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Why Open Contracting Matters to the OGP Agenda in Africa

Guest - June 2, 2015 in Open Contracting, open knowledge

This is a guest post by Seember Nyager. Seember is an Open Knowledge/Code4Africa Open Government Fellow advocating for the adoption of open contracting data standards in Nigeria.

To be honest, the state of public services across Africa shames us. Often, you find that public services do not meet the generally accepted standards of efficiency, regular maintenance and service delivery. In most cases, it is unknown and improbable whether public services followed any specifications in the phase of contract execution and service delivery is often poor and non-standardized.

The state of public services on the continent is hard to relate with the abundance of our natural resources and the amount of external financing that is channeled to Africa in each year. The standard of Public service delivery has consequences; sometimes tragic and the prevalence of tragedy is witnessed in our health care systems. Arguably the most tragic consequence of low standards in public service delivery is the erosion of trust between the Government and the people as this is the greatest saboteur of good intentions that are in the public interest.

There is no quick fix to the infrastructure and service delivery deficit that plagues the continent. Some public services such as efficient transportation networks may only be fully operational after a decade. But there are ways to rebuild trust between Governments and the citizens and chart a formidable course for sustained efficiency in public service delivery.

In another vein, citizens of OGP participating countries may not know about the OGP and in the light of the current commitments being made by countries, may view OGP as an abstract concept that they do not need to involve themselves with. But there is compelling reason to believe that citizens of OGP participating countries may be able to relate and internalize the values behind the OGP if Open Contracting practices are made a part of the OGP agenda in each of these countries.

Open contracting advocates for all stages that lead to public service delivery to be exposed to scrutiny subject to narrowly defined exceptions. Open contracting also advocates that such routine information ought not be requested for but made readily available through multiple channels so that as much as it is possible, the people know where responsibility for the success or failure of public project lies and can participate in the contracting process which ultimately leads to public service delivery.

The scrutiny of the public contracting process requires that information is presented in ways that enables one set of information to be linked to other related information on a public project or service to be delivered. This would require data standards to be followed. Open contracting would require that information is shared through multiple channels and taken to people in formats that they would understand. Open contracting requires that information on public contracts has milestones that show expectations at each stage of contract implementation and specifications that must have been met at each milestone. Open contracting requires that there is publicly available information of the service to be expected at the end of contract execution. Open contracting requires information around the contracting process to be regularly updated and for contracting information to facilitate continuous dialogue between representatives of Government, the people, the contractors and other stakeholders within a community.

For OGP Africa participating countries like Kenya and Ghana who have FOI and RTI bills currently going through parliament, it is recommended that their bills reflect the proactive disclosure provisions on public finance information as contained in the Model Law on Access to Information. This would provide the legal backing for a robust open contracting practice to thrive. For OGP Africa participating countries like South Africa that are currently undergoing a reform to public sector procurement, it is recommended that there are clear requirements backed by law to ensure public participation in each phase of the contracting process.

For OGP participating countries like Sierra Leone who already have a robust access to information and Public Procurement Law, it is recommended that Contracting data such as pricing benchmarks for public contracts is made readily available, the data follows specified standard, is updated regularly and distributed through multiple channels, in ways that the people can understand.

Committing to open contracting practices would require Government and civil society organizations working closely together and the OGP provides that platform. Further, the Open Contracting Partnership and the web foundation have developed Open contracting data standards that would be of great help to each country willing to adopt open contracting practices. As a non-participant to the OGP, I am hopeful that my own country, Nigeria, would prioritize trust in public service delivery by adopting the spirit and practice of Open Contracting.

Seember can be reached on twitter @Seember1

Call for applications for Data Journalism Philippines 2015

Sam Leon - May 27, 2015 in Data Journalism, Featured

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Open Knowledge in partnership with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is pleased to announce the launch of Data Journalism Ph 2015. Supported by the World Bank, the program will train journalists and citizen media in producing high-quality, data-driven stories.

