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

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

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

Getting Started

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

A plan was hatched

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

Deciding on data

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

GitHub is full of friends

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

The meeting

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

Ready for lift off

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

Open Data Day

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

What next?

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

Global Community Stories #3

- May 13, 2013 in Featured, OKF Australia, OKF Austria, OKF Belgium, OKF Brazil, OKF Greece, OKF Nepal, OKF Spain, OKF Switzerland, OKFN Local


Open Data Maker Vienna - April 2013

For your delectation, we bring you the third installment of Global Community Stories – a round up of the fantastic projects and activities of our Local Groups across the world, including a Wikipedia Editathon for girls in Nepal, a multitude of events in Belgium, Big Data Week across Spain, a Swiss Government pilot project, a multicultural open data event in Edinburgh, and a tiny town in Austria taking the lead in releasing data sets – the race is on!

Following the incredibly kind donation of to our Open Knowledge community by Wunderkraut, OKF Belgium is preparing to take on maintenance of the site and grow the community that they began. They’ve been busy developing other collaborations too; a meet up with Random Hacks of Kindness is coming up June 1-2, as well as developing Their impressive upcoming events include a fully booked master class on Open Culture data, a presentation at the Flemish government to civil servants, as well as Apps for Flanders on June 14, and a General Assembly in June too. They’ve been keeping an eye on the public sphere too, and are organising a debate on new business models to allow financial sustainability through art following a lawsuit by the Belgian copyright organisation Sabam against ISP for not wanting to cooperate on copyright tax on internet subscriptions.

In Austria, the OKF community is supporting the fight for a freedom of information act…

 Together with other civil society initiatives, the Austrian Chapter of OKFN is supporting this movement by organising a series of workshops for all stakeholders on the upcoming freedom of information law, reaching out to civil servants, citizens and politicans. They’ll be providing an opportunity for every stakeholder group to discuss and define their point of view, empowering change-makers across the sphere to broaden their influence, and they’ll be looking to develop the debate around freedom of information in a similar way to which the topic of open data was discussed some years ago.

 One little village in Austria deserves a special mention – Engerwitzdorf, a town of only 8000 inhabitants, has released 116 data sets – more than the entire federal government of Austria! They’ve been honoured for their work by being nominated for the Document Freedom Award by the Free Software Foundation Europe – congratulations! OKF Austria will joining in the celebrations through organising Engerwitzdorf’s first OKF MeetUp.

In Switzerland, government data is being made more accessible…

In Switzerland, the OKF Swiss Chapter has been developing a pilot project called Open Government Data at the Confederation – or, OGD@ Federation for short. Through the project, a group of government agencies will be attempting to bundle their data together via an open source platform, and they’ll be presenting this on May 22. We’ll keep you updated with how it goes, and for readers in Switzerland, you can register here.

OKF Spain has been expanding rapidly…

..having reached 149 members on their mailing list and recently having organised a successful Big Data Week in Madrid and Barcelona! It doesn’t sound like they’re sitting on their laurels though, as they have another three day event coming up in Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla and Valladolid about data journalism which will include a hackathon, a barcamp and several workshops. They have an impressive line up of speakers too, including James Ball from the Guardian, Manuel Aristarán from the Knight Foundation, and OKF Central’s own Michael Bauer, so if you can, swing by!

They also undertook the invaluable task of translating into Spanish Laura’s blog post, “Open Knowledge: much more than Open Data” – which has now become “Conocimiento Abierto: Mucho más que Open Data.” This is a wonderful way of getting our message out to a whole new audience – thanks!

Laura’s post was also a hit with our OKF Greece Chapter, who kindly translated it into Greek. Translations of posts on the into any language at all are very much welcome; if you do any translations, please do let us know so we can publicise it too, and we very much appreciate your efforts!

OKF Greece have also been busy organising an #OpenHealth event, and also took part in a Wikimedia workshop together with the Greek Wikipedia community. They recently completed the incredibly useful task of translating the Open Spending handbook into Greek, and you can now find the OKF Greece group on Facebook, too!

In Scotland, Germans and Brits came together…

Last week, the University of Edinburgh hosted the wonderfully multicultural event of German-British Open Data event. Scholarship holders from the Foundation of German Business came together for the weekend of talks, under the title “Open Data — Better Society?” and you can find a great round up of the talks and conclusions on the OKF Scotland blog.

OKF Nepal have been focusing on getting girls into ICT…

OKF Nepal recently teamed up with Wikipedia Nepal to organise a Wikipedia Editathon, which took place on the International Day of Girls in ICT. A truly great initiative, addressing a key issue facing the tech movement. OKFN Nepal’s Prakash Neupane also took to the stage to explain about the Open Knowledge Foundation’s mission, and from the photos it looks like all involved had a wonderful time. We look forward to hearing from the next event!

Congratulations all, for some incredible activities from across the globe!

(and keep an eye out for some exciting upcoming events- OKF Brazil are organising an event on Open Science at the beginning of June, and OKF Australia are organising a Beautiful Data GovHack at the end of May !)

Global Community Stories #1: Australia, France, Greece and Finland!

- March 13, 2013 in Featured, Meetups, OKF Australia, OKF Finland, OKF France, OKF Greece, OKFN Local


A new monthly digest showcasing initiatives from local communities across the globe

As you may have seen, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s many (30+!) Local Group communities have been hard at work over the last month, launching several exciting new initiatives, opening up data and engaging regional communities in interesting ways. Given these new developments, we are happy to launch the first installment of the Global Community Voices series, a monthly wrap-up of some of the most interesting actions and initiatives happening in open knowledge communities around the world.

