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Who Will Shape the Future of the Data Society?

- October 5, 2016 in data infrastructures, Events, Featured, Featured Project, iodc16, Open Data, Open Government Data, Policy, research

This piece was originally posted on the blog of the International Open Data Conference 2016, which takes place in Madrid, 6-7th October 2016. The contemporary world is held together by a vast and overlapping fabric of information systems. These information systems do not only tell us things about the world around us. They also play a central role in organising many different aspects of our lives. They are not only instruments of knowledge, but also engines of change. But what kind of change will they bring? Contemporary data infrastructures are the result of hundreds of years of work and thought. In charting the development of these infrastructures we can learn about the rise and fall not only of the different methods, technologies and standards implicated in the making of data, but also about the articulation of different kinds of social, political, economic and cultural worlds: different kinds of “data worlds”. future-data-pablo Beyond the rows and columns of data tables, the development of data infrastructures tell tales of the emergence of the world economy and global institutions; different ways of classifying populations; different ways of managing finances and evaluating performance; different programmes to reform and restructure public institutions; and how all kinds of issues and concerns are rendered into quantitative portraits in relation to which progress can be charted – from gender equality to child mortality, biodiversity to broadband access, unemployment to urban ecology. The transnational network assembled in Madrid for the International Open Data Conference has the opportunity to play a significant role in shaping the future of these data worlds. Many of those present have made huge contributions towards an agenda of opening up datasets and developing capacities to use them. Thanks to these efforts there is now global momentum around open data amongst international organisations, national governments, local administrations and civil society groups – which will have an enduring impact on how data is made public. Perhaps, around a decade after the first stirrings of interest in what we know know as “open data”, it is time to have a broader conversation around not only the opening up and use of datasets, but also the making of data infrastructures: of what issues are rendered into data and how, and the kinds of dynamics of collective life that these infrastructures give rise to. How might we increase public deliberation around the calibration and direction of these engines of change? Anyone involved with the creation of official data will be well aware that this is not a trivial proposition. Not least because of the huge amount of effort and expense that can be incurred in everything from developing standards, commissioning IT systems, organising consultation processes and running the social, technical and administrative systems which can be required to create and maintain even the smallest and simplest of datasets. Reshaping data worlds can be slow and painstaking work. But unless we instate processes to ensure alignment between data infrastructures and the concerns of their various publics, we risk sustaining systems which are at best disconnected from and at worst damaging towards those whom they are intended to benefit. What might such social shaping of data infrastructures look like? Luckily there is no shortage of recent examples – from civil society groups campaigning for changes in existing information systems (such as advocacy around the UK’s company register), to cases of citizen and civil society data leading to changes in official data collection practices, to the emergence of new tools and methods to work with, challenge and articulate alternatives to official data. Official data can also be augmented by “born digital” data derived from a variety of different platforms, sources and devices which can be creatively repurposed in the service of studying and securing progress around different issues. While there is a great deal of experimentation with data infrastructures “in the wild”, how might institutions learn from these initiatives in order to make public data infrastructures more responsive to their publics? How can we open up new spaces for participation and deliberation around official information systems at the same time as building on the processes and standards which have developed over decades to ensure the quality, integrity and comparability of official data? How might participatory design methods be applied to involve different publics in the making of public data? How might official data be layered with other “born digital” data sources to develop a richer picture around issues that matter? How do we develop the social, technical and methodological capacities required to enable more people to take part not just in using datasets, but also reshaping data worlds? Addressing these questions will be crucial to the development of a new phase of the open data movement – from the opening up of datasets to the opening up of data infrastructures. Public institutions may find they have not only new users, but new potential contributors and collaborators as the sites where public data is made begin to multiply and extend outside of the public sector – raising new issues and challenges related to the design, governance and political economics of public information systems. The development of new institutional processes, policies and practices to increase democratic engagement around data infrastructures may be more time consuming than some of the comparatively simpler steps that institutions can take to open up their datasets. But further work in this area is vital to secure progress on a wide range of issues – from tackling tax base erosion to tracking progress towards commitments made at the recent Paris climate negotiations. As a modest contribution to advancing research and practice around these issues, a new initiative called the Public Data Lab is forming to convene researchers, institutions and civil society groups with an interest in the making of data infrastructures, as well as the development of capacities that are required for more people to not only take part in the data society, but also to more meaningfully participate in shaping its future.

