, governments can mandate public disclosure of private sector data (e.g. in corporate financial reporting).

Recommendations for action

  • G20 governments should adopt the principles of the Open Data Charter to encourage the building of stronger, more interconnected societies that better meet the needs of our citizens and allow innovation and prosperity to flourish.
  • G20 governments should adopt specific open data targets under each G20 theme, as illustrated below, such as releasing open data related to beneficial owners of companies, as well revenues from extractive industries
  • G20 governments should consider harmonizing licensing regimes across the G20
  • G20 governments should adopt metrics for measuring the quantity and quality of open data publication, e.g. using the Open Data Institute’s Open Data Certificates as a bottom-up mechanism for driving the adoption of common standards.

Illustrative G20 examples

Fiscal and monetary policy

Governments possess rich real time data that is not open or accessed by government macro-economic managers. G20 governments should:

  • Open up models that lie behind economic forecasts and help assess alternative policy settings;
  • Publish spending and contractual data to enable comparative shopping by government between government suppliers.

Anti corruption

Open data may directly contribute to reduced corruption by increasing the likelihood corruption will be detected. G20 governments should:

  • Release open data related to beneficial owners of companies as well as revenues from extractive industries,
  • Collaborate on harmonised technical standards that permit the tracing of international money flows – including the tracing of beneficial owners of commercial entities, and the comparison and reconciliation of transactions across borders.

Trade

Obtaining and using trade data from multiple jurisdictions is difficult. Access fees, specific licenses, and non-machine readable formats all involve large transaction costs. G20 governments should:

  • Harmonise open data policies related to trade data.
  • Use standard trade schema and formats.

Employment

Higher quality information on employment conditions would facilitate better matching of employees to organizations, producing greater job-satisfaction and improved productivity. G20 governments should:

  • Open up centralised job vacancy registers to provide new mechanisms for people to find jobs.
  • Provide open statistical information about the demand for skills in particular areas to help those supporting training and education to hone their offerings.

Energy

Open data will help reduce the cost of energy supply and improve energy efficiency. G20 governments should:

  • Provide incentives for energy companies to publish open data from consumers and suppliers to enable cost savings through optimizing energy plans.
  • Release energy performance certifications for buildings
  • Publish real-time energy consumption for government buildings.

Infrastructure

Current infrastructure asset information is fragmented and inefficient. Exposing current asset data would be a significant first step in understanding gaps and providing new insights. G20 governments should:

  • Publish open data on governments’ infrastructure assets and plans to better understand infrastructure gaps, enable greater efficiency and insights in infrastructure development and use and analyse cost/benefits.
  • Publish open infrastructure data, including contracts via Open Contracting Partnership, in a consistent and harmonised way across G20 countries.

Other examples of value to date

  • In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s decision nearly three decades ago to release their data sets to the public resulted in a burst of innovations — including forecasts, mobile applications, websites, research – and a multi-billion dollar weather industry.
  • Open government data in the EU would increase business activity by €40Bn. Indirect benefits (people using data driven services) total up to €140Bn a year[1].
  • Mckinsey research suggests that seven sectors alone could generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data.
  • Releasing as open data in Denmark in 2002 gave €62m benefits 2005-2009 against €2m cost. ROI in 2010: €14m benefit against €0.2m cost[2].
  • Open data exposed C$3.2Bn misuse of charitable status in tax code in Canada[3].
  • Over £200m/year could have been saved by the NHS from the publication of open data on just one class of prescription drugs[4].

[1] https://www.ereg-association.eu/actualities/archive.php?action=show_article&news_id=167

[2] http://www.adresse-info.dk/Portals/2/Benefit/Value_Assessment_Danish_Address_Data_UK_2010-07-07b.pdf

[3] http://eaves.ca/2010/04/14/case-study-open-data-and-the-public-purse/

[4] http://theodi.org/news/prescription-savings-worth-millions-identified-odi-incubated-company

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