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OpenSchufa: The first results

- November 29, 2018 in germany, mydata, OK Germany, personal-data

This blog has been reposted from the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany blog In early 2018 the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany (OKFDE) and Algorithm-Watch launched the project OpenSCHUFA, which works on reverse-engineering the algorithms of the Schufa, Germany’s credit rating system. This week the first analyses of OpenSchufa dataset are published. The data teams and editorial offices of Bayerischer Rundfunk and SpiegelOnline have evaluated the anonymous data that has been collected with the help of our „mydata“ project OpenSchufa since this spring. In the last 10 months this project generated 100,000 individual data requests in Germany. Out of these, more than 30,000 were directed at Schufa and resulted in more than 3,000 data donations to us. Many thanks to all the people who donated money, time and especially their data and supported this project with other resources!

These are the most important findings:

  • Bad scores even without negative characteristics
Many people have bad Schufa scores, although they have no negative characteristics. Our data implies that the Schufa lists some people as „higher risk“ even if they don’t have negative data on them. This means: Apparently the Schufa algorithm is error-prone. Even if people who have no debts or defaults get bad scores, the scoring procedure is broken.
  • Allegedly accurate scores despite inaccurate data
The Schufa scores suggest to the public that they are particularly scientifically prepared. Part of this image is generated by the alleged accuracy of scores such as 85.04% or 97.41%. However, the information is misleading. The Schufa often lacks the data to make reliable statements about the creditworthiness of individuals. In almost a fourth of the people in our dataset, the Schufa has a maximum of three data points on users. In these cases, the score is not particularly trustworthy.
  • Factors: Age, sex and moves
The OpenSchufa data set suggests that factors such as age, gender and many moves affect the Schufa score. For example, young men are often worse off. This means that even aspects that cannot be influenced could cause negative Schufa scores. At the moment, it is not possible to say with the data how exactly the factors affect the respective score and whether the Schufa will include them individually in the calculation or combine them. It is very possible that the scores discriminate.
  • Some scores have fallen out of time
In many areas, the Schufa holds several score versions from one scoring area over individuals. As a result, for example, people have a worse score after version 1 of the Schufa Bank Score than after version 2 or version 3 of the Schufa Bank Score. Those who are unlucky that a bank requests an older score version from the Schufa have worse cards in such an example. The fact that the older score versions are still being released apparently leads to biases.

This results in these demands:

Thanks to OpenSchufa, the German Advisory Council for Consumer Affairs (SVRV) at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection has already written a paper with scoring transparency. SRVR advocated that the Schufa and other scoring providers disclose their algorithm. Characteristics and weighting of the Scores must become understandable for the consumer. As the results of OpenSchufa also show, possible discrimination must be examined and disclosed. A central problem at Schufa is obviously the quality of the score and the data on which it is based. Further reporting by Bayerischer Rundfunk has already shown that the supervision of Schufa and other scoring providers is inadequate. The Schufa itself pays for the reports that should actually review it independently. The Federal Ministry has already announced that it will examine the Council’s recommendations. In addition to transparency, Schufa should also accept its responsibility in society. This includes that the Schufa should cooperate constructively with researchers, journalists and civil society. So far, the Schufa press office has attracted attention primarily because it intimidates journalists.

And what about the Schufa algorithm?

We are currently working on reliably deciphering various aspects of the Schufa formula. The challenge: Of around 30,000 data acccess requests that users have sent to Schufa via selbstauskunft.net, only around 3,000 data records have been forwarded to us. Nevertheless, we try to make further reliable statements about the Schufa algorithm and continue to work with the data set. Originally, we had planned to address targeted calls to specific population groups in order to obtain data from them in the event of distortions in the data. However, this is no longer possible at present. Since the data protection regulation (GDPR) was applied in May, Schufa has given significantly less data to individuals than before. Data donations of Schufa information are therefore not usable for us since May.

What’s next?