In recent years, government and multilateral agencies in the Philippines have published large amounts of data such as the government’s recently launched Open Data platform. These were accompanied by other platforms that track the implementation and expenditure of flagship programs such as Bottom-Up-Budgeting via OpenBUB.gov.ph, Infrastructure via OpenRoads.ph and reconstruction platforms including the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub. The training aims to encourage more journalists to use these and other online resources to produce compelling investigative stories.

Data Journalism Ph 2015 will train journalists on the tools and techniques required to gain and communicate insight from public data, including web scraping, database analysis and interactive visualization. The program will support journalists in using data to back their stories, which will be published by their media organization over a period of five months.

Participating teams will benefit from the following:

  • A 3-day data journalism training workshop by the Open Knowledge and PCIJ in July 2015 in Manila
  • A series of online tutorials on a variety of topics from digital security to online mapping
  • Technical support in developing interactive visual content to accompany their published stories

Apply now!

Teams of up to three members working with the same print, TV, or online media agencies in the Philippines are invited to submit an application here.

Participants will be selected on the basis of the data story projects they pitch focused on key datasets including infrastructure, reconstruction, participatory budgeting, procurement and customs. Through Data Journalism Ph 2015 and its trainers, these projects will be developed into data stories to be published by the participants’ media organizations.

Join the launch

Open Knowledge and PCIJ will host a half-day public event for those interested in the program in July in Quezon City. If you would like to receive full details about the event, please sign up here.

To follow the programme as it progresses go to the Data Journalism 2015 Ph project website.

Open Knowledge International does IODC2015!

Open Knowledge - May 23, 2015 in open knowledge

It’s that time of the year again. That time when the international open data community descends on an unsuspecting city for a jam packed week of camps, meet-ups, hacks and conference events. Next week, open data enthusiasts will be taking over Ottawa and Open Knowledge will be there in full force! As we don’t want to miss an opportunity to meet with anyone, we have put together a list of events that we will be involved in and ways to get in touch.We have also started collecting this information in a spreadsheet!

The School of Data team is arriving early for the second annual School of Data Summer Camp. Every year we strive to bring the entire School of Data community together for three intense days to plan future activities, to learn from each other, to improve our skills and ways of working and to give new School of Data fellows the opportunity to meet their future collaborators! This year’s School of Data Summer Camp will take place at the HUB Ottawa. We’ll have a meet and greet on one of the evenings for School of Data family and friends – so watch this space for details, or follow @SchoolofData on Twitter.

On Tuesday, we are partnering with Open North, the Sunlight Foundation, Iniciativa Latinoamericana de Datos Abiertos (ILDA) and Aspiration Tech to put on the Open Data Con Unconference.

Wednesday is going to be a busy day as we will be spread out across three events – CKANCon, organised by the CKAN association, the Opening Parliaments Fringe Event and the Open Data Con Research Symposium, where we will be presenting new work on measuring and assessing open data initiatives and on “participatory data infrastructures”.

At the International Open Data Conference, Open Knowledge team members are co-organising or presenting at the following sessions:

As you can probably see, the week is going to be a busy one and we are aware that it will be difficult to schedule meetings with everyone! To accommodate, the Open Knowledge team and the entire School of Data family are organising informal drinks at The Brig Pub from 7:30 PM Thursday evening! We would love for you to come say hello in person or you can always find Pavel (Open Knowledge’s new CEO!!!!), Zara, Milena, Jonathan, Mor, Sander, Katelyn, School of Data & of course Open Knowledge on twitter!

Safe travels and we will see you in Ottawa!

Announcing the new open data handbook

Open Knowledge - May 13, 2015 in Community, Open Data Handbook, open knowledge

We are thrilled to announce that the Open Data Handbook, the premier guide for open data newcomers and veterans alike, has received a much needed update! The Open Data Handbook, originally published in 2012, has become the go to resource for the open data community. It was written by expert members of the open data community and has been translated into over 18 languages. Read it now »

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The Open Data Handbook elaborates on the what, why & how of open data. In other words – what data should be open, what are the social and economic benefits of opening that data, and how to make effective use of it once it is opened.

