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Empowering Portugal’s bombeiros with open data

- September 21, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, Portugal

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How Fogos.pt is providing an accessible fire map

  This blog has been reposted from the Mapbox blog.

In Portugal, a free, open source project is making official fire data more accessible to firefighters, emergency workers, journalists, and the public. Fogos.pt has gained significant traction, receiving as many as a million views a day and half a million unique users a month. We caught up with the creator, João Pina, to learn more. 

What’s the backstory on Fogos.pt?

It started with a conversation over dinner, in 2015, with friends who are bombeiros — firefighters — and other emergency responders from the national medical emergency institute. They are good people who work a lot, with low pay and high risk. They were frustrated that in order to get information about fires, they had to go to the civil protection authority website and download PDFs. So I decided to build a website version for them. My goal was to create an easier way to use trustworthy, official data to provide real-time information about the fires to professionals and civilians.

Since then it’s grown over the years, with help from a bunch of contributors on GitHub. In 2016, I released an Android and iOS application, with push notifications alerts for fire outbreaks. With the rising number of users and open source contributors, Fogos.pt is adding more features. That’s the power of an open source community project — the people who use it can build features they need and make them available for everyone. Even just sharing insights on GitHub can inspire great new features.

Where does the data come from?

The fire data comes from open data released by the official authorities in Portugal. I also added data layers for weather like temperature, precipitation, and cloud cover from OpenWeatherMap, which offered to sponsor the project. I was using Google Maps for the basemap, but it became too expensive for a non-commercial project without funding.

How was the move to Mapbox?

The first time I heard about Mapbox was at an event in Oporto for Open Data Day in March this year. Some participants who contribute to OpenStreetMap recommended Mapbox as a basemap and explained how Mapbox supports open source and open data. I then contacted the Community team to ask if they could support this as a non-profit project.

For Fogos.pt, I’ve used Mapbox basemap tiles with Leaflet.js — which I used because it is easier to work with the data from OpenWeatherMap. Mapbox has some very cool and powerful tools — my favorite feature has been the customizability of layers and map controls. All the tools are very user-friendly and the migration from Google Maps was seamless and smooth.

The biggest challenge for a backend developer like me is frontend skills. Open sourcing the project was the solution. People were very generous contributing their work and it became much more user-friendly and accessible — special thanks to my friend Isa Costa, a talented web designer at Bright Pixel, who helped a lot with this.

How’s the map been performing during this year’s fire season?

There’s a lot of traffic that comes from social media — from the map being shared on Twitter and Facebook. The news is increasingly starting to use and promote the map. Phrases about fires are some of the most common web searches in Portugal right now — and Fogos.pt appears there most of the time. There’s also a lot of direct traffic from embassy websites because they list Fogos.pt as a resource to help travelers to stay safe.

The last few months have been the high season for fires in Portugal. Daily traffic has been very high — and increasing. When there are major fires, there’s been upwards of a million map views a day. Last month, there were over 560,000 unique visitors to the webpage alone — a minimum of 6,700 per day. Everything is working without hiccups and the goal is to maintain that.

Coverage from Sapo24 & PC Guia

What’s next?

I’d like to create sibling projects, for example for floods, droughts, and medical emergencies — and maybe try out some other Mapbox tools, like heatmaps. I’m also using Fogos.pt as an opportunity to support a civil education initiative that informs people what to do in case of the fire and what they can do to avoid it, called aldeiasegura — ‘safe village.’

Many people ask me whether Fogos.pt could be available in other countries. There’s a challenge with data access in some countries — not all authorities release fire data as openly and quickly as in Portugal, so it is harder to recreate something like this. And I’m only one — I would like to see more developers in other countries use Fogos.pt to build disaster maps for their communities. A simple map can have such an impact to help others, and working with the open source community can help you bring everything to a whole new level. People want to help.

João Pina is a web developer based in Aveiro, Portugal. If you want to work on disaster maps with open data and Mapbox, get in touch with João and the Mapbox Community team.