Together with our partner AlgorithmWatch we continue to work on the evaluation of the data and hope to be able to derive further insights from the data soon. Afterwards we want to give further recommendations for legal regulations. Also important: Schufa currently still refuses to provide free information by e-mail, although the GDPR obliges them to. We will work to ensure that Schufa complies with this obligation. The Schufa is the beginning, but not the end. We need more transparency for all scoring providers in Germany and Europe.

Schufa reporting on the 28th of November (in German)

German version of this article with more frequent updates

For further inquiries

Walter Palmetshofer, Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland, walter.palmetshofer@okfn.de, +49 30 57703666 0  

Prototype Fund round 5: Letting machines learn

- August 22, 2018 in AI, germany, OK Germany, Open Source, prototype fund

The Prototype Fund is a public program run by Open Knowledge Foundation Germany that focuses on emerging challenges and radically new solutions. Individuals and small teams can apply for funding to test their ideas and develop open source tools and applications in the fields of civic tech, data literacy, data security and more. The 5th round of the Fund is currently open for applications until 30 September: in this blog Katharina Meyer shares more on its contents and on how to apply.

Letting machines learn: technologies for the future

New technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are on everyone’s lips – but mostly not in our hands. With the focus of the 5th call for applications we want to encourage more people to participate in shaping these new technologies and have a stake in our future. We want to find out what opportunities new technological developments offer to society. How much of this hype is righteous, what are the risks, how can we gain a better insight into the emergence of technologies and influence this process? Artificial intelligence is an example of the challenges we face in the verge of tomorrow’s technologies. The development of intelligent systems is only accessible to a few people and companies because the technologies are highly specialized. The amount of data needed to train the machines is often owned by large corporations and platforms. The development of new technologies and intelligent systems is often directed towards industry or embedded in the theoretical framework of universities. To ensure that emerging technologies reflect social reality and do not discriminate against people, we need to incorporate a wide range of experience and expertise into their development. We also aim to better understand what exactly we are talking about when we say AI and demystify technology. We therefore especially encourage software projects to apply, which deal with the following questions as part of their conceptual and practical work:
  • Which social topics can be better explored and addressed with the help of machine learning, and how?
  • How can new technologies help us address (and reduce) existing injustice instead of reinforcing it?
  • Explaining and understanding new technologies: How do Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence work? What are the challenges, myths and opportunities?
We are not seeking to apply new technologies to random problems, but instead to examine developments and fields of application in detail and placing people and their needs at the centre of technical development. In a blog post (in German) we have collected projects and ideas that illustrate our main topic. Projects outside this focus can also be supported if they are in the areas of digital infrastructure, data security, data literacy or civic tech.

How to apply

Applications are open to individuals and small teams who live in Germany. You can read more about the fifth round and apply at https://prototypefund.de/en/. The projects we currently support can be found here.  

We crack the Schufa, the German credit scoring

- February 22, 2018 in germany, mydata, OK Germany, personal-data

Last week the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany (OKFDE) and AlgorithmWatch launched the project OpenSCHUFA. Inspired by OKF Finland and the „mydata“ project, OpenSCHUFA is the first„mydata“ project by OKFDE. Over the last 7 days, the campaign generated Germany-wide media attention, and already over 8.000 individual Schufa data request (30.000 personal data requests in total).

Why we started OpenSCHUFA and why you should care about credit scoring

Germany’s leading credit rating bureau, SCHUFA, has immense power over people’s lives. A low SCHUFA score means landlords will refuse to rent you an apartment, banks will reject your credit card application and network providers will say ‘computer says no’ to a new Internet contract. But what if your SCHUFA score is low because there are mistakes in your credit history? Or if the score is calculated by a mathematical model that is biased? The big problem is, we simply don’t know how accurate SCHUFA’s or any other credit scoring data is and how it computes its scores. OpenSCHUFA wants to change this by analyzing thousands of credit records. This is not just happening in Germany, or just with credit scoring, for example the Chinese government has decided to introduce a scoring system by 2020 that assigns a “social value” to all residents. Or think about the Nosedive episode of Black Mirror series. We want to
  • start a discussion on that topic
  • bring more transparency towards (credit) scoring
  • empower people with their own data and show what can be done once this data is donated or crowd-shared

What exactly is SCHUFA?

