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All-star wrap-up of a month of Open Knowledge events all around the world – May 2014

- June 5, 2014 in Events, OKF Argentina, OKF Greece, OKF Italy, OKF Scotland, OKF Switzerland, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Sprint / Hackday, Working Groups, Workshop

Last month flew by! It’s already June and time to turn the spotlight on the Open Knowledge community’s events which rocked the month of May! Bikestorming is a mobile app to grow urban cycling in cities around the world, developed by members of Open Knowledge Argentina’s community. Matías Kalwill gave a Pecha Kucha talk in Buenos Aires, and was invited to record an English version for Pecha Kucha’s international website. Check it out to learn about this exciting project featuring a strong open knowledge ecosystem, including open data, open web technologies and community-powered events inspired by School of Data’s Data Expeditions started on the International Open Data Day at Buenos Aires. Must watch! Rob Edwards, Ally Tibbitt, Sarah Hutchinson, Jackie McKenzie and Jennifer Jones co-facilitated a one-day workshop, bringing together people working on FOI, on journalism, and on open data. Many were the discussion items: is the information disclosed under FOIA accessible as it could be? How can Open Government Data policies best be integrated with FOI disclosure? Can FOI disclosure logs help us understand what types of data are most in demand? Is greater ‘data literacy’ necessary for both the media and the public to understand the potential and limitations of data? Read more about it here.
  • Busy month for Open Knowledge Greece!
The month kicked off with the final celebration and presentations of the first Greek Data Expedition, ended on May 7. The data expedition was as an initiative by the Open Knowledge Foundation Chapter in Greece, working in collaboration with the IT Applications laboratory in Media (AUTH Department of Journalism), and Postgraduate WebScience (AUTH Department of Mathematics) in Thessaloniki. The data journalism issues analysed focused on air quality in Greece, new technologies in business, student Mobility in Europe and Greece and e-Government. The articles presenting the expeditions’ results will be posted on the Greek School of Data website. European-Student-Mobility Then on May 27 Open Knowledge Greece invited community members and curious citizens to an open workshop to develop together the statements and propositions in regards to the Greek Action Plan 2014 – 2016 for the Open Government Partnership Initiative. Keep up the good work, Greece! DNAdigest, a non-profit organisation aiming to educate, facilitate and engage on issues regarding access to genomic data, hosted an editathon with the goal to make it easier to find new resources, online tools and recent content for genetics research when searching Wikipedia. The editathon was open to participants in London as well as online contributors. Offline meets online collaboration – well done! tumblr_inline_n5j63gAD791suuv9r Sport is fun, sport is healthy, sport is a business – and sport is increasingly data, too. There are huge amounts of data collected by fans, on global spectator sport and local junior leagues, on big matches and tiny niches. And personal data, too: bike routes, running trails and more. The Sports hackdays explored and celebrated open sports data and also represented the first project aiming to kick-off a new Open Knowledge Working Group dedicated to all things sports and open data. We’re sure that with the World Cup approaching we’ll hear more about it very soon! Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 11.23.50 AM What a month! Are you running an Open Knowledge event? We want to hear from you – share your event stories for next months’ global roundup! Please submit your blogposts about your June events to the Community Tumblr (details about how/where here) by July 6 in order to be featured in our all-star monthly wrap-up to be published in July on the main Open Knowledge blog and channels!

All-star wrap-up of a month of Open Knowledge events all around the world – April 2014

- May 23, 2014 in Community Stories, Events, Featured, Meetups, OKF France, OKF Greece, OKF Italy, OKF Switzerland, OKFN France, Open Access, Open Data, Open Data Index, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

Last month we asked the Open knowledge community to start sharing more details about the events we all run, to discover how many people are rocking Open Knowledge events all around the world! The community has been great at responding the call and now we’re glad to feature some of the April events we got reports (and pictures and videos!) from. The winners of the Apps4Greece award have been announced! Check out the winning apps, aiming to improve the functionality of cities, businesses, services and develop entrepreneurship and innovation. Organised by Open Knowledge France after the Paris Open Government Conference (April 24-25) during which France announced it’s joining the Open Government Partnership – and gathering more the 50 people! Featuring Open Knowledge founder’s Rufus Pollock and discussions about the state of Open Data in France, Open Data Index, French version of School of Data Ecole des Données (congratulations!) and more.
  • Open Access Days in Egypt (Cairo, Egypt – April 27-28) Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 11.07.36 AM Open Knowledge Egypt, among many other organizations and researchers, participated in the 2-day event driven by the aim to promote open access to researchers in Egypt and the Middle East, and plant a seed for future initiatives.
We’re so looking forward to hearing everything about your upcoming events! Some juicy ones in the pipeline:

So, what you’re waiting for? It’s time to share your stories for next months’ global roundup! Please submit your blogposts about your May events to the Community Tumblr (details about how/where here) by June 4 in order to be featured in our all-star monthly wrap-up to be published in June on the main Open Knowledge blog and channels! Thank you! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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 !)

Welcoming Greece Local Group as Open Knowledge Foundation Chapter

- April 29, 2013 in Featured, OKF, OKF Greece, OKFN Local

It’s with great excitement that we can announce that OKFN Greece, after 1.5 years as a Local Group in our global network, have established themselves as an official Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. This means that our Greek friends are now through their own legal entity a more integral part of the organization. The last year and a half has been fast-paced for the Local Group in Greece, and their progression towards becoming a Chapter is nothing less than exemplary.

Getting started by bringing people together

They started in 2011 by organizing several Meetups, including invited guests such as former OKF Community Manager Kat Braybrooke and Dr. Soren Auer, coordinator of the LOD2 Project and member of the OKFN advisory board, to get things started. On the side they also initiated collaborations with Creative Commons Hellas (via Marinos Papadopoulos) and the Wikimedia Greece Community (via Kostas Stampoulis). Additionally, the group initiated various mini hack-days. A spending visualization hack-day was organized to coincide with a visit from the OKF’s Open Spending Project Coordinator Lucy Chambers, which led to the production of several interesting sets of visualization samples. Wikipedia in Medicine hack-day was held later in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School to train and encourage medical scientists to contribute valuable and accurate open medical content to Wikipedia.

Connecting with stakeholders

As a means to connect with other networks, OKFN Greece has participated in a series of networking events across the country, including: Free and Open Source Software Communities Meeting (Serres, May 2012), Ignite Athens Show (Athens, October 2012) , e-Learning Expo (Athens, October 2012), Wikimedia Greece Community Conference (Athenks, April 2013), and co-organized #opnHealth (Thessaloniki, April 2013).

Developing projects in many fields

OKFN Greece has lately developed the Greek version of DBpedia Spotlight and also published the Greek versions of Wordnet and Wiktionary linked datasets. The DayLikeToday is a timeline visualization which presents what happens in a day like today from Wikipedia’s data via DBpedia. Other projects include publishing a huge dataset containing the bibliographic information of the Veria public library as a linked open dataset, being part of the cloud diagram and particularly the Greek sub-cloud (, based on the work of the group’s members – with all source code released under an open license on the OKFN Greece github. Their latest work is the Greek open data hub, which was praised by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes. Lastly, the translation of the Open Data Handbook (printed booklet funded by the mEducator project) was a great occasion for the group to join the linguistic linked data group. Subsequently the CKAN and the OpenSpending platform were also translated in Greek.

New local Working Groups

Most recently, as the group’s activities started to grow and become more complex, they took the decision to split up the workload into a few working groups, exactly as we do with the Working Groups of the main OKF organization. The aim of OKF Greece working groups is to provide a support mechanism, a space for reflection, and a space for the development and promotion of tools from different communities with common interests in open data and open knowledge throughout Greece. The working groups will remain closely involved in the international OKFN, sharing their ideas with the main OKF Working Groups.

Moving towards a bright future

OKFN Greece wants to play a central role in the open knowledge landscape of the future – in Greece and beyond. As an official Chapter of Open Knowledge Foundation they now have a much better and firmer foundation on which they can better participate in local decision-making processes together with the Greek authorities and the state of Greece. All in all the future looks bright – congrats and good work, OKFN Greece!