Progress report: OpenTrials – linking clinical trial data

- July 15, 2016 in Featured Project, OKI Projects, Open Trials, opentrials

Since last year Open Knowledge has been developing OpenTrials, an open, online database linking the publicly available data and documents on all clinical trials conducted – something that has been talked about for many years but never created. The project is funded by The Laura and John Arnold Foundation and directed by Dr. Ben Goldacre, an internationally known leader on clinical trial transparency. Having an open and freely re-usable database of the world’s clinical trial data will increase discoverability, facilitate research, identify inconsistent data, enable audits on the availability and completeness of this information, support advocacy for better data, and drive standards around open data in evidence-based medicine. The project is currently in its first phase (which runs until March 2017), where the focus is on building and populating the first prototype of the OpenTrials database, as well as raising awareness of the project in the community and getting user involvement and feedback. The progress that has been made so far was presented last month at the Evidence Live conference in Oxford, which brought together leaders across the world of Evidence Based Medicine, including researchers, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry. This was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the project and speak to both researchers who want to use the platform as well as people with a general enthusiasm for its impact on medicine. Around 40 people attended our talk which explained why OpenTrials is an important infrastructure project for medicine, covered some of the technical aspects of the platform, details of what data we’ve imported so far, and lastly a quick demo. If you’re feeling impatient, here are the slides from the talk, or scroll down for a summary. OpenTrials at Evidence Live

Ben Goldacre and Vitor Baptista present OpenTrials at Evidence Live 2016 (photo by benmeg / CC BY)

What we’ve imported into the OpenTrials database so far

  • 331,999 deduplicated trials, collected from nine clinical trial registries:
    • ANZCTR 11,645
    • ClinicalTrials.gov 205,422
    • EU CTR 35,159
    • GSK 4,131
    • ISRCTN 14,256
    • Pfizer 1,567
    • Takeda 1,142
    • UMIN 20,557
    • WHO ICTRP 298,688
Imported trials

Current functionality

  • Basic search (by keyword)
  • Searching for trials with publications
  • Uploading missing data/documents for a particular trial
  • Showing trials with discrepancies (e.g. target sample size)

What we’re importing next

Feedback and get involved

If you attended the talk and have any questions or feedback, please email us. And generally if you’re interested in contributing to OpenTrials, get in touch. Want to get early access to the data and be a user tester? Sign up and we’ll be in touch soon.  

Introducing ContentMine

- July 21, 2015 in ContentMine, Featured Project, Open Access, Open Data

If you are interested in Open Access and Open Data and haven’t hear about ContentMine yet then you are missing out! Graham Steel, ContentMine Community Manager, has written a post for us introducing this exciting new tool. contentmine2ContentMine aims to liberate 100,000,000 facts from the scientific literature. We believe that “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine“: anyone who has lawful access to read the literature with their eyes should be able to do so with a machine. We want to make this right a reality and enable everyone to perform research using humanity’s accumulated scientific knowledge. The extracted facts are CC0.
The Content Mine Team at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

The ContentMine Team & Helen Turvey, Executive Director, Shuttleworth Foundation at the Panton Arms in Cambridge

Research which relies on aggregating large amounts of dynamic information to benefit society is particularly key to our work – we want to see the right information getting to the right people at the right time and work with professionals such as clinical trials specialists and conservationists. ContentMine tools, resources, services and content are fully Open and can be re-used by anybody for any legal purpose. ContentMine is inspired by the community successes of Wikimedia, Open StreetMap, Open Knowledge, and others and encourages the growth of subcommunities which design, implement and pursue their particular aims. We are funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, a philanthropic organisation who are unafraid to re-imagine the world and fund people who’ll change it.
Content Mine welcome session

ContentMine Wellcome Trust Workshop

There are several ways to get involved with ContentMine. You can find us on GitHub, Google Groups, email, Twitter and most recently, we have a variety of open communities set up here on Discourse. This posh has been reposted from the Open Access Working Group blog.