 

Open Data Day 2018: this year’s celebration of a growing community

- June 7, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018

The eight edition of Open Data Day took place on March 3, 2018: an exciting milestone for the open data communities and a great opportunity to put open data into action. In this blog, we take a look back at what happened across the world on this day. First of all, we were happy to see that this year a total of 406 events were registered on our world map! This is almost 100 more events registered in the opendataday.org map than last year. We have noticed growth mostly in the global south, specifically in African and Latin American countries.
45 events received funding through the Open Data Day mini-grants funding provided by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of HivosMapbox,the Hewlett Foundation and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. This year, the focus was on four key areas that we think open data can help solve: Follow Public Money Flows, Open Research Data, Open Mapping, and Equal Development. Based on the information provided by the groups that requested a mini-grant, most of them were organizing an Open Data Day event for the first time. A few highlight of the different tracks:
  • During the Open Mapping event in Helsinki, Finland the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team with about 20 participants, most of them newcomers, contributed 1555 buildings and 113 kilometres of roads and paths. Results: http://ernoma.github.io/mapathon/ODD2018/
  • For the Equal Development track, She Codes for Change trained 27 young girls aged 15-19 from Secondary Schools in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the basic concepts of data visualization, Scratch and photography.
  • The Open Science community in Philippines discussed and mapped the challenges to make more data available for open research projects.
To increase connections between groups, we set up a blogging schedule this year that connected the different events. Mini-grantees were linked to each other based on a similarity in topic, location or type of event. This resulted in a series of Open Data Day blogs that reported on activities from different angles, and of course also in more contact between the different organisers – something we hope will extend also beyond the actual event itself. Below is the list of all blogs of this edition per topic, for easy future reference:

Follow Public Money Flows

Open Research Data

Open Mapping

Equal Development

Apart from these many events, Open Data Day was also celebrated online: we counted over 11.500 tweets using the hashtag #OpenDataDay! Our developer advocate Serah Rono harvested, analysed, packaged and published the Open Data Day affiliated content from Twitter – she describes in this blog how you can do the same using R and our Data Package Creator (and you can view the data there too). We summarised some of the Twitter highlights visually during the day itself: you can check up on what happened in the different continents here:   We also started a thread to highlight examples from the timeline on how open data can help in achieving societal impact – click the tweet below to see some of the examples we found and received. We are excited about the new edition of Open Data Day. We are already thinking about how we can make it a more useful, more engaging day for the growing open data community. If you have any ideas for your community, please reach out through either our forum or the Open Data Day mailinglist.  Many thanks to everyone who contributed to making this Open Data Day a success – on to 2019!

Open Data Day 2018: this year’s celebration of a growing community

- June 7, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018

The eight edition of Open Data Day took place on March 3, 2018: an exciting milestone for the open data communities and a great opportunity to put open data into action. In this blog, we take a look back at what happened across the world on this day. First of all, we were happy to see that this year a total of 406 events were registered on our world map! This is almost 100 more events registered in the opendataday.org map than last year. We have noticed growth mostly in the global south, specifically in African and Latin American countries.
45 events received funding through the Open Data Day mini-grants funding provided by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of HivosMapbox,the Hewlett Foundation and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. This year, the focus was on four key areas that we think open data can help solve: Follow Public Money Flows, Open Research Data, Open Mapping, and Equal Development. Based on the information provided by the groups that requested a mini-grant, most of them were organizing an Open Data Day event for the first time. A few highlight of the different tracks:
  • During the Open Mapping event in Helsinki, Finland the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team with about 20 participants, most of them newcomers, contributed 1555 buildings and 113 kilometres of roads and paths. Results: http://ernoma.github.io/mapathon/ODD2018/
  • For the Equal Development track, She Codes for Change trained 27 young girls aged 15-19 from Secondary Schools in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the basic concepts of data visualization, Scratch and photography.
  • The Open Science community in Philippines discussed and mapped the challenges to make more data available for open research projects.
To increase connections between groups, we set up a blogging schedule this year that connected the different events. Mini-grantees were linked to each other based on a similarity in topic, location or type of event. This resulted in a series of Open Data Day blogs that reported on activities from different angles, and of course also in more contact between the different organisers – something we hope will extend also beyond the actual event itself. Below is the list of all blogs of this edition per topic, for easy future reference:

Follow Public Money Flows

Open Research Data

Open Mapping

Equal Development

Apart from these many events, Open Data Day was also celebrated online: we counted over 11.500 tweets using the hashtag #OpenDataDay! Our developer advocate Serah Rono harvested, analysed, packaged and published the Open Data Day affiliated content from Twitter – she describes in this blog how you can do the same using R and our Data Package Creator (and you can view the data there too). We summarised some of the Twitter highlights visually during the day itself: you can check up on what happened in the different continents here:   We also started a thread to highlight examples from the timeline on how open data can help in achieving societal impact – click the tweet below to see some of the examples we found and received. We are excited about the new edition of Open Data Day. We are already thinking about how we can make it a more useful, more engaging day for the growing open data community. If you have any ideas for your community, please reach out through either our forum or the Open Data Day mailinglist.  Many thanks to everyone who contributed to making this Open Data Day a success – on to 2019!

Open data and research: Let’s get to it!

- June 1, 2018 in El Salvador, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, open research data

This blog has been translated from the original post at https://sv.okfn.org/2018/03/23/datos-abiertos-e-investigacion-manos-a-la-obra This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Research Data theme. Every year we celebrate opening, promoting using, reusing, disseminating and creating value from open data. This is a simple action that has a great impact for knowledge generation and opportunities for economic, social and cultural development in countries. Since 2014, in DatosElSalvador we have promoted open data with the vision of contributing to more people and organizations benefiting from open data to generate commercial, social and cultural opportunities. In 2015 we worked with the Transparency Consortium to celebrate Open Data Day for transparency. In 2016, along with the comptroller agencies we hosted Open Data Day to tackle corruption, again with the support of the Consortium. In 2017 we promoted open data for entrepreneurship. This year, DatosElSalvador, The Next Services and Hub170 joined together to celebrate Open Data Day in el Salvador, with the support of Open Knowledge Interntional we built a unique space to share and experiment with open data and its benefits for research and analysis. Along with university researchers and civil society organisations, we had a morning full of knowledge and experiences around open research data, definition of roadmaps and technical knowledge to open data and make them available for everyone. We learned about visualization tools, information processing, Creative Commons licensing and especially: opening data! During the day, we learned about examples of open research data and open academic data, we went through examples of data reuse and learned practically how to open them and visualize them. Every since we started with DatosElSalvador we have tried to use Open Data Day to empower a sector of society with 3 key goals:
  1. More people and organisations opening data! We anxiously wait for the day when strategic sectors of the country’s social, economic and cultural sectors of the country open, reuse and share data to generate a rich, certain, evidence-based and constant knowledge.
  2. More open data! While in DatosElSalvador we work to open data through our portal, we love receiving and spread data from more people and organisations. That’s why when we make data available during Open Data Day we had the goal of feeding the portal and explaining participants how they can use the data available.
  3. More tools to open data! We love it when people talk about open data, but we love even more when they put them to use and learn about tools to use them. That’s wy during the activity we went through different tools and learned to use them.
“Data based research generates more concrete evidence for decision-making” was our motto for Open Data Day in El Salvador. Along with three universities we opened data about economy, education, elections and research, and we organized a panel about the challenges of academic and scientific research and open data. DatosElSalvador is the only open data portal in El Salvador, and we are committed to continue opening data for a community that generates value through their research work. This event allowed us to identify the new challenges we face as promoters of open data in the country. On one hand we need to foster more meetings to learn about tools and techniques for opening data, as well as good practices for reuse. On the other, we need to encourage data based research by having incentives and/or recommendations for public policies or the generation of more business models. When we defined the topic for this Open Data Day event, we did this with building a baseline in the community on how to create and grow capacities and use the collective inteligence to continue this valuable process of generating knowledge with universities. We had some strategic allies. Each year we find a topic, community and allies that get together to generate valuable events that allow participants to learn things, not just to know them. The Next Services shared and assessed on techonologies to open and visualise data, and the Hub170 taught us about creative thought and soft skills necessary to build work teams that can do research and create value. We can’t wait to have a new Open Data Day. In the meantime we renovate our commitment to make of open something valuable!