The handbook is targeted at a broad audience, including civil servants, journalists, activists, developers, and researchers as well as open data publishers. Our aim is to ensure open data is widely available and applied in as many contexts as possible, we welcome your efforts to grow the open knowledge movement in this way!

The idea of open data is really catching on and we have learned many important lessons over the past three years. We believe that is time that the Open Data Handbook reflect these learnings. The revised Open Data Handbook has a number of new features and plenty of ways to contribute your experience and knowledge, please do!

 Inspire Open Data Newcomers

The original open data guide discussed the theoretical reasons for opening up data – increasing transparency and accountability of government, improving public and commercial services, stimulating innovation etc. We have now reached a point where we are able to go beyond theoretical arguments — we have real stories that document the benefits open data has on our lives. The Open Data Value Stories are use cases from across the open knowledge network that highlighting the social and economic value and the varied applications of open data in the world.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; in fact just the beginning! If you have an open data value story that you would like to contribute, please get in touch.

 Learn How to Publish & Use Open Data

The Open Data Guide remains the premier open data how-to resource and in the coming months we will be adding new sections and features! For the time being, we have moved the guide to Github to streamline contributions and facilitate translation. We will be reaching out to the community shortly to determine what new content we should be prioritising.

While in 2012, when we originally published the open data guide, the open data community was still emerging and resources remained scarce, today as the global open data community is mature, international and diverse and resources now exist that reflect this maturity and diversity. The Open Data Resource Library is curated collection of resources, including articles, longer publications, how to guides, presentations and videos, produced by the global open data community — now available all in one place! If you want to contribute a resource, you can do so here! We are particularly interested in expanding the number of resources we have in languages other than English so please add them if you have them!

Finally, as we are probably all aware, the open data community likes its jargon! While the original open data guide had a glossary of terms, it was far from exhaustive — especially for newcomers to the open data movement. In the updated version we have added over 80 new terms and concepts with easy to understand definitions! Have we missed something out? Let us know what we are missing here.

The updated Open Data Handbook is a living resource! In the coming months, we will be adding new sections to the Open Data Guide and producing countless more value stories! We invite you to contribute your stories, your resources and your ideas! Thank you for your contributions past, present and future and your continued efforts in pushing this movement forward.

Announcing Open Government Fellows

Katelyn Rogers - May 6, 2015 in Featured, open knowledge

Last December, Open Knowledge and Code for Africa joined forces to launch a new open government fellowship, a programme that seeks to empower open government pioneers by giving them the opportunity to test their ideas on how to best harness the power of digital technologies to improve the way governments and citizens interact.

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Within weeks, we received over 450 applications from 34 countries to fill just four positions and today we are pleased to announce the selected fellows! We were truly amazed by the diversity, quality and creativity of so many of the applicants and are keen to support more fellows in subsequent iterations of the fellowship programme. Please do get in touch if you are interested in learning more about how you can support future fellows.

The fellowship will start in May and run through November, giving the fellows 6 months to develop their ideas into sustainable and impactful solutions to local challenges. Over the course of the fellowship both Code for Africa and Open Knowledge will provide support and mentorship for the fellows as they grapple with the challenges of taking an idea to fruition!

Read on to learn more about the 2015 cohort of Open Government Fellows and discover the exciting projects that they will be working on!

Suhuyini Salim Shani 20141127_143621

Suhuyini Salim Shani currently works at VOTO Mobile where he is the lead implementer on a project being rolled out in 4 districts in Ghana called Mobile for Social Inclusive Governance popularly called “All Voices Matter”. The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of marginalised groups and bring them to local government officers for informed decision making. Prior to joining Voto, he was an Assistant Development Planning Officer for one of the District Assemblies in Northern Region of Ghana.

Through the fellowship, Suhuyini will launch a project that is aimed at collecting on-the-ground information from citizens in the worst performing district (Karaga District) according to the Districts League Table (DLT) and engage them in a sustainable dialogue aimed at the development of the district. His work will establish baseline information on residents’ satisfaction with their performance and also figure out how to improve upon the development of the district from the ordinary citizens’ perspective.

