You are browsing the archive for Stefan Wehrmeyer.

Cease and desist by the German government for publishing a document received under FOI law

- January 24, 2014 in Access to Information, Featured

Fragdenstaat screenshot The German Federal Ministry of the Interior has sent a cease and desist order to the Freedom of Information (FOI) portal FragDenStaat.de for publishing a document received under the German federal FOI law. The document – a five page study written by government staff – analyses a ruling by the German constitutional court in November 2011 which declared the 5% party quota for the European Parliament elections as unconstitutional. The study concludes that setting any such quota would be unconstitutional according to the ruling. Despite this a recent change in election law set the party quota to 3%. When the study in question was received from the Ministry of the Interior through an FOI request on FragDenStaat.de, the ministry prohibited publication of the document by claiming copyright. FragDenStaat.de has decided to publish the document anyway to take a stand against this blatant misuse of copyright. The government sent a cease and desist letter shortly after. The Open Knowledge Foundation Germany as the legal entity behind FragDenStaat.de is refusing to comply with the cease and desist order, and is looking forward to a court decision that will strengthen freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of information rights in Germany. This is the German campaign site with all documents and press release We want to fight this case in court and need financial support. The organisation behind FragDenStaat.de is the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, a German non-profit charitable organisation. Please donate via BetterPlace.org or with the following details: Recipient: Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland e.V IBAN: DE89830944950003009670 BIC: GENO DE F1 ETK If you can’t spare money but time, tell the European Commission to reform copyright and make government documents exempt from copyright.

Let’s fix EU copyright!

- January 18, 2014 in Featured, Open Content

Today is Day 6 of Copyright Week, organised by EFF, looking at Getting Copyright Right. Fix copyright The European Commission is currently holding a Public Consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules – and they’re looking for your input. Unfortunately, the consultation documents that the European Commission are difficult to fill out: rather than encouraging online participation, they have provided forms to be printed out, and the questions are difficult to understand. So, with the support of Creativity for Copyright, and help of a couple of other people contributing code, translations and guides, this site has been set up: http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/ which provides a simple web form and easy contextual information which helps people to understand current problems with copyright. You can answer the form in a number of different languages, and after completing it the document will be sent to you by email. Your input is crucial to pushing them in the right direction – make your voice heard now! http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/

Announcing v3.0 of Froide – the Open-Source Python-Based Freedom of Information Platform

- March 15, 2013 in Access to Information, OKF Germany, Open Government Data

I’m happy to announce version 3 release of Froide, the Open Source, Python-based platform for running Freedom of Information portals. Froide has been in development for nearly two years. It has powered the FOI portal in Germany for over a year and a half and has recently been used to launch an Austrian FoI site. Full instructions for getting started with Froide can be found here, and the source code is online on github here.This latest release comes with the latest version of the Python web framework Django 1.5 and Bootstrap 2.3. All other dependencies have also been upgraded. Some of the major features include:

FragDenStaat.de – Ask the State

Froide got started back in spring of 2011 when OKF Germany decided to create an FOI site. Unfortunately at that time the code of WhatDoTheyKnow was not ready to be used elsewhere (Alaveteli didn’t exist at all – plus, it must be said I’m a pythonista and it was ruby app!). I therefore started building an FOI platform based on Python/Django for Germany, internationalized from the ground up. After four months of coding and preparations we launched FragDenStaat.de – the German FOI portal – in August 2011. Since then the software has seen continuous improvements and new features. Several of these additional features have been motivated by specific requirements for Germany, like tracking the cost of a request, uploading postal replies from authorities, hiding requester names from the public and redacting PDFs online. Froide leverages the power of the Django admin that allows community moderators to help with administration tasks and guide requesters on their FOI journey. Just recently FragDenStaat.de got a little brother: the Austrian FOI portal FragDenStaat.at got off the ground and will track the development of the upcoming FOI legislation in Austria.

