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The first Open Knowledge Foundation Glasgow Meetup

- August 28, 2013 in Events, Meetups, OKFN Local

The following guest post is by Lorna Campbell, former assistant director of the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards (CETIS). It is cross-posted from her blog. Last night Sheila and I went along to the first meeting of the Open Knowledge Foundation in Glasgow. The meeting was hosted by the Electron Club and the room was packed to the gunnels with over thirty enthusiastic open data geeks. The event was introduced by Edinburgh University’s Ewan Klein, who has already been instrumental in helping to facilitate a successful series of Open Knowledge Foundation events in Edinburgh. There were six fascinating lightning talks on a wide range of open data topics: Glynn Staples introduced the Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator project, which Sheila, Martin Hawksey and I have already had a little involvement with, when we presented a worksop on social media engagement strategies earlier in the year. Lizzie Brotherston gave a presentation on the Learner Journey Data Jam which took place in Edinburgh in April, and which featured the work of Cetis’ very own Wilbert Kraan :) It was interesting listening to Lizzie talking about the value of events such as the data jam, and reflecting back on the DevCSI hackdays and the earlier Cetis CodeBashes which ran between 2002 and 2007. We were ahead of our time! Graham Steel’s presentation was called “Publishing research without data is advertising, not science” and to prove his point, he provided us with lots of useful links which you can find on his prezi here. [And look out for blog post to follow soon - ed] Bill Roberts, from linked data company Swirrl, reminded us about the importance of presenting Open Data for multiple audiences and introduced a sort of typology of data users which featured “hard core spaqrl junkies” at the bottom! Neil Logan, of Amor Group, introduced the SFC innovation centres initiative and the Data Science Innovation Centre proposal. You can read more about Neil’s presentation on his own blog here. One of the points that Neil made was that “academics talk to industry because they want money for research”, which I suspect is true, but it did rather make me wonder about whether industry could also offer any investment in teaching and learning? The final presentation of the evening was by Peter Winstanley of the Scottish Government who talked about the Cabinet Office’s Open Standards Hub. Peter also presented one of the most robust justifications for the adoption of open standards, including persistent resolvable identifiers, that I’ve heard in a long time. If I hadn’t been precariously perched on the edge of a rather high table, I’d have stood up and applauded! All in all it was a really lively and thought provoking evening and judging by the energy in the room and the many positive comments on twitter, there seems to be real enthusiasm for future Open Knowledge Foundation meetings to take place in Glasgow, so here’s looking forward to the next one! If you’re intereted in learning more about the first #OpenDataGla event, I’ve posted a Storify here and Martin Hawksey has archived all the tweets here. For all the latest on the Open Knowledge Foundation in Scotland, follow @okfnscot.

Visualizing How the Brazilian Government Underspends on the Public Good

- August 22, 2013 in Brazil, federal budgeting, OKF Brazil, OKFN Local, Open Spending, OpenSpending

This post is authored by Vitor Batista, who works as developer for the Open Knowledge Foundation, and Neil Ashton, Data Roundup Editor for the School of Data blog. It is cross-posted from the PBS Ideas and OpenSpending blogs. Brazilian NGO INESC (Institute of Socio-Economic Studies) and Open Knowledge Foundation Brasil want Brazilians to participate in the allocation of their public spending and ensure that it is used to construct a free, fair, and sustainable society. That’s why we partnered to create Orçamento ao seu Alcance, a site which presents the execution of the Brazilian federal budget in an interactive and intuitive form. We used OpenSpending as our database. This made it easier to focus and develop our visualizations without the need for setting up additional infrastructure for data hosting, and it made the data readily available in an accessible way.

What’s the project about?

