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MyData Global has elected its first board of directors

- December 12, 2018 in OK Finland, personal-data

Over 70 organisations and close to 500 individuals have formed MyData Global, a nonprofit to promote the ethical use of personal data and to strengthen digital human rights. On 15 November 2018, over 130 members participated in the first general meeting of the organisation, which elected its first board of directors from among 24 candidates. The board combines a diverse mix of backgrounds and expertise and includes seven members from seven different countries. The elected board members are:
  • Mad Ball (USA), PhD, combining technology and advocacy
  • Paul-Olivier Dehaye (Switzerland), researcher and data protection activist
  • Riikka Kämppi (Finland), communications specialist
  • Sarah Medjek (France), project coordinator and researcher
  • Julian Ranger (UK), serial entrepreneur & engineer
  • Berit Skjernaa (Denmark), senior security and privacy specialist
  • John Wunderlich (Canada), privacy expert
The founding of MyData Global is the result of several years of work. It has connected personal data experts and practitioners from all over the globe into a collaborative network, who have been gathering in annual conferences in Helsinki, Finland, since 2016. The fourth MyData 2019 conference, an associated event of the Finnish EU-presidency in the second half of 2019, will be organised from 25-27 September, 2019. “After many years of hard work to build up a strong community around a common vision, it is amazing to see a global movement reach this level of maturity. Formalising legal structures and procedures is just an enabling step to reach our vision much faster”, explains board member Paul Olivier-Dehaye, researcher and a renowned data protection activist. “Stay tuned for a lot more!”

The award-winning initiative works for a more just, sustainable and prosperous digital society

The MyData initiative was recently awarded the NGI Culture Award (European commission’s “Next Generation Internet” -initiative) as one of the most impactful European initiatives shaping a new culture around Next Generation Internet. The purpose of MyData Global is to empower individuals by improving their right to self-determination regarding their personal data. The human-centric paradigm aims at a fair, sustainable, and prosperous digital society, where the sharing of personal data is based on trust as well as a balanced and fair relationship between individuals and organisations. “I am honored to be elected for the board of an organisation that I consider very important. Not only do I consider the principles and mindset of MyData to be a fundamental human right, I also see it as a keystone for sustainability in the digital world and beyond by empowering people to cooperate on a more enlightened level”, says board member Berit Skjernaa, senior security and privacy specialist at Alexandra Institute in Aarhus, Denmark, and coordinator of MyData activities in Denmark. The fair use of personal data is one of the defining issues of tomorrow’s internet. AI and other technological developments rely on data generated by and about individuals, and MyData provides a paradigm for guiding those in a way that is based on trust and benefits people. “MyData is a necessity in our information society, and we – as the MyData community – have the unique opportunity to move personal data from protection to empowerment, and MyData from a concept to THE new paradigm,” rejoices board member Sarah Medjek, researcher and project coordinator at the think and do that FING in France. Application for membership is open to all individuals and organisations who support the mission of MyData Global.

Bonus: Are you or do you know a project manager for MyData 2019 conference?

MyData Global are looking for a full-time project manager for the MyData 2019 conference. They wish to find someone who shares the values they work for and which guide the work. It’s a great opportunity to help make a difference in the world and shape the future of the internet and society.
See the full job description here: mydata.org/jobs

Open data and the fight against corruption in Latvia, Sweden and Finland

- December 7, 2018 in financial transparency, finland, Latvia, network, OK Finland, OK Sweden, Open Data, Sweden

This blog has been crossposted from the Open Knowledge Sweden blog.
Transparency International Latvia, in collaboration with Open Knowledge Sweden and Open Knowledge Finland, has published a new study on open data and anti-corruption policies in Latvia, Sweden and Finland, showing that governments in the three countries could do more to leverage the potential of open data for anti-corruption policies and public accountability.  The study comprises an overview report summarising the overall findings and identifying opportunities for knowledge transfer and regional cooperation as well as specific reports assessing to what extent governments in Latvia, Sweden and Finland have implemented internationally agreed-upon open data principles as part of their anti-corruption regime, providing recommendations for further improvement at the national level.                                 The study is the outcome of a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The aim of the project was to gain a better understanding of how Nordic and Baltic countries are performing in terms of integration of anti-corruption and open data agendas, in order to identify opportunities for knowledge transfer and promote further Nordic cooperation in this field. The study assessed whether 10 key anti-corruption datasets in Latvia, Finland and Sweden are in line with international open data standards. The datasets considered in the frame of the study are:
  1. Lobbying register
  2. Company register
  3. Beneficial ownership register
  4. Public officials’ directories
  5. Government Budget
  6. Government spending
  7. Public procurement register
  8. Political Financing register
  9. Parliament’s Voting Records
  10. Land Register
Within this respect, Sweden has made only 3 of 10 key anti-corruption datasets available online and fully in line with open data standards, whereas Finland have achieved to make 8 of these datasets available online, six of which are fully in line with open data standards.  As for Latvia, 5 of them have been found to be available and in line with the standards. When it comes to scoring these three countries with regard to anti-corruption datasets, in Sweden, the situation is more problematic compared to other two countries. It has the lowest score, 5.3 out of 9, while Finland and Latvia have scored 6.1 and 6.0, respectively. Similarly, there are some signals that transparency in Sweden has been worsening in recent years despite its long tradition of efficiency and transparency in the public administration, good governance and rule of law as well as being in the top-10 of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for several years. The problem in Sweden stems from the fact that the government has had to cope with the high decentralization of the Swedish public administration, which seems to have resulted in little awareness of open data policies and practices and their potential for anti-corruption among public officials. Thus, engaging the new agency for digitalisation, Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), and all other authorities involved in open data could be a solution to develop a centralised, simple, and shared open data policy. Sweden should also take legal measures to formally enshrine open data principles in PSI (Public Sector Information) law such as requiring that all publicly released information be made ‘open by default’ and under an ‘open license’. The situation in Finland and Latvia is more promising. In Finland, a vibrant tech-oriented civil society in the country has played a key role in promoting initiatives for the application of open data for public integrity in a number of areas, including lobbying and transparency of government resources. As for Latvia,in recent years, it has made considerable progress in implementing open data policies, and the government has actively sought to release data for increasing public accountability in a number of areas such as public procurement and state-owned enterprises. However, the report finds that much of this data is still not available in open, machine-readable formats – making it difficult for users to download and operate with the data. Overall, in all three countries it seems that there has been little integration of open data in the agenda of anti-corruption authorities, especially with regard to capacity building. Trainings, awareness-raising and guidelines have been implemented for both open data and anti-corruption; nonetheless, these themes seem not to be interlinked within the public sector. The report also emphasizes the lack of government-funded studies and thematic reviews on the use of open data in fighting corruption. This applies both to the national and regional level. On the other hand, there is also a considerable potential for cooperation among Nordic-Baltic countries in the use of open data for public integrity, both in terms of knowledge transfer and implementation of common policies. While Nordic countries are among the most technologically advanced in the world and have shown the way with regard to government openness and trust in public institutions, the Baltic countries are among the fastest-growing economies in Europe, with a great potential for digital innovation and development of open data tools. Such cooperation among the three states would be easier in the presence of networks of “tech-oriented” civil society organisations and technology associations, as well as the framework of cooperation with authorities with the common goal of promoting and developing innovation strategies and tools based in open data.