Global Community Stories #2: Brazil, Spain, Czech Republic, Nepal, Iceland and Belgium

- April 10, 2013 in Featured, OKF Belgium, OKF Brazil, OKF China, OKF Czech Republic, OKF France, OKF Greece, OKF Iceland, OKF Nepal, OKF Spain, OKFN Local

We continue our new monthly digest showcasing initiatives from our local communities across the globe, this time proudly featuring Brazil, Spain, Czech Republic, Nepal, Iceland and Belgium.

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s many (30+!) Local Group communities stand behind a myriad of different activities every month. As you may also have read in our first edition of the Global Community Stories, this is our monthly wrap-up of some of the most interesting actions and initiatives happening around the world among our colleagues.

In Brazil, volunteers gather around food facts and Data Journalism Handbook translations…

In Brazil, the OKFN Brasil community has been engaging the the Open Government Partnership activities, reporting on civil society participation and urging the government for more open participation. The community has also begun to get involved in the Open Food Facts project, which attracted a bit of press attention. An initiative led by Ação Educativa has also started a working group to analyse open data around Brazilian education, with support from the local OKFN group. Ale Abdo, from OKFN Brasil advisory board, has published a guide on how to publish your thesis in LaTeX or ODT with an open license, and an effort to map the timings of lights at pedestrian crossings has begun. On the blog, Natália Mazote voiced interesting reflections on the participation of women in coding, and Thiago Rondon, also from the advisory board, discussed the importance of open hardware. Finally, an association of investigative journalists in Brazil, Abraji, has gathered volunteers to translate the Data Journalism Handbook to Portuguese!

In Spain, conferences and hackathons take shape…

In Spain the local OKFN Local Group are organizing the First Conference of Data Journalism and Open Data in Spain, titled: “When data tell stories”, from 24 to 26 May 2013. The event will take place simultaneously in Barcelona (CCCB + School of Communication Blaquerna) and Madrid (MediaLab Prado). Furthermore, they are planning a weekend Hackathon in the near future, which will hopefully take place in Madrid, Seville and Valladolid. There will be prizes for the best Data Journalism projects arising from this challenge within 48 hours – we’ll keep you updated as things develop.

In Belgium, apps are made and competitions are spreading…

In collaboration with the City of Ghent, iMinds, Ghent Web Valley and Ghent living lab, OKFN Belgium organized Apps for Ghent for the third time as part of an effort for citizens of the city of Ghent to show that Open Government Data can make the life of citizens easier, better or more fun. This edition welcomed 15 teams that worked on concepts from a smarter government service, to participation and sustainable energy. The local jury awarded Sumocoders with the first prize for “how busy is it now”, a tool that analyses different data sources to estimate which squares are too crowded. Congrats! It is worth noting that Apps for Ghent is not the only Apps for X event initiated by OKFN Belgium. Soon there will be Apps for VDAB, Apps for Flanders, Apps for Geo, Apps for Culture and many more. A full list can be found in their calendar.

In Nepal, the newly founded group hosted first event and collaborated with fellow organizations…

The newly incubated OKFN Local Group in Nepal held its first public event on Document Freedom Day, coorganized with OSAC, Central Department of Library Science & Informatics and FOSS Nepal. They also collaborated with Wikimedia Nepal to create WikiWistar, a wiki outreach program. Finally, they translated the Panton Principles (soon to be published) and they were invited to present Open Tourism at a conference organized by ANNFSU P.U. Valley Bagmati Zome Coordination Committee.

In the Czech Republic, data enthusiasts and data journalists gathered…

The fifth meetup of Czech open data enthusiasts was held in Brno on 22 March. More than 40 people from various backgrounds gathered to share their ideas and discuss their work. On 25 March, Otakar Motejl Fund together with National Technical Library organised a hands-on data driven journalism workshop. It turned into a very pleasant and inspiring event and the participants (journalists, students, watchdog activists) learned quite a bit about structuring, cleaning a visualizing data. Check out the photos from the meetup.

In Iceland, CKAN was translated and a new government data license developed…

Another one of the brand new Local Groups, Iceland, has been busy completing the translation of CKAN 2.0. The Finnish ambassador Finnur Magnusson is also heading a workgroup within the Ministry of Finance to launch the instance as a part of  (hopefully next week). Additionally, the Iceland group have the first version of an approved open data gov license based on the UK one. This is the first government open data license in Iceland (details in Icelandic). The workgroup has followed the Open Data Handbook to the T with great success: 3 months from start to finish for open spending data in a CKAN instance with an open gov license.