Become a Friend of The Public Domain Review

- June 25, 2015 in Featured, Featured Project, Free Culture, Open GLAM, Open Knowledge, Public Domain, public domain review

Open Knowledge project The Public Domain Review launches a major new fundraising drive, encouraging people to become Friends of the site by giving an annual donation. For those not yet in the know, The Public Domain Review is a project dedicated to protecting and celebrating, in all its richness and variety, the cultural public domain. In particular, our focus is on the digital copies of public domain works, the mission being to facilitate the appreciation, use and growth of a digital cultural commons which is open for everyone. We create collections of openly licensed works comprised of highlights from a variety of galleries, libraries, archives, and museums, many of whom also contribute to our popular Curator’s Choice series (including The British Library, Rijksmuseum, and The Getty). We also host a fortnightly essay series in which top academics and authors write about interesting and unusual public domain works which are available online. Founded in 2011, the site has gone from strength to strength. In its 4 plus years it has seen contributions from the likes of Jack Zipes, Frank Delaney, and Julian Barnes – and garnered praise from such media luminaries as The Paris Review, who called us “one of their favourite journals”, and The Guardian, who hailed us as a “model of digital curation”. This is all very exciting but we need your help to continue the project into the future. We are currently only bringing in around half of the base minimum required – the amount we need in order to tick along in a healthy manner. (And around a third of our ideal goal, which would allow us to pay contributors). So it is of urgent importance that we increase our donations if we want the project to continue. Hence the launch of a brand new fundraising model through which we hope to make The Public Domain Review sustainable and able to continue into the future. Introducing “Friends of The Public Domain Review”https://publicdomainreview.org/support/
Image 1: one of the eight postcards included in the inaugural postcard set. The theme is "Flight" and the set will be sent out to all Friends donating $30/£20/€27.50 or more before 8th July - Source.

Image 1: one of the eight postcards included in the inaugural postcard set. The theme is “Flight” and the set will be sent out to all Friends donating $30/£20/€27.50 or more before 8th July. Source = http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00650258.

What is it?

This new model revolves around building a group of loyal PDR (Public Domain Review) supporters – the “Friends” – each of whom makes an annual donation to the project. This club of patrons will form the beating heart of the site, creating a bedrock of support vital to the project’s survival.

How can one become a Friend?

There is no fixed yearly cost to become a Friend – any annual donation will qualify you – but there is a guide price of $60 a year (£40/€55).

Are there any perks of being a Friend?

Yes! Any donation above $30 will make you eligible to receive our exclusive twice-a-year “postcard set” – 8 beautiful postcards curated around a theme, with a textual insert. Friends will also be honoured in a special section of the site and on a dedicated page in all PDR Press publications. They will also get first refusal in all future limited edition PDR Press creations, and receive a special end of year letter from the Editor.

How do I make my donation?

We’ve worked hard to make it as easy as possible to donate. You no longer have to use PayPal on the PDR site, but can rather donate using your credit or debit card directly on the site. For more info, and to make your donation, visit: https://publicdomainreview.org/support/ Become a Friend before 8th July to receive the inaugural postcard set upon the theme of “Flight”
Image 2: one of the eight postcards included in the inaugural postcard set. The theme is "Flight" and the set will be sent out to all Friends donating $30/£20/€27.50 or more before 8th July - Source.

Image 2: one of the eight postcards included in the inaugural postcard set. The theme is “Flight” and the set will be sent out to all Friends donating $30/£20/€27.50 or more before 8th July. Source = http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002722387/.

Walkthrough: My experience building Australia’s Regional Open Data Census

- March 6, 2015 in australia, census, Featured Project, OKF Australia, Open Data Census, regional

Skærmbillede 2015-03-06 kl. 11.27.11 On International Open Data Day (21 Feb 2015) Australia’s Regional Open Data Census launched. This is the story of the trials and tribulations in launching the census.

Getting Started

Like many open data initiatives come to realise, after filling up a portal with lots of open data, there is a need for quality as well as quantity. I decided to tackle improving the quality of Australia’s open data as part of my Christmas holiday project. I decided to request a local open data census on 23 Dec (I’d finished my Christmas shopping a day early). While I was waiting for a reply, I read the documentation – it was well written and configuring a web site using Google Sheets seemed easy enough. The Open Knowledge Local Groups team contacted me early in the new year and introduced me to Pia Waugh and the team at Open Knowledge Australia. Pia helped propose the idea of the census to the leaders of Australia’s state and territory government open data initiatives. I was invited to pitch the census to them at a meeting on 19 Feb – Two days before International Open Data Day.