Millions of Brazilians pay the taxes that fund the federal budget, but few actually understand it. Most are unaware of Brazil’s unjust regressive tax regime and of the scale of the losses to the public through misallocation. The information they need to understand these realities is simply not available in a comprehensible form. By building Orçamento ao seu Alcance, we hope to change that. Orçamento ao seu Alcance’s development focused particularly on the issue of underspending. All Brazilian public bodies spend less money than is allocated to them, to varying degrees. The Ministry of Education, for example, left 16.3% of its budget (about US$ 6.1 billion) unspent in 2012, and the Ministry of Culture only spent 47.5% of its budget in 2012. If Brazilians’ needs were really being met – if every Brazilian who wanted to study had access to good public schools, for example – this underspending would not be a problem. But that is far from the case; in fact less than 1% of schools have an ideal infrastructure (a problem we have explored previously). To explore and highlight the problem, and we created a special-purpose data visualization.

How we used OpenSpending

Orçamento ao seu Alcance took data collected by SIGA Brasil, an aggregator for the many systems used by the Brazilian government to organize budget data, and added it to the OpenSpending database. Using OpenSpending freed us from creating our own database and allowed us to use the OpenSpending API to construct visualizations and a full-text search system.
Visualizing underspending
We designed our own graph to tackle the problem of underspending. The result is a time series graph that combines bars, lines, and an area. The site constructs such a graph for each budgetary unit, showing how its budget and spending compare for a given year. Orçamento ao seu Alcance: underspending The blue area in the graph represents the total budget – which, as you can see, changes over the year. Each red bar shows how much was spent in a particular month, and the red line tracks total spending. The distance from the red line to the tip of the blue area gives the share of the budget remaining to be spent. The amount remaining in December is money that is underspent. This graph was built using NVD3, a JavaScript library with a collection of reusable charts made on top of D3.js. The data comes from OpenSpending via its Aggregate API.
Budget treemap
For the index page, we wanted to show a broad view of the budget across all public bodies. More than that, we wanted to show the amount of money used in each function and subfunction (e.g. Education and Basic Education). To do this, we used the OpenSpending treemap visualization. Orçamento ao seu Alcance: treemap OpenSpending allows you to create a treemap as a “widget” which can be simply dropped into a site. We used a modified version of the widget code with customized colours and a “back” button for improved navigation.
Searching
To help the user find public bodies, we implemented a search box with auto-complete using Twitter Bootstrap‘s typeahead library. Orçamento ao seu Alcance: search To make the search instantaneous for the user, we load all data entries as soon as the user enters the page. The OpenSpending Aggregate API once again helped with this, allowing us to get a list of all public bodies with a simple query.

Problems we had

We did run into a few problems using OpenSpending to build the site, though all of them could be overcome. The Aggregate API only allows you to request one financial quantity (one measure) at a time. You can’t request both a budget quantity and a payment at the same time, for example. Our underspending graph ended up using three measures, requiring three requests. This is a performance problem. Because the API caches results, however, it ends up being OK – and there are already plans to support multiple measures in future versions, so this problem will soon be solved. With the treemap visualization, our problem was that widgets are not customizable. They’re made to be dragged and dropped into a blog post or a newspaper article, not integrated into a site with its own design. To change the treemap’s colours and fonts, we had to use a modified version of the widget’s code.

Conclusions

We’re happy with how Orçamento ao seu Alcance turned out, and OpenSpending contributed a lot to its success. For developers, OpenSpending made it possible to run the site without its own database and to publish its content in a sleek, cacheable form. For the project’s NGO supporters, using OpenSpending makes it possible to update the data without needing to deal with the site’s developers. Everyone is happy. We hope that Orçamento ao seu Alcance will inspire other OpenSpending satellite sites that will help spread budgetary awareness around the globe.

Global Community Stories #5: Nepal, Czech Republic, Greece, Japan, Brazil and Texas US.

- August 14, 2013 in Featured, OKFN Local

The global community of Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups around the world is once again brimming with great tales of how the community is working tirelessly to promote open data and open knowledge around the world. This time we hand the mic to our friends in Japan, Brazil, Nepal, Greece, Czech Republic and Texas, United States.