Lava Jato Hackathon: Journalists and developers creating algorithms and web apps to fight corruption

- May 24, 2018 in Follow the Money, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, peru

This blog has been translated from the Spanish blog report at Convoca This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Follow the Money theme. We organised in Peru the first hackathon to develop apps to fight corruption. Using open data about public works and people involved in the “Lava Jato” case (Operation Car Wash) we gathered journalists, developers, different professionals and young students to work together on innovative proposals through more than 18 hours. Four years after the investigation of this biggest corruption scandal in Latin America started in Brazil, Convoca organized the “Hackathon Lava Jato”, on March 16 and 17 celebrating Open Data Day. This event brought together anti-corruption experts with young professionals. To do this, we made open data available about Odebrecht contracts and their increased costs. We gathered contracts through Freedom of Information requests (FOI), information of official websites and own sources, built together with the 20 Latin American and African journalists of the “Investiga Lava Jato” project. Avelino Guillén, the former prosecutor of the most important corruption cases in the country, including the former president Alberto Fujimori’s, and Vanessa Zorrilla, an expert lawyer in public procurement presented to about 70 participants. Guillén talked to them about the judiciary system to tackle corruption and its weakness to fight it, as well as the sophisticated strategies used to hide ill-gotten gains. Zorrilla highlighted the importance of transparency in the public procurement process and invited the youth to request information about contracts and transactions when public money is involved, and use the FOI and Transparency laws. Journalists, web developers, designers, lawyers; and academics created new tools to access information about the Lava Jato case. The criteria to select the winning projects were: project impact and viability; meeting goals of the event; innovation and creativity, as well as how developed the project was. The jury was formed by experts in the different topics: Avelino Guillén, former state prosecutor; Irina Ávilna the founding director of MakerLAB; Milagros Salazar, journalist and director of Convoca.pe; and Elvis Rivera, the developer and lead of Convoca Lab. Based on these criteria we got three winners:
  1. Face to Face”, a project developed by David Chapuis, Luis Castillo, José Osnar, Randy Ortiz and Joseph Patiño. A detector of gesture patterns that analyzes potential corrupt characters through and algorithm. People can also access public interest information like their bios, court processes and others. This project seeks to prevent cases like Lava Jato in Peru.  
  2. ‘Lava Jabot’, built by Jean Pierre Tincopa, Dulce Alarcon and Jorge Tuanama. This team built a bot using AI. They seek to use its preset responses to bring people closer to the information about contracts, public works and people involved in Lava Jato. They decided to show simple and interactive information to their users. Through Facebook Messenger, people can access infographics, audios (of the depositions), or geolocated information about the closest Odebrecht works and how big their cost overrun was.
  3. Sin Justicia” (Without Justice), developed by Luis Enrique Pérez, Luis Vertiz, Yesenia Chavarry, Edson Torres and Rocío Arteaga seeks to emphasize the consequences and inequalities caused by corruption. Their web app shows the amount and law office defending corrupt politicians paid with public money. This is compared with the public funds used to defend other citizens. It also compares the amount spent in defending public officials with the cost of improvements in the country.
Beside these projects, we had honorable mentions of two initiatives that seek to bring attention to corruption through comics, infographics and illustrations. The website “Jóvenes en acción” (Youth in action” built by Carolina Cortez López, Daniel Pumayauli, Tania Angulo, Rosio Ramos, Abel Salazar, and ‘Divina Aceitada’, a project developed by Patrick Valentín, Joel Romero, Rolly Rodríguez, Rodolfo Carrillo and Fernando Tincopa. This hackathon showed that there is great interest from the youth to fight corruption. Also, the projects they developed are an example of creativity and symbiosis of journalism with technology to benefit people. We spread the word about the results through social media and in the different open data, journalism and technology communities. Convoca published these achievements in its digital medium and interviewed the winners in the radio program “Café Convoca”. The next step is to keep supporting these initiatives that contribute significantly to transparency and accountability. The Lava Jato Hackathon was run with support from Hivos and Open Knowledge International as part of the “Investiga Lava Jato” initiative, the Centro de Innovación y Desarrollo Emprendedor de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) and Lab San Isidro.

Evidence Appraisal Data-Thon: A recap of our Open Data Day event

- May 23, 2018 in health, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Research, open research data, Open Science

This blog has been reposted from Medium This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Research Data theme.