Salim also wishes to learn from his co-fellows; “I know my colleagues in this fellowship will also come with brilliant ideas and I hope to learn and exchange ideas from them.”

Irene Ikomu

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Irene Ikomu is a Ugandan lawyer who has been running Parliament Watch Uganda for over a year and a half now and has always been keen to find new opportunities to develop her knowledge and network around access to information, transparency and accountability.

While the work Parliament Watch Uganda has done so far has been focused on tracking the institution as a whole, over the course of the fellowship, Irene will conceptualise and develop a model for tracking individual Members of Parliament. At the moment, tracking MP performance using technology is challenging given that key data, such as voting and attendance records, are not made readily available. Irene will therefore be using the opportunity to work with other data and technology experts to make this valuable data on Members of Parliament available to citizens in way that enables them track the performance of their representatives effectively and efficiently.

Irene is looking forward to exploring and experimenting with various ways of improving the dialogue between government and citizens. She is keenly aware that uploading data to a website is not going to transform the relationship between governments and citizens; as such, Irene hopes to learn from the experiences of the other fellows as well as the international open government community to ensure that she continues to focus on the end users and the objectives of Parliament Watch Uganda.

Claude K. Migisha

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Claude Migisha K. is a Technologist with over 6 years of experience working at the intersection of Technology and human development. He pioneered the inception of The Rwanda Tech Innovation sphere by being the Founding Manager of kLab – a tech innovation hub and implementing THINK – a Millicom owned tech incubator, both based in Kigali, Rwanda. He worked as ICT4D expert in sectors ranging from education, health and youth empowerment with international organisations like; Jhpiego, World Relief, Kepler and GirlHub Rwanda. In 2013, representing tech entrepreneurs, he took part in the Open Data Readiness Assessment for Rwanda conducted by the World Bank and the Government of Rwanda, immediately realising the importance of having an open exchange of data between the government and citizens.

As a result, Claude and colleagues launched Sobanukirwa.rw, an access to information/data website in Rwanda, just a few weeks ago that seeks to foster open governance, transparency and accountability. It’s a citizen empowerment tool that lets anyone interact with government and private bodies to request the release of information/data. Claude will be taking advantage of the fellowship to continue to develop the platform, raise awareness for the platform with citizens and strengthen the relationship with the Government in order to ensure that the platform is useful to Rwandan society in general.

Over the course of the fellowship, Claude hopes to acquire new skills and experience on how to best use new technologies to open up government, increase transparency & accountability and most importantly strengthen citizen engagement. He is keen to learn from the experiences of his peers in other countries developing similar platforms. By the end of his fellowship, he would like to see a large number of Rwandan citizens and government officials engaging on Sobanukirwa.

Seember Nyager

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Seember Nyager is currently based in Nigeria and has spent the better part of the last decade promoting increased disclosure of information pertaining to the utilisation of public resources. Her expertise and interest lies in the utilisation of the law, media and technology to promote and push forward inclusive governance in Nigeria. She began her career a decade ago at the African Radio Drama Association where, among other radio programs, they tested the efficacy of the radio as an ICT tool to improve access to information for young rural women farmers.

Currently, she runs Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) where she coordinated the development and deployment of the 1st version of a robust ICT procurement monitoring portal in Nigeria which won the Global Procurement Innovation Challenge in 2012. She was one of 17 other open contracting practitioners convened by the World Bank Institute to author the 1st edition of the Open Contracting Guide. Additionally, as part of her current role at PPDC, she pioneered the ranking of FOI compliance among Nigerian public institutions, pioneered the constituency projects platform ,conducts legal research on FOI, and coordinates FOI litigation.

Her primary objective of the fellowship is to advocate for an increase in proactive disclosure as well as the the development and deployment of data standards, especially the open contracting data standard, across public service. She shall initiate discussions around available platforms through which open contracting data can be customised and used across public services with the goal of linking data on public resources (from budget appropriations to budget releases to individual projects). This would enable every interested party, including community members, track the utilisation of public resources.

By the end of the fellowship, she hopes to acquire new skills in articulating the benefits of open governance in a way that pushes people in public service to partner with civil society as champions the cause.