In Brazil, Open Science was kicked off in style and international OKF meet-ups took place…

In June the first national meeting of the Brazilian Open Knowledge Foundation working group on Open Science took place in São Paulo. The first day over 60 people participated in round tables throughout the day, covering the many aspects of openness in science: education, publications, tools, data, citizenry and research. It was followed on the next day by a workshop at Casa Nexo, a center for collaborative culture, where a smaller group of about twenty people engaged in hands-on learning of the topics and sketched an action plan for the group.
The working group has grown significantly from the meeting, and is quite energetic. Current priorities include building a knowledge base, publicizing open scientific practices and studies about them while encouraging peers to adopt, and engaging opportunities to promote change in institutions and public policy. A website was set up for the event, which afterwards was repurposed as a public face and communication channel for the group, in addition to the mailing list, wiki and chat. Alexandre Abdo, the main facilitator for the working group and member of the advisory board of OKF Local Group Brazil, also visited London in early July for a write-shop organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation as part of the Open Science for Development project. Meanwhile, on the open data front, the last week of June was entirely dedicated to events in Montevideo, Uruguay. First with ABRE LATAM, where Michael Bauer (School of Data) and Zara Rahman (OKF Local Groups Community Manager) announced the Spanish version of the School of Data, and Everton Alvarenga (OKF Local Group Brazil) had the opportunity to meet Eduardo Bejar of OKF Local Group Equador, among other groups supporting open data in Latin America, such as D.A.T.A. from Uruguay. Next was the Regional Conference on Open Data, with strong participation from the OKF Local Group Brazil team giving talks during the conference’s panels: Everton Alvarenga and Gisele Craveiro of the steering committee, Thiago Rondon, Ariel kogan and Vagner Diniz of the advisory board.

In Japan, “Where Does My Money Go?” activities have become infectious…

“Where Does My Money Go? (WDMMG)” activities are gaining ground across cities all over Japan. Accordingly, OKF Local Group Japan has been receiving increasing number of inquiries on how to develop WDMMG sites from both forward-looking local government officials and interested individuals.
In a year, since the first release of the first WDMMG site for Yokohama in July 2012, the number of WDMMG participating cities has jumped to 19 by July 2013. Enthusiastic engineers are forming a community of practice led by Hal Seki, Georepublic Japan, to share know-hows and experiences on WDMMG development and helping new members to become able to develop new WDMMGs for their interested cities. National media outlets such as Nikkei, Asahi and NHK have covered the growing WDMMG activities as a new phenomena caused by Open Government Data movement in Japan. Building on this growing attention to WDMMG, and as mentioned briefly in the last Global Community Stories #4 update, the OKF Local Group Japan is planning to conduct an Spending Data Party on July 20th and 21st to further assist interested city officials, engineers and civil society activists to create their target city’s WDMMG sites. This event will be held as a part of Global Spending Party organized along with the OpenSpending community.
The event in Japan will highlight some advanced WDMMG-like activities in Japan, help recently joining players to develop their own sites, and discuss the latest issues on WDMMG development such as budget data standardization and transactional data collection. Please take a look at the WDMMG site in Japan and keep your eyes on new developments!

In Texas, US, Open Knowledge Foundation was presented to the Linux community and a new project idea took shape…

In early June, OKF Local Group Texas Ambassador Heath Rezabek presented a lightning talk at the Texas Linux Festival in Austin TX. He covered quite a bit of ground in his session, introducing approximately 100 TXLF attendees to the Open Knowledge Foundation’s global efforts and its commitment to open knowledge in all its forms. After an overview of the OKFN’s scope, Heath focused in on CKAN and its recent deployment as the open source infrastructure behind data.gov. Finally, Heath issued a call for collaborators in a project of great interest: a proposed custom build of CKAN geared specifically towards serving media-rich content for creative collaboration between digital artists working with original and adapted Creative Commons material.
Numerical datasets may not always require as much media-rich previewing or presentation in CKAN; but an open culture CKAN, designed specifically to foster creative collaboration in the digital arts, would benefit from enhanced previewing and media presentation. This project, a long-term goal of Heath’s in his work with OpenGLAM, also has implications for the long-term preservation of both original and legacy open culture content.
Heath is working on this project as a proof of concept related to long-term preservation of the cultural record. Heath hopes to help jump-start the Texas chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation from the interest generated. If you have interest as well, feel free to contact the OKF Local Group in Texas.