Research can save lives, reduce suffering, and help with scientific understanding. But research can also be unethical, unimportant, invalid, or poorly reported. These issues can harm health, waste scientific and health resources, and reduce trust in science. Differentiating good science from bad, therefore, has big implications. This is happening in the midst of broader discussions about differentiating good information from misinformation. Current controversy regarding political ‘fake news’ has specifically received significant recent attention. Public scientific misinformation and academic scientific misinformation also are published, much of it derived from low quality science.

EvidenceBase is a global, informal, voluntary organization aimed at boosting and starting tools and infrastructure that enhance scientific quality and usability. The critical appraisal of science is one of many mechanisms seeking to evaluate and clarify published science, and evidence appraisal is a key area of EvidenceBase’s work. On March 3rd we held an Open Data Day event to introduce the public to evidence appraisal and to explore and work on an open dataset of appraisals. We reached out to a network in NYC of data scientists, software developers, public health professionals, and clinicians and invited them and their interested friends (including any without health, science, or data training).

 

Our data came from the US’s National Library of Medicine’s PubMed and PubMed Central datasets. PubMed offers indexing, meta-data, and abstracts for biomedical publications and PubMed Central (PMC) offers full-text in pdf and/or xml. PMC has an open-access subset. We explored the portion of this subset that 1) was indexed in PubMed as a “journal comment” and 2) was a comment on a clinical trial. The structure of our 10 hour event was an initial session introducing the general areas of health trials, research issues, and open data and then the remainder of the day consisted of parallel groups tackling three areas: lay exploration and Q&A; dataset processing and word embedding development; and health expertise-guided manual exploration and annotation of comments. We had 2 data scientists, 4 trial experts, 3 physicians, 4 public health practitioners, 4 participants without background but with curiosity, and 1 infant. Our space was donated, and the food was provided from a mix of a grant from Open Data Day provided by SPARC and Open Knowledge International (thank you!) and voluntary participant donations.

On the dataset front, we leveraged the clinical trial and journal comment meta-data in PubMed, and the links between PubMed and PMC, and PMC’s open subset IDs to create a data subset that was solely journal comments on clinical trials that were in PMC’s open subset with xml data. Initial exploration of this subset for quality issues showed us that PubMed metadata tags misindex non-trials as trials and non-comments as comments. Further data curation will be needed. We did use it to create word embeddings and so some brief similarity-based expansion.

 

The domain experts reviewed trials in their area of expertise. Some participants manually extracted text fragments expressing a single appraisal assertion, and attempted to generalize the assertion for future structured knowledge representation work. Overall participants had a fun, productive, and educational time! From the standpoint of EvidenceBase, the event was a success and was interesting. We are mainly virtual and global, so this in person event was new for us, energizing, and helped forge new relationships for the future.

We also learned:

  • We can’t have too much on one person’s plate for logistics and for facilitation. Issues will happen (e.g. food cancellation last minute).
  • Curiosity abounds, and people are thirsty for meaningful and productive social interactions beyond their jobs. They just need to be invited, otherwise this potential group will not be involved.
  • Many people who have data science skills have jobs in industries they don’t love, they have a particular thirst to leverage their skills for good.
  • People without data science expertise but who have domain expertise are keen on exploring the data and offering insight. This can help make sense of it, and can help identify issues (e.g. data quality issues, synonyms, subfield-specific differences).
  • People with neither domain expertise nor data science skills still add vibrancy to these events, though the event organizers need more bandwidth to help orient and facilitate the involvement of these attendees.
  • Public research data sets are messy, and often require further subsetting or transformation to make them usable and high quality.
  • Open data might have license and accessibility barriers. For us, this resulted in a large reduction in journal comments with full-text vs. not, and of those with full-text, a further large reduction in those where the text was open-access and licensed for use in text mining.

We’ll be continuing to develop the data set and annotations started here, and we look forward to the next Open Data Day. We may even host a data event before then!

Open Government and Open Contracting in Paraguay and Cameroon

- May 14, 2018 in cameroon, Follow the Money, Open Contracting, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Paraguay

This blog was written by Rodrigo Valdez (Girolabs) and Transparency International Cameroon. This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Follow the Money theme.

