OKFN at GEN Editors Lab Hackday in Barcelona

Concha Catalan - April 17, 2014 in Data Journalism

Global Editors Network (GEN) is an association of newsroom editors from different countries. It is based in Paris and promotes innovation in journalism. This year they have organised a score of Editors Lab Hackdays around the world to develop journalism projects in 48 hours. I had the privilege to participate in the hackday in Barcelona on 13th and 14th March representing the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) together with David da Silva (@dasilvacontin) and Joan Jové (@joanjsTW).

The GEN hackday slogan, Hack the newsroom, promotes a change in newsroom routine by way of journalists, programmers, and designers working together. That is why most teams competing on hackdays are made of people employed by media. That was not our case. We brought in the spirit of real hackathons: we worked as a team once we got there.

From August 2013, hosted by media worldwide, GEN representatives have run hackdays in Buenos Aires (Clarín), Cape Town (Media 24), London (The Guardian), Rome (L’Espresso), Paris (Le Parisien), Sunnyvale, EEUU (Yahoo!), Moscow (Ria Novosti), Brussels (VRT), and Madrid (El País). From Barcelona, the GEN was on its way to Cairo (Al-Masry Al-Youm) and then New York (New York Times/Reuters). A different topic is set up for each hackday. In Madrid, it was liveblogging; in Cairo, it was apps with maps to make city traffic better by crowdsourcing.

Caixaforum Barcelona; photo by Ferran Moreno Lanza

The Col·legi de Periodistes de Catalunya hosted the hackday in Barcelona. It took place in Caixaforum, on the topic “Election Coverage: How to create new interactive tools to encourage civic engagement and productive political discussion? How to better use data to make your coverage more relevant to voters?” We also had two masterclasses. Luis Collado and Elías Moreno from Google showed a few data analysis tools. Mirko Lorenz from Journalism++ presented inspiring projects.

Our team, looking ahead at the coming European Parliament elections on 25th May 2014, presented the project Parlamentemos (“Let’s parliament”): a webpage and a mobile app with information about the current members of the European Parliament from Catalan political parties and also about the candidates whose names we know so far (let’s not forget that the Popular Party in government has not named any of its candidates yet).

When our project becomes real, citizens should be able to ask MEPs questions using these tools and get their answers. We would also like to link it to our project of open government in Catalonia, opengov.cat, and extend it to other parliaments. (If you are a programmer and you can help, please email us at opengovcat@gmail.com)

OKFN team at the Barcelona GEN Editors Lab hackday

The hackday winner was La Vanguardia, and this was their project. The newspaper Ara.cat got a mention for “El inaugurómetro” (the inaugurationmeter, relating building projects and results in local elections). The Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals (that groups together TV3, Catalunya Ràdio and other public media) put up a project about audience using their mobile to have a say in broadcast election debates real time, and got another mention. Other participants were eldiario.es, El Periódico, Datan’Press, and Wikidiari.

La Vanguardia will compete in the final of the “newsroom world cup” at the GEN Editors Lab summit in Barcelona on 13th and 14th June 2014 against The Times, La Repubblica, La Nación, Radio France, and others. We hope to be able to inform you about it, too. Here is the GEN summit programme.

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Shtetl, My Destroyed Home: A Remembrance (1922)

Adam Green - April 17, 2014 in jewish, judaism, pogroms, shtetl, soviet union, Ukraine, yiddish

Selection from a set of 30 lithographs by the Russian painter Issachar Ber Ryback, dating mostly from 1917 and published in a book in 1922, depicting scenes of Ryback's home village in Ukraine before it was destroyed in the pogroms following World War I.

1592: Coining Columbus

Adam Green - April 16, 2014 in america, Art & Illustrations, Books, Christopher columbus, colonialism, Culture & History, exploration

For many the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas is inextricably linked to a particular image: a small group of confident men on a tropical beach formally announcing their presence to the dumbfounded Amerindians. Michiel van Groesen explores the origins of this eurocentric iconography and ascribes it's persistence to the editorial strategy of the publisher who invented the initial design a full century after Columbus' encounter took place.

