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Open Knowledge Belgium defines 5 priorities for the federal digital agenda

- November 10, 2020 in belgium, civic tech, Featured, federal digital agenda, General, Open Data, open knowledge belgium, priorities, prototype fund

1. The federal open data strategy

  The cabinet of Minister De Croo introduced a federal open data strategy in 2015 (1), setting out some generic guidelines. Unfortunately, these generic guidelines have had little impact in the following 5 years on the relevant policy domains, not on the Agency for Administrative Simplification (AAS) nor on BOSA Digital Transformation (managing the federal open data platform).(2) The content of the strategy was good and concepts such as ‘open by default’, ‘comply or explain’ as well as the focus on machine readability received the support of our open data community.(3) Open Knowledge Belgium would like to see concrete actions linked to the guidelines that have been defined. This is politically challenging, because the open data strategy transcends the boundaries of the federal public services. Three examples:
  • We have contacted Minister Van Quickenborne in response to the renewal of the website of the Official Gazette.(4) To make this machine-readable, agreements can be made about data models, identifiers used, and annotation of the website with semantic markup.
  • FPS Economy manages the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (CBE). They are an important stakeholder to help shape the data model used  to describe legal entities in Belgium.(5) A European standard to describe companies already exists, but it requires expansion with code lists such as the NACEBEL codes.
  • SPF Mobility is currently working on the Belgian standard for public transport data and shared mobility (NeTEx Belgium). This should prepare us for Mobility as a Service, which promises to create a level playing field for mobility providers and route planners.
Whether we are looking at a data publication from FPS Justice, FPS Economy or FPS Mobility, we should find the same principles: an approved “open data” license, the use of Linked Data, alignment with the same base registers and the use of the same standardized code lists. Several European member states have already started working on a single overview of all “LinkedData” models, code lists, base registers, and application profiles in one location, with a steering body that oversees the interoperability between all datasets. Some inspiring examples:
  • Open Standards for Linking Organizations (OSLO) in Flanders.(6)
  • Finland with government-validated data models (7) and legislation as Linked Data.(8)
  • European Commission with ISA² core vocabularies, the SEMIC initiative , ELIs, …
  • The Netherlands with the NEN standards.(9)
  • France with ETALab publishing base registers.(10)
For Belgium, we also dream of such an overview page and steering body with representatives of the various policy areas. They approve specifications and datasets within the federal “knowledge graph”. Low hanging fruit is to elevate already existing datasets so that they comply with the data strategy: the list of addresses (BestAdd), the KBO, the Official Gazette, the NACEBEL codes, the list of municipalities and their boundaries (dataset by NGI), mobility data, and so on. This could be done by BOSA DT, where the team of Bart Hanssens already shares this vision.  

2. Appeals Committee for the Public Access Act

  There has not been an appeals committee to handle requests for Public Access for several years now. The previous government failed to put one in place. An appeals committee must be appointed as soon as possible to adhere to the Royal Decree of April 29, 2008 (11) on the composition and working method of the Committee for access to and reuse of administrative documents (Belgian Official Journal 8 May 2008). This committee must be authorized by Minister Verlinden in consultation with the Digital Agenda. For example, Belgium recently refused – as one of the only  European member states – to release its tender figures for the emergency purchases of Covid19 protective equipment, tests and respirators. (12) Nevertheless, everyone is convinced that transparency about spending public funds is a crucial element in creating public support.  

3. Open Data at KMI/IRM

  Historical weather data are not only key to studying climate change, they are also an interesting basic set to use in correlation with a lot of other data sets. Think for example of train delays or traffic jams due to weather conditions, crowd indicators (also useful in times of COVID-19) or the calibration of sensors in the public domain based on weather conditions (such as e.g., the ‘Telraam’ sensors that were financed by the Smart Mobility fund of Minister François Bellot or the air quality meters of Irceline). An important barrier to make these data publicly available is the KMI/IRM business model, stating that they should be self-sustaining through the sale of their data. The Cabinet of Demir communicated that this can be remedied by allocating an additional budget of €800.000 per year to the KMI/IRM. (13) We believe that this investment will be lower than the economic benefits for the Belgian economy. State Secretary for science policy, Thomas Dermine, is now responsible for this matter.  

4. Open Data at NMBS/SNCB

  NMBS/SNCB has a long way to go when it comes to Open Data. A one-off progress was made in 2015, when Minister De Croo obliged them to set up a data sharing scheme. Little has changed since then. For example, we are still waiting for the data on platform changes, or, especially important during  COVID-19, the data concerning the crowds on the trains. Political pressure is needed to put this back on the agenda of the board of directors of the NMBS/SNCB. In the meantime, Infrabel is showing how things can be done. An open data team has been set up, and 78 data sets can already be found on opendata.infrabel.be. FPS Mobility also worked hard to comply with the Intelligent TransportSystems Directive (MMTIS EU 2017/1926) and set up transportdata.be. (14)  

5. A Belgian Prototype Fund

  Open Knowledge Germany, our sister organization in Germany, has instigated a lot of success stories with the Prototype Fund. (15) We have already invited the organizers of the Prototype Fund Germany to Belgium on multiple occasions to exchange ideas. Open Knowledge Belgium has plenty of experience when it comes to organizing hackathons as well as open summer of code. The latter is a 4-week summer programme in July, that provides students with the training, network and support necessary to transform open innovation projects into powerful real-world services. Despite the global pandemic, we organized an online edition with more than 80 students in 2020. We believe the Prototype Fund is a sequel to this concept, where professionals with a bright idea can build a prototype faster. We are keen to establish a Protoype Fund Belgium based on the German example. We believe the Federal Government is the ideal partner to stimulate this kind of Open Innovation during the post-Covid relance. The Prototype Fund could be an interpretation of what is stated in the coalition agreement as “There will be small-scale test projects on GovTech on which innovative start-ups and scale-ups can work“. However, it can also be approached from the broader social viewpoint of CivicTech, where civic participation and public benefit outweigh the business model. Or as the Swiss version of the Prototype Fund puts it: “Smart Participation as a right to collectively shape our future”. (16)   Footnotes
  1. https://data.gov.be/nl/news/federale-open-data-strategie​ -http://digitalbelgium.be/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/compressed_NLStrategisch-dossier.pdf
  2.  https://data.gov.be
  3.  https://be.okfn.org/2015/07/24/green-light-for-the-belgian-federal-open-data-strategy/
  4.  https://twitter.com/VincentVQ/status/1313739256041529344
  5.  The European “core vocabularies” can provide guidance in this case https://ec.europa.eu/isa2/solutions/core-vocabularies_en
  6. https://data.vlaanderen.be
  7. https://tietomallit.suomi.fi
  8. https://data.finlex.fi/fi/main
  9. https://www.geonovum.nl/geo-standaarden/nen-3610-basismodel-voor-informatiemodellen
  10. https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/reference
  11. http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/eli/besluit/2008/04/29/2008021045/justel
  12. https://www.occrp.org/en/coronavirus/europes-covid-19-spending-spree-unmasked
  13. https://www.demorgen.be/nieuws/zuhal-demir-kmi-heeft-800-000-euro-compensatie-nodig-om-data-open-te-stellen~b1a77655
  14. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg_del/2017/1926/oj
  15. https://prototypefund.de/en/about-2
  16. https://prototypefund.opendata.ch/en/about/smart-participation-and-democracy/
                       

How to innovate? Prototype everything!

- December 19, 2017 in civic tech, funding, germany, OK Germany, Open Data, Open Source

We recognized a problem. There are so many individuals and small teams with good ideas out there, but there is little to no financial support. We wanted to change that. This is how the idea for the Prototype Fund came to life. Usually, in order to receive funding, teams need to have a clear-cut business model, be an established company, or pursue a long-term research project. But innovation requires a different environment. Innovation needs room for trial and error, changing plans, and short-term sprints. Innovation is not just planning business models, but identifying problems and needs within your community and addressing these. The Prototype Fund aims to suit the needs for innovation. The Prototype Fund is a public program run by Open Knowledge Foundation Germany that focuses on emerging challenges and radically new solutions. Individuals and small teams can apply for funding to test their ideas and develop open source tools and applications in the fields of civic tech, data literacy, data security and more. Our early-stage funding encourages people to follow unusual approaches. The application process aims to be as unbureaucratic as possible and is adjusted to the needs of software developers, civic hackers, and creatives. The Prototype Fund brings iterative software development and government funding together. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds eight rounds from 2016 through 2020. Each round, we can thus support up to 25 innovative open source projects. Each project is funded with up to 47,500€. Our goal is to support code for all and strengthen the open source community in Germany. In true open source spirit, we want to pave the way for innovation for everyone. During the first two rounds we received more than 500 applications. There was an enormous amount of feedback and the need for an open source funding program became apparent. While the first round was an open call, the second round focused on ‘Tools for a strong Civil Society’. Projects included Pretix, a tool that facilitates the ticket sale and registration for events, while allowing more privacy for the user and self-hosted applications, or Pluragraph, that offers social media benchmarking and analysis in the non-commercial sector. In the third round, we focused on ‘Diversity: more open source for everyone!’, which led to 19 percent of applications that were submitted by women and a wide range of thrilling projects of which our jury selected 23 projects for funding. A menstrual tracking app, for example, allows the privacy-friendly and customized pursuit of the cycle beyond commercial interests. Another example is Briar, a messenger app that allows encrypted communication without a central server, but directly from device to device. Many of our projects address questions such as: How can we reduce bureaucracy, build strong communities, establish skill-sharing and foster lifelong learning? As much as we are happy with how things are turning out so far, the Prototype Fund itself is that: a prototype. We are constantly trying to improve and to come up with new ideas. Do you want to get in touch or find out more about our projects? Here is a list with all the projects we funded in Round 1 to 3, subscribe to our newsletter (in German), or get in touch under info@prototypefund.de. Or simply come to our next Demo Day on 28 February 2018 in Berlin and get some live Prototype-Fund spirit!  

How to innovate? Prototype everything!

- December 19, 2017 in civic tech, funding, germany, OK Germany, Open Data, Open Source

We recognized a problem. There are so many individuals and small teams with good ideas out there, but there is little to no financial support. We wanted to change that. This is how the idea for the Prototype Fund came to life. Usually, in order to receive funding, teams need to have a clear-cut business model, be an established company, or pursue a long-term research project. But innovation requires a different environment. Innovation needs room for trial and error, changing plans, and short-term sprints. Innovation is not just planning business models, but identifying problems and needs within your community and addressing these. The Prototype Fund aims to suit the needs for innovation. The Prototype Fund is a public program run by Open Knowledge Foundation Germany that focuses on emerging challenges and radically new solutions. Individuals and small teams can apply for funding to test their ideas and develop open source tools and applications in the fields of civic tech, data literacy, data security and more. Our early-stage funding encourages people to follow unusual approaches. The application process aims to be as unbureaucratic as possible and is adjusted to the needs of software developers, civic hackers, and creatives. The Prototype Fund brings iterative software development and government funding together. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds eight rounds from 2016 through 2020. Each round, we can thus support up to 25 innovative open source projects. Each project is funded with up to 47,500€. Our goal is to support code for all and strengthen the open source community in Germany. In true open source spirit, we want to pave the way for innovation for everyone. During the first two rounds we received more than 500 applications. There was an enormous amount of feedback and the need for an open source funding program became apparent. While the first round was an open call, the second round focused on ‘Tools for a strong Civil Society’. Projects included Pretix, a tool that facilitates the ticket sale and registration for events, while allowing more privacy for the user and self-hosted applications, or Pluragraph, that offers social media benchmarking and analysis in the non-commercial sector. In the third round, we focused on ‘Diversity: more open source for everyone!’, which led to 19 percent of applications that were submitted by women and a wide range of thrilling projects of which our jury selected 23 projects for funding. A menstrual tracking app, for example, allows the privacy-friendly and customized pursuit of the cycle beyond commercial interests. Another example is Briar, a messenger app that allows encrypted communication without a central server, but directly from device to device. Many of our projects address questions such as: How can we reduce bureaucracy, build strong communities, establish skill-sharing and foster lifelong learning? As much as we are happy with how things are turning out so far, the Prototype Fund itself is that: a prototype. We are constantly trying to improve and to come up with new ideas. Do you want to get in touch or find out more about our projects? Here is a list with all the projects we funded in Round 1 to 3, subscribe to our newsletter (in German), or get in touch under info@prototypefund.de. Or simply come to our next Demo Day on 28 February 2018 in Berlin and get some live Prototype-Fund spirit!  

Hackathon al Gran Sasso Science Institute! Iscrivetevi, avete tempo fino al 1 Luglio!

- June 23, 2017 in civic tech, Events, Open Data

In occasione del Festival della Partecipazione, il Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI) organizza il 7 e 8 luglio prossimi a L’Aquila un Hackathon per sviluppare progetti di prodotti, di servizi o rappresentazioni visuali utili, sostenibili e replicabili, in grado di generare un impatto significativo nei modi di pensare, vivere e condividere la ricostruzione e le future […]

Hackathon al Gran Sasso Science Institute! Iscrivetevi, avete tempo fino al 1 Luglio!

- June 23, 2017 in civic tech, Events, Open Data

Take aways from TicTec2017 – what happen when civic tech and research meet

- April 28, 2017 in civic tech, research

This week mySociety held TICTeC 2017 in Italy, a conference to present and debate the impact of civic technology. The programme was very well curated, convening high-quality talks from theory and practice, while striking a balance between discussing fundamental questions and looking at practical solutions. All session notes are on a hackpad that was kindly prepared by g0v and the conference attendees. We sent Danny Lammerhirt, our research lead to attend and report how this connect to the Open Knowledge network. 
  I have to be honest, my fear was that fake news or elections would overshadow the conference. I am glad to report that it didn’t happen. However seeing Google and Facebook showcasing their civic applications to address these issues raised the questions of whether and how Silicon Valley will alter the landscape of civic technology (which is a topic for another post). TICTeC 2017 demonstrated how civic technology has matured. We have success stories and failures to share. Now we need to better connect our knowledge better and systematically develop strategies that are more realistic in addressing what we feasibly can do and how. Here are my four takeaways from TICTeC 2017: 1) We need to be realistic and honest about the (adverse) effects of civic technology Tiago Peixoto’s opening keynote showed that current aspirations of civic technology are not new. From the French Morse tower (semaphore) to the Internet – communication technology is heralded to bring about an Athenian Agora and more egalitarian modes of participation. Later Peixoto showed with the examples of prominent participation platforms like Change.org and FixMyStreet, that participatory tools may reproduce social inequalities, create their social dynamics, and allow for very specific participatory modes. Civic technology is a socio-technical system and may amplify social dynamics. Will it help the design of civic technology to be more attentive to these?   2) “Citizens”, “civil society”, “empowerment”, “public good” – we need to avoid clichés and name our actions precisely Language matters, but jargon is frequently used to describe whom platforms are designed for (“citizens”, “civil society”) or for what cause (“improving people’s lives”, “holding the government to account”, etc.). These slogans do not help the cause of civic technology. One session asked whom we exclude when designing apps for “citizens”? What about those who are no official citizens in a country? In traditional terms, citizenship is a relation between citizen and state. We may say that this binary is too narrow because many actors (including private sector) are nowadays part of the problem and the solution. Also treating our audiences under catch-all phrases like “civil society” overlooks the different interests and functions of members of civil society. Who gathers around similar matters of concern? What can we learn from these for our understanding of civil society?   A more thoughtful use of language may help to be more inclusive (to non-citizens), to more precisely naming the relationship between stakeholders, and also to expose existing real power relations (who holds power over what) more clearly. This is important not only for our own projects, but for the purpose of civic technology more broadly. Vague terms are easy to appropriate and colonise, and may lead to a loss of credibility and false expectations (as the history of the word empowerment shows).   3) Good strategy design requires more well-grounded theory, and less black/white thinking One session was a great example of the binaries in which we tend to think. It discussed the four levels of interaction between civic technology and government as convergence, collaboration, confrontation and conflict. This model is well known from political theory. However, it loses much of its usefulness if we don’t pay attention to the question of whom should interact with whom to gain which benefit.   The government is not one monolith but contains many different interests across hierarchical levels and departments. Sometimes one agency may be supportive of an application, while another one is not. Our own partisanship should not blind us from these nuances. We need to document the mutual benefits across our stakeholders more precisely. For whom is what technology useful and why? These questions could help design more meaningful and actionable technologies.   4) The need to better share and connect our learnings TICTeC is an excellent venue for practitioners and theorists to come together and exchange ideas. It is satisfying and sobering at the same time, that we hit similar obstacles, and have the same success stories to share. But there is a need to better connect our learnings, not only in venues like TICTeC, but also as routine part of our work.   Some participants mentioned that local tech communities might shy away from consulting longer established organisations. I’m not sure how much of a problem this is in reality. But it shows that our scene might be cluttered. We should find a way how newcomers and smaller groups can tap into existing open source solutions and profit from the learnings of others. A well-grounded and shared evidence base is urgently needed, as Christopher Wilson tweets: Overall, whilst TICTeC did not answer the big questions, it clearly laid out important next steps that civic technology needs to take. These might not directly change the world into the open Agora we dream of. Nevertheless, they would allow to manage expectations, inform more strategic thinking, enable to reflect the effects of our projects, and facilitate a replication of our success stories.

Open Data got to Paraguay to stay – Open Data Day 2017

- March 27, 2017 in budget, civic tech, Open Data, Open Data Day, Open Knowledge, opendataday

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 Follow Public Money theme. The original post was published Girolabs blog in Spanish and was translated by Oscar Montiel 

Open Data got to Paraguay to stay! This was proven in this year’s edition of Open Data Day which took place at the Loffice Terrace.

  The event brought together more than 40 people and friends of the data community, from Civil Society and Government. The event was organized by Girolabs, TEDIC, CIRD and SENATICs. We started with a small snack to warm up and then we continued with lightning talks and discussions.  