Open Data Day #Unconference Asunción 2018

On March 3, along with other hundreds of cities, we celebrated Open Data Day in Asunción, Paraguay. For the third year in a row, the Girolabs team took the initiative to bring together people passionate about open data; as always it turned out to be a remarkable event. We decided to get together at Loffice Bulnes. This is the biggest coworking space network in the country and Bulnes is a space dedicated to entrepreneurship and social development, where Girolabs was born and has grown as a company, and where whe share space with other enterprises. This year we decided to innovate the format of the event so we organized an Unconference. What does this mean? Basically, it’s a model to break the common dynamics where few people speak. During an unconference, there is an open opportunity for everyone to speak and listen. It’s easier to understand if we tell you how it happened: First, the participants developed the program for the day. They chose the topics to discuss. Everyone had a possibility to suggest up to four topics and put them on the wall with a post-it. This way we made sure to include everyone’s interests in the dialogue. After this we grouped people by topic, putting the common topics together and identifying others. Through this we got to three main topics that guided us through the afternoon sessions:
  • Enterprise Open Data and Innovation
  • Government Open Data and the new Action Plan
  • Politicians and Elections Open Data
Once we got the big picture of the topics, we assigned three tables to have conversations simultaneously. Each person could decide where to join and we speaking rounds to make sure everyone could speak. This way people participated in two different tables, with different people. Each table had a moderator guiding the conversations. On the Government Open Data table we had Federico Sosa, the General Director of Open Government moderating and they gathered many proposals to include in the new Action Plan, which will be executed by mid-year. The Innovation and Enterprises table with Margarita Rojas focused on innovation through data science and big data in companies, as well as the importance of the data that companies hold and how it can help improve the commercial experience and life quality. A topic that also came up quite strongly was the need to bring academia and open data together, particularly through a thesis repository, so people can take advantage of these documents that tend to be stored in university libraries. In the third table, the A Quienes Elegimos team lead the politics conversation. A few days before national elections, the topics of transparency and civic engagement resonated quite strongly with participants. Two factors were that thanks to open data, we can help people understand who represents them, participate and vote consciously. To finalize each table presented their topics and we had an open mic so participants could present their own projects. Among them, SENATICS presented their achievements and challenges regarding open data. The developers of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Procurement Office presented the portals they built and the importance of using them to track public money. For one more year, we have proven that spaces like Open Data Day are very valuable for people, but specially it becomes clear how much work there is left to do. As a community, we expect to keep creating spaces where people, CSOs and government can talk in a convivial way.

Transparency International Cameroon celebrates the 8th edition of the Open Data day with a focus on the Public Procurement sector

Transparency International-Cameroon (TI-C) on Friday March 16 hosted an information and awareness raising workshop to celebrate the 8th edition of the International Open Data Day. Under the theme “Why should Cameroon use the Open Data Standards for Procurement to Combat Corruption in its Public Procurement System?”, the workshop organized with the financial support of the Open Data Community gathered representatives from the government, media, local councils, civil society organizations and technical and financial partners.

The workshop was a combination of presentations and interactive sessions. The participants had their capacities strenghtened through the following presentations:

  1. Corruption in the public procurement sector in Cameroon: Causes, Manifestations and consequences. An expert from Transparency International Cameroon provided the participants with facts and figures on corruption in the public procurement sector.
  2. Understanding the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). With the presence of an expert on open data issues, the participants were able to have a better comprehension of “open data”, “open Contracting”, and “open contracting data standard”. The expert went further in his presentation to demonstrate how OCDS can help promote transparency and integrity in the public procurement sector.
  3. Open Data and the fight against corruption: the nexus. In this presentation and taking into consideration the context of Cameroon, the expert from transparency International presented the advantages of “open data” and “OCDS” in contributing to the reduction of corruption in the procurement sector. He went further to demonstrate how open data can help mitigate some corruption risks.

In the context of Cameroon, the key questions was, how can civil society organizations promote OCDS? While brainstorming on the question, participants realized that there are challenges to be addressed to facilitate the adoption of OCDS by government agencies. Among them we have:

  1. The absence of an information law: Cameroon does not yet have a law that could allow citizen to have access to information wherever they are and for whatever purpose. This has been identified as a major challenge in promoting OCDS.
  2. Non-adherence to international initiatives on Open Data: The country has not joined some of the recent initiatives aiming at facilitating and promoting open data. For instance Cameroon is not a member of the “Open Government Partnership”.
  3. Weak technical expertise from government and Civil society organizations: Implementing open data or open contracting data required a specific skill which is lacking at the national level. Therefore there is need to strengthen the capacities of stakeholders before preparing them to the use of open data tools.
  4. Poor knowledge of open data concepts and tools by the final beneficiaries: Participants believed that data are very sensible and if not well used can become a weapon. Therefore the questions raised were: (i) are citizens prepare to receive some data? (ii) And are they equipped to analyze the data? To these questions, participants expressed the need to educate citizens on open data and to conduct a sort of open data comprehension index as well.

The event was broadcasted on a national TV station during the Evening news the same day, also, one of the journalist present during the workshop had two articles published in its newspaper (Le quotidian l’Economie).

   

We should however underline here that this workshop is in line with the missions of the recently established “Open Contracting Working Group – Cameroon” composed mainly of three Cameroonian civil society organizations namely: Transparency International Cameroon, AfroLeadership and CRADDEC.

Creativity and mobile solutions can help combat road accidents

- May 10, 2018 in namibia, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Mapping theme. The 4th Open Data Day celebration in Namibia was held on 2nd – 5th March 2018, under the theme Better Public Transportation and Safer Roads. The initiative had been organized by the Namibia Open Data Community in collaboration with Namibia University of Science & Technology (NUST). The event was attended by over 80 people and brought about diverse stakeholders, from all walks of life; including lawmakers and academicians. The event was structured as follows:

Opening day

The event started with a stakeholder meeting and official opening, which aimed at getting the various stakeholders to discuss how opportunities public data present and how this can be exploited to reduce/end road accidents in Namibia and beyond. The keynote address was delivered by Honourable Stanley Mutumba Simataa, Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT), in which he states the benefits of open data: “On the broader societal level, giving citizens access to data to freely use and /or share will promote innovation, induce the development of more businesses and help entrepreneurs develop products and services not yet imagined… In Namibia open data can unleash Opportunities – Opportunities that will allow access to information, promote accountability, enhance transparency and of course enable the citizenry to hold government to account.” In his welcoming remarks Prof Tjama Tjivukua, Vice Chancellor (NUST) highlighted that: “These prototypes or solutions are absolutely necessary in a big country with a small population and fairly good roads, relatively speaking, but the highest deaths per capita in the world. Namibia is the “capital of death by road”.”

Hackathon

The hackathon began: about 40 developers attended, forming 5 teams. The teams worked on diverse solutions, ranging from solutions that keep drivers focus on the road to solutions leveraging on AR (augmented reality) to provide a gamified experience to users. Making use of datasets provided by Gondwana Collection: Namibia Safari and Lodges and MVA Fund. The teams continued to work on their respective solutions throughout the night and the following day. After 24-hours of coding, the teams had an opportunity to go out test their solutions with real users. Thus, get useful feedback, which they used to improve their solutions.

Pitches and results

After two full days of hacking, the 5 teams had an opportunity to pitch their solutions to a full mobile lab at Namibia Business Innovation Institute. The pitches were judged primary on three criteria; viability, creativity and ability to solve a problem. The team which scooped the first prize was G2SA, consisting of Gatsen Tjirare, Albertus Coetzee, Saimie Kevanhu, Nathan Dasneves and Gabriel Kamenye were awarded N$ 7 000 because their project had met the requirements and utilized the data given to them to come forth with a solution which is feasible and user-friendly. The runners up were Cheap High Qualities Software received N$ 2 500. The prizes were sponsored by Developer Circles from Facebook and Green Enterprise Solutions.

The winning solution

An augmented reality application that augments the map of Namibia with digital information regarding road safety and additional information for tourists or travellers, based on a dataset provided by Gondwana. Additionally, a driver assistant that acts a sensor to detect road signs and distance of cars ahead, which then notifies the user. This application is tied to gamification, rewarding drivers with points for safe driving. Click here for a video of the application or download the app directly.