And in other shorter news…

The Netherlands had a Linked Open Data meetup in Amsterdam, where also Sander van der Waal and Christian Villum from OKF Central took part with a presentation. Austria succesfully organized the ambitious bi-continental Urban Data Challenge that bridged Geneva, Zürich and San Francisco in an event that seeked to harvest the innovative and creative power of communities around the world to explore urban data sets through visualization – and did so with huge success (we’ll report more in a separate blog post). They also got a mention in Wired magazineOKFN Greece co-organized opnHealth this week, an event that hosted the live streaming of selected presentations from TEDxNijmengen, while also presenting a forum for new ideas and applications in the Greek health sector. OKFN Local Group France organized the “Opération Libre” event (Open Operation) on 6 and 7 April in the small village of Brocas – aiming at using open source technologies, open data, crowdsourcing to tackle the issues of rural areas (we’ll follow up on that, stay tuned). In France they also launched the Open Transition Energie project; a website and a datahub group to share, explore and visualize open data and other open resources related to the debate on energy transition in France.

On the translation front it was not only Brazil that shone, as mentioned earlier. OKFN Local Group China are very close to finishing translating Open Data Handbook into Chinese and thanks to OKFN Greece both OpenSpending and the Data Journalism Handbook was translated into Greek. Well done guys!


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.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes praises work of Open Knowledge Foundation Greece

- February 21, 2013 in OKF Greece, OKFN Local, Open Government Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

Great News! Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the European Commission, has sent her personal best wishes to the OKF team in Greece who launched their brand new open data portal last week! She said:
“Open data is a very powerful lever for both a better economy and society. Open data is fuel for innovation, it is a tool for transparency, for better government and policy. 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. Whether the task is finding a job or spending tax money wisely, open data can help.”
Here, here!

New Open data hub from OKFN Greece

- February 14, 2013 in ckan, OKF Greece, Open Data, Open Government Data

Opening up public sector data is becoming a top priority for governments throughout Europe and North America. We are pleased to announce the launch of the new Greek open data hub, developed and hosted by OKFN Greece. The data hub integrates the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open source data cataloging software CKAN, which is also the basis of the UK, the European and the US portals. 1BwTJWO4kyf66rdIzFVGfIUk90yszxF34CatgEg Open data can be used in smart city services, financial monitoring, decision support systems and numerous other applications. The problem is finding them. Supposing you wanted to make a shiny new smartphone app, requiring a combination of geospatial data, some cultural facts and a photo collection. You know this data does exist, but you are also aware that you are going to have a hard time finding their providers, discovering their outgoing links and their license. All of this involves a significant investment of time. Ordinary citizens, too, are made to invest precious time hunting down and combining data, such as the location of the nearest Job Centre, plus information on how to get there by public transport. This is why we need data hubs where publishers can use, promote, and advertise all their datasets together. Citizens will also catalog a dataset if it is useful to them and maybe to others. Once the datasets reach a critical level, links between them are discovered and developed, multiplying the value of the datasets and dynamically increasing their significance. Combine this with live data previews, a smart search system and a powerful API and you have taken open data to the next level. The Greek open data hub includes:
  1. The Open Data repository ( This section of the site is built using the CKAN platform (like the EU & UK sites).
  2. Examples of applications using Greek linked open data, like Greek DBpedia (DayLikeToday, DBpedia game) and visualizations with data from the Clarity Program, the municipalities etc.
  3. A live demo where anybody will be able to submit a SPARQL query and chart its results with Google Chart Editor.
  4. Information about the Greek Linked Open Data cloud – a visual network representation of the Greek Linked Open Data Cloud. OKFN Greece is constantly working on making this one huge!
Find out how you can use the hub, contribute to it, and get involved on our blog!