In Nepal, the Local Group was officially kicked off and an OpenSpending City Party was held with great success…

In the earlier parts of the summer lots of events on open data took place in Nepal, including the inaugural kick-off event of the Open Knowledge Foundation Nepal Local Group, where key members came together to discuss areas such as Open Science, Open Design and the Open Definition. During the summer the Nepalese Ambassador also met with people from World Bank, Open Institute, Kenya Open Data Initiative and fellow community members from Open Knowledge Foundation Germany. A more detailed account of the experience exchange can be found on the Local Group Nepal blog, where you will also find reports of heavy networking activity with the local Nepalese open knowledge community – which coincides with connective efforts with the OKF Local Groups in Bangladesh, India and China to discuss regional collaboration and coordination. Most recently the Nepal Local Group has been a leading part of the global efforts in the OpenSpending project to organize City Spending Data Parties – alongside OKF communities in among other Japan, Canada, Israel, United States and Nigeria.
In Nepal the participants worked on spending data of Kathmandu Metro City and took data from pdf-format, pushed it onto
openspending.org and visualized in online on the Where Does My Money Go portal – before later being presented to an audience of among other CSOs, media and students. For a full account of the activities of the day, see this blog post.

In Czech Republic the School of Data came by and many other events took place…

May was a busy month for the Czech open data community. They were visited by Michael Bauer from Open Knowledge Foundation’s School of Data and Anna Kuliberda from Fundacja Techsoup who taught a couple of Czech watchdog activists how to master data-driven campaigns. They also organized their 6th meetup, featuring Anna and Michael and also guests from DERI Galway and Tilburg University.
The night opened with a short presentation from Jan Cibulka, one of the brave data driven journalism pioneers in mainstream Czech media. After some hacking with highway accident statistic data, the community engaged in a very inspiring and fruitful discussion about benefits and threats of opening data. Later in the summer Otakar Motejl Fund together with Faculty of Informatics and Statistics at University of Economics and Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University launched Open Data Forum – an independent expert body dedicated to promoting openness. The Forum kicked-off its activities off with a first Czech Open Data Challenge, an app competition which will award the 20 best apps in various categories.

In Greece, big media praises the Local Group and new tools were released…

In Greece the resolute efforts of the OKF Greece groups was recognized by one of the biggest Greek newspapers, To Wina, which wrote a longer article about the group’s many activities including development work and efforts on the Greek Open Data portal. The group also released the first version of want2know, a platform inspired by the Open Data Census project, which lets citizens request data they want to know about and in which they want to have open access. The plan is now to integrate the want2know platform with the froide platform in order to use it as a direct application form for public administrations. Lastly, OKF Greece co-organized the Wikimedia Educational Programme in the School of Mathematics of AUTh with 145 participating students and had great success. Read more about it on the greek blog.

In shorter news…

…we also want to praise Oum Vantharith in Cambodia, one of our new Ambassadors, who was interviewed by the large Phnom Pen Port newspaper about his work for Wikimedia and with starting the local Open Knowledge Foundation group. Read the full article here.