SCHUFA is Germany’s leading credit rating bureau. It’s a private company similar to Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, some of the major credit reporting agencies operating in the US, UK, Canada or Australia. SCHUFA collects data of your financial history – your unpaid bills, credit cards, loans, fines and court judgments – and uses this information to calculate your SCHUFA score. Companies pay to check your SCHUFA score when you apply for a credit card, a new phone or Internet contract. A rental agent even checks with SCHUFA when you apply to rent an apartment. A low score means you have a high risk of defaulting on payments, so it makes it more difficult, or even impossible, to get credit. A low score can also affect how much interest you pay on a loan.

Why should you care about SCHUFA score or any other credit scores?

SCHUFA holds data on about 70 million people in Germany. That’s nearly everyone in the country aged 18 or older. According to SCHUFA, nearly one in ten of these people living in Germany (around 7 million people) have negative entries in their record. That’s quite a lot. SCHUFA gets its data from approximately 9,000 partners, such as banks and telecommunication companies. SCHUFA doesn’t believe it has a responsibility to check the accuracy of data it receives from its partners. In addition, the algorithm used by SCHUFA to calculate credit scores is protected as a trade secret so no one knows how the algorithm works and whether there are errors or injustices built into the model or the software. So basically, if you are an adult living in Germany, there is a good chance your life is affected by a credit score produced by a multimillion euro private company using an automatic process that they do not have to explain and an algorithm based on data that nobody checks for inaccuracies. And this is not just the case in Germany, but everywhere were credit scores determine everyday life.

How can you help?

Not living in Germany? Money makes the world go round. Please donate some money – 5 EUR, we also do take the GBP or USD –  to enable us to develop a data-donation software (that is open source and re-usable also in your country). Get in touch if you are interested in a similar campaign on the credit bureau in your country: openschufa@okfn.de And now some of the famous German fun, our campaign video:

How to innovate? Prototype everything!

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

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

How to innovate? Prototype everything!

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

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

Datensummit: Advancing open data in Germany

- May 24, 2017 in OK Germany

Last month Open Knowledge Germany hosted the first Datensummit, a two-day festival for those who shape development within the fields of open data, transparency, data literacy and civic tech. With OK Germany existing for over five years already, it was a good moment to both look back on developments in open data, civic tech, transparency and civil participation in Germany, but more importantly, to bring the community together and stimulate future inspiration on how to advance open data in Germany even more. Datensummit 2017 - Tag 1 im BMVi (Foto: Leonard Wolf) During the first day at the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI, also sponsor of the event) the focus was on fostering interdisciplinary exchange with politicians and public administration, with talks by OK Germany staff and international speakers. The second day was structured in an unconference format, with opportunities to exchange ideas, develop and plan new open data projects in barcamps and workshops. The impressive program of the first day attracted nearly 300 participants. Nadine Stammen, part of the organising team of the Datensummit, shares more information on the speakers:   The location of the German Ministry was strategically chosen, precisely to encourage further collaboration between government and CSOs advocating for open data. As Christian Heise, Chairman of the Board of the OK Germany, stated:
The Datensummit 2017 has shown how government and civil society can work together to demonstrate why open data and open knowledge are useful to society as a whole, and that intransparent governmental and administrative action is no longer an option.