In Australia, a set of local mapping hackdata events

In Melbourne, the Australian Local Group is planning a set of public community events focused on mapping, data and the neighbourhood. Says Local Group organiser David Flanders, “I think mapping data is going to be a key tool for us and other Local Groups to help make regional data come alive. We are organising a series of hackdata events together with the help of friends from The Age newspaper, TileMill and OpenStreetMap to do cool things like producing printed cycle maps of Melbourne.” The best part about this event series? “This is the type of thing anyone in any country can do! Who doesn’t want a beautiful printed map?”

In France, new projects around food security and energy conservation

In France, local organisers related to the Open Knowledge Foundation France Initiative have introduced community-focused open knowledge projects in two areas that have become increasingly salient for consumers and producers alike — food security and energy conservation. The first emergent project, Open Food Facts, is a free, open collaborative database of food facts from around the world that aims to help consumers make better choices about what they put in their body. Based on these interactions, Open Food Facts hopes to motivate existing industries to take more care over the production of their food. A blog post with more details about this new project can be found here — and if you’d like to join the movement, the Open Food Facts team is currently collaborating with the Open Sustainability Working Group to get more people involved from around the world. The second project, Open Transition Energie, is a collaborative website focused on “sharing, exploring and visualising data and other useful resources to engage with the national debate on energy transition” from a French perspective. Its members have also started a thematic group on the French open data platform NosDonné to share and reuse data related to this debate. Its organisers add, “We want to promote the work of researchers, engineers, journalists, NGOs and citizens who are interested in the question of the energy transition — so please let us know if you’d like to contribute or share a resource!”

In Greece, praise from Neelie Kroes for a new data portal

As you might have read on this blog last week, we were all quite excited to hear about the launch of a new self-hosted Greek Data Portal run by the talented team behind the Open Knowledge Foundation Greece Initiative, which integrates our data management software CKAN. We were even more excited to find out that European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes had released a public note of support for the new portal! Says Ms. Kroes, “At a time when many Greeks are looking for new sources of inspiration and hope, I am pleased to say that the Open Knowledge Foundation is one of those sources. I encourage all public bodies to support this effort.”

In Finland, a call for regional working groups

Moving North, in Finland local organisers ran a very successful OKFN Finland Convention last month – and they have introduced another way to get involved with their efforts to engage citizens in open knowledge from a Finnish perspective – local installments of our thematic Working Groups, from Open Science to Open Government! Says the Open Knowledge Foundation Finland ry, “We hope that these regional instalments of Working Groups can work towards concrete change in Finland but also collaborate internationally, in the spirit of ‘think globally, act locally’”. For interested Finns, the OKF FI Board is accepting applications here until March 13, 2013. That’s it for this edition – big thanks to local organisers in Australia, France, Greece and Finland for their great ideas and innovative new projects! We’ll be back next month with more exciting news from even more member nations across our Local Groups network, so definitely stay tuned! Featured Image thanks to Daniel Schildt and used originally by the OKFN Finland Convention team.

For Australian Data Geeks, an OpenStreetMap Hackathon in Melbourne this January

- December 14, 2012 in Events, OKF Australia, Sprint / Hackday

Living in Australia? Local Group organisers in the region are organising an all-day hackathon on Saturday, January 5th 2013 from 10 am onwards to create an OpenStreetMap-based bicycle map of Melbourne, and they want you to get involved. The OKFN Australia Local Group will need data geeks, cartographers, programmers, graphic designers, sysadmins and most importantly Melburnians to help design and produce a beautiful paper map useful for the city’s cyclists, so now is your chance to get involved if you’re in the area! The OKFN Australia Local Group has a few reasons for wanting to make this map. In their own words:
  1. “Melbourne has been a-changing (and will continue to change, a good thing) – we just need all those changes from the past year put down in single piece of paper
  2. There is lots of great open data in OpenStreetMap we can use to create a rider friendly map.
  3. This effort is the first of a dozen ‘Open Knowledge’ projects that the Melbourne chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation is undertaking this year, e.g. one for each month in 2013 (subscribe to this blog for more).
  4. We like maps and we like data and getting together with a community of like-minded Melburnians who want to share their knowledge about Melbourne is great fun
  5. We think this map expertise will be the base of several other ‘Open Knowledge’ projects will do around adding data to maps, e.g. historical walk map through Melbourne, culinary food trails, etc…!”
The tasks of the day are simple:
  • a) To identify the tools needed to create a map from OpenStreetMap data
  • b) To design a beautiful map style, and to make the cartography as professional as possible
  • c) To display the most useful parts of the map into a compelling, two-sided design
  • d) To assemble the tool pipeline to produce an image ready to go to printers
The final aim of the day? Each participant will be able to print themselves a map of the best cycle routes in Melbourne! Hackathon organisers encourage everyone who would like to know more about Melbourne and how to map data onto a map to join. As head organiser David Flanders notes, “We don’t know what will come of the day, but if enough of us get together we are confident that by the end of the day we’ll have a map that we can all use in our day-to-day – or at least all have a much better understanding of Melbourne and what cycle routes go through it!” For more details and to RSVP for this event, go to its Meetup page – and do be sure to say hello on the public OKFN AU discussion list. Announcements will also be posted via the #OKFNau tag on Twitter. Image thanks to Andrew Robinson.