Network Summit

- July 19, 2013 in network, OKF, OKFN Local, Open GLAM, Open Government Data, Open Humanities, Open Science, Our Work, Talks, Working Groups

Twice-yearly the whole community of the Open Knowledge Foundation gathers together to share with, learn from and support one another. The Summer Summit 2013 took place in Cambridge (UK) last week (10th-14th July), with staff updates on the Thursday and network representatives joining on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was so inspiring to hear what our network has been doing to further the Open movement recently and over the last 6 months! We heard from Local Groups about how these groups have been effecting change in all our locations around the world:
  • Alberto for OKFN Spain has been promoting open transparency in budgets, including their own, and using the power of events to gather people;
  • OKFN Taiwan, represented by TH (who we believe travelled the furthest to be with us in person), has also been investing in many large events, including one event for developers and others attracting 2,000 people! They have also been supporting local and central governments on open data regulation;
  • Charalampos of OKFN Greece highlighted the recent support of their works by Neelie Kroes, and took us through crashmap.okfn.gr which maps accidents using data from police departments and census data along with crowd-sourced data;
  • Pierre at OKF France reported that they have been helping redesign the national open data portal, as well as developing an open data portal for children and young people which kids which may align well with School of Data;
  • OpenData.ch, the Swiss Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation of course is hosting OKCon in September, and Hannes updated on exciting developments here. He also reported on work to lobby and support government by developing visualisations of budget proposals, developing a federal-level open data strategy and policy, and promoting a national open data portal. Thanks to their efforts, a new law was accepted on open weather data, with geodata next up;
  • David updated on OKFN Australia where there is support from government to further the strong mandate for open scientific data. The newspaper the Age has been a firm ally, making data available for expenses and submissions to political parties, and a project to map Melbourne bicycle routes was very successful;
  • Francesca of OKF Italy has been working alongside Open Streetmap and Wikimedia Italy, as well as with parliament on the Open Transport manifesto. They have also been opening up ecological data, from “spaghetti open data”;
  • OKFN Netherlands was represented by Kersti, who reported a shared sense of strength in open government data and open development, as well as in the movement Open for Change (where OKCon is listed as the top ‘Open Development Event’!);
  • Dennis, for OKF Ireland, has been pushing the local events and gathering high-profile ‘rock stars’ of the open data world as well as senior government representatives. He has also presented on open data in parliament;
  • OKF Scotland is a growing grassroots community, as conveyed by Ewan – an Open Data Day asserted the importance of connecting to established grassroots communities who are already doing interesting things with data. They are also working closely with government to release data and organised local hackdays with children and young people;
  • Bill joined us remotely to update on OKF Hong Kong, where regular meet-ups and hackdays are providing a great platform for people to gather around open knowledge. Although not able to join us in person (like Everton / Tom from OKF Brasil) Bill was keen to report that OKF Hong Kong will be represented at OKCon!
  • OKF Austria‘s update was given by Walter, who informed us that transport data is now properly openly licensed and that several local instances of the international Working Groups have been set up. Which segues nicely, as…
It wasn’t just during the planned sessions where community-building and networking occurred: despite the scorching 30°C (86°F) heat – somewhat warmer than the Winter Summit in January! – people made the most of lunchtimes and breaks to share ideas and plan. We also heard from Working Groups about how crossing international boundaries is making a difference to Open for all of us:
  • Open Sustainability was represented by Jack who explained Cleanweb (an initiative to use clean technologies for good, engaging with ESPA to open up data) and has set up @opensusty on Twitter as a communication route for anyone wanting to connect;
  • Ben, newly involved with Open Development, explained about the group’s plans to make IATI‘s released data useful, and bringing together existing initiatives to create a data revolution;
  • Open Science, represented by Ross, has been very active with lobbying and events, with the mailing list constantly buzzing with discussions on open data, licensing and convincing others;
  • Daniel explained that Open Government Data, being one of the largest groups with 924 mailing list members, has provided an important role as being at the heart of the Open Government Data movement, as a place for people to go to for questions and – hopefully! – answers. Daniel will be stepping down, so get in touch if you would like to help lead this group; in the meantime, the Steering Committee will be helping support the group;
  • OpenGLAM has also developed an Advisory Board, said Joris. There is good global reach for Open GLAM advocacy, and people are meeting every month. Documents, case studies, slide-decks and debates are available to new joiners to get started, and the Austrian instance of the Working Group demonstrated the process works. (Joris has now sadly left Open Knowledge Foundation ‘Central’, but we are delighted he will stay on as volunteer Coordinator for this group!);
  • Public Domain, with Primavera reporting, has been working on Public Domain Calculators in partnership with the government. PD Remix launched in France in May, and Culture de l’Europe will present at OKCon;
  • Primavera also updated on Open Design, where future planning has taken priority. The Open Design Definition has been a highlight but funding would help further activity and there are plans to seek this proactively. Chuff, the Open Knowledge Foundation Mascot, was pleased to get a mention…
It should be noted that these activities and updates are brief highlights only – distilling the activities of our groups into one or two sentences each is very much unrepresentative of the amount of things we could talk about here! We also made time for socialising at the Summit, and much fun was had with Scrabble, playing frisbee and punting – not to mention celebrating Nigel‘s birthday! As an aside, I was going to state that “we only need an Antarctic representative and the Open Knowledge Foundation will have all seven continents in our network”; however, it appears there is no definitive number of continents or agreed land-masses! An amalgamated list is Africa (Africa/Middle East and North Africa), America (Central/North/South), Antarctica, Australia (Australia/Oceania) and Eurasia (Europe/Asia)… but, however you wish to define the global divisions (and isn’t it pleasing that it’s difficult to do so?), Antarctica is the only area the Open Knowledge Foundation is not represented! Are you reading this from an outstation at the South Pole, or know someone there, and want to contribute to open knowledge? Apply to become an Ambassador and be the person to cement the Open Knowledge Foundation as the fully global demonstration of the Open movement. If you’re in an unrepresented area – geographic or topic – we’d love to hear from you, and if you’re in a represented area we’d love to put you in touch with others. Get Involved and connect with the Open Knowledge Foundation Network – and maybe we’ll see you at the next Summit! Images 1, 4-7 and front page: Velichka Dimitrova. Images 2 and 3: Marieke Guy, CC-BY-NC-ND