Open Knowledge appoints Pavel Richter as new CEO

Rufus Pollock - April 29, 2015 in Featured, News, open knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation, Press

I am delighted to announce we have found the newest member of the Open Knowledge team: Pavel Richter joins us as our new CEO!

Pavel Richter

Pavel’s appointment marks a new chapter in the development of Open Knowledge, which, over the last ten years, has grown into one of the leading global organisations working on open data and open knowledge in government, research, and culture.

Pavel has a rich and varied background including extensive time both in business and in the non-profit sector. In particular, Pavel brings his experience from over five years as the Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland: under his leadership, it grew to more than 70 staff, an annual budget of nearly 5 million Euros, and initiated major new projects such as Wikidata. Pavel’s engagement follows an extensive international search, led by a team including members of the Board of Directors as well as a Community Representative.

Personally, I am delighted and excited to welcome Pavel as CEO. This appointment represents an important step in the development of Open Knowledge as an organisation and community. Over the last decade, and especially in the last five years, we have achieved an immense amount.

Going forward one of our most important opportunities – and challenges – will be to forge and catalyse a truly global movement to put openness at the heart of the information age. Pavel’s experience, insight and passion make him more than equal to this task and I am thrilled to be able to work with him, and support him, as he takes on this role.

Meet the 2015 School of Data fellows!

Guest - April 22, 2015 in open knowledge, School of Data

This is a cross-post from the School of Data blog, written by their Community Manager Cédric Lombion. See the original.

We’re delighted to announce that after much difficult deliberation, our Class of 2015 School of Data Fellows have now been decided! We ended up with nearly 600 applicants from 82 different countries – so it was no mean feat to pick just 7 from this group – we wish we had more resources to work with many more of you!

A huge thanks to our local partners SocialTIC and Metamorphosis, who put in much of the hard work in the selection process for fellows from their respective areas.

Their fellowships will run from now until the end of December, and they’ll be working with civil society, and journalists, in their areas. A key part of the fellowships is building the data literate community in their local areas – so, if you’re based nearby and you’d like to take part in trainings, sign up to our newsletter to be kept up to date with news of upcoming workshops and training sessions that they’ll be running!

All of our 2015 fellows, along with a number of our key community members from our local instances, will be attending the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa at the end of May, so we look forward to seeing many of you there.

Without further ado: here are our 2015 fellows!

Camila Salazar, Alajuela, Costa Rica

camila_salazarCamila studied journalism at the University of Costa Rica and is currently finishing her bachelor degree in Economics. Since 2009 she has worked in TV, print and digital media. In the past years she has used data and quantitative tools to write journalistic stories that encourage people to question their reality and participate in an informed public debate. In 2013 she worked in the first political factchecking project in Central America. This project was a finalist in the Global Editors Network Data Journalism Awards of 2014. More recently she worked in a data journalism project called DataBase, in one of the most prestigious digital media in Costa Rica. You can follow Camila on Twitter at @milamila07

 

David Selassie Opoku, Accra, Ghana

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David Selassie Opoku is a graduate of the United World College Costa Rica, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Biology and the New Jersey Institute of Technology with an M.S. in Computer Science. His interest in data stems from an academic background in science and passion as a technologist in various civic and social contexts.

David is a developer and aspiring data scientist currently at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra, Ghana where he teaches and mentors young entrepreneurs-in-training on software development skills and best practices. He has had the opportunity to work with the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, the Eugene Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the UNICEF Health Division and a tech startup in New York City. In the past year, he has helped organize and facilitate several hackathons and design thinking workshops in Accra. You can follow David on Twitter at @sdopoku

 

Goran Rizaov, Skopje, Macedonia

Goran Rizaov

Goran Rizaov, data-journalist based in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, with several years of experience in investigative journalism. Goran was a Professional Development Year fellow in 2011/2012 studying data journalism, precision journalism and online media at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, ASU, Phoenix, Arizona.

