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Mapping street names in Belgium by gender: Open Data Day 2020 report

- April 7, 2020 in belgium, OK Belgium, Open Data Day, Open Data Day 2020

On Saturday 7th March 2020, the tenth Open Data Day took place with people around the world organising over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Thanks to generous support from key funders, the Open Knowledge Foundation was able to support the running of more than 60 of these events via our mini-grants scheme This blogpost is a report by Open Knowledge Belgium who received funding from Mapbox to use open data to build a map visualising the streets names of Hasselt by gender. Open Knowledge Belgium celebrates Open Data Day 2020 The day after a successful edition of our annual Open Belgium conference, we gathered 30 engaged citizens for our informal Civic Lab Summit at the same location. While the conference focused on keynote sessions, panels and lightning talks, the Civic Lab Summit was centred around hands-on workshops. The aim was to boost the development of existing (civic tech) projects. We asked participants to bring their laptop and discover, share, act.  An overview of the workshops:
    • Show me finance
    • An ORCA with a BitofTrust: Citizens redefining digital trust
    • Measuring air quality – Civic Lab Brussels
    • EqualStreetNames
    • OpenStreetMap Belgium
    • Introduction to Wikidata 
    • Rigel: Connecting people in Open Data
    • Are you supporting the right politician? Graph visualisation of voting data
    • Skills and training on research data management
Given the recent launch of our EqualStreetNames project, most attention was paid to this workshop in our communication efforts. Even though Brussels is the initial protagonist in this effort to create a map visualising the street names by gender, the project was developed in a way that can be easily replicated in other cities. To make this happen, we used open data – data which can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose – from OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia. The sobering results in Brussels – where only 6.29% of street names are attributed to women and only one street is named after a transgender man – aroused interest from other cities.  That is why 30 open data enthusiasts joined us on 7 March in Hasselt to unlock the new opportunities created by this open data and open source project. The team behind the EqualStreetNames project explained the code and showed how to add Wikidata tags (a tag containing all the information from a Wikipedia page) to the streets on OpenStreetMap. In other words, the foundations were provided for the continuation of this visualisation project in other parts of Belgium. Ultimately, we hope to leverage a positive change in our society. In our experience, the combination of a professional conference with an informal community day is a great way to spread the open message in Belgium. With the financial support of the Open Knowledge Foundation mini-grant scheme, we could provide a free energising community day of collaboration and creation. A big thank you for the support!

Open Summer of Code is growing beyond the Belgian borders!

- August 2, 2018 in belgium, Events, network, OK Belgium, open Summer of code

Authors: Dries van Ransbeek and David Chaves To some of you, Open Summer of Code – also known as osoc – is a name that rings a bell, to others this is a new concept. So, for the latter group: osoc is an originally Belgian summer programme organised by Open Knowledge Belgium which has been around since 2011. Ever since that first summer, osoc has been breathing life into 62 open innovation projects.

More open innovation than ever before

Open Summer of Code is an annual summer programme. Several teams of students have four weeks to give shape to real-life open innovation projects. This July, Open Summer of Code welcomed 74 students who got paid to work on 17 open innovation projects as summer job: a record in osoc’s history. To make this happen, Open Summer of Code partners up with external partners: two examples of this edition were, amongst others, Informatie Vlaanderen and Brussels Mobility. This summer, the 8th edition took place. 17 projects were developed, start to finish, in just one month. Every team consisted of driven multi-disciplinary students and coaches who brainstormed, coded and tested out their applications together. The fruits of their labour were presented at the Demo Day on the 26th of July in Brussels with more than 300 attendees. Find an overview of all osoc18’s projects here:

Open innovation with Open Source and Open Data

Open Summer of Code builds open source applications based on open data, which is data that can be freely (re)used and can be distributed by everyone. Open data has many different uses and brings about innovation time and again. Every single one of the 17 projects benefits our society as a whole. Toon Vanagt, chairman of Open Knowledge Belgium explains: “At osoc, we aim to illustrate the advantages of open data with clear applications in addition to giving an enriching learning experience to motivated students. We pass on the result of that effort to society transparently through open source. Our students work on these innovation projects in small teams and with a deadline. The goal of osoc is to deliver as much functionality as possible at the end of the month. To reach this goal, the teams are supported by experienced coaches. This year, we can count on the support of 24 partners from both government and business sector. In return for their contribution, they submit projects themselves that can be further developed after Open Summer of Code”.