Data Roundup, 16 April

Marco Menchinella - April 16, 2014 in air, Cities, Data Roundup, deaths, England, Google, InfoAmazonia, International journalism festival, Landline, Lobbying, pollution, ProPublica, resilient, Stateline, tech, top tweets, world

Ana_Cotta – saudades da Amazônia

Tools, Events, Courses

On Wednesday the 30th, the eighth edition of the International Journalism Festival will take place in Perugia. The event has become one of the most important of its kind in Europe, and it will host hundreds of journalists from all over the world.

The IFJ will also be the location of the third edition of the 2014 School of Data Journalism jointly organized by the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation. The School will start on the May the 1st and will see the participation of 25 instructors from world-leading newspapers, universities, and think tanks.

ProPublica just announced the release of two JavaScript libraries. The first one is Landline and will help developers turn GeoJSON data into SVG browser-side maps. The second is built on the previous one and is called Stateline and will facilitate the process of creating US choropleth maps.

Data Stories

Chris Michael from the Guardian Data Blog recently published a short article listing the world’s most resilient cities. Michael extracted data from a study of Grosvenor, a London-based company which measured resilience by assigning a value to cities’ vulnerability to environmental changes and their capacity to face political or economical threats.

British citizens might be interested in the quality of air they breathe everyday. Those who are worried about air pollution should take a look at George Arnett’s interactive choropleth map showing the percentage of deaths caused by particulate air pollution in England.

What’s the role of the world tech giants in politics? Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold tried to explain it in this article on the Washington Post by observing the evolution of Google in its lobbying activities at the White House. Google’s political influence increased enormously since 2002 thus making the company the second largest spender in the US on lobbying practices.

Are conservatives all conservatives in the same way, or is there a certain degree of moderation among them and toward different issues? On his newly-born FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver faces the argument by displaying data on the “partisan split” between the two US parties on several main topics.

If you are Catholic, or maybe just curious, you should be very interested in seeing The Visual Agency’s last infographic, which represents through a series of vertical patterns the number, geographical area, and social level of professions of all Catholic saints.

Gustavo Faileros, ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship, is about to present to the public InfoAmazonia, a new data journalism site which will be monitoring environmental changes in the southern part of South America using both satellite and on-the-ground data.

In addition, as environmental changes increase, so do the number of deaths of environmental and land defenders. The Global Witness team has just published its latest project, Deadly Environment, a 28-page report containing data and important insights on the rise of this phenomenon which is incredibly expanding year by year, especially in South America.

Data Sources

Michael Corey is a news app developer who was involved in the realization process of the National Public Radio mini-site named Borderland. In this post, he analyses the main features of the geographical digital tools that he used to collect and display data on the US-Mexico border which helped him correctly localizing the fences build by the US government all along the line which separates the two Countries.

The data-driven journalism community is expanding rapidly, especially on Twitter. If you need a useful recap of what has been tweeted and retweeted by data lovers, then the Global Investigative Journalism Network #ddj top ten is what you need.

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RLUK Hack Day – 14 May 2014

Mike Mertens - April 16, 2014 in Featured, Hack days

Research Libraries UK (RLUK) represents 34 of the leading and most significant research libraries in the UK and Ireland. Working with The European Library, RLUK will soon be releasing over 17 million bibliographic records as Linked Open Data. We want to invite developers from the library, academic and general coding community to realise the full impact of this very large […]

Arthur Coga’s Blood Transfusion (1667)

Adam Green - April 15, 2014 in arthur coga, blood, experiments, lamb, sheep, transfusion

An account of the first ever blood transfusion involving a human in England. Six months after he successfully completed a blood transfusion between two dogs, the experimental physician Richard Lower administered 9oz of sheep's blood into the body of Arthur Coga, a Divinity Student from Cambridge.