The first non-profit organisation dedicated to defending digital human rights, MyData Global, is founded

- October 19, 2018 in Featured, mydata, OK Finland, personal-data

PRESS RELEASE, 16th October 2018 Over 100 people from over 20 countries took part in the founding meeting of the MyData Global nonprofit organisation last Thursday, October 11. The purpose of MyData Global is to empower individuals by improving their right to self-determination regarding their personal data. The human-centric paradigm is aimed at a fair, sustainable, and prosperous digital society, where the sharing of personal data is based on trust as well as a balanced and fair relationship between individuals and organisations. “We need new ground rules for the use of personal data. We currently live in a world where large companies collect unprecedented amounts of data about people and do as they please with it. This has led to numerous abuses with shocking global consequences. The MyData model is a vision for new and fair practices, design principles, and their implementation. Founding the MyData Global organisation is a huge step in the right direction,” explains MyData researcher and founding member Antti Jogi Poikola. A milestone reached Establishing the organisation is the result of several years’ work. And since 2016, the MyData movement has gathered personal data experts and practitioners from all over the globe at its annual conferences in Helsinki, Finland. The movement has self-organised into a network of over 20 local hubs spread over six continents, which all work together to further the cause of digital human rights in different domains of society. The MyData Global organisation formalises this network and continues the work of influencing the development of digital markets to better respect the rights of individuals. “The time is now ripe for an organisation that seeks to enable a fairer and more balanced digital society globally. Personal data has enormous potential for making our lives easier and our societies better. Used in a way that is respectful of individuals and the standards of fairness, personal data also creates limitless opportunities for successful business. A fair trade logo on a packet of coffee is a familiar and trusted guarantee that the coffee is responsibly sourced and also a reason to favour it. Why do we not ask for the same kind of guarantee that the applications and services we use are based only on personal data that is responsibly and transparently acquired and treated with respect,” asks MyData activist and founding member Viivi Lähteenoja. The first general meeting of MyData Global will be held on 15 November 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. During the meeting, a full board of directors will be elected. The meeting is open to all and remote participation is available. Application for membership is now open to individuals and organisations. For more information, visit https://mydata.org/ or get in touch via https://mydata.org/contact/

How mundane admin records helped open Finnish politics: An example of “impolite” transparency advocacy

- November 16, 2017 in Freedom of Information, OK Finland, open politics, Transparency

This blogpost was jointly written by Aleksi Knuutila and Georgia Panagiotidou. Their bio’s can be found at the bottom of the page. In a recent blog post Tom Steinberg, long-term advocate of transparency and open data, looked back on what advocacy groups working on open government had achieved in the past decade. Overall, progress is disappointing. Freedom of Information laws are under threat in many countries, and for all the enthusiasm for open data, much of the information that is public interest remains closed. Public and official support for transparency might be at an all time high, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that governments are transparent. Steinberg blames the poor progress on one vice of the advocacy groups: being excessively polite. In his interpretation, groups working on transparency, particularly in his native UK, have relied on collaborative, win-win solutions with public authorities. They had been “like a caged bear, tamed by a zookeeper through the feeding of endless tidbits and snacks”. Significant victories in transparency, however, always had associated losers. Meaningful information about institutions made public will have consequences for people in a position of power. That is why strong initiatives for transparency are rarely the result of “polite” efforts, of collaboration and persuasion. They happen when decision-makers face enough pressure to make transparency seem more attractive than any alternative. The pressure for opening government information can result from transparency itself, especially when it is forced on government. Here the method with which information is made available matters a great deal. Metahaven, a Dutch design collective, coined the term black transparency for the situations in which disclosure happens in an uninvited or involuntary way. The exposed information may itself demonstrate how its systematic availability can be in the public interest. Yet what can be as revealing in black transparency is the response of the authorities, whose reactions in themselves can show their limited commitment to ideals of openness. Over the past few years, a public struggle took place in Finland regarding information about who influences legislation. Open Knowledge Finland played a part in shifting the debate and agenda by managing to make public a part of the information in question. The story demonstrates both the value and limitations of opening up data as a method of advocacy.

Finland is not perfect after all

Despite its reputation for good governance, Finnish politics is exceptionally opaque when it comes to information about who wields influence in political decisions. In recent years lobbying has become more professional and increasingly happens through hired communications agencies. Large reforms, such as the overhaul of health care, have been mired by the revolving doors (many links in Finnish) between those who design the rules in government and the interest groups looking to exploit them. Yet lobbying in the country is essentially unregulated, and little information is available about who is consulted or how much different interest groups spend on lobbying. While regulating lobbying is a challenge – and transparency can remain toothless – for instance the European Commission keeps an open log about meetings with interest groups and requires them to publish information about their expenditure on lobbying. Some mundane administrative records become surprisingly important in the public discussion about transparency. The Finnish parliament, like virtually any public building, keeps a log of people who enter and leave. These visitor logs are kept ostensibly for security and are not necessarily designed to be used for other purposes. Yet Finnish activists and journalists, associated with the NGO Open Ministry and the broadcaster Svenska Yle, seized these records to study the influence of private interests. After an initiative to reform copyright law was dropped by parliament in 2014, the group filed freedom of information requests to access the parliament’s visitor log, to see who had met with the MPs influential in the case. Parliament refused to release the information, and over two years of debate in courts followed. In December 2016 the supreme administrative court declared the records public. Despite the court’s decision, parliament still made access difficult. Following the judgment, the parliament administration began to delete the visitor log daily, making the most recent information about who MPs meet inaccessible. The court’s decision still forced them to keep an archive of older data. In apparent breach of law, the administration did not release this information in electronic format. When faced with requests for access to the records, parliament printed them on paper and insisted that people come to their office to view them. The situation was unusual: the institution responsible for legislation had also decided that it could choose not to follow the instructions of the courts that interpret law. At this stage, Open Knowledge Finland secured the resources for a wider study of the parliament visitor logs. Because of the administration’s refusal to release the data electronically, we were uncertain what the best course of action was. Nobody knew what the content of the logs would be and whether going through them would be worth the effort. Still, we decided that we should collect and make the information available as soon as possible, while the archive that parliament kept still had some possible public relevance. Collecting and processing the data turned out to be a long process.