Challenges Overcome

Over the last two years, the German FOI community have struggled with – and overcome – many FOI oddities: baseless cost threats, lot of anti-digital behaviour, and very creative excuses for why information cannot be released. FragDenStaat.de has send out more than 3000 requests and the Federal FOI statistic for 2012 is at an all time high with more than a third of requests delivered and tracked by FragDenStaat.de. One of the most interesting stories was a ban on publishing documents received through FOI: the German parliament had sent over a report on MP corruption but denied the right to publish it on the grounds of copyright. Any citizen could get and read the report by requesting it, but nobody was allowed to share it freely! This Kafkaesque situation made it difficult to spread the word and limited public debate on the topic. But we quickly came up with a solution to this problem: one-click requests for that specific document in your name. We quickly got hundreds of people to make this request and sparked a debate about the topic. Even though the documents have been leaked on the net, the German parliament still refuses to publish them. The matter will soon be resolved in front of a judge, but until then we continue to provide an easy means to request the documents and take a stand for FOI.

Colophon

Froide and FragDenStaat.de are civic coding projects of the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany. Check out their other projects. This article would also be incomplete without a shout out here to Alaveteli – the excellent Open Source Ruby on Rails FOI software built by the great folks at MySociety – and to WhatDoTheyKnow, the original FOI site built by MySociety for the UK, which inspired both FragDenStaat and many other sites around the world.

Apps and the City: Berlin Transport Hack Day

- December 6, 2012 in Events, Featured, News

Just a short note about the Transport Hack Day Open Knowledge Foundation Germany just ran last week. We ran the event together with the local transport provider, the Berlin government and the FH Potsdam. The VBB released GTFS data, opened up their API and provided some geo datasets about entrances to stations. We had over 120 people registered, lots of them were developers/designers and we had a really inspired atmosphere. The output in numbers of apps was not as great as we would have liked due to broken datasets and the complicated API, but I think we will see some nice apps in the coming months.

Apps and the City: Berlin Transport Hack Day

- December 6, 2012 in Events, Featured, News

Just a short note about the Transport Hack Day [Open Knowledge Foundation Germany](http://okfn.de/) just ran last week.

We ran the event together with the local transport provider, the Berlin government and the FH Potsdam.
The VBB released GTFS data, opened …

Public Transport Data for Berlin

- March 15, 2011 in Campaigning, Open Data, Open Government Data

The following post is from Stefan Wehrmeyer, who has worked on projects such as Mapnificent, and has recently joined the Open Knowledge Foundation as a developer! Public Transport Data is awesome! It’s one of the few datasets that people actually use every day when they ask for the next bus or the fastest route. And this data gets even better when it’s freely available and developers can build their own applications with it. Today a lot of public transport data is available – and a lot of credit for that goes to Google. They pushed many public transport agencies to provide their data in a machine-readable format for their transit program so that users can get directions via public transport on Google Maps. That’s why the transport agencies of all major cities in the US and many other cities around the world have their data available in a format called General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). It comprises the geographic locations of stops, routes connecting these stops and the schedule for each route. This data is made available to Google and in most cases also to the public. Even though, most of the time, the data is not released under an open license, but under a proprietary and sometimes very restrictive license, it is available for free. Developers can take the data and build awesome apps with it: for example I’ve built a web app called Mapnificent that works with lots of different GTFS data feeds (that I get from the fantastic data aggregator gtfs-data-exchange.com). Unfortunately the situation is very different in Germany. Some German transport agencies provide a transit layer to Google Maps (you can see public transport routes, but cannot use actual routing), but none of them have GTFS feeds available. I can’t really blame the transport agencies for their unwillingness to cooperate with Google (it’s their choice), but making public transport data freely available would benefit their riders and that’s what they should think about. I live in Berlin and I love public transport here. There are unofficial public transport apps for Berlin, but because they don’t have access to proper APIs or raw data, these apps have to screen-scrape the local transit agency’s web interface which is neither a stable nor a sustainable solution. That’s why I am starting a campaign for public transport data in Berlin. If you are from Berlin, please ask the BVG or the VBB for public transport data and spread the word. There are too many apps that need to be built: it can’t wait any longer. Related posts:
  1. Where is the nearest bus stop? UK Department for Transport adds NaPTAN data to Open Street Map
  2. Data Journalism Meetup, Berlin, 1st September 2010
  3. Design Meets Data, Berlin, 29th November 2010