Open Summer of Code goes international

For the first time, this year, osoc turned as international with a parallel event in Spain. A collaboration between the Open Knowledge Belgium and the Ontology Engineering Group (from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) made possible that during two weeks in July, 8 international students developed 3 innovation projects in the city of Madrid. The three partners for this 1st edition of osoc in Spain were: the innovation department of the pharmaceutical company Lilly, the astronomical observatory of the UPM and the EU project CEF-OASIS. The whole program was celebrated with the support of the open laboratory for innovation project of the Madrid’s council, Medialab-Prado, and similar to the Belgium edition, the outcomes of the project were presented during the Demo Day on the 20th of July with more than 30 external attendees.

What’s next? osoc19 in multiple countries

With its first international edition, Open Summer of Code has put its first steps towards its goal to pursue more international impact. In 2019, it aims to have students making open innovation projects happen across multiple countries. Therefore, it’s looking for local Open Knowledge chapters or other partner organizations who want to take the lead in their country. As Open Knowledge Belgium has 8 years of experience within its team with organizing Open Summer of Code, feel free to drop an email to to get started and receive more information about setting up your local summer programme. Happy summer of open innovation!

More information about Open Summer of Code and this year’s projects:

Open Knowledge Belgium is preparing for open Summer of code 2017

- May 31, 2017 in belgium, Civic Labs, Events, General, Open Belgium, Open Data, Open Knowledge, open Summer of code, oSoc17

In the last few months, the open community in Belgium has had the chance to gather multiple times. Open Knowledge Belgium organised a couple of events and activities which aimed to bring its passionate community together and facilitate the launch of new projects. Furthermore, as summertime is coming, it’s currently organising the seventh edition of its yearly open Summer of code. Let’s go chronologically through what’s going on at Open Knowledge Belgium.

Open Belgium 2017

As the tradition goes, the first Monday after International Open Data Day, Open Knowledge Belgium organises its Open Belgium conference on open knowledge and open data in Belgium.

Open Belgium was made possible by an incredible group of volunteers

This year’s community-driven gathering of open enthusiasts took place in Brussels for the first time and was a big success. More than 250 people with different backgrounds showed up to talk about the current state of and next steps towards more open knowledge and open data in Belgium.

All presentations, notes and visuals of Open Belgium are available on

Launch of Civic Lab Brussels

It all started during a fruitful discussion with Open Knowledge Germany at Open Belgium. While talking about the 26 OK Labs in Germany, more specifically being intrigued by the air quality project of OK Lab Stuttgart, we got to ask ourselves: why wouldn’t we launch something similar in Brussels/Belgium?

In about the same period of time, some new open initiatives popped up from within our community and several volunteers repeatedly expressed their interest to contribute to Open Knowledge’s mission of building a world in which knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.

Eventually, after a wonderful visit to BeCentral — the new digital hub above Brussels’ central station — all pieces of the puzzle got merged into the idea of a Civic Lab: bringing volunteers and open projects every 2 weeks together in an open space.

The goal of Civic Labs Brussels is two-fold: on the one hand, offering volunteers opportunities to contribute to civic projects they care about. On the other hand, providing initiative-takers of open project with help and advice from fellow citizens.

Open in the case of our Civic Lab means, corresponding to the Open Definition, yet slightly shorter, that anyone can freely contribute to and benefit from the project. No strings attached.

Civic Lab meetups are not only to put open initiatives in the picture and hang out with other civic innovators. They’re also about getting things done and creating impact. Therefore, those gatherings always take place under the same format of short introductory presentations (30 min) — to both new and ongoing projects — followed by action (2 hours), whereby all attendees are totally free to contribute to the project of their choice and can come up with new projects.

Open Summer of code 2017

Last but not least, Open Knowledge Belgium is preparing for the seventh edition of its annual open Summer of code. From 3rd until 27th July, 36 programming, design and communications students will be working under the guidance of experienced coaches on 10 different open innovation projects with real-life impact.

If you want to stay updated about open Summer of code and all other activities, please follow Open Knowledge Belgium on Twitter or subscribe to its newsletter.