The hard work of turning documents into data

In the summer of 2017 the parliament’s administrative offices, on a side street behind the iconic main building, became familiar to us. After having our bags scanned in security, the staff would lead us to a meeting room. Two thick folders filled with papers had been placed on the table, containing the logs of all parliamentary meetings for a period of three months. We were always three people going to parliament, armed with cameras and staplers. After removing the staples from the printouts, we would take photographs in a carefully framed, standardised frame. To photograph the entire available archive, data from a complete year, required close to 2,000 images and four visits to the parliament offices. Taking the photos in a carefully cropped way was important, since the next challenge was to turn these images into electronic format again. Only in this way could we have the data as a structured dataset that could be searched and queried. For this task open source tools proved invaluable. We used Tesseract for extracting the text from the images, and Tabula for making sure that the text was placed in structured tables. The process, so-called optical character recognition, was inevitably prone to errors. Some errors we were able to correct using tools such as OpenRefine, which is able to identify the likely mistakes in the dataset. Despite the corrections, we made sure the dataset includes references to the original photos, so that the digitised content could be verified from them. Transforming the paper documents into a useable database required roughly one month of full-time work, spread between our team members. Yet this was only the first step. The content of the visitor log itself was fairly sparse, in most cases only containing dates and names, and little information about people’s affiliations, let alone the content of their meetings. To refine it, we scraped the parliament’s website and connected the names that occur in the log with the identities and affiliations of members of parliament and party staff. Using simple crowdsourcing techniques and public sources of information, we looked at a sample of the 500 people that most frequently visited parliament and tried to understand who they were working for. This stage of refinement required some tricky editorial choices, determining which questions we wanted the data to answer. We chose for instance to classify the most frequent visitors, to be able to answer questions about what parties are most frequently connected to particular types of visitors.

Collaboration with the media

For data geeks like us, being able to access this information was exciting enough. Yet for our final goal, making a case for better regulation on lobbying, releasing a dataset was not sufficient. We chose to partner with investigative journalists, who would be able to present, verify and contextualise the information to a broader audience. Our own analytical efforts focused broader patterns and regularities in the data, while journalists who have been covering Finnish politics for a long time were able to find the most relevant facts and narratives from the data. We gave the data under an embargo to some key journalists, so they would have the time and resources to work on the information. Afterwards the data was available to all journalists who requested it for their own work. We were lucky that there was sustained media interest in the information. Alfred Harmsworth, the founder of the Daily Mirror, is attributed with the quote “news is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; the rest is advertising”. In the same vein, when the story broke that the Finnish parliament had started deleting the most recent data about visitors, the interest in the historical records was guaranteed. Despite the heightened interest, we also became conscious of how difficult it was for the media to interpret data. This was not just because of a lack of technical skills. There simply was such a significant amount of information – details of about 25,000 visits to parliament – that isolating the most meaningful pieces of information or getting an overview of what had happened was a challenge. For news organisations, for whom the dedication of staff even for days on a topic was a significant undertaking, investing into this kind of research was a risk. Even if they would spend the time going through the data, the returns of doing this were uncertain and unclear. After we released the data to a wider range of publications, many news outlets ended up running fairly superficial stories based on the data, focusing on for instance the most frequently occurring names and other quantities, instead of going through the investigative effort of interrogating the significance of the meetings described in the logs. Information that is in the form of lists lends itself easily to clickbait-like titles. For media outlets that could not wait for their competition to beat them to it, this was to be expected. The news coverage was probably weakened by the fact that we could not share the data with a broader public, due to the fact that it contained personal details that were potentially sensitive. For instance Naomi Colvin has suggested that searchable public databases, that open information for wider scrutiny and discovery, can help to beat the fast tempo of the news cycle and maintain the relevance of datasets.

The stories that resulted from the data

What did journalists find when they wrote stories based on the data? Suomen Kuvalehti ran an in-depth feature that included investigations into the private companies that were most active lobbying. These included a Russian-backed payday loans provider as well as Uber, whose well-funded efforts extend even to Finland. YLE, the Finnish public broadcaster, described the privileged access that representatives of nuclear power enjoyed, while the newspaper Aamulehti showed how individual meetings between legislators and the finance industry had managed to shift regulation. Our own study of the data showed how representatives of private industry were more likely to have access to parties of the governing coalition, while unions and NGOs met more often with opposition parties. In essence, the stories provided detail about how well-resourced actors were best placed to influence legislation. It confirmed, a cynical person might note, what most people had thought to be the case in the first place. Yet having clear documentation of this phenomenon may well make it harder to ignore. This line of argumentation was often raised with recent large leaks, the value of which may not lie in making public new facts, but providing the concrete data that makes the issue impossible to ignore. “From now on, we can’t pretend we don’t know”, as Slavoj Zizek ironically noted on Wikileaks. Overall the media response was large. According to our media tracking, at least 50 articles were written in response to the release of the data. Several national newspapers ran editorials on the need for establishing rules for lobbying. In response, four political parties, out of the eight represented in parliament, declared that they would start publishing their own meetings with lobbyists. Parliament was forced to concede, and began to release daily snapshots of data about meetings in an electronic format. These were significant victories, both in practices of transparency as well as changing the policy agenda.

On the importance of time and resources

For a small NGO such as ours, the digitising and processing of information on this scale would obviously not have been possible recently, perhaps even five years ago. Our work was expedited by the availability of powerful open source tools for difficult tasks such as optical character recognition and correcting errors. Being a small association had its advantages as well, as we were aided by the network around the organisation, from which we were able to draw volunteers in areas from data science to media strategy. In many cases governments contain the consequences of releasing information through a kind of excess of transparency: they release so many documents, often in formats that are hard to process, that their meaning becomes muddled. When documents can be automatically processed and queried, this strategy weakens. Still, it would be naive to think that technology is enough to make information advocacy effective or enough to allow everybody to participate in it. This line of work was possible due to some people’s commitment and personal sacrifice that spanned several years, as well as significant amounts of funding on the right moments. Notably, no newsroom would by themselves have had the resources to sustain the several months of labour that working through the data required. The strategy of being less “polite”, in Tom Steinberg’s terms, may well be desirable, but the obvious challenge is securing the resources to do it.   Author bio’s Dr. Aleksi Knuutila is a social scientist with a focus on civic technologies and the politics of data, and an interest in applying both computational and qualitative methods for investigation and research. As a researcher with Open Knowledge Finland, he has advised the Finnish government on their personal data strategy and studied political lobbying using public sources of data. He is currently working on an a toolkit for using freedom of information for investigating how data and analytics are used in the public sector.

