This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2017. On Saturday 4 March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 44 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of Hivos, Article 19, Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This event was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open contracting and tracking public money flows theme.

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It was the meeting of friends who care about the city. We gathered in the cosy 28/33 Home Bar which is situated in historical part of Chernivtsi city (regional centre in the western part of Ukraine). A bit partisan and hipster atmosphere inside and hot drinks took us from spring coldness and brought us to the world of ideas.

The idea of open data is just starting to be talked about in Ukraine. From one side, this worldwide trend is influencing the situation in our country. From another side, there are only a few organisations, cities and groups of people who have enough capacity not only to speak but also to do something about open data. Unfortunately, our city is still in the beginning of this process. Nevertheless, we want to move further.

So we figured out several spheres we could try to start from. First of all, we discussed about the idea that there are two different “groups of data”:

Data to control [national and local government, officials]

Data to participate and to make city more efficient

Data to control

As the great majority of our group were NGO activists, the “control” and “watchdog” functions are important for us. The best examples of data to control we want to work with are the e-declarations, budget spending data and results of voting of local deputies.

Last year we had a big portal of e-declarations launched in Ukraine. All the officials must fill in declarations online which will become open to the citizens. This portal has an open API with data in JSON format. This is a good opportunity to make some tools for automatic analysis of that data. We played a little in this API and decided to make a separate meeting before or after 1st of April deadline to work with declarations of deputies of the local city council. Also, we understood that we need to learn how to work with JSON format.

One more thing that we spoke about was the open contracting and budget spending data. In Ukraine, at this moment two perfect instruments are working: the open contract system Prozzoro and (all the budget transactions are published there). In our company that night we had an admin of the investigative media project Procurement in Chernivtsi, so she shared her experience on how to use the information to make some successful investigation on the theme. We also spoke a little how to work with API

Lastly, I presented the national project Rada4You. This project is the Ukrainian replication of the Australian “They vote for you” project. The replication was made by the Civil Network OPORA activists in 2016. The main idea is to scrape voting results from the Ukrainian parliament and to use these data for some analysis. For example, at this moment it is possible to unite several voting results into one policy and to use this instrument for fact checking (to check the public speeches of MPs and how do they vote for different policies). It is also possible to analyse the compatibility of different MPs as there is such an instrument in this project as “Friends for voting”. At last, the project shares all its data through API in JSON format. During our meeting, we decided to work on replication of this tool for the local level and to make the similar tool for Chernivtsi city council. That evening we had a city mayor adviser between us. So it helped us to understand if we could rely on support from that side.

Data to participate

We spoke a lot about how open data can be used by the local authorities as an instrument for participation. To be honest, we understand that the city council has a lack of technical and financial capacity to work deep and intensive on open data. Also, we know that are not a lot of open data specialists in the city. Nevertheless, there are some spheres that we can and must speak about the open data approach. So we detected these crucial directions.

Transport data. At this moment we had some kind of transport crisis in the city. The city council is working on some ideas for improving the situation. So we need to speak with all the stakeholders to achieve the situation that transport data won’t be closed from the community. In addition, we understand that this type of data is not easy to be work with so we need to learn how to use and work with transport data.

Data from Education system. We talked about how the education system accumulates a lot of data and is not sharing them. These data types can be used to make some relevant tools for parents to choose schools for their children.

Data from Health Care System. In our point of view, this type of data should also be in focus, as Ukraine currently going under a health care reform. The datasets dealing with the free of charge medicines, lists of hospitals and pharmacies, medical equipment should be opened.

GIS (geographic information system). In Chernivtsi, the city council is working on GIS implementation. The situation is the same as with transport data. There are some risks that information from GIS can be closed from the community. So we need to have an advocacy campaign to make it open.

This Open Data Day meeting was possible thanks to the Open Knowledge International support. And I hope it is only the first but not the last. We have some plans, they are not clear now but we are ready to make them not only clear but also real.

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Grygorii is an activist of the Ukrainian network OPORA, a non-governmental, non-political and financially independent nationwide network of public activists. They have teamed up to enhance public participation in the political process by developing and implementing models of citizens’ influence on the activities of state and local government in Ukraine.