Open Knowledge Belgium is preparing for open Summer of code 2017

- May 31, 2017 in belgium, Civic Labs, Events, General, Open Belgium, Open Data, Open Knowledge, open Summer of code, oSoc17

Open Belgium 2017 in the eyes of a Russian open data enthusiast

- March 29, 2017 in belgium, community, gender, hackathon, network, OK Belgium, transport policy

When you belong to a worldwide community such as the Open Knowledge Network, travelling to other countries means you can meet like-minded people by just knocking on the door of a local branch. That is exactly what I did last year when I lived in Brussels. I signed up as a volunteer for the Open Belgium 2016, a yearly community-driven conference. It turned into an incredible internship for a couple of months. A year later, I am not living in Belgium anymore, but wanted to visit the team and Open Data Day was a perfect excuse. So I sign up as a volunteer again. And what do I see first upon arrival? A whole bunch of new family members.

Open Knowledge Belgium: Meet the next generation

It’s been a few months since Dries Van Ransbeeck took up the torch of the project coordinator role from Pieter-Jan Pauwels, but you can already see the changes. The office has moved from Ghent to Brussels, with new interns commuting daily from various parts of the country. You can already say that Open Knowledge Belgium is taking another dimension. And it’s the new generation of volunteers that made the Open Belgium happen this year. You can check out the volunteers’ hall of fame here. My task as a volunteer for the Open Belgium was to type ‘like a maniac’  and keep a record of all the discussions. Find below my one-blog-summary of the day.

State of Open Data: Low-hanging fruit is gone

The event traditionally kicked off with the overview of the state of Open Knowledge in the country. Delivered by Toon Vanagt, the chairman of the Open Knowledge Belgium and Inge Van Nieuwerburgh, Board Member and coordinator of scholarly communications, it was rather a positive sum-up of the previous community efforts. The laws are in placethe European Directive on the reuse of data was transposed into Belgian Law (NL, FR), providing strict obligation for administrations to make information available for reuse. Open Knowledge Belgium has a recognised role in the process of open data legislation. The basic datasets are open. Data portals are the new black. The task now is to go further to improve data quality, aiming at the 5-star model of Tim Berners-Lee. This will mean building ontologies for linked open data, long but necessary debates about algorithms and ethics, an ongoing search for a revenue model based on open data, and filling new roles in a data field society such as data curator, data stewards and data analyst. That’s a long, but exciting way to go.

Belgian Transport Authorities: we’ve changed

How long till we get the real-time public transport data? That was the hottest question on the panel with Belgian Public Transit Authorities. Sure, it is a big technical, legal and ethical challenge – a lot needs to be done to make this possible. But it’s also important to appreciate having this dialogue today. This has not always been the case. Indeed, only a few years ago SNCB was very protective of its data. In 2010, it sent a letter to Belgian IT student Yeri Tiete who had developed a timetable app, The letter stated: ‘Your website makes reuse of SNCB data. This violates its intellectual property rights, including copyright and database rights. It also makes you guilty of the criminal offence of counterfeiting’ and urged him to cease the app immediately. Tiete and the online community had to find lawyers to fight back. Their legal basis for defending the use of the data was based on a series of linked cases from the European Court of Justice. The Court then ruled that when information in databases is generated as part of the regular activities of a company, then that data is not protected by database rights because the creation of the information has not required ―substantial investment and hence may be used by third parties without them needing to seek permission. In this context, the very presence of Belgian public transport authorities at the Open Belgium conference gets a whole new meaning. Their explicitly expressed commitment to share the data, support open data initiatives and engage developers for co-creation paves the way for innovation and smart use of their data.

Mind the gender gap! 

The event touched upon various initiatives around open data. Representatives from Wikipedia talked about closing the gender gap. When 9 out of 10 registered users on the website are male, the average editor being a 31 years old man with a degree in higher education, you don’t have to be a data analyst to see the possible biases of the content. To close that gap, Wikipedia has several projects running. One of these projects is ‘Women in Red’, which is an initiative of creating links to non-existing pages about prominent women in relation to their works and biographies; therefore calling for action to create these pages. Another is Art + Feminism edit-a-thon which is a series of community-organized events that aim to teach folks how to edit, update, and add articles on Wikipedia.