Georgia Panagiotidou is a software developer and data visualisation designer, with a focus on the intersections between media and technology. She was part of the Helsingin Sanomat data desk where she used to work to make data stories more reader friendly. Now, among other things, she works in data journalism projects most recently with Open Knowledge Finland to digitise and analyse the Finnish parliament visitor’s log. Her interests lie in open data, civic tech, data journalism and media art. We would like to thank the following people who gave an invaluable contribution to the work: Sneha Das, Jari Hanska, Antti Knuutila, Erkka Laitinen, Juuso Parkkinen, Tuomas Peltomäki, Aleksi Romanov, Liisi Soroush, Salla Thure

Why MyData 2017?

- August 2, 2017 in community, network, OK Finland, Open Knowledge

This is a guest post explaining the focus of the MyData conference in Tallinn and Helsinki later this month. By a famous writing tip, you should always start texts with ‘why?’. Here we are taking that tip, and we actually find many ways to answer the big Why. So, Why MyData 2017? Did you get your data after MyData 2016 conference? No, you did not. There is lots of work to be done, and we need all the companies, governments, individuals and NGO’s on board on Aug 31-Sep 1 in Tallinn and Helsinki. When else would you meet the other over 800 friends at once? Because no. 1: The work did not stop after MyData 2016 The organizers Fing, Aalto University, Open Knowledge Finland, and Tallinn University have been working on the topic also after the conference. Fing continues their MesInfos project, started in 2012, which goes to its second phase in 2017: implementing the MyData approach in France with a long-term pilot involving big corporations, public actors, testers and a platform. Aalto University is the home base of human-centric personal data research in Finland. Many Helsinki-based pieces of research contribute their academic skills to the conference’s Academic workshops. Open Knowledge Finland, apart from giving the conference an organizational kick also fosters a project researching MyData implementation in Finnish public sector, of which we will hear in the conference too. Tallinn University, as the newest addition to the group of organizers, will host the conference day in Tallinn to set the base for and inspire MyData initiatives in Estonian companies, public sector, and academic domain. In addition to the obvious ones, multiple MyData inspired companies to continue on their own. Work continues for example in Alliance meetings, and in some cases, there are people working from the bottom up and acting as change makers in their organization. MyData 2016 went extremely well, 95 % of the feedback was positive, and the complaints were related to organizational issues like the positioning of the knives during lunch time. Total individual visitor count was 670 from 24 countries. All this was for (at the time) niche conference, organized for the first time by a team mainly of part time workers. The key to success was the people who came in offering their insights as presenters or their talents in customer care as volunteers. MyData 2017 is, even more, community driven than the year before – again a big bunch of devoted presenters, and the volunteers have been working already since March in weekly meetings, talkoot. Because no. 2: The Community did not stop existing – it started to grow MyData gained momentum in 2016 – the MyData White paper is mentioned in a ‘Staff Working Document on the free flow of data and emerging issues of the European data economy’, on pages 24-25. The white paper is also now translated from Finnish to English and Portuguese. Internationally, multiple Local Hubs have been founded this year – of which you hear more about in the Global track of the conference – and a MyData Symposium was held in Japan earlier this year. The PIMS (Personal Information Management Systems) community, who met for the fourth time during the 2016 conference, has been requesting more established community around the topic. “Building a global community and sharing ideas” is one goal of MyData 2017, and as a very concrete action, the conference organizing team and PIMS community have agreed to merge their efforts under the umbrella name of MyData. The MyData Global Network Founding Members are reviewing the Declaration of MyData Principles to be presented during MyData 2017. Next round table meeting for the MyData Global Network will be held in Aarhus in November 23.–24. 2017.   Open Knowledge Estonia was founded after last year’s conference. Since MyData was nurtured into its current form inside the Open Knowledge movement, where Open Knowledge Finland still plays the biggest role, MyData people feel very close to other Open Knowledge chapters. See for yourself, how nicely Rufus Pollock explains in this video from MyData 2016 how Open Data and MyData are related. Because no. 3: Estonians are estonishing “Why Tallinn then?” is a question we hear a lot. The closeness of the two cities, also sometimes jointly called Talsinki, makes the choice very natural to the Finns and Estonians, but might seem weird looking from outside. Estonia holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second part of 2017. In an e-Estonia, home of the infamous e-residency, MyData fits naturally in the pool of ideas to be tossed around during that period. Now, having the ‘Free movement of data’ as the fifth freedom within the European Union, in addition to goods, capital, service, and people, has been suggested by Estonians, and MyData way of thinking is a crucial part to advance that. Estonia and Finland co-operate in developing X-road, a data exchange layer for national information systems, between the two countries. In 2017, the Nordic Institute for Interoperability (NIIS) was founded to advance the X-road in other countries as well. Finnish population registry center and their digitalized services esuomi.fi is the main partner of the conference in 2017 Estonia and Finland both as small countries are very good places to test new ideas. Both in Helsinki and Tallinn, we now have ongoing ‘MyData Alliance’ meetups for companies and public organizations who want to advance MyData in their organizations. A goal of MyData in general, “we want to make Finland the Moomin Valley of personal data” will be expanded to “we want to make Finland and Estonia the Moomin Valley of personal data”.  

MyData 2017, Hack your heritage and other updates from Open Knowledge Finland.

- May 3, 2017 in network, OK Finland, Open Knowledge

This blog post is part of our summer series featuring chapter updates from across the Open Knowledge Network and was written by the team of Open Knowledge Finland. It’s been a busy start to the 5th year of Open Knowledge Finland as it coincides with the celebration of Finland’s 100 years of independence and 250+ years of Freedom of Information. Below are some updates:

MyData & GDPR – new digital rights coming up!

MyData 2017 Conference is being prepared as we speak. Programme team of over 40 people is working night and day (no exaggeration, we operate from various time zones) to make the conference happen. The event, held in Helsinki and Tallinn on Aug 30 – Sep 1, will address various aspects of MyData and digital human rights – GDPR, Ethics, Consent, interoperability, and privacy.Read more details here. The program was just published live today [May 3rd], and early-bird tickets sales just started! Get your ticket and subscribe to the low-volume newsletter at http://mydata2017.org/! If you would like to help with hands-on organising or with creative planning tasks, the core organising team hosts weekly Talkoot events – read more and please join us hereWe would especially like to have OK chapters as communication hubs so as to get participants and volunteers for the conference. to get participants and program proposals for the conference. Last year we had visitors from 24 countries – can we do even more this year?! We award volunteers with free access to the conference – so don’t miss this opportunity! This year’s main conference partner is the Finnish Population Register Centre. As an institution, they hold the very core personal data about every Finn; making them a very important partner. Population Register Centre is also working closely with the Ministry of Finance on a MyData-inspired pilot project and the necessary mechanisms that are needed to include MyData ideology in their Suomi.fi services. Contact the MyData 2017 team at hello@mydata.org. P.S. If you’re wondering about the relation of MyData and open data, check out Rufus Pollock’s excellent talk at MyData 2016: and take a peek at OK Japan, who are organising a 400-person side event in May!

Finland is 100 years! So we’re hacking our cultural heritage in May

The 3rd Hack4FI – Hack your heritage brings together artists, programmers, designers, humanists, educators and others interested in digital cultural heritage and multi-professional collaboration between 5th – 7th May 2017 at YLE (Finnish broadcasting corporation) to create new cultural works, services and concepts in an international and inspirational surroundings. Participants can explore with virtual technology, remix archival films, travel through time (!) by choosing one of the hosted tracks or choose their own directions and do with the material whatever they like!  Hack4FI 2017 hackathon will be organised in co-operation with AvoinGlam network and YLE whose premises will serve as the venue for the event together with partners in the GLAM sector. We expect some 80-100 hackers again!   Follow #Hack4FI//hack4.fi or contact Sanna [sanna.marttila@okf.fi] to get involved and for information.

Bedtime for democracy? We’d like to think not! [Hacking the future of democracy]

What does democracy look like in ten years? How can we increase people’s participation? Join Democracyhack to work on solutions and provoke discussion around democracy, participation and politics in future Finland! Open knowledge Finland, in conjunction with the Tulevaisuuden valtiopäivät event (Future Parliament) and the Finnish Independence Fund – Sitra are organising a democracy seminar and hackathon Democracyhack from  4th – 5th May. The hackathon is open to all, even non-Finnish speakers participants!  Contact the Democracyhack team [democracyhack@okf.fi] for more information.

Creating a lobby register in Finland – our FOI work continues

OKFI just received a grant from The Helsingin Sanomat Foundation to work on the freedom of information. Our first task is to open the data on meetings with Finnish civil servants and members of Parliament so they can be used by journalists, researchers, activists and other non-governmental organisations. The Parliamentary visitors’ log was classified as public information by the Supreme Administrative Court on 20.12.2016, in a case, the Open Ministry took to court. The decision is crucial in helping to identify the extent of lobbying towards Parliament – and later, in other ministries, public bodies and authorities. The next step will be creating transparency in the comprehensive and systematic collection of data through freedom of information requests, as well creating a database out of its responses. We are working together with the Data Protection Ombudsman to determine which data are not publishable (for example, family members or other representatives will not be published). Some personal guest information will be published after appropriately anonymizing the data (e.g. for statistical purposes). The data is published using the open CC-BY 4.0 license, so scientists, journalists and others can use it.
Our goal is to produce data visualisations, that concisely indicate connections between the visitors and the drafting of laws. We also aim to produce a short report about practical experiences and challenges in the systematic gathering of information based on freedom of information requests.

Monitoring hate speech in municipal elections 

As we headed towards the municipal elections, the topic of online hate speech once again raised its ugly head. So, we are learning and testing tools for hate speech by monitoring about 6 000 candidates, out of total 33 000 – using open data and artificial intelligence to analyse tweets and posts by the candidates. Social media posts were analysed in real time by an AI algorithm. If the messages were predicted to contain hate speech, messages were forwarded to the Non-discrimination Ombudsman. There, employees analysed the posts and if they confirmed the content as hate speech, they contacted the political party in question (all parties had signed a European agreement against discrimination) or, in some cases, the national prosecutor. Unfortunately, there were candidates who will be taken to court for their racist misbehaviour. This was a pilot project in partnership with The Finnish Non-discrimination Ombudsman, Finnish League for Human Rights, Ministry of Justice / Ethnic relations (ETNO), Academy of Finland Research projects from University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Tampere University (HYBRA, Citizens in the Making), Open Knowledge Finland, Futurice and others! Final results are due in May, the elections were held early in April. The source code is available at https://github.com/futurice/spice-hate_speech_detection/ 

Other activities and projects that may be of interest

Citizen science – recommendations to the Ministry of Education and Culture
Citizen science has most notably, been used as a method for creating observational data for life science research. Against the backdrop of current technological advancement, we need to create Citizen Science v 2.0 – open, diverse, responsible, dialogic and academically excellent. In terms of outcomes, we envision a set of concrete recommendations for national stakeholders; we will create understanding, awareness and discussion about citizen science as a scientific method and a community; and we will catalyse a research agenda for a new kind of open citizen science. Contact: heidi.laine@okf.fi for more information. You can also watch a youtube video about the project here [in Finnish]: For more information about the Citizen Science, see The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) website
Protesting against the rising costs of scientific publishing 
Large international scientific publishers are currently enjoying remarkable profit margins. The scientific community produces research, usually publicly funded, edits the publications as unpaid volunteers, and then buys back the scientific publications. Publishers have increased the price of publications significantly year by year although in this digital era the trend should be the opposite. Through FOI requests and court cases by OKFI, we found out just how bad the situation was. Now, seven active Open Science enthusiasts gathered support for the cause in Finland – and as a result, some 2800 academics are declining to peer review scientific journals, until proper agreements are held, and the situation is in control. This is a pan-European topic, and collaboration here could be fruitful, also within the Open Knowledge family. Contact Heidi [Heidi.laine@okf.fi] and read more here: http://tiedonhinta.fi/en/
Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities
Open Knowledge Finland delivered its first two commissioned projects for the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities, coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office.
  1. Together with ETLA (Research Institute of the Finnish Economy), we implemented a project called “cost-effective utilisation of open data”. The project’s goal was to better understand and measure the impacts of open data and the use of the basic public registers. We studied the relationship between the use of open data in companies and their innovation production and financial success. Furthermore, we proposed 10 concrete means of increasing the impact of open data in our society. Read the report here
  2. In partnership with the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) and Oxford Research, we implemented the Yhtäköyttä project (Common Knowledge Practices for Research and Decision Making). The project studied how to support evidence-based decision-making with wide participation. The objective was to design a systematic method with roles, practices, information structures and IT infrastructure that support each other. Read more about it here
Unfortunately, information on both projects is not available in English.
MyData Muutosvoimana
MyData Muutosvoimana (“MyData as a force of change”) is a new project launched under the stewardship of Aleksi Knuutila. The project seeks to create modes of operation for opening up Finnish public administration data in accordance with MyData principles.

Other OKFI plans in 2017

Stuff we are working on: Creative Commons, Open Data Business cases, the impact of open data…and much more. For a comprehensive insight of Open Knowledge Finland, kindly have a look at http://www.Okf.fi/general

A new board & chairman for 2017

The start of 2017 saw a few organisational shifts and rule changes in OKFI to allow for scaling and more effective operations for the future. We will now organise two general meetings per year. We also held our autumn meeting in December and voted for the new board to lead our efforts in 2017 – making this the second time within a year the board was elected :)! Previous vice chairman Mika Honkanen took the lead as of January 1, 2017. Best wishes to Mika! Other re-elected previous board members are Susanna Ånäs, Liisi Soroush, Jessica Parland-von Essen, Raoul Plommer, Mikael Seppälä. And, nice to have two new members of the board, Aki Saariaho and Oskari Lappalainen!  The long-term chairman Antti Jogi Poikola stepped aside as the lead – but thankfully continues as the treasurer (as an external advisor to the board) – and of course as one of the leading masterminds and visionaries on MyData. Congratulations to all!

New employees – new office!

Viivi Lähteenoja started as MyData 2017 producer (1-10/2017) and Aleksi Knuutila started as project manager for MyData Muutosvoimana (1-9/2017). Teemu continues as full-time (executive director), just starting his third year. Sanna Marttila continues as part-time project manager (Creative Commons support -project, Hack4FI 2017 -project).  Pia Adibe’s contract was extended, as she continues to steer our HR and Finance management. Liisi Soroush, Mikael Seppälä, Aki Saariaho, Raimo Muurinen, Kari Hintikka and Salla Thure are also employed on a 1-6 month part-time jobs. We have submitted over 10 different project proposals this year – so we sure hope some funding is coming our way. New ideas always welcome – get in touch with teemu.ropponen@okf.fi We also just relocated! Our new office is at Maria 0-1 startup centre, not far from the centre of Helsinki – a former hospital that now houses well over 300 people. It is exciting to be part of the Maria 01 community, where every day is a buzz!

Read More: Blog posts in English

Rebooting nations – what would states and democracy look like if we invented them today? In a series of democracy and Democracyhack-related posts, this one looks at what we in welfare states could learn from the libertarian, tech-loving anarcho-capitalists of Liberland! Why Design for Data? Design for Data is one of our topics at Open Knowledge Finland. If interested, join the Design for Data Facebook group.

Collaborate with Open Knowledge Finland

We have submitted over 10 different project proposals, including work with OK Germany and OK Greece – so we sure hope some exciting cross-border work is coming our way. New ideas for collaboration always welcome – get in touch! For any further information on OKFI activities, kindly contact raoul.plommer@okf.fi (international activities contact point) and/or teemu.ropponen@okf.fi (Executive Director). Follow OKFI at @okffi (https://twitter.com/OKFFI).               

Making sense of government spending: Open Knowledge Finland use OpenSpending to collaborate with Finnish Government

- December 6, 2016 in Featured, Frictionless Data, OK Finland, Open Spending

finlandTampere, Finland (public domain)
This piece is written by Jaakko Korhonen and Joonas Pesonen of Open Knowledge Finland At the end of October a team using OpenSpending tools held a pitch for high-ranking Finnish Government officials in “Hack the Budget 2016,” a competition organised by Open Knowledge Finland (OKFFI) and the Finnish Ministry of Finance. For the hack, the competition team used OpenSpending to create visualizations with fiscal data from the Ministry of Finance’s website. Our goal was to harmonise Finnish Government expenditure data from 2002-2015 into a Fiscal Data Package, an internationally comparable format. We were proposing that combined datasets enable exploration of alternative costs from budget data for citizens, NGOs, businesses, party-political organisations and public officials. openspending-finland

See the whole dataset here: http://next.openspending.org/viewer/.

Our proposal to use OpenSpending to present government fiscal data was selected as the winner of the hack. We are going to work with the government in the near future to implement OpenSpending in Finland. Also, we plan to train a number of users to create fiscal packages and publish them.

These are some of the recommendations we formulated for the Government of Finland:

  • Harmonised data model. Publishing data in a nationally harmonised data model would enable calculating the alternate cost and project impact analysis already when planning projects. Technology is now available.
  • Compatible model for publishing data packages enables pursuing real-time budgetary situational awareness.
  • Data package model can be taken into use with marginal cost in municipalities, government offices and in NGOs, enabling leadership of funded operations with information, and more transparent funding decisions.
  • Frictionless Data is better than Excel because different applications can be run on top of it very flexibly. A short staff training suffices.
The prize for winning the hack was qualifying for Ultrahack, where the team will continue to develop on the idea and make use of OpenSpending tools. We have initiated discussions with the Ministry of Finance in Finland and are also scheduled to present the work to the Minister of Finance in Finland.

MyData 2016 – What we learned about personal data and where to go from here?

- October 18, 2016 in network, OK Finland, Open Knowledge

This piece is the final installment of a three-part series of posts from MyData 2016 – an international conference that focused on human-centric personal information management. The conference was co-hosted by the Open Knowledge Finland chapter of the Open Knowledge Network. Part 1 looked at what personal data has to do with open data and Part 2 looked at how access to personal data is linked to wider social issues. The MyData2016 conference came to an end a couple of weeks ago, and we are now even past the International Open Data Conference, but given the discussions that emerged, it is clear this is only the beginning of something bigger. While MyData is still a vague concept, the conference started many processes that might evolve into something tangible.  During the conference I met participants that enlightened me about the MyData concept, reminding that conference is more than panels and workshops, but also about the human connection. pablo-my-data As I described in my first blog post in the series, I was keen to understand what the connection was between MyData and open data. Now, two weeks later and hours of going over the materials, I still have more questions than answers. Open Data is a techno-legal definition of data; MyData is still less clear. The borders between ‘My Data’, private data, and public data are sometimes blurry and undefined, and there is a need for regulation and open debate about these issues. However, the open data world gives inspiration to the MyData world, and MyData conference was an excellent opportunity for the two communities to learn from one another and think ahead.

“The borders between ‘My Data’, private data, and public data are sometimes blurry and undefined, and there is a need for regulation and open debate about these issues.”