A plan was hatched

On 29 Jan I was informed by Open Knowledge that the census was ready to be configured. Could I be ready be launch in 25 days time? Configuring the census was easy. Fill in the blanks, a list of places, some words on the homepage, look at other census and re-use some FAQ, add a logo and some custom CSS. However, deciding on what data to assess brought me to a screaming halt.

Deciding on data

The Global census uses data based on the G8 key datasets definition. The Local census template datasets are focused on local government responsibilities. There was no guidance for countries with three levels of government. How could I get agreement on the datasets and launch in time for Open Data Day? I decided to make a Google Sheet with tabs for datasets required by the G8, Global Census, Local Census, Open Data Barometer, and Australia’s Foundation Spatial Data Framework. Based on these references I proposed 10 datasets to assess. An email was sent to the open data leaders asking them to collaborate on selecting the datasets.

GitHub is full of friends

When I encountered issues configuring the census, I turned to GitHub. Paul Walsh, one of the team on the OpenDataCensus repository on GitHub, was my guardian on GitHub – steering my issues to the right place, fixing Google Sheet security bugs, deleting a place I created called “Try it out” that I used for testing, and encouraging me to post user stories for new features. If you’re thinking about building your own census, get on GitHub and read what the team has planned and are busy fixing.

The meeting

I presented to the leaders of Australia’s state and territory open data leaders leaders on 19 Feb and they requested more time to add extra datasets to the census. We agreed to put a Beta label on the census and launch on Open Data Day.

Ready for lift off

The following day CIO Magazine emailed asking for, “a quick comment on International Open Data Day, how you see open data movement in Australia, and the importance of open data in helping the community”. I told them and they wrote about it. The Open Data Institute Queensland and Open Knowledge blogged and tweeted encouraging volunteers to add to the census on Open Data Day. I set up Gmail and Twitter accounts for the census and requested the census to be added to the big list of censuses.

Open Data Day

No support requests were received from volunteers submitting entries to the census (it is pretty easy). The Open Data Day projects included:
  • drafting a Contributor Guide.
  • creating a Google Sheet to allow people to collect census entries prior to entering them online.
  • Adding Google Analytics to the site.

What next?

We are looking forward to a few improvements including adding the map visualisation from the Global Open Data Index to our regional census. That’s why our Twitter account is @AuOpenDataIndex. If you’re thinking about creating your own Open Data Census then I can highly recommend the experience and there is great team ready to support you. Get in touch if you’d like to help with Australia’s Open Data Census. Stephen Gates lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He has written Open Data strategies and driven their implementation. He is actively involved with the Open Data Institute Queensland contributing to their response to Queensland’s proposed open data law and helping coordinate the localisation of ODI Open Data Certificates. Stephen is also helping organise GovHack 2015 in Brisbane. Australia’s Regional Open Data Census is his first project working with Open Knowledge.

Building a Free & Open World-wide Address Dataset

- February 23, 2015 in Featured Project, Open Data, OpenAddress

Skærmbillede 2015-02-20 kl. 09.50.25 Finding your way through the world is a basic need, so it makes sense that satellite navigation systems like GPS and Galileo are among open data’s most-cited success stories. But as wonderful as those systems are, they’re often more useful to robots than people. Humans usually navigate by addresses, not coordinates. That means that address data is an essential part of any complete mapping system. Unfortunately, address data has historically been difficult to obtain. At best, it was sold for large amounts of money by a small set of ever-more consolidated vendors. These were often the product of public-private partnerships set up decades ago, under which governments granted exclusive franchises before the digital era unveiled the data’s full importance. In some cases, data exclusivity means that the data simply isn’t available at any price. Fortunately, the situation is improving. Scores of governments are beginning to recognize that address data is an important part of their open data policy. This is thanks in no small part to the community of advocates working on the issue. Open Knowledge has done important work surveying the availability of parcel and postcode data, both of which are essential parts of address data. OpenAddresses UK has recently launched an ambitious plan to collect and release the country’s address data. And in France, the national OpenStreetMap community’s BANO project has been embraced by the government’s own open data portal. This is why we’re building OpenAddresses.io, a global community collecting openly available address data. I and my fellow OpenAddresses.io contributors were pleased to recently celebrate our 100 millionth address point: Getting involved in OpenAddresses is easy and can quickly pay dividends. Adding a new dataset is as easy as submitting a form, and you’ll benefit by improving a global open address dataset in one consistent format that anyone can use. Naturally, we also welcome developers: there are interesting puzzles and mountains of data that still need work. Our most important tools to gather more data are email and search engines. Addresses are frequently buried in aging cadastral databases and GIS portals. Time spent hunting for them often reveals undiscovered resources. A friendly note to a person in government can unlock new data with surprising success. Many governments simply don’t know that citizens need this data or how to release it as an open resource. If you work in government and care about open data, we’d like to hear from you. Around the world, countries are acknowledging that basic geographic data belongs in the commons. We need your help to get it there.