And other Stories 

Being a journalist myself, I was particularly interested in the session on who should tell the data stories by Maarten Lambrechts. ‘New kids on the block’ as Maarten puts it: are state agencies and statistical offices competing with journalists over the narrative of data. It is increasingly important for media not to outsource the interpretation of data. “How many toilet apps do we need?” – Is a classic sceptical question regarding hackathons. However, Belgium now sees ‘the return of the hackathon’ – the second wave of interest and support for hackathons. They are becoming more inclusive, focused and thematic, organised around a particular topic such as diseases, a problem such as gender equality or a city, such as Gent. ‘We need as many toilet finders as people need’ – is a positive answer for the hackathon organisers. This is my wrap-up for you. Go check the full list of presentations, notes and visual summaries here. At the closing panel, we sketched the next steps: unlocking legislation, working on open licences, creating policies around linked open data. You may have heard it before, right? But these are all parallel paths, and we are moving, step by step.

Open Knowledge Belgium Spring – Summer Update

- August 4, 2016 in belgium, Chapters, network

With only one full-time employee, the Belgian Open Knowledge ship is only a small one to sail. Nonetheless, Pieter-Jan Pauwels has proven to be a worthy captain. The rest of the crew consists of a bunch of student positions, interns, volunteers and of course, the Open Knowledge Belgium board. Even though Open Knowledge Belgium is such a small team, we’re quite proud of what we’ve achieved the past few months. Let’s start with Diplohack Brussels. In April we co-organised the first Diplohack Brussels in the Council of the European Union, together with the Dutch Presidency of the EU. The 24-hour hackathon focused on creating more transparency within the Brussels Bubble with the Council of the European Union introducing their Council vote Open Dataset.   Then, we got to present a crowdsourcing project we’ve been working on for quite some time. W4P (“We For Progress”) is an crowdsourcing tool that allows you to build your own crowdsourcing platform! This project was funded by CHEST Project, a European consortium of partners working around streamlining funding for small to medium scale social innovation projects. At the moment open Summer of code 2016 takes place. That’s a four-week programme that allows students to work on open innovation projects. While having a student job for the summer, they learn more about coding and other hard skills, and gain more soft skills such as working in a team and giving pitches. We act as a sort of match maker between companies and students. Organisations come to us with open source projects and meanwhile we recruit students and put the right student on the right project. Only skilled and enthusiastic students who are willing to learn, may enter #oSoc.   According to us, open Summer of code is one of the most important projects for Open Knowledge Belgium. We educate students and companies about open source and open innovation at one hand, and provide students with real-life experience. Experience that can make a difference when you’re looking for your first job. It’s also one of our projects that doesn’t have any governmental funding. It’s our sixth edition so far, but we’re thinking about rebranding it next year. Open Summer of code is no longer only about code: It’s about so much more. Beside front- and back-enders, we need students who are skilled in UI/UX design, business development, marketing and communication. Also, we don’t only deliver pure code, we aim for complete projects. Going from brainstorming and coding to marketing and presenting, you need to be a jack of all trades, not only a king of code. By rebranding, we hope to attract more diverse profiles and spread the open knowledge word among other publics too. open Summer of code 2016 – After Movie from Open Knowledge Belgium on Vimeo. We’re curious what the future will bring. The Belgian government tries to implement more open data and open knowledge, but those are still baby steps. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and thus a lot of room for Open Knowledge Belgium to grow. At the moment, we have five working groups about themes such as mobility and tourism, but we got a few requests for working groups about new themes such as university (college) data and open badges. Yup, the Belgian chapter most certainly has a bright future ahead of it – one where our little raft might turn into a nice ship.

So why does Belgium rank so low?

- December 19, 2014 in belgium, Featured, Open Data, Open Data News, opendataindex