Elisa Lindinger, a member of the OK Germany team, talks about the contact with the Ministry, and the strength of the German open data community:   The organising team also cleverly stimulated participants of different backgrounds to mix and talk to each other: during the registration, all participants received three coloured bracelets based on the type of organisation they work for (for example pink for NGOs and green for government representatives). Whenever you talked to someone, you could swap bracelets, with the aim of ending up with as many different colours as possible of course. OK Germany showcased the breadth of the open data field that they are working on, with staff presenting their work on projects around freedom of information and politics (such as FragdenStaat.de, a platform through which people can easily submit FOIA requests in Germany), the economic potential of open data and a summary of the current state of the Code for Germany community (which brings together developers, designers and those interested in open data in 25 local groups across Germany). Under ‘Civic Tech inspirations’, winners of the first round of the Prototype fund (a publicly funded program for non-profit software in civic tech, data literacy, and data security in Germany) showcased their projects, and the Datenschule, the German brach of the School of Data, brought together representatives from the international School of Data Network to discusses data literacy approaches and digital NGO projects. Elisa Lindinger shared her thoughts on the current state of open data in Germany:
Datensummit 2017 - Tag 2 im betahaus In addition, invited external speakers added valuable perspectives on data: from insights around ethical data handling (Zara Rahman – About people, data and good intentions), engaging volunteers in analysing data on human rights violations (Milena Marin on the Amnesty Decoders project) and the value of a German transparency register for investigating tax evasion and money laundering (Vanessa Wormer on her work on the Panama Papers) to the beauty and potential of hand-drawn data visualisations to make data more accessible and understandable (Stefanie Posavec – Reflections on Dear Data). You can watch all talks of the first day on this Youtube channel: the German blog report of the event is available from the Open Knowledge Germany blog.  

Making European Subsidy Data Open

- April 24, 2017 in OK Germany, Open Government Data, Open Spending

One month after releasing subsidystories.eu a joint project of Open Knowledge Germany and Open Knowledge International, we have some great news to share. Due to the extensive outreach of our platform and the data quality report we published, new datasets have been directly sent to us by several administrations. We have recently added new data for Austria, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, first Romanian data recently arrived and should be available in the near future. Now that the platform is up and running, we want to explain how we actually worked on collecting and opening all the beneficiary data. Subsidystories.eu is a tool that enables the user to visualize, analyze and compare subsidy data across the European Union thereby enhancing transparency and accountability in Europe. To make this happen we first had to collect the datasets from each EU member state and scrape, clean, map and then upload the data. Collecting the data was an incredible frustrating process, since EU member states publish the beneficiary data in their own country (and regional) specific portals which had to be located and often translated. A scraper’s nightmare: different websites and formats for every country The variety in how data is published throughout the European Union is mind-boggling. Few countries publish information on all three concerned ESIF Funds (ERDF, ESF, CF) in one online portal, while most have separate websites distinguished by funds. Germany provides the most severe case of scatteredness, not only is the data published by its regions (Germany’s 16 federal states), but different websites for distinct funds exist (ERDF vs. ESF) leading to a total of 27 German websites. Arguably making the German data collection just as tedious as collecting all data for the entire rest of the EU. Once the distinct websites were located through online searches, they often needed to be translated to English to retrieve the data. As mentioned the data was rarely available in open formats (counting csv, json or xls(x) as open formats) and we had to deal with a large amount of PDFs (51) and webapps (15) out of a total of 122 files. The majority of PDF files was extracted using Tabula, which worked fine some times and required substantial work with OpenRefine – cleaning misaligned data – for other files. About a quarter of the PDFs could not be scraped using tools, but required hand tailored scripts by our developer. Data Formats
However, PDFs were not our worst nightmare: that was reserved for webapps such as this French app illustrating their 2007-2013 ESIF projects. While the idea of depicting the beneficiary data on a map may seem smart, it often makes the data useless. These apps do not allow for any cross project analysis and make it very difficult to retrieve the underlying information. For this particular case, our developer had to decompile the flash to locate the multiple dataset and scrape the data. Open data: political reluctance or technical ignorance? These websites often made us wonder what the public servants that planned this were thinking? They already put in substantial effort (and money) when creating such maps, why didn’t they include a “download data” button? Was it an intentional decision to publish the data, but make difficult to access? Or is the difference between closed and open data formats simply not understood well enough by public servants? Similarly, PDFs always have to be created from an original file, while simply uploading that original CSV or XLSX file could save everyone time and money. In our data quality report we recognise that the EU has made progress on this behalf in their 2013 regulation mandating that beneficiary data be published in an open format. While publication in open data formats has increased henceforth, PDFs and webapps remain a tiring obstacle. The EU should assure the member states’ compliance, because open spending data and a thorough analysis thereof, can lead to substantial efficiency gains in distributing taxpayer money. This blog has been reposted from https://okfn.de/blog/2017/04/Making-EU-Data-Open/

Launch: Jedeschule.de promotes transparency within the educational system in Germany

- April 12, 2017 in OK Germany, Open Knowledge Network, open-education

This blog was written by Moritz Neujeffski, School of Data Germany team.

School of Data Germany, a project by Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland, helps non-profit organisations, civil rights defenders and activists to understand and use data and technology effectively to increase their impact on societal challenges. Profound knowledge in processing data allows individuals and organisations to critically reflect and to influence public debates with evidence-based arguments. Jedeschule.de is the outcome of our first partnership with BildungsCent eV. Together we explored the programs schools in Germany offer students beside general lessons and advocated for a transparent German education system. While we definitely learned a lot about the school system in Germany, we provided specially tailored Workshops for BildungsCent eV. We addressed how to clean, analyse and visualise data and what pitfalls to look out for in digital projects. Education is more than school lessons. Character and drive often develop outside the classroom. Public information on schools in Germany is sparse and not often available in a structured and organised format. Together with BildungsCent eV., we investigated the availability and access of data on schools in Germany.
The focus of our investigation: How is data on schools best communicated to the public? How does that affect the potential of schools to be important social hubs?

Findings of our analysis: Jedeschule.de

Parents, students, teachers, politicians, and civil society organisations benefit from enhanced information on the German school system that is provided on Jedeschule.de. School of Data Germany and BildungsCent eV. campaigned for more transparency in the educational sector and promoted dialogues between stakeholders in educational policy.We also provided an overview of more than 30,000 schools of general education in Germany. The interactive map makes it possible to search for and filter according to specific school types. The educational sector differs among the 16 German federal states. We gathered information on the development of each individual school system, public spending within the educational sector, and the employment situation of teachers for each state. Moreover,  3,000 profiles for schools in Berlin and Saxony containing their mission statements, the number of students and teachers per school, study groups and cooperations between schools and actors from civil society, public departments, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders were set up. All this data as used in the project is available as open data on our website.

Our aim is to facilitate the use of educational data by journalists, politicians, scientists, the civic tech community, and stakeholders of educational policy.

Concluding remarks on school activities & cooperations in Berlin and Saxony

  •  413 out of 800 general education schools in Berlin communicate their activities to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Family.
  • On average, they provide eight activities in at least four areas such as environment, literature, handcraft, and technology besides regular lessons.
  • In Saxony, 1206 out of 1500 schools of general education report to the statistical office.
  • In total, they offer 11,600 activities. On average, this amounts to ten activities in five different areas per school.
  • Sporting activities are most prominent in both federal states. Partners from civil society and public affairs are the highest among schools in both states.
Schools promote the well-being and development of children and adolescents through diverse projects, partners, and activities. They are an important component of the livelihood and learning environment of students and provide an important perspective on society. To establish a holistic picture of the German school system and to increase transparency and the ability to compare federal states on educational matters, data has to be better collected, organised, and structured at the state level. Administrations, especially need to improve their performance in order to foster an effective debate on the German school system.  

A look back at the work of Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland in 2016

- February 2, 2017 in network, OK Germany

This blog post is part of our on-going Network series featuring updates from chapters across the Open Knowledge Network and was written by the Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland team. We are the Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland (OKF DE), the German chapter of OKI. We advocate for open knowledge, open data, transparency, and civic participation and consider ourselves an active part of German and European civil society.