The Role of Open Data in Choosing Neighborhood

- November 14, 2014 in Featured Project

To what extent is it important to get familiar with our environment? If we think about how the world surrounding us has changed throughout the years, it is not so unreasonable that, while walking to work, we might encounter some new little shops, restaurants, or gas stations we had never noticed before. Likewise, how many times did we wander about for hours just to find green spaces for a run? And the only one we noticed was even more polluted than other urban areas! Citizens are not always properly informed about the evolution of the places they live in. And that is why it would be crucial for people to be constantly up-to-date with accurate information of the neighborhood they have chosen or are going to choose. the_role_of_opendata.doc (Image source: London Evening Standard) London is a neat evidence of how transparency in providing data is basic in order to succeed as a Smart City. The GLA’s London Datastore, for instance, is a public platform of datasets revealing updated figures on the main services offered by the town, in addition to population’s lifestyle and environmental risks. These data are then made more easily accessible to the community through the London Dashboard. The importance of dispensing free information can be also proved by the integration of maps, which constitute an efficient means of geolocation. Consulting a map where it’s easy to find all the services you need as close as possible can be significant in the search for a location. Skærmbillede 2014-11-03 kl. 14.02.12 (Image source: Smart London Plan) The Global Open Data Index, published by Open Knowledge in 2013, is another useful tool for data retrieval: it showcases a rank of different countries in the world with scores based on openness and availability of data attributes such as transport timetables and national statistics. Here it is possible to check UK Open Data Census and US City Open Data Census. As it was stated, making open data available and easily findable online not only represented a success for US cities but favoured apps makers and civic hackers too. Lauren Reid, a spokesperson at Code for America, reported according to Government Technology: “The more data we have, the better picture we have of the open data landscape.” That is, on the whole, what Place I Live puts the biggest effort into: fostering a new awareness of the environment by providing free information, in order to support citizens willing to choose the best place they can live. The outcome is soon explained. The website’s homepage offers visitors the chance to type address of their interest, displaying an overview of neighborhood parameters’ evaluation and a Life Quality Index calculated for every point on the map. The research of the nearest medical institutions, schools or ATMs thus gets immediate and clear, as well as the survey about community’s generic information. Moreover, data’s reliability and accessibility are constantly examined by a strong team of professionals with high competence in data analysis, mapping, IT architecture and global markets. For the moment the company’s work is focused on London, Berlin, Chicago, San Francisco and New York, while higher goals to reach include more than 200 cities. US Open Data Census finally saw San Francisco’s highest score achievement as a proof of the city’s labour in putting technological expertise at everyone’s disposal, along with the task of fulfilling users’ needs through meticulous selections of datasets. This challenge seems to be successfully overcome by San Francisco’s new investment, partnering with the University of Chicago, in a data analytics dashboard on sustainability performance statistics named Sustainable Systems Framework, which is expected to be released in beta version by the the end of 2015’s first quarter. the_role_of_opendata.doc2 (Image source: Code for America) Another remarkable collaboration in Open Data’s spread comes from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) of the University College London (UCL); Oliver O’Brien, researcher at UCL Department of Geography and software developer at the CASA, is indeed one of the contributors to this cause. Among his products, an interesting accomplishment is London’s CityDashboard, a real-time reports’ control panel in terms of spatial data. The web page also allows to visualize the whole data translated into a simplified map and to look at other UK cities’ dashboards. Plus, his Bike Share Map is a live global view to bicycle sharing systems in over a hundred towns around the world, since bike sharing has recently drawn a greater public attention as an original form of transportation, in Europe and China above all. O’Brien’s collaboration with James Cheshire, Lecturer at UCL CASA, furthermore gave life to a groundbreaking project called DataShine, aimed to develop the use of large and open datasets within the social science community through new means of data’s visualisation, starting from a mapping platform with 2011 Census data, followed by maps of individual census tables and the new Travel to Work Flows table. Skærmbillede 2014-11-03 kl. 14.01.59 (Image source: Suprageography)