Maps and Open Data

  The first ones to speak were José Gonzalez and the creators of TOPA app. José introduced the Open Street Map (OSM) Paraguay community and how everyone can contribute to open data and this big repository of geodata. Then came the TOPA team, who introduced an app based on OSM to create a Traffic and Transport Information System; an integral, sustainable, collaborative platform where users, transit drivers and government offices collaborate to gather and process information about mobility, traffic and transport in real time, from crowdsourced and their own data.  

Open Data and Civil Society

  In this edition of #ODD17, civil society generated and presented relevant data for better transparency and control by the citizens.   This was the case of CIRD, who presented their project Ñañomoiru, where they try to make more transparent and improve the services provided by the Social Accion Secretary. This office’s goal is to improve the quality of life of people living in a state of poverty and vulnerability, providing easy access to nourishment, health and education, by increasing access to these basic services and strengthening relations to reduce intergenerational poverty. In another CIRD project, called “A quienes Elegimos”, they released their tools of authority monitoring and a data set of municipal authorities that they gathered. Techo presented their project Relevamiento de Asentamientos Informales (RAP) and their platform mapadeasentamientos.org.py which makes the data about life conditions of settlements in Asunción available as open data. Gabriela Gaona told us about her experience working in many apps based on open data and how citizens can request information through http://informacionpublica.paraguay.gov.py/.  

Where’s our money?

  One of the main subjects of the night was government data about public money. Federico Sosa, the director of Open Government in Paraguay showed the progress of the government’s open data.   Right now, everybody can monitor what is done with public money. All the data from the Tax Office about the budgeting, public debt and spending are available in their portal.

Let’s request data!

  To end the night, SENATICs, using Open Data Day as a platform, in the presence of Leticia Romero and the Minister David Campos, launched the Ideathon InnovandoPY challenge, where they want citizens to support government, companies and civil society organizations to know which data should be available. The challenge will be open until March 31, 2017. The SENATICs will provide mentorship to show participants how to open data.
This was a relaxed event but full of information, debate and sharing between people committed to transparency, innovation and citizen participation. We also gave people stickers and t-shirts from the event. We want to thank the Open Data Day organizers for the support and for making Paraguay visible in the map of open data communities.

OKFestival 2014 Stories: Three things I learned at the 2014 Open Knowledge Festival

- September 1, 2014 in civic tech, csv, Fringe events, OKFestival 2014 Stories, Open Data, Programme, Sessions, spreadsheets

This blog post is written by Tariq Khokhar, Data Scientist and Open Data Evangelist at The World Bank, and is cross-posted from Open Data. The World Bank Data Blog. I was lucky to be in Berlin with some colleagues earlier this month for the 2014 Open Knowledge Festival and associated fringe events. There’s really too […]

Hallo, Code for Germany

- February 27, 2014 in civic tech, deutschlandweit, Featured, Hackday, Labs, offene Daten, Open Data, Open Knowledge Foundation, städte

Code for Germany Pünktlich zum international Open Data Day am Samstag haben wir ein neues Projekt gestartet: Code for Germany. Unser Ziel ist es, in verschiedenen deutschen Städten Teams von Entwicklern und Designern zusammenzubringen, die praktisch an Open Data- und Civic Tech-Projekten arbeiten. Diese “OK Labs” werden sich regelmäßig treffen, um Projekte mit lokalem Bezug voranzutreiben. Wir richten uns besonders an diese Gruppen, weil wir glauben, dass es wichtig ist, den Nutzen von Daten und den Bedarf nach weiteren Veröffentlichungen praktisch – anstatt nur in Gesprächskreisen theoretisch – aufzuzeigen. Uns ist auch klar, dass OKF in Deutschland bisher hauptsächlich in Berlin stattgefunden hat – das soll sich mit Code for Germany jetzt grundlegend ändern. Als starken Partner haben wir Code for America, die ihre ‘Brigades’ mittlerweile in 50 Städten in den USA und vielen anderen Ländern vorantreiben. Sie beraten uns beim Aufbau des Netzwerks und stellen uns ihre Materialien, Erfahrungen und ihre Öffentlichkeitsarbeit zur Verfügung. Finanziell unterstützt wird das Projekt durch Google. Wie kann man mitmachen? Die Pilotstädte für Code for Germany sind Hamburg, Berlin, Münster, Ulm, Heilbronn, Köln und Bremen – hier gibt es bereits ein Team, dass sich in Zukunft regelmäßig treffen wird. Nachdem wir so einige Erfahrungen gesammelt haben, wollen wir im Sommer eine zweite Gruppe von Labs starten. Egal wo ihr wohnt, ihr solltet euch jetzt bereits auf der Projektseite anmelden.