US National Gallery of Art releases 35k public domain images

Lieke Ploeger - April 15, 2014 in Featured, News, Public Domain

This week the US National Gallery of Art announced that over 35.000 images are currently available as public domain through their website, NGA images. Following the start of their Open Access policy in March 2012 (which you can read more about in this blog), the NGA has been adding more and more digital images of […]

The Tragic Consequences of Secret Contracts

Theodora Middleton - April 14, 2014 in Campaigning, Featured, Stop Secret Contracts

The following post is by Seember Nyager, CEO of the Public and Private Development Centre in Nigeria, one of our campaign partners in the Stop Secret Contracts campaign

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Every day, through secret contracts being carried out within public institutions, there is confirmation that the interest of the public is not served. A few days ago, young Nigerians in Abuja were arrested for protesting against the reckless conduct of the recruitment exercise at the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) that led to the death of 19 applicants.

Although the protesters were later released, the irony still stings that whilst no one has been held for the resulting deaths from the reckless recruitment conduct, the young voices protesting against this grave misconduct are being silenced by security forces. Most heart-breaking is the reality that the deadly outcomes of the recruitment exercise could have been avoided with more conscientious planning, through an adherence to due process and diligence in the selection of consultants to carry out the exercise.

A report released by Premium times indicates that the recruitment exercise was conducted exclusively by the Minister of Interior who hand-picked the consultant that carried out the recruitment exercise at the NIS. The non-responsiveness of the Ministry in providing civic organizations including BudgIT and PPDC with requested details of the process through which the consultant was selected gives credence to the reports of due process being flouted.

The non-competitive process through which the consultant was selected is in sharp breach of the Public procurement law and its results have undermined the concept of value for money in the award of contracts for public services. Although a recruitment website was built and deployed by the hired consultant, the information gathered by the website does not seem to have informed the plan for the conduct of the recruitment exercise across the country which left Nigerians dead in its wake. Whilst the legality of the revenue generated from over 710,000 applicants is questioned, it is appalling that these resources were not used to ensure a better organized recruitment exercise.

This is not the first time that public institutions in Nigeria have displayed reckless conduct in the supposed administration of public services to the detriment of Nigerians. The recklessness with which the Ministry of Aviation took a loan to buy highly inflated vehicles, the difficulty faced by BudgIT and PPDC in tracking the exact amount of SURE-P funds spent, the 20 billion Dollars unaccounted for by the NNPC are a few of the cases where Nation building and development is undermined by public institutions.

In the instance of the NIS recruitment conducted three weeks ago, some of the consequences have been immediate and fatal, yet there is foot dragging in apportioning liability and correcting the injustice that has been dealt to Nigerians. On the same issue, public resources have been speedily deployed to silence protesters.

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It is time that our laws which require due process and diligence are fully enforced. Peaceful protests should no longer be clamped down because Nigerians are justified for being outraged by any form of institutional recklessness. The Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment exercise painfully illustrates that the outcomes of secret contracts could be deadly and such behaviour cannot be allowed to continue. We must stop institutional recklessness, we must stop secret contracts.

Ms. Seember Nyager coordinates procurement monitoring in Nigeria. Follow Nigerian Procurement Monitors at @Nig_procmonitor.

Panton Progress at the Half Way Point

Rosie Graves - April 11, 2014 in Panton Fellowships

I’m now six months into my year-long Panton Fellowship and so it’s time to give a short overview of what I’ve achieved so far.  The last quarter has been a busy one that’s for sure with conferences, OA forums, school meetings and instrument developments.


Presenting some AQ research at the AQ Conference 2014

Presenting some AQ research at the AQ Conference 2014

In March I spent a week in the beautiful Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the Air Quality Conference.  Whilst I was there as well as enjoying some delicious Bavarian cuisine and presenting some of my PhD research I presented a poster on my Panton work and got some great feedback. Overall everyone seemed to agree that air quality data was a great candidate for an open data project especially with the increasing amount of attention the issue has been getting recently in Europe.  I also had some interesting discussions about the species I am measuring and there was some consensus that I may want to start with a simpler measurement plan so that may be implemented in the near future.