Call for action: Help improve the open knowledge directory

- November 10, 2014 in directory, Featured Project, Mapping, open steps

opensteps This is a guest blog post from Open Steps, an independent blog aggregating worldwide information around Open Cultures in form of articles, videos and other resources. Its aim is to document open knowledge (OK) related projects and keep track on the status of such initiatives worldwide. From organisations using Open Data, promoting Open Source technologies, launching Open Government initiatives, following the principles behind Open Science, supporting the release of information to newsrooms practicing Data Journalism. In this way, their site seeks to continue, this time virtually, the globetrotter project realised between July 2013 to July 2014 and discover further OK projects all around the world. If you followed the journey across Europe, India, Asia and South-America that Margo and Alex from Open Steps undertook last year, you probably already know their open knowledge directory. During those 12 months, in every of the 24 visited countries they had the chance to met numerous enthusiastic activists sharing the same ideas and approaches. In order to keep record of all those amazing projects they created what began as a simple contact list but soon evolved in a web application that has been growing since then. okdirectory1 After some iterations a new version has been recently released which not only features a new user interface with better usability but also sets a base for a continuous development that aims to encourage collaboration among people across borders while monitoring the status of open knowledge initiatives worldwide and raising awareness about relevant projects worth to discover. If you haven’t done it yet, head to http://directory.open-steps.org and join it!

New version implementing PLP Profiles

One of the main features of this new version is the implementation of the Portable Linked Profiles, short PLP. In a nutshell, PLP allows you to create a profile with your basic contact information that you can use, re-use and share. Basic contact information refers to the kind of information you are used to type in dozens of online forms, from registering on social networks, accessing web services or leaving your feedback in forums, it is always the same information: Name, Email, Address, Website, Facebook, Twitter, etc…PLP addresses this issue but also, and most important, allows you to decide where you want your data to be stored. okdirectory2 By implementing PLP, this directory does not make use anymore of the old Google Form and now allow users to edit their data and keep it up-to-date easily. For the sake of re-usability and interoperability, it makes listing your profile in another directory so easy as just pasting the URI of your profile on it. If you want to know more about PLP, kindly head to the current home page, read a more extensive article about it on Open Steps or check the github repository with the documentation. PLP is Open Source software and is based on Open Web Standards and Common Vocabularies so collaboration is more than welcome.

Participate on defining the next steps for the open knowledge directory

Speaking about collaboration, on the upcoming Wednesday 12th of November, a discussion will take place on how the worldwide open knowledge community can benefit from such a directory, how the current Open Steps’ implementation can be improved and what would be the next steps to follow. No matter what background you have, if you are a member of the worldwide open knowledge community and want to participate on the improvement of the open knowledge directory, please join us.
When? Wednesday, 12th November 2014. 3pm GMT

Event on Google+: https://plus.google.com/events/c46ni4h7mc9ao6b48d9sflnetvo

References

This blog post is also available on the Open Education Working Group blog.

New Open Access Button launches as part of Open Access Week

- October 22, 2014 in Featured Project, Open Access, Open Access Button

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world. button Push Button. Get Research. Make Progress. If you are reading this, I’m guessing that you too are a student, researcher, innovator, an everyday citizen with questions to answer, or just a friend to Open Knowledge. You may be doing incredible work and are writing a manuscript or presentation, or just have a burning desire to know everything about anything. In this case I know that you are also denied access to the research you need, not least because of paywalls blocking access to the knowledge you seek. This happens to me too, all the time, but we can do better. This is why we started the Open Access Button, for all the people around the world who deserve to see and use more research results than they can today. Yesterday we released the new Open Access Button at a launch event in London, which you can download from openaccessbutton.org. The next time you’re asked to pay to access academic research. Push the Open Access Button on your phone or on the web. The Open Access Button will search the web for version of the paper that you can access. If you get your research, you can make progress with your work. If you don’t get your research, your story will be used to help change the publishing system so it doesn’t happen again. The tool seeks to help users get the research they need immediately, or adds papers unavailable to a wish-list we can get started . The apps work by harnessing the power of search engines, research repositories, automatic contact with authors, and other strategies to track down the papers that are available and present them to the user – even if they are using a mobile device. The London launch led other events showcasing the Open Access Button throughout the week, in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Notably, the new Open Access Button was previewed at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C. as part of the International Open Access Week kickoff event. During the launch yesterday, we reached at least 1.3 million people on social media alone. The new apps build upon a successful beta released last November that attracted thousands of users from across the world and drew lots of media attention. These could not have been built without a dedicated volunteer team of students and young researchers, and the invaluable help of a borderless community responsible for designing, building and funding the development. Alongside supporting users, we have will start using the data and the stories collected by the Button to help make the changes required to really solve this issue. We’ll be running campaigns and supporting grassroots advocates with this at openaccessbutton.org/action as well as building a dedicated data platform for advocates to use our data . If you go there you now you can see the ready to be filled map, and your first action, sign our first petition, this petition in support of Diego Gomez, a student who faces 8 years in prison and a huge monetary fine for doing something citizens do everyday, sharing research online for those who cannot access it. If you too want to contribute to these goals and advance your research, these are exciting opportunities to make a difference. So install the Open Access Button (it’s quick and easy!), give it a push, click or tap when you’re denied access to research, and let’s work together to fix this problem. The Open Access Button is available now at openaccessbutton.org.

The state of Swedish digital policy: Open Knowledge Sweden at the annual Almedalen Political Summit

- August 1, 2014 in Almedalen, Featured Project, OKF Sweden, Policy, Sweden

This is a guest blog post by Kristina Olausson, Blog writer and editor for Open Knowledge Sweden. You can see the Swedish version it is based on here. Almedalen 2014

Photo by Socialdemokrater, CC-BY-ND

Part of the team of Open Knowledge Sweden, Kristina Olausson and Mattias Axell, visited the annual politicians week – the Almedalen week at Gotland, Sweden. It is an event in which the political parties, interest groups and the public sector participates. The Almedalen week was initiated by Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1968 and has evolved to become the main political gathering of the year. Even though the outline has changed over time it now follows a rather fixed pattern. Each party has one day of the week dedicated to their events, and the party leader gives a speech in the evening. In parallel to what the parties arrange, there is a huge number of seminars organized by different interest groups, companies and public sector bodies. This year more than 3500 seminars could be found in the program. By participating, Open Knowledge Sweden aimed to follow the current debates on Swedish digital policy and what importance these have in the upcoming Swedish national elections this autumn. During the week we took part in seminars on digitalization, integrity and open data.  Almedalen 2014

Photo by djurensratt, CC-BY-NC

Since last year a change can be noticed in the attitude towards open data among Swedish public sector bodies and municipalities. It is now more open an positive, less skeptical. The question is no longer if, but how the public sector can make its information easier to use. More public sector bodies (PSBs) than before have started working with open data. However, with regards to the OKFN definition of open data, it should be noted that in these cases it is rather the re-use of public sector information than open data that is discussed. The municipality Skellefteå and the region Västerbotten arranged a seminar on open data and how the possibilities of innovation can be used. They also raised the question about how the responsibility for this process should be devided between the public and private sector as well as other interested parties. Henrik Ishihara, an expert working for Anna-Karin Hatt, the Minister for Information Technology and Energy, said that about 40 percent of all PSBs now work with re-use of public information. Janne Elvelid, former employee of the Committee of Digitization, was more sceptical to the current development and showed that Sweden has actually lost its place among the leading countries on IT.  Almedalen 2014

Photo by Kristina Olausson, CC-BY-SA

At another seminar organized by Lantmäteriet, who offer map-data, discussed if charges should be put on data and if so, how much. The public sector body itself has now started to work more actively to make their data open. Why then are Swedish PSBs and municipalities lacking behind their European colleagues in this development?  According to many actors the main obstacle in making more data open is the demand on the PSBs to charge for re-use of data. The principle of publicity is an old tradition in Sweden which implies that all public information is available to the public. However, this does not mean that it is for free. What separates Sweden from many other European countries is the fact that many public sector bodies are obliged to charge for re-use of data. It was argued by some actors we met that it will be impossible to create more re-use without removing the rules of charging. In the case of Lantmäteriet, they estimate that the removal of charges on their map-data will cost about 100 million Swedish kronor (about 12 million euro).  The possibilies of digitazation was another theme of many seminars. Dagens Industri and SAS Institute organized one to discuss how the public sector can use big data (as already done by the private sector) to predict certain patterns in society. This could for example be finding the next flue crisis by analysing Facebook status updates. One challenge put forward in this discussion is the fact that many public services are offered by the 290 Swedish municipalities (kommuner). As there is a strong self-governing principle in Sweden, the municipalities are not collaborating on many of these services which makes it hard for small municipalities to invest in digitalization. Thus, more collaboration is needed not only for municipalities but also for public sector bodies. Cloud services is a positive possibility of developing the public services as the goal is to have more service online and thus also more information stored in this format. In the mean time, during this development, there is a need to take privacy issues into account. Microsoft arranged a number on seminars on this theme during the week. One that we attended was regarding privacy in schools in combination with cloud services. In Sweden the Salem-case is especially well known. The municipality Salem was criticized by the Data Inspection Authorities because they let their students use Google’s cloud services which was regarded not to have sufficient protection for the pupils’ privacy. How this should be done in practice is still under political discussion, if so very limited. At a seminar by Ernst and Young company representatives of some of our big telephone- and network operators said this has led to they themselves having to make their own priorities on privacy. This might however not be positive as it could lead to companies starting to censor their net services, according to their own liking. This might lead to less transparent processes of handling these issues. Additionally, not all companies are happy to take on this responsibility themselves. The debated judgement from the European Court of Justice in the case Google Spain vs. Mario Costeja González was used as an example by David Mothander, Nordic Policy Advisor at Google Almedalen 2014

Photo by FORES, CC-BY

He was critical to the judgement, also called the right to be forgotten, states that internet search engine operators are responsible for “the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties“. Naturally, it is not surprising that a company like Google does not want to be responsible for such procedures. However it also leads to interesting questions on who should be responsible for protecting the privacy and personal data of individuals. The opportunities of digitization was also discussed at a seminar with representatives of youth party organisations. While the left (and the youth organisation of the Swedish democrats) were most concerned about the surveillance society, the right wing parties wanted better conditions for companies. They instead want the state to take care of the infrastructure (broad band etc.) and the companies should run the development. The interesting aspect of this seminar was foremost that it had such a high density of politicians. Generally the events on the themes we covered did not have that many political representatives in the panels. Thus it has been hard to evaluate the digital politics of the parties with regards to the upcoming elections this autumn. Almedalen 2014

Photo by Lärarnas Nyheter, CC-BY-NC-ND

Digital policy has not been a central theme to this years election campaigns. However, even though the Swedish politicians were not discussing these issues intensively many interesting ideas were put forward by interest groups and companies. Open Data is still not common among Swedish public sector bodies. Even though some mix up the terms, it is rather re-use of public sector information that is discussed. The positive change that can be noticed is that the representatives of the public sector who participated in this year’s Almedalen week had a more open attitude towards the possibility of re-using their data. Open Knowledge Sweden works to advocate more re-use of information from the public sector and we are positive towards the ongoing shift in Sweden regarding these issues. We believe that more re-use will create huge value for society, both within the public and private sector. The main obstacle is not the technological shift, that some want to point at, but rather the rule of charges that applies to many public sector bodies who collects and offer public information. Unfortunately it seems that politicians are not prioritizing to change the current system. The more probable next step will be that public sector bodies themselves try to find ways of limiting the charges. However, the decision to charge remains with the government. Except for following the current debates on Swedish digital policy, the Almedalen week was an opportunity to make contact with other actors and advocates of digitalization. There seems to be a general support and interest in making data open for re-use. However, we will probably have to wait until after our national elections this autumn to see real change regarding such issues in Sweden.