Our goals

  • we provide technical tools that inform citizens about the potential and chances of open data and empower citizens to become active

  • we organize educational events and projects and author publications in the domain of science, research, and public relations

  • we offer trainings on open data and related technical tools

  • we organize groups that discuss sustainable strategies and applications for the usage and advancement of open knowledge

  • we build our community and connect relevant individuals with one another

Currently, we have 25 employees (16,5 FTE, 14 female/11 male) and 8 board members (6 male/2 female) in our team. We are pursuing the concept of “Open Salaries.” We have a simple formula to calculate salaries and we share this with the whole team.  Our salaries are based on the public services salaries (TVÖD 12/S1 – Project Assistant, TVÖD 13/S2 – Project Manager, TVÖD 13/S3 – Project Lead and CEO). Our anticipated annual budget in 2016 of 1.2 million Euros remains relatively consistent compared to 2015 and is a result of our collective efforts to consolidate our programs and focus on fewer priorities. We are aiming for a mixed funding portfolio to avoid dependency on a few big funders. We are currently working on 19 grant-based projects to advance unlimited access to knowledge across different branches of society (politics, culture, economics, science). Here’s a brief look back over our work and major projects in 2016:

Ask The Jobcentre! (original: Frag Das Jobcenter!)

Project: FragdenStaat.de Project lead: Arne.Semsrott@okfn.de The project FragdenStaat ( “Ask Your Government” in English) runs a campaign to demand wider transparency in public jobcentres in Germany. Jobcentres are powerful authorities: not only are they allowed to track unemployed persons who draw unemployment benefits, they also control the personal data of anyone sharing a household with those beneficiaries. Internal directives and target agreements manage how jobcentres operate, for instance when and why they cover costs for health insurance, and when they penalise beneficiaries. To understand how jobcentres operate, FragdenStaat wants to request all internal directives and target agreements. Help us to request these documents! More information is available here.

Annual Youth Hackathon “Youth hacked” (orginial: “Jugend hackt”)

Project: Jugendhackt.de Project lead: Maria.Reimer@okfn.de “Youth Hacked” is a hackathon that brings together young, tech-savvy people to write code, tinker with hardware, and develop ideas that can change society. In mid-October participants between 12 and 18 years old travelled from all around Germany in order to attend the event. Those who couldn’t join physically were able to attend through livestream. It was a busy weekend: 24 projects were developed by 120 youngsters, supported by 42 mentors and volunteers and followed by about 700 visitors. More about the event can be read in this blogpost, and in this news article (both in German). The “Youth Hacked” event celebrated a premier in Austria and Switzerland. In November, “Youth Hacked Austria” brought young people in Linz together, shortly followed by the first Youth Hacked event in Zurich, Switzerland. Furthermore, we are happy about a  collaboration with Goethe-Institut Ostasien. Together we teamed up and organised a workshop in Seoul titled “Vernetzte Welten” (engl. “Connected Worlds”).

Prototype fund: first round closes with 500+ submissions

Project: PrototypeFund.de Project lead: Julia.kloiber@okfn.de; Cosmin.Cabuela@okfn.de The Prototype Fund is a brand new project of Open Knowledge Foundation Germany. It is also the first public-funding programme around civic tech, data literacy, and data security which targets non-profit software projects. We support software developers, hackers and creatives to develop their ideas – from concept to the first pilot. Every project receives 30.000 Euros, including a mentorship programme and knowledge sharing within an interesting network. Now the first round of a call for submissions is closed. During this round we received more than 500 submissions. This overwhelming interest is a strong message confirming the need for this project which in total will invest 1.2 million Euros into open source projects. Within three years, 40 open source prototypes will be funded. Latest news are available on the webseite of the Prototype Fund. The project is supported by the BMBF, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

OGP Summit in Paris: We represented German civil society

For years Open Knowledge Foundation Germany has demanded that Germany join the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and promote the values of open government. 32 European and Central -Asian countries had joined the partnership, but Germany was not among them. This changed in December 2016. Being mindful of recent political developments, we used the opportunity to represent German civil society during the OGP Summit in Paris which was held between December 7 and 9. Our participation included actions and debates such as:

Save the date: OKF DE Data Summit in 2017

Date & location: April 28-29, 2017 | Berlin Conference with keynotes, workshops and barcamp/unconference Topics: open data | digital volunteering | civic tech | mobility concepts | open administration | participation | transparency | freedom of information | connectivity | data for social good | data literacy This year we are planning a data summit connecting the networks that developed through our project ‘Datenschule’ (engl. School of Data). Within two successful years of Code for Germany we developed many different projects and networks around Germany. Our educational program ‘Datenschule’ connects charitable, and non-profit organisations with our community. The goal is to enable NGOs using data as an information source for their socio-political work. The data summit is intended to connect the members of our School of Data network even more. Over two days, open data and civic tech enthusiasts, representatives of policy, public administration, entrepreneurs, journalists and non-profit organisations can exchange experiences with one another. The data summit shall be a platform to develop new projects, to deepen data literacy through workshops, and to learn how digital tools can be employed in a modern data-driven society. Our goal: To provide a forum where participants can expand their networks, share experiences, get to know each other and exchange knowledge. Note by the author OKF DE is an independent not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin, Germany in 2011 (under VR 30468 B, to be fully transparent). OKF DE is a pioneering and award-winning civil society organisation engaging in different aspects of the digital age. Their work is independent, non-partisan, interdisciplinary and non-commercial.

Openbudgets.eu launches collection of fiscal transparency tools for journalists and civil society organisations.

- November 23, 2016 in Data Journalism, Featured, News, OK Germany, OK Greece

Berlin, November 21, 2016 – Today, the beta version of OpenBudgets is officially released to the public. The Horizon 2020-funded project seeks to advance transparency and accountability in the fiscal domain by providing journalists, CSOs, NGOs, citizens and public administrations with state-of-the-art tools needed to effectively process and analyze financial data. For the beta version, we have developed tools around the three pillars of the project: data analytics, citizen engagement, and journalism. In the realm of data analytics, we present a time series forecasting algorithm that integrates with OpenSpending and predicts and visualizes the development of budgets into the future. As for citizen engagement, the participatory budgeting interface lets users preview the interaction with the budget allocation process. Finally, the highly praised ‘budget cooking recipes’ website highlights the journalistic value of budget data by listing cases in which it has been used to investigate corruption. cookingbudgets_screenshot Tools, data and stories will be continuously added and improved over the next months as three large-scale pilot scenarios in the domains of participatory budgeting, data journalism and corruption prevention will be launched to gain further insights. These insights will feed into the overall platform for fiscal data. OpenBudgets.eu2 develops tools for the analysis of fiscal data. On the fiscal data platform, users can upload, visualise, analyse and compare financial data. Specific tools will be offered to our target audiences: municipalities, participatory budgeting organisations and journalists. Municipalities can use micro-sites to publish their budget and spending data on designated websites, participatory budgeting organisations can use decision-making and monitoring tools to support the process, and journalists are provided with tailor-made tooling and tutorials. OpenBudgets.eu2 has launched a call for tender for the improvement of transparency and modernization of budget and spending data directed at municipalities, regional governments, and qualified legal entities. Find more information on the website. OpenBudgets.eu2 is a EU funded project run by an international consortium of nine partners:
Open Knowledge International, Journalism++, Open Knowledge Greece, Bonn University, Fraunhofer IAIS, Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland, Fundación Civio, Transparency International-EU, and University of Economics, Prague. Press contact:
Anna Alberts – Open Knowledge Foundation Germany
openbudgets.eu | @OpenBudgetsEU
anna.alberts@okfn.de Read the blog post on the prototype launch of OpenBudgets.eu: http://openbudgets.eu/post/2016/11/18/OBEU-prototype-launch/ Press releases available in other languages: http://openbudgets.eu/press/