What is MyData? One of the terms that were thrown in the air was “The Internet of Me.”  At first, this sounds to me a very millennial description (which brings, for me at least, a bad connotation). Lucie Burgess, from The Digital Catapult, shed a different light on the term. This, in her view, means that we put people, not companies or technical terms, at the center of the internet. To me, it reminded me of Evgeny Morozov’s concept of ‘Internet-centric’ – when we give the term ‘The internet’ life of its own. When we give the internet life, we sometimes forget that humans are creating it actively, and other parts of the net are passive, like the data that we provide to companies just by using their services. We forget that the internet is what it is because of us. The ‘Internet of Me’ puts the ordinary citizen at the heart of that beast we call ”the internet”. It is a  decentralized shift, the idea that we can control our data, our information. Lucie about Internet of me:   Credit: Pouyan MohseniniaCredit: Pouyan Mohseninia What does it mean though when it comes to different types of data? Here is an example from one of the main promises in the field of MyData – the health sector. Health data is one of the most delicate data types out there. Having MyData as a way to make data sharing in the health sector safer and more responsible can assist many to unlock the promise of big and small health datasets to make not only services in the field better but also to improve research and human lives. Health data raise some important questions – Who owns the data in official health registries? What is the line between MyData and public data? The way is still long, but the conference (and the Ultrahack) helped to shape some new thinking about the topic and look for new use cases. Here is Antti Tuomi-Nikula, from THL, the Finnish Ministry of health and welfare, speaking about the potential of MyData and the answers we still need to answer:   The question of the border between personal and public data is also a concern to governments. In the last decade, many governments at different levels of jurisdiction are going through efforts to improve their services by using data for better policies. However, government personnel, in particular, local government personnel, often do not have the knowledge or capacity to have a better data infrastructure and release public data in an open way. MyData therefore, looks like a dream solution in this case. I was excited to see how the local municipalities in Finland are already examining and learning about this concept, taking into considerations the challenges this brings. Here is Jarkko Oksala, CIO of the city of Tampere, the second biggest city in Finland speaking about MyData, and what the open Data community should do in the future:   On the one hand, the MyData concept is the ability to allow one to take control of their data, make it open to be used when they want to. When it comes to the open data community, MyData gives us all another opportunity – to learn. Open Data and MyData are frameworks and tools, not the ends. It was good to see how people come to expand their horizons and acquire new tools to achieve some of our other goals. ultrahack3Ultrahack in action. Credit Salla Thure One of the great side events that help to facilitate these learnings was the UltraHack, a three-day hack that tried to make the very vague concept of open data into actual use. Interesting enough, a lot of the hackathon work involved some open data as well. Open Knowledge in Finland is an expert in organizing hackathons, and the vibrant, energetic spirit was there for the whole three days. These spirits also attracted visitors from Estonia, who crossed the bay and came to learn about hackathons and the different types of data. It was very surprising for me to see that Estonians see Finland as a place to learn from since I assumed that because Estonia is known for its progressive e-gov services, it would similarly excel at creating an open data empire. I guess that the truth is much more complicated than this, and I was very lucky to learn about the situation there. We are also excited to have our first Open Knowledge event in Estonia a couple of weeks ago to discuss setting up a group there. This would not come to life without the meetings we had in Helsinki. Here is Maarja-Leena Saar speaking about this topic with me:  
The Open Knowledge community indeed came to learn. I met School of Data Fellow Vadym  Hudyma from Ukraine, who works with the Engine room about privacy and responsible data. Vadym brought up many important points, like the fact that we should stop looking at the binary of consent of giving personal data, and how we need to remember the people behind the data points we gather.
   

“We discussed what we want to do with our data and the question of privacy and the willingness too of people to share and to create open data from private data.”

I also met members from Open Knowledge chapters in Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany.  They came to share their experiences but, also to learn about the different opportunities of MyData. For me, it is always good to catch up with chapters and see their point of view on various topics. Here are some useful insights I got from Walter Palmetshofer from OKF DE, who started to think about MyData concept already in 2011. We discussed what we want to do with our data and the question of privacy and the willingness too, of people to share and to create open data from private data. More of my conversation with Walter here   All in all, I am grateful for the opportunity I had to go and learn at MyData 2016. It gave me a different perspective on my usual work on open data and open government and allowed me to explore the internet for me. This is, I hope, just the beginning, and I would like to see what other members of the network have to say about this topic. A big thank you to the members of Open Knowledge Finland and in particular Salla Thure, who hosted me so well and helped me to find my way around the conference. Special thanks also to Jo Barratt, Open Knowledge International’s own audio guru for editing my interviews. Watch this space for his audio blog post from the GODAN summit!

Open Knowledge Finland Summer 2016 Update

- October 4, 2016 in network, OK Finland

This blog post is part of our summer series featuring chapter updates from across the Open Knowledge Network and was written by the team of Open Knowledge Finland. Summer is a great time in Finland. It’s so sunny that everyone seems to be on holiday! However, there was no time for extended holidays at Open Knowledge Finland – we had a very busy summer. Here is our update for the Network, with key news from the last few months.

Open Knowledge Finland has a new board!

One of the most exciting changes this year was our annual meeting. OKFFI held its annual meeting on Monday May 30 at the Helsinki office. Nearly 40 people (well over 10% of members) attended face-to-face or online – quite a good number, in fact! finland1 Antti ‘Jogi’ Poikola was unanimously selected to continue as the chairman. The new board consists of 3 old members (Jogi, as well as Lilli Linkola and Mika Honkanen) and no less than 5 new members – Susanna Ånäs, Liisi Soroush, Raoul Plommer, Mikael Seppälä and Jessica Parland-von Essen. In its first meeting, each board member was assigned a primary and secondary role as follows: Antti Poikola – chairman and  web communications Mika Honkanen – vice chairman and  2nd treasurer Lilli Linkola – secretary and working group contact Mikael Seppälä – treasurer and working group contact Raoul Plommer – web communications and tools and international relations Susanna Ånäs – internal communications and international relations Liisi Soroush – collaboration networks and member secretary Jessica Parland-von Essen – external communications  and collaboration networks finland3 With the new board, it is nice to see the gender split is at 50-50. It is also a great sign that there are a lot of people who want to apply for the board (13 candidates) and that we have great new people aboard to help steer the community. Congratulations and good luck to the board!

Open Knowledge Finland is growing!

Currently, 8 people are employed by Open Knowledge Finland. However, this number will soon decrease slightly as projects are ending. For this year, we have had a number of new people joining us – Emilia Hjelm, John Sperryn, Konsta Happonen. Previously active members like Heidi Laine, Mika Honkanen have received part-time contracts. On average, we have about 4-5 FTE in staff. In terms of finances, we have managed to grow at a good pace – from just under 200k eur in 2014, to about 300k eur in 2015 – and still on the rise, a total of nearly 500 000 eur in total turnover expected in 2016. The funding is short-term, fragmented and diverse – which is both exciting as well as a cause of concern (for longer term planning). Open Knowledge Finland currently has over 350 members – and hosts an Open Knowledge Network of nearly 4000 people in Finland.