Global Community Stories #4: Morocco, Bangladesh, Spain and South Korea

- July 4, 2013 in Featured, OKF Bangladesh, OKF France, OKF Morocco, OKF Nepal, OKF South Korea, OKF Spain, OKFN Local

It’s once again time for a round-up of some of the major activities happening in our rapidly expanding Local Group Network across the world. This time we’ll among other be highlighting some of our newest groups and bring stories from Africa, Asia and Europe. Enjoy! In Morocco, which is home to one of our newest Local Groups, the group coordinator Abderahman Zohry was invited on national television to discuss the Moroccan e-gov project with among other the Minister of Trade, Industry, and New Technologies, Abdelkader Amara. During the program they among other discussed open data, the CKAN data handling platform developed by Open Knowledge Foundation as well as the Moroccan Open Data Portal, and as a result the Local Group was subsequently invited to work with the government to help improve the platform.

Lots of media attention in Bangladesh…

In Bangladesh, where the OKF recently became established with an Ambassador, Nurunnaby Chowdhury Hasive, the launch received major attention across media. C News Voice, Comjagat and Priyo were among the many outlets covering the news.

Nationwide data journalism and open data conference in Spain…

The Spanish Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation has been organizing the first Conference of Data Journalism and Open Data in Spain, titled “When data tell stories”. The event took place simultaneously in Barcelona (CCCB + School of Communication Blaquerna) and Madrid (MediaLab Prado). The event includes a Barcamp with data journalism projects that locals can learn from – as well as a Hackathon, which will take place in Madrid and Sevilla. There will be prizes for the best Data Journalism projects arising from this two-day challenge. Additionally there will be practical workshops taught by experts who will teach participants how to use major tools for working with data.