He was also a part of the 2013 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence. Worked for six months on an investigative story about corruption in the communication sector in Macedonia and for the first time published the names of the officials that were part of the court process that is under way in USA. Did this mostly by obtaining data from the US PACER system and other civil organizations like Transparency International.

He works with online data analyzing tools and loves to prepare inphographics.

Goran has a Bachelor degree in journalism from the St Cyril and Methodious University in Skopje, Macedonia and more than seven years of experience in working as a reporter. You can follow Goran on Twitter at @goxo

 

Julio Lopez, Quito, Ecuador

 

julio_lopezJulio is currently finishing a Master’s Degree in Energy and Resources Management at University College London (UCL), Australian campus. He became interested in open data after joining “Extrayendo Transparencia“, which translates to “Extracting Transparency”, a Grupo FARO’s initiative that promotes the dissemination of citizen-oriented government data to improve the accessibility and use of information from the oil and mining industries in civil society organisations and local governments in Ecuador. Julio graduated in Economics in 2010 and has conducted studies and supervised training on fiscal policy, public finance and the governance of the oil and mining industries in Latin America. As part of his fellowship, he is interested in promoting open data initiatives in the energy sector in Ecuador and Latin America. You can follow him on twitter at @jalp_ec

 

Nirab Pudasaini, Kathmandu, Nepal

Nirab Pudasaini

Nirab is the lead mobile application developer at Kathmandu Living Labs. Working with the team at Kathmandu Living Labs Nirab has been championing the OpenStreetMap and Open Map data movement in Nepal.

By training and mobilizing volunteers they have been successful to make OpenStreetMap as the most detailed map data source for Kathmandu. His team is involved in application of Open Data and OpenStreetMap in different sectors like disaster resilience, governance, agriculture, food security, water health and sanitation. Nirab has experience in training very diverse groups ranging from undergrad geo informatics engineering students to map illiterate farmers.

Nirab has deployed the site Map My School and is developer of apps like Mero Bhada Meter – An app to help citizens find taxi fares using government provided rates and OpenStreetMap data and Citizen Report – An app that allows citizens to report problems in their locality. Nirab is a huge RMS fan and loves playing bamboo flute. You can follow him on Twitter at @NirabPudasaini.

 

Nkechi Okwuone, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria

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Nkechi is the Open Data Manager of the Edo State Open Data portal in Nigeria, the first sub-national Open Data portal in Africa. She is an alumnus of Federal Government Girls College, Ibusa and the University of Port Harcourt, where she received her B. Eng in Electrical Electronics Engineering.

She leads a team of professionals who implement, promote the Governments agenda of transparency, collaborative and participatory governance. she has worked on various data driven projects for the past 2 years ranging from building applications/visualization with data, training/seminars on data to organizing/participating in data driven hackathons.

Nkechi is also a director in SabiHub, a not for profit organization with a vision to solve social problems using technology where she mentors entrepreneurs and open data enthusiast to. She recently organized the first open data hackathon on Agriculture in her state that saw the attendance of journalists, developers, CSOs and students.

She is well respected in the open data community of Nigeria and has been recognized as the youngest Open Data Manager in Africa and nominated for the Future Awards Africa prize in Public Service (2014). You can follow her on Twitter at @enkayfreda

 

Sheena Carmel Opulencia-Calub, Makati City, the Philippines

Sheena Carmel Opulencia-Calub Photo

Sheena has managed projects on gender-based violence and protection of the rights of women and their children in the Philippines funded by the European Union and set-up online monitoring systems on cases of GBV and VAWC. She worked with ACF International and UNICEF as the National Information Manager of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene cluster co-led by UNICEF and the Department of Health (DOH) where she provides support to communities, non-government and government agencies in managing and establishing information management systems during emergencies such as Typhoon Pablo in 2012, Zamboanga Crisis, Bohol Earthquake, and Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013. She is assisting DOH in setting-up a national database on zero open defecation, training local government staff to use mobile-based technologies to collect data. You can follow her on Twitter at @sheena.orlson

 

 

Delivery partners The Fellowship Programme is developed and delivered with Code for Africa, Social-Tic (Mexico), Metamorphosis (Macedonia) and Connected Development (Nigeria).