Thessaloniki’s Open Knowledge Networks Build Community the Greek Way

- May 30, 2012 in Chapters, Featured, OKF Greece

Thessaloniki is a vibrant, sun-drenched beachfront city in Northern Greece. It is famous for its impressive historical lineage, its frappé coffee culture and its diverse population augmented by academics and students from the largest university in the Balkans. A few weeks ago, I learned something else unexpected: the city is also a veritable mecca for innovative community initiatives that link concepts about open data, transparency, government accountability and ‘smart cities ‘ in new and interesting ways. Photo of Open Data Handbook published by OKFN Greece I had arrived there to provide kick-starting support to the new OKFN:LOCAL Greece group that had recently been created by Prof Charalampos Bratsas and several of his colleagues at Aristotle University and to explain the vision of the OKFN’s global chapters network. However, as I leapt from the plane into the midst of the 1st International Conference on Medical Education Informatics where the OKFN:LOCAL group had organised a lecture track on “Open Knowledge”, I realised the truth: I was about to learn a great deal myself about the international potentiality of open data. The event, OKFN:LOCAL Greece’s second (details here), was marked by an exciting release – several hundred copies of the Open Data Handbook, translated into Greek, had been printed and were being distributed for free. It was the first time we’ve ever seen a local community publish the Handbook in paper form to be shared with the public, so it was amazing to see it in the hands of many students, professors and friends throughout the time I spent in Thessaloniki. Photo of meetup thanks to OKFN GRPhoto of meetup thanks to OKFN GR The OKFN:LOCAL group had also brought together some of the biggest names in the region for the evening’s programme, which featured several members of the OKFN:LOCAL Greece Steering Committee, including Prof Ioannis Antoniou, Prof Panos Bamidis who also organised the MIE2012 conference, Prof Nicos Komninos, Prof George Metaketis, Prof Pull Spirakis, Marinos Papadopoulos with Creative Commons Hellas, Kostantinos Stampoulis with Wikimedia Greece and Soren Auer. Each spoke about his own perspective regarding open knowledge in the region, featuring discussions ranging from open data innovation to open data and evolutionary games to linked data to open educational data and open licensing. It was a prodigious turnout with a diverse audience – faces both young and old of many different backgrounds – and I found myself increasingly impressed by the breadth of opinion amongst the individuals I met in Thessaloniki. Each person I spoke to interpreted ‘openness’ in a different way, shared a unique perspective on the causes of the debt crisis, and had their own ideas about how to engage new participants in their work. The main characteristic I saw uniting such a varied group was their passionate commitment towards provoking positive change within Greece. Coming from the UK, it was an inspiring thing to see. Photo thanks to OKFN GR Indeed, the OKFN:LOCAL Greece group has wasted no time in getting things moving. With a team of researchers, students, academics and community-builders from Aristotle University’s faculty of MSc WebScience and Medical Informatics, the URENIO Smart Cities initiative, Wikimedia, Creative Commons and other organisations, they have already used existing data management systems like the Data Hub to build an impressive suite of Greece-focused visualisations and installments. These include the facilitation of projects such as FIREBALL, an European Commission-funded initiative which connects communities involved in Living Labs and urban policy, and ICOS, a new global community for intelligent and open source-focused cities. Students in the Webscience MSc programme at Aristotle University have also conducted an assessment of the current status of open data in Greece, finding that Greek datasets lie between 2-3 stars of Tim Berners-Lee’s 5 star open data quality scheme. In the future, as the OKFN:LOCAL Greece group matures into an incubating regional chapter, its community members plan to translate and host a Greek version of CKAN at the university and populate it with data acquired through those working with the university’s Semantic Web Unit. Other plans include using OpenSpending with a subset of Cl@rity’s Government Linked Open Data (LOD) project (an effort of the Greek government to publish decrees on the Web in raw file formats with metadata) and producing visual representations from datasets in the Greek LOD Cloud. Photo thanks to OKFN GRPhoto thanks to OKFN GR In ending, I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the OKFN:LOCAL members I met Thessaloniki, whose passion for this work has left me feeling quite excited about what’s next to come in the future of this emergent community. I have no doubt that despite the current economic complexities the nation faces, the path towards openness and transparency in Greece will be an interesting one. Slides from the meetup can be found here. For more information about the many current projects of OKFN:LOCAL Greece, go here, and to get updated on upcoming events and ideas, check out their blog and @okfngr on Twitter. All photos have been provided by the OKFN:LOCAL Greece group and on Flickr here.