Huge interest in open data in South Korea…

From South Korea we are receiving reports of huge interest in open data and open government data these days. The new president Park Geun-hye recently confirmed that her government will open up data in various ways, including through open data portals, services, projects and more. As a means to support these developments, the South Korean Local Group have been hard at work during the Spring showing examples and practices, as well as introducing several Open Knowledge Foundation projects. Highlights include massive activity during Open Data Day back in February, a 12-hour hackathon in April (as well as another one in June), localizing Open Spending in Korean and, perhaps most notably, the launch of South Korea Data Hub, which is an open data platform running on the open source CKAN data handling system developed by Open Knowledge Foundation. The site is operated by the South Korean OKF Local Group community, but is also getting connected to other government portals such as the open data portal for the city of Seoul. This portal will soon be upgraded to CKAN version 2.0. Additionally, the OKF Local Group also developed Seoul Linked Data Service, on the city of Seoul’s exemplary open data portal. The group will be sharing all data, documentation, and source codes, etc. (and they even run a a mirror site). Stay tuned for updates.

And in shorter news…

The Panton Principles have now, among other languages, been translated into Indonesian and Nepali. In Japan, the Local Group recently joined the Global Spending Data Party (alongside OKF Local Group Nepal) and will be hosting one of the coming events. In France, the Local Group Chapter organized an event with Etalab called “France Open Data taskforce”, that encouraged participants to re-design the data.gouv.fr portal. Over 15 designers and 15 open data users participated to imagine and design their ideal open data portal. Results to be presented online soon. Great to see so many inspiring activities taking place in open knowledge and open data all over the world. We’ll be back shortly with more stories from the Open Knowledge Foundation community.

Japan’s Administration Urges Ministries to Promote Open Data

- July 2, 2013 in OKF Japan, OKFN Local, Open Government Data

A few days ago the 4th e-Government Open Data Expert Committee was held in Tokyo. At the committee the specific measures to implement Japan’s new IT strategy, which was launched mid-June, were discussed – highlighting open data as a central means to achieve among other economic vitalization. During the discussions, Mr. Ichita Yamamoto, the Minister in charge of Information Technology Policy, stressed how Open Data has become a global trend, and that it was positioned as one of the main topics at the recent G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. He stated: “I believe that it is quite urgent to cooperate with relevant ministries in order to promote open data which is one of the significant policies of the Shinzo Abe Administration.” The administration will release the government data catalog in beta version this fall and hope to launch an open data portal soon thereafter, as announced earlier in the year. Mr. Koichi Endo, the Government CIO followed this thread: “While specific measures to promote open data were discussed at the G8 summit, I believe that it is quite important for the government of Japan to release open data, and thereby contribute to the global open data movement. Especially, we need to consider how to realize economic vitalization in according with the new IT strategy of Japan and its open data strategy.” At the same time he also emphasized the significance to examine what kind of data in Japan is demanded from foreign countries: “We would like to continue to work for opening data and making a rule of publishing data so that the open data system works in a sustainable way.” If you’re interested in knowing more about the current state of open data in Japan, feel free to get in touch with our Open Knowledge Foundation Japan Initiative Group.

Making Transparency Visible: an update on OGP in Ireland

- June 20, 2013 in OKFN Local, Open Government Data

This is cross-posted from the Open Government Partnership blog. In my previous post on the Open Government Partnership website, I posed the question ‘Is Ireland closing the door on Open Government?’. At that time I expressed the view that Ireland’s government was uninterested in the benefits of open government. Now, eight months later, I am delighted to report that Ireland’s position on OGP has changed considerably. On May 20, 2013, our Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin, announced that Ireland has sent its Letter of Intent to join the Open Government Partnership. Mr Howlin said:
“I look forward to working with citizens, civil society interests and business on the development of Ireland’s first National Action Plan of commitment required for full OGP participation”,
“I hope that civil society and citizens at large will use the OGP as an opportunity not only to encourage greater transparency and to open the doors of government to greater scrutiny but to increase citizen engagement in the reform effort overall.”
Our initial difficulties in attracting interest from the State were overcome through perseverance. In the interim between my previous blog post and this one, ActiveCitizen and other civil society participants continued to raise awareness of OGP with the government – meeting advisors, ministers and civil servants. We also initiated an on-going series of Open Data Ireland meet-ups: creating bottom-up demand for and awareness of Open Data and building communities of interested people from diverse sectors. It has been a challenging process but one that delivered some valuable lessons on identifying and engaging with key networks. Once the government was fully informed about the economic and social benefits of OGP, they engaged with us positively and openly. This constructive and receptive engagement makes us hopeful of a meaningful and effective OGP process.