Funding partners This year’s fellowships will be supported by the Partnership for Open Development (POD) OD4D, Hivos, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Macedonia.

Open Trials: Open Knowledge Announce Plans for Open, Online Database of Clinical Trials

Open Knowledge - April 21, 2015 in Featured, open knowledge, Open Trials

Open Knowledge today announced plans to develop Open Trials, an open, online database of information about the world’s clinical research trials funded by The Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The project, which is designed to increase transparency and improve access to research, will be directed by Dr. Ben Goldacre, an internationally known leader on clinical transparency.

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Open Trials will aggregate information from a wide variety of existing sources in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the data and documents related to all trials of medicines and other treatments around the world. Conducted in partnership with the Center for Open Science and supported by the Center’s Open Science Framework, the project will also track whether essential information about clinical trials is transparent and publicly accessible so as to improve understanding of whether specific treatments are effective and safe.

“There have been numerous positive statements about the need for greater transparency on information about clinical trials, over many years, but it has been almost impossible to track and audit exactly what is missing,” Dr. Goldacre, the project’s Chief Investigator and a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, explained. “This project aims to draw together everything that is known around each clinical trial. The end product will provide valuable information for patients, doctors, researchers, and policymakers—not just on individual trials, but also on how whole sectors, researchers, companies, and funders are performing. It will show who is failing to share information appropriately, who is doing well, and how standards can be improved.”

Patients, doctors, researchers, and policymakers use the evidence from clinical trials to make informed decisions about which treatments are best. But studies show that roughly half of all clinical trial results are not published, with positive results published twice as often as negative results. In addition, much of the important information about the methods and findings of clinical trials is only made available outside the normal indexes of academic journals.

“This project will help to shed light on both good and bad practices by the sponsors of clinical trials,” Stuart Buck, LJAF Vice President of Research Integrity, explained. “If those sponsors become more transparent about their successes and failures, medical science will advance more quickly, thus benefitting patients’ health.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Open Knowledge on the use of the Open Science Framework (OSF) for this project. Open Trials is a great example of how the free, open source OSF infrastructure can be utilized by the community in different ways to increase transparency in scientific research,” Andrew Sallans, Center for Open Science Partnerships Lead, explained.

Open Trials will help to automatically identify which trial results have not been disclosed by matching registry data on trials that have been conducted against documents containing trial results. This will facilitate routine public audit of undisclosed results. It will also improve discoverability of other documents around clinical trials, which will be indexed and, in some cases, hosted. Lastly, it will help improve recruitment for clinical trials by making information and commentary on ongoing trials more accessible.

“This is an incredible opportunity to identify which trial results are being withheld,” Rufus Pollock, President and Founder of Open Knowledge, explained. “It is the perfect example of a project where opening up data and presenting it in a usable form will have a direct impact—it can literally save lives. We’re absolutely delighted to partner with Ben Goldacre, a leading expert and advocate in this space, as well as with the Center for Open Science and LJAF to conduct this groundbreaking work.”

The first phase of the Open Trials project is scheduled for completion in March 2017. For project updates, please follow @opentrials on twitter

or get in touch with us at opentrials@okfn.org.

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Fantasy Frontbench – giving the public a way to compare politicians

Guest - April 17, 2015 in Open Data

This is a guest blog post by Matt Smith, who is a learning technologist at UCL. He is interested in how technology can be used to empower communities.

Introduction

Fantasy Frontbench is a not-for-profit and openly licensed project aimed at providing the public with an engaging and accessible platform for directly comparing politicians.

A twist on the popular fantasy football concept, the site uses open voting history data from Public Whip and They Work For You. This allows users to create their own fantasy ‘cabinet’ by selecting and sorting politicians on how they have voted in Parliament on key policy issues such as EU integration, Updating Trident, Same-sex marriage and NHS reform.

Once created, users can see how their fantasy frontbench statistically breaks down by gender, educational background, age, experience and voting history. They can then share and debate their selection on social media.