At The University of Leicester we recently had our Research week and as part of that The University Library hosted and Open Access forum. Our special invited guests for this forum were Peter Murray-Rust and Michelle Brook who I was pleased to finally meet in person! It turned out to be a really interesting event where lots of OA issues were discussed in an informal setting. You can see the kind of things that were discussed on PMR’s blog.  I thought that this was a great event with researchers, librarians and OA advocates all discussing the issues surrounding OA. It was especially interesting to see all of the figures that have come out of Michelle’s recent work on the Wellcome Trust APC dataset.

After another meeting with the school that I’m working with we now have a date for installation of the instruments and the start of the project.  We are currently working together to plan an introductory session for the students that will introduce them to the project and get them to think about where we might want to install the instruments. As I mentioned in my last blog post I now have a webpage to host my data and the sensor has undergone some calibrations in the lab.

Not a bad view from the conference centre in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Not a bad view from the conference centre in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

I’ve also been busy contributing to a citizen science in atmospheric science review paper which is now under review and preparing to present as part of a short course on school outreach at EGU in Vienna at the end of the month.

So a busy few months but I think for me the next couple of months look to be the most exciting with installation of sensors and data streaming in.

Why secret contracts matter in aid transparency

Nicole Valentinuzzi - April 11, 2014 in Campaigning, Stop Secret Contracts

The following guest post is by Nicole Valentinuzzi, from our Stop Secret Contracts campaign partner Publish What You Fund.

A new campaign to Stop Secret Contracts, supported by the Open Knowledge Foundation, Sunlight Foundation and many other international NGOs, aims to make sure that all public contracts are made available in order to stop corruption before it starts.

As transparency campaigners ourselves, Publish What You Fund is pleased to be a supporter of this new campaign. We felt it was important to lend our voice to the call for transparency as an approach that underpins all government activity.

We campaign for more and better information about aid, because we believe that by opening development flows, we can increase the effectiveness and accountability of aid. We also believe that governments have a duty to act transparently, as they are ultimately responsible to their citizens.

This includes publishing all public contracts that governments put out for tender, from school books to sanitation systems. These publicly tendered contracts are estimated to top nearly US$ 9.5 trillion each year globally, yet many are agreed behind closed doors.

These secret contracts often lead to corruption, fraud and unaccountable outsourcing. If the basic facts about a contract aren’t made publicly available – for how much and to whom to deliver what – then it is not possible to make sure that corruption and abuses don’t happen.

But what do secret contracts have to do with aid transparency, which is what we campaign for at Publish What You Fund? Well, consider the recent finding by the campaign that each year Africa loses nearly a quarter of its GDP to corruption…then consider what that money could have been spent on instead – things like schools, hospitals and roads.

This is money that in many cases is intended to be spent on development. It should be published – through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), for example – so that citizens can follow the money and hold governments accountable for how it is spent.

But corruption isn’t just a problem in Africa – the Stop Secret Contracts campaign estimates Europe loses an estimated €120 billion to corruption every year.

At Publish What You Fund, we tell the world’s biggest providers of development cooperation that they must publish their aid information to IATI because it is the only internationally-agreed, open data standard. Information published to IATI is available to a wide range of stakeholders for their own needs – whether people want to know about procurement, contracts, tenders or budgets. More than that, this is information that partner countries have asked for.

Governments use tax-payer money to award contracts to private companies in every sector, including development. We believe that any companies that receive public money must be subject to the same transparency requirements as governments when it comes to the goods and services they deliver.

Greater transparency and clearer understanding of the funds that are being disbursed by governments or corporates to deliver public services can only be helpful in building trust and supporting accountability to citizens. Whether it is open aid or open contracts, we need to get the information out of the hands of governments and into the hands of citizens.

Ultimately for us, the question remains how transparency will improve aid – and open contracts are another piece of the aid effectiveness puzzle. Giving citizens full and open access to public contracts is a crucial first step in increasing global transparency. Sign the petition now to call on world leaders to make this happen.

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