In our article on the 9th of December we’ve talked about Belgium scoring slightly higher on the Global Open Data Index. We went from 58th to 53rd. And even though we have positive aspirations for 2015 because we now have a federal minister of the Digital Agenda who is directly responsible for Open Data and multiple mentions in the policy agreement. We did get a few questions and remarks on our results: Why is Belgium so low in relation to it’s neighbouring countries? Every Western European country sits at the top. How can a country with an established local Open Knowledge Chapter and projects like iRail still rank only halfway the index? To sum it up, we were asked the question: Why does Belgium rank so low? Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.52.52 The Twitter-conversation with Phil Archer from W3C and Pieter Colpaert sums up our anwser in only a few tweets: But don’t get us wrong, the Global Data Index is a great tool to benchmark countries on their national open data efforts. And to have a relative simple tool for the open community to crowdsource a global ranking you need to make certain choices. But that doesn’t mean that Belgium is doing a bad job. Open Data in Belgium and broader open knowledge is mostly emerging from bottom up initiatives by numerous organisations and local/regional governments. Cities like Ghent, Antwerp and Kortrijk are pushing the local envelope by organising hackathons and datadives for their citizens. But that’s not part of global index. Open Data Forum has proven that there is public support in all layers of the Flemish government and associated organisations for opening up data, they support local initiatives and show best practices on a federal level. And a packed data portal. But that’s not part of the index. AWT is putting similar efforts in motion in Wallonia together with the Hackathon e-Gov Wallonia team who just organised the first Brussels hackathon as well. Still not a part of the index. The brilliant researchers at iMinds, the research groups and the different universities have helped us tremendously on a strategical / scientific level as well in supporting a lot of our causes and activities. Not part of the index. And iRail. Well… They open up national transport data in Belgium through their API for 3rd parties, but iRail is not an official source. So you guessed it, not applicable for the index. To make a long story short. Belgium is not doing a bad job concerning open data. There is still a lot to be done, but there are a lot of efforts and little victories that you don’t see in the Global Data Index. And those efforts and victories are not just a result made possible by Open Knowledge Belgium. No, we are just a part of a bigger network of organisations, ambassadors and projects of which I have probably forgot to mention a lot of. I’m not even going to try to mention everyone that helped us to reach the point where we are now. We can only humbly say thank you, we hope to work with all of you in the coming years and make Belgium truly a country where everybody can benefit from open knowledge. Thank You Still not convinced? Feel the need to discuss this? For those people who want to discuss Open Data efforts in Belgium and get an overview on what initiatives are active today in Belgium we happily invite you to join us at the Open Belgium Conference on the 23rd February in Namur. We’ll have a panel on Open Data efforts in the different governmental layers and an overview current efforts, practical workshops on open culture, open science, open transport and business models and so much more. And we have early bird tickets until the end of this month. Aged Come In We're Open

Belgium scores slightly higher on the Global Open Data Index, big expectations for 2015

- December 9, 2014 in belgium, opendataindex, Press, ranking

According to the Global Open Data Index, Belgium ranks 53d out of 97 countries, going up from 27% to 39%. A status quo one might think, knowing that last year Belgium ranked 58th, but a lot has happened since. The Global Data Index, a tool developed by Open Knowledge, ranks 97 nations based on 10 key national datasets. The UK sits at the top with 96% opened up data on government spending, budget, postal codes and more. Belgium however remains in the middle of the list between Croatia and Costa Rica. Yet a lot has changed: KBO/BCE opened up their company register database as open data [1] earlier this year and Irceline launched the pollutant emissions website [2] opening up data on air quality. Detailed results can be found at “If nothing happened regarding opening up Belgian data, we would have dropped to the 83rd place. Opening up data is a global phenomenon, it is not happening only in the Western countries”, says Pieter-Jan Pauwels, community coordinator at Open Knowledge Belgium. Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 15.38.12 That is something the new federal government realised, especially when neighbouring countries take on the 1st (UK), 3rd (France), 9th (Germany) and 16th place (Netherlands). In the new federal policy agreement, open data was mentioned several times and where once nobody was directly responsible we now have a minister responsible for the Digital Agenda. Minister Alexander De Croo announced last week at the Opening Up conference that this number is too low and will be higher next year. Together with organisations such as Leiedal and Open Knowledge Belgium, he signed the “Open by default” charter, where Belgium now promises to open up datasets if there are no good reasons not to. Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 15.36.26 The 23d of February Open Knowledge Belgium vzw/asbl will organise the Open Belgium conference in Namur with minister De Croo as one of the keynote speakers. During the conference we will discuss open data on different levels in Belgium as well as host hands-on sessions on e.g., open science, open tourism, open transport or open street map. The full programme is available at

Encounter at the crossroads of Europe – the fellowship of Zweig and Verhaeren

- December 11, 2013 in Articles, austria, belgium, Books, Culture & History, Emile Verhaeren, first world war, friendship, Literature, poetry, Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig, whose works passed into the public domain this year in many countries around the world, was one of the most famous writers of the 1920s and 30s. Will Stone explores the importance of the Austrian's early friendship with the oft overlooked Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren.