You are browsing the archive for General.

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/
                       

Open data day : Towards Clean Air with Open Data!

- March 5, 2018 in air quality, airquality, Civic Lab, Events, General, InfluencAir, Open Belgium, Open Data, Open Data Day

    On Saturday 3rd March took place the Open Data Day, for the occasion, no less than 355 events occurred around the globe. One of them, “Towards Clean Air with Open Data!”, happened in BeCentral in Brussels. During the morning, 8 talks on open air quality data were given by citizens, experts, students and entrepreneurs. They talked about different initiatives in Belgium, the effects on health of air pollution, and more. You can find the links to the slides of the presentations below, also, everything was recorded so the talks will be available soon on our Youtube Channel. In the afternoon, two workshops were given:
  • Analyzing and visualizing open air quality data
  • Build your own sensor
The first one lasted around two hours, it was given by Dominik Rubo who knows a lot about open air quality data analysis and visualization. By the end of the workshop, people were able to extract the data provided by the sensors, analyse it and visualize it. If you’re interested, you can find the github link to do it yourself here. The second one, given by Yannick Verbelen and Pieter Van der Vennet, aimed at teaching people how to build their own sensor so they would only need to plug it in at home to be operational. Thanks to this workshop, they managed to build 22 sensors that are probably collecting data now. We expect that more and more workshops of this kind will take place in different cities so we will have a better understanding of air quality in Belgium. You couldn’t come at the workshop and you can’t wait to build your own sensor? Here is a complete tutorial with resources to order the pieces and build it at home! The event finished on a cold beer in the end of the afternoon to relax after this extensive program. It is awesome to see the dedication people put in such project during their free time. The success of such event is a good indicator that open air quality data has a bright future in Belgium.   If you want to actively join the movement, Civic Lab Brussels members work on air quality measurements every other Tuesday. Join our meetup page to learn more about it! We are looking for technical and non-technical people, so come as you are whatever your skills are. The next coming event is Open Belgium 2018, it will take place in Louvain-la-Neuve on the 12th March. If you are interested not only in air quality but in open data in general, you will definitely enjoy it. Don’t hesitate to visit the website to learn more about it and book your ticket!   Resources: Presentations’ slides:    

Open data day : Towards Clean Air with Open Data!

- March 5, 2018 in air quality, airquality, Civic Lab, Events, General, InfluencAir, Open Belgium, Open Data, Open Data Day

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 http://2017.openbelgium.be/presentations.

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

Here I am; excited to take up the challenge at Open Knowledge Belgium

- October 31, 2016 in employee, Featured, General, open knowledge belgium

Yihaa, I’m very happy to have recently joined Open Knowledge Belgium as its new project coordinator. Being the successor of driving force Pieter-Jan won’t be an easy job, but I am looking forward to working together with the Open Knowledge community and its partners on bringing Open Knowledge and Open Data in Belgium, as part of the international movement, to new heights.

As Pieter-Jan and I aren’t identical twin brothers, some things are going to slightly change as a result of my appointment. Hence, a quick update with my intentions as well some expected changes in the coming months.

My belief: Open Knowledge and Open Data for a better and more sustainable future

With previous experiences in data modelling, civic engagement and crowdsourcing, I have developed a keen interest in open innovation and the power of many intrinsically motivated individuals contributing to projects with social and societal impact, serving the interests of the many rather than the happy few. However I do have plenty of room to learn, especially on the more technical side (currently taking a MOOC on Linked Data Engineering), I’m more than ready to take up the challenge and start working on projects, which are often, at the crossroads of public interest and private initiative.

My curious mind, some may even call it childish curiosity, makes me interested in many different things, but my main interest goes nowadays to ways open knowledge and open data can contribute to smart mobility solutions; more specifically, urban cycling; as part of the strong tendency towards more liveable cities. In the last few months I have been on a bike tour through Northern and Eastern Europe and had the opportunity to meet civic innovators working on, mostly community-driven, solutions to tackle local challenges. As I’m inspired by this rise of urban cycling movements all over the world and bike data projects like the one in the city of Riga, I’d like to further explore bike data and ultimately provide cities with smart cycling insights on safety, infrastructure and accessibility.

I have made a non-exhaustive list of existing initiatives to encourage urban cycling; please feel free to add other initiatives you know.

Another aspiration of mine is to help build, in preferably multiple Belgian cities, a civic hacking culture. A logical first step would be to gather passionate urban innovators (all backgrounds welcome) and work on a regular basis together on open source civic tech projects, get feedback from tech and government experts and learn about civic innovation and related concepts like open data, smart cities and open government.

The biweekly OK Labs in Stuttgart and weekly civic hack nights in San Francisco might be good starting points; let me know if you know other examples.

Other project coordinator, same open events

To put things clearly: all support to all Belgian Open Knowledge working groups as well as both events Open Belgium and open Summer of code can go on without any interruption.

In fact, even more correctly, we are even more ambitious than ever before and aim at gathering 300 attendees at our yearly community-driven Open Belgium conference, on the 6th of March 2017 in Brussels, in order to discuss open knowledge and open data efforts in Belgium. Last week we launched our open call for speakers — all proposals are welcome.

Office in Brussels

As it’s Open Knowledge Belgium’s clear objective to unify efforts all over the country, we will move our office from Ghent to Brussels. Don’t get me wrong: Ghent is and will always be an important place for our community, but we hope to expand our community and create new opportunities by moving to the center of the country. Hence, we’re currently looking for a new office space in Brussels, preferably near a railway station to make it as easy as possible for our community to gather. If you have any suggestions in mind, let us know.

Belgium as part of the international movement

Open Knowledge Belgium is, as a local chapter part of Open Knowledge International, part of a global movement to create open knowledge. Therefore, I also consider it as one of my priorities to connect with other country representatives, learn from their best practices and failures and let them hear about what we’re doing.

And yes, we can still learn from other countries: although Belgium has been moving up the ladder in the last few years, it was ranked at #35 in the 2015 Open Data Index with a score of 43% (39% the previous year) and considered as a follower by the European Data Portal.

Let me hear from you

As project & community coordinator, I’m there to assist the Belgian Open Knowledge community and its different working groups and partners. If you have any questions, proposals or whatever you want to talk about, please get in touch with me via dries@openknowledge.be or ping me on Twitter @DVRansbeeck or @OpenKnowledgeBE.

Please mark Friday the 25th of November in your agenda. Then we’ll have a farewell drink for Pieter-Jan as our fulltime community coordinator and a welcome drink for me as the new one. A perfect opportunity to get to know each other — see you there? And, oh yeah, drinks are on us! Simply register via https://opendrinks.eventbrite.nl/.

Here I am; excited to take up the challenge at Open Knowledge Belgium

- October 31, 2016 in employee, Featured, General, open knowledge belgium

Introducing W4P, a crowdsourcing for open, social and local projects.

- June 24, 2016 in crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, Featured, General, Open Innovation, Open Source

Introducing W4P, a crowdsourcing for open, social and local projects.

- June 24, 2016 in crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, Featured, General, Open Innovation, Open Source

After 10 months of figuring what we need to build, building it and then testing it in real life situation we can now say: W4P is alive! Or at least in a solid bèta. You can find our presentation in English here: Interested in hearing this talk again and do you have a location and or crowd? Or are you ready to start up a W4P crowdsourcing platform? Contact us!

Introducing W4P, a crowdsourcing for open, social and local projects.

- June 24, 2016 in crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, Featured, General, Open Innovation, Open Source

After 10 months of figuring what we need to build, building it and then testing it in real life situation we can now say: W4P is alive! Or at least in a solid bèta. You can find our presentation in English here:
Interested in hearing this talk again and do you have a location and or crowd? Or are you ready to start up a W4P crowdsourcing platform?
Contact us!