The site is open licensed and we hope to make datasets of user selections available via figshare for academic inquiry.

A wholly state educated frontbench, from our gallery.

A wholly state educated frontbench, from our gallery.

Aim of the project

Our aim is to present political data in a way that is engaging and accessible to those who may traditionally feel intimidated by political media. We wish to empower voters through information and provide them with the opportunity to compare politicians on the issues that most matter to them. We hope the tool will encourage political discourse and increase voter engagement.

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Uses in education

The site features explanations of the electoral system and will hopefully help learners to easily understand how the cabinet is formed, the roles and responsibilities of cabinet ministers and the primary processes of government. Moreover, we hope as learners use the site, it will raise questions surrounding the way in which MPs vote in Parliament and the way in which bills are debated and amended. Finally, we host a gallery page which features a number of frontbenches curated by our team. This allows learners to see how different groups and demographics of politicians would work together. Such frontbenches include an All Female Frontbench, Youngest Frontbench, Most Experienced Frontbench, State Educated Frontbench, and a Pro Same-sex Marriage Frontbench, to name but a few.

Users can see how their frontbench in Parliament has voted on 75 different policy issues.

Users can see how their frontbench in Parliament has voted on 75 different policy issues.

Development

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to develop the site, introducing descriptions of the main political parties, adding graphs which will allow users to track or ‘follow’ how politicians are voting, as well as adding historical frontbenches to the gallery e.g. Tony Blair’s 1997 Frontbench, Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 Frontbench and Winston Churchill’s Wartime Frontbench.

For further information or if you would like to work with us, please contact info@fantasyfrontbench.com or tweet us at [@FantasyFbench](http://twitter.com/FantasyFbench).

Acknowledgements

Fantasy Frontbench is a not-for-profit organisation and is endorsed and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.

Javiera Atenas provided advice on open licensing and open data for the project.

Honouring the memory of leading Open Knowledge community member Subhajit Ganguly

Open Knowledge - April 17, 2015 in Community

It is with great sadness that we have learned that Mr. Subhajit Ganguly, an Open Knowledge Ambassador in India and a leading community member in the entire region, has suddenly and tragically passed away.

Subhajit-Ganguly-

Following a short period of illness Subhajit Ganguly, who was only 30 years old, passed away on the morning of April 7, local time, in the hospital in his hometown of Kolkata, India. His demise came as a shock to his family and loved ones, as well as to his colleagues and peers in the global open data and open knowledge community.

Subhajit was known as a relentless advocate for justice and equality, and a strong proponent and community builder around issues such as open data, open science and open education, which were all areas to which he devoted a large part of both his professional and personal time. Most recently he was the main catalyst and organiser of India Open Data Summit and he successfully contributed as project lead for the Indian Local City Census as well as being a submitter and reviewer of datasets in the Global Open Data Index, a global community-driven project that compares the openness of datasets worldwide to ensure another most pressing issue for him: Political transparency and accountability.

Subhajit was also instrumental in building the Open Knowledge India Local Group over the past two years, alongside also volunteering his time to coordinate other groups and initiatives within the open data landscape. Just last summer he attended the Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin to join his fellow community leaders to plan the future of open knowledge and open data in India, regionally in AsiaPAC, and globally.

Ever since the news passed across the globe during the last few days, messages and praise of Subhajit’s being and work have been pouring in from community leaders and members from near and far. He will be tremendously missed, and we join the many voices across the world mourning his loss.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and loved ones. We hope that his work and vision will continue to stand as a significant example to follow for people around the world. May Subhajit rest in peace.

Subhajit (holding the sign) among his Open Knowledge community peers at OK Festival in Berlin, 2014 (Photo: Burt Lum, CC BY-NC-ND)

Subhajit (holding the sign) among his Open Knowledge community peers at OK Festival in Berlin, 2014 (Photo: Burt Lum, CC BY-NC-ND)

Several Local Groups and Chapters have also made translations of this post:

Open Knowledge Nepal – Nepalese version

Open Knowledge Bangladesh – Bengali version

Open Knowledge Brazil – Portoguese version

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