OGP Process in Ireland

As the government’s attitude towards OGP became more favourable, a diverse group of civil society agencies and interested citizens coalesced and, working with state officials, we devised a plan for implementation of OGP in Ireland. As in other countries, Ireland’s implementation will be tailored to specific local factors. An unusual aspect of Ireland’s OGP process is that the government is selecting and funding an OGP Civil Society co-ordinator. We were uneasy that this role was to be filled by a state-paid appointee however we could see no other route to funding this position, which is essential to kick-start the process. The state will appoint Ireland’s civil society coordinator for an initial three-month period and we congratulate Transparency International Ireland which has been contracted by Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to act in this role. It has been agreed between civil society stakeholders who participated in the process thus far that Ireland’s first Action Plan will be submitted at The Open Government Partnership Annual Conference on October 31, 2013 in London. The current working plan is to build an open government network with a voluntary steering committee; the OGP co-ordinator liaising between the network and government departments. We have worked hard to ensure that the process will be open for all citizens’ participation. We have taken into account the lessons learned from experiences of other OGP participating countries: we will expect feedback and reasons regarding all unimplemented proposals and we are compiling a long-list of items which will not be included in the initial Action Plan so we may address them in the next. (See Dolar Vasani’s excellent “Formative Experiences” report for the OGP Civil Society Hub.) It is our aim that the OGP process will connect people who share common goals and objectives so that they may develop policy initiatives in partnership with government. The process must support members of society who, if enthusiastic and effective, will attract more people in their communities to engage in active citizenry through OGP participation. Our vision is that multi-disciplinary/multi-stakeholder and topic-specific working groups will be formed to address certain action plan items, and these groups will meet with relevant government officials – this model is similar to that employed in the US. The working groups will utilise data to inform and mobilise popular constituencies which will contribute to government policy in health, energy, education, public safety, global development, corporate accountability and finance. We see joining OGP as an historic step towards a more open, inclusive and participatory Ireland. We look forward to an ambitious action plan which will stretch government practice beyond the current baseline. And in the longer term, we anticipate that the OGP process will act as an agent for change, effecting substantial cultural reform and mutual trust in and between government and citizenry. Image Credit: Ireland by NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre via Flickr

Introducing the OKF French-speaking community!

- June 3, 2013 in OKF Belgium, OKF France, OKF Switzerland, OKFN Local

View the French version of this post here It is estimated that around 900 million people are able to communicate in French in the world. All those people do not necessarily speak English, and a lot of them use French as their Lingua Franca. After a suggestion from the French local group, the Open Knowledge Foundation is pleased to introduce the new international community for French speakers, with the launch of a dedicated mailing list: http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/okfn-francophone This new linguistic community aims to help further the Open Knowledge Foundation mission, which is to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful. Map of French-speaking countries French speaking countries map | Credit : aaker, wikimedia, public domain We hope this new communication channel will help to develop the Open Knowledge movement across French-speaking communities in Europe, Africa, America and the world over. This list will can be used for, but is not restricted to, the discussion of things such as:
  • Open Data (legal and licensing issues, initiatives, Open Data Census, etc.);
  • Open Science and Open Access;
  • Open Government Partnership;
  • Translation work;
  • Projects and events;
  • Sharing of French-language resources.
We look forward to discussing your local or global activities with you, and sharing it with the French-speaking community. Register with OKFN-Francophone

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 OpenBelgium.be 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 appsforgeo.be. 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 okfn.org 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 (http://open-data.okfn.gr/linked-data), 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!