MyData 2016 gathered about 700 international people to Helsinki – and accelerated the movement for human-centric personal data

finland4 2016 is the year of MyData. Open Knowledge Finland is all about the free flow of information. Open data, open knowledge, open collaboration – and, we believe this also includes free (user-controlled) flow of personal information. The MyData movement encompasses concepts and tools not only to build more transparent societies – but also to develop effective services and create new business in the digital domain. Actions around the MyData conceptual framework represents the BIGGEST concentration of effort for us this year. In particular, Open Knowledge Finland’s key actions for the fall of 2016 were geared towards the MyData 2016 conference (31 Aug – 2 Sep) and the Ultrahack MyData hackathon running in parallel with the conference. finland7 We had some 700 visitors in total – over 500 conference visitors, over 100 hackers or hack visitors, over 30 partner organisations involved. Amazingly, we had 140+ speakers, in 40+ sessions. Visitors came from about 30 countries. The feedback has been excellent – a great results for a first-timer conference! Check out the event images on the Flickr pool: https://www.flickr.com/groups/mydata2016. Conference video archive is available at http://goo.gl/gV9r4c . Please stay tuned to www.mydata2016.org and @mydata2016 on Twitter. More wrap-ups and posts to follow. And yes, MyData 2017 is on the drawing board! Follow @MyData2017 to keep up on the plans for next year!

That’s not all, folks!

In addition to MyData, many of our 9 working groups have interesting ongoing projects, ranging in size, duration and scope. In a nutshell, here are a few of the active ones: The 3 year EU project “D-CENT” (Democracy WG) is wrapping up soon. D-CENT is a Europe-wide project creating privacy-aware tools and applications for direct democracy and economic empowerment. Together with citizens and developers, we are creating a decentralised social networking platform for large-scale collaboration and decision-making. Contact : Jaakko@okf.fi Yhtäköyttä (Democracy WG), “Common knowledge practices in research and decision-making”,  is our first project for he Finnish Government’s analysis and assessment of research activities (VN TEAS) coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office (VNK). The aim of the project is to find out what kind of tools and methods could be used in government in order to utilize knowledge management and research data better and to improve evidence-based decision making. This project will involve theoretical study, 30+ interviews and 4 experiments in new tools and methods such as data visualization, open impact assessment, real-time document editing, real-time fact-checking. Contact: raimo.muurinen@okf.fi Cost-effective utilization of open data and basic registers: The research project’s goal is to better understand and measure the impacts of open data and the use of the basic public registers. As an outcome, we expect policy recommendations and suggestions for new methods, processes or technical changes to help improve cost-efficient publishing of open data and increase the impact of the basic registers. Contact ; mika.honkanen@okf.fi Open Citizen Science:  Citizen science has most notably been used as a method for creating observational data for life science research. Against the backdrop of current technological advancement, we need to create Citizen Science v 2.0 – open, diverse, responsible, dialogic and academically excellent. In terms of outcomes, we envision a set of concrete recommendations for national stakeholders; we willcreate understanding, awareness and discussion about citizen science as a scientific method and a community; and we will catalyze a research agenda for a new kind of open citizen science. Contact: heidi.laine@okf.fi Creative Commons Licensing Support: As Creative Commons licenses are the official recommended license for open data in the Finnish governmental sector, awareness and instructions for using them in practice are needed across many sectors of society, including for public open bids, content creation subcontracting, and data purchasing. Contact:  tarmo.toikkanen@okf.fi Other projects…to be updated in the next blog! See also summary of OK Finland projects in a few slides.

Get in touch!

During the autumn, we will also be having an extra general meeting and plan to change our rules to better accommodate for scaling. Stay tuned – more to follow! Want to get in touch? Contact executive director Teemu Ropponen, or international collaboration team, board members Raoul Plommer & Susanna Ånä.

Freedom to control MyData: Access to personal data as a step towards solving wider social issues.

- September 1, 2016 in network, OK Finland

This piece is part of a series of posts from MyData 2016 – an international conference that focuses on human centric personal information management. The conference is co-hosted by the Open Knowledge Finland chapter of the Open Knowledge International Network.
pablo pharrellSong lyrics: Pharrell Williams “Freedom”; Image Pixabay CC0
  Indeed, the theme of MyData so far is freedom. The freedom to own our data. Freedom however, is a very complicated subject that has been subjected to so many arguments, interpretations and even wars. I will avoid the more complicated philosophy and dive instead into a more daily life example. In the pop song quoted above, freedom can be understood as being carefree – “Who cares what they see and what they know?” Taking it to the MyData context, are we granting freedom to others to do whatever they want with our data and information because we trust them, or just because we don’t care? Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 18.37.13MyData speakers have looked at the issue of freedom from a different angle. Taavi Kotka, Estonia CIO, claims that the fifth freedom of the EU should be the freedom of Data. People, explains Kotka, should have the choice of what can be done with their data. They should know and understand the possibilities that sharing the data can bring (for example, like better and easier services across the EU countries), and the threat that this can entail, like misuses of their data. For that we need pioneer regulators. For that we need the private sector and civil society to pressure and showcase what we can do with data and shift change accordingly.

…thinking outside of the box can help governments to move forward and at the end of the day, to supply better services for citizens

This shifting in regulations and thinking should also be accepted by government. It was refreshing to hear the Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Berner saying that government should not be afraid of disruption, but accept disruption and be disruptive themselves. MyData is disruptive in the sense that it is challenging the norms of the current data storage and use, and thinking outside of the box can help governments to move forward and at the end of the day, to supply better services for citizens. Another topic that has been raised up repeatedly is the digital self and the idea that data is a stepping stone to a better society. The question is then, that in order to build a good society do we need to understand our private data? Maybe understanding data is not a good enough end goal? Maybe a better framing would be to create information and knowledge from the data? I was excited to see a project that can help consumers to evaluate and decide who to trust: Ranking Digital Rights. Ranking Digital Rights looks at big tech corporations and ranks their public commitments and disclosed policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. This is a very good tool for discussion and advocacy on these topics.

Ranking Digital Rights looks at big tech corporations and ranks their public commitments and disclosed policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

To return to the question of open. Does freedom of data mean open data? The closed system does not allow us to access our own data. We can’t get insights. How do we create different models to get there? And I think this is where I enjoy this conference the most – the variety of people. In the last two years I have been in many open data conferences, but the business community side of these events has been very limited, or at least for me, not appealing. Here at MyData, there are tracks for many different stakeholders – from insurance firms to banks, from health to education. I have met people who see the MyData initiative not only as a moral thing to do, but also as an opportunity to innovate and create trust with users. Trust, as I am rediscovering, is key for growth. Ignoring the mistrust of users can lead to a broken market. More than trust, I was happy to see people who are trying to influence their companies not only to go the MyData way, but also to open relevant data from their companies to the public, so we can work on and maybe solve social issues. Seeing the two go hand-in-hand is great, and I am looking forward to more conversations like these. Tomorrow, Rufus Pollock, our president and Open Knowledge International’s Co-Founder is going to speak about how we can collaborate with others for a better future. You can catch him at 9.30 Helsinki time on screen.io/mydata. Here is a preview for his talk tomorrow:

We want openness for public data – public information that could be made available to anyone. And we want access for every person to their own personal data…both are about empowering people to access information.

-Rufus Pollock