Runners-up solution

Data visualization is an important tool for understanding large datasets. This application is a temporal-spatial visualization of vehicle-related accidents in Namibia. The data was scraped from tables in a 2016 MVA Fund publication titled “Road Crash and Claims Report.” By representing the data in a multidimensional format, we provide deeper insight into the problem says the developers. With insight comes understanding, and with understanding we can develop a solution.

Conclusion

To ensure that the solutions developed during this hackathon gets to market, we have deliberately availed the solutions to enable potential drivers to test them out. Moreover, we have also approached the different stakeholders such as the Motor Vehicle Accident fund to use the solution to visualize road accidents in real-time. Though, the event was a great success, we have learnt so much, tackling the challenge of road accidents requires diverse skills, we had more hackers than people from other disciplines. In the future events, we have to find ways to get more people from other disciplines also involved. We have been hosting the Open Data Day, since 2015. This year’ event was very successful: it can only get better from here.

Creativity and mobile solutions can help combat road accidents

- May 10, 2018 in namibia, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Mapping theme. The 4th Open Data Day celebration in Namibia was held on 2nd – 5th March 2018, under the theme Better Public Transportation and Safer Roads. The initiative had been organized by the Namibia Open Data Community in collaboration with Namibia University of Science & Technology (NUST). The event was attended by over 80 people and brought about diverse stakeholders, from all walks of life; including lawmakers and academicians. The event was structured as follows:

Opening day

The event started with a stakeholder meeting and official opening, which aimed at getting the various stakeholders to discuss how opportunities public data present and how this can be exploited to reduce/end road accidents in Namibia and beyond. The keynote address was delivered by Honourable Stanley Mutumba Simataa, Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT), in which he states the benefits of open data: “On the broader societal level, giving citizens access to data to freely use and /or share will promote innovation, induce the development of more businesses and help entrepreneurs develop products and services not yet imagined… In Namibia open data can unleash Opportunities – Opportunities that will allow access to information, promote accountability, enhance transparency and of course enable the citizenry to hold government to account.” In his welcoming remarks Prof Tjama Tjivukua, Vice Chancellor (NUST) highlighted that: “These prototypes or solutions are absolutely necessary in a big country with a small population and fairly good roads, relatively speaking, but the highest deaths per capita in the world. Namibia is the “capital of death by road”.”

Hackathon

The hackathon began: about 40 developers attended, forming 5 teams. The teams worked on diverse solutions, ranging from solutions that keep drivers focus on the road to solutions leveraging on AR (augmented reality) to provide a gamified experience to users. Making use of datasets provided by Gondwana Collection: Namibia Safari and Lodges and MVA Fund. The teams continued to work on their respective solutions throughout the night and the following day. After 24-hours of coding, the teams had an opportunity to go out test their solutions with real users. Thus, get useful feedback, which they used to improve their solutions.

Pitches and results

After two full days of hacking, the 5 teams had an opportunity to pitch their solutions to a full mobile lab at Namibia Business Innovation Institute. The pitches were judged primary on three criteria; viability, creativity and ability to solve a problem. The team which scooped the first prize was G2SA, consisting of Gatsen Tjirare, Albertus Coetzee, Saimie Kevanhu, Nathan Dasneves and Gabriel Kamenye were awarded N$ 7 000 because their project had met the requirements and utilized the data given to them to come forth with a solution which is feasible and user-friendly. The runners up were Cheap High Qualities Software received N$ 2 500. The prizes were sponsored by Developer Circles from Facebook and Green Enterprise Solutions.

The winning solution

An augmented reality application that augments the map of Namibia with digital information regarding road safety and additional information for tourists or travellers, based on a dataset provided by Gondwana. Additionally, a driver assistant that acts a sensor to detect road signs and distance of cars ahead, which then notifies the user. This application is tied to gamification, rewarding drivers with points for safe driving. Click here for a video of the application or download the app directly.

Runners-up solution

Data visualization is an important tool for understanding large datasets. This application is a temporal-spatial visualization of vehicle-related accidents in Namibia. The data was scraped from tables in a 2016 MVA Fund publication titled “Road Crash and Claims Report.” By representing the data in a multidimensional format, we provide deeper insight into the problem says the developers. With insight comes understanding, and with understanding we can develop a solution.

Conclusion

To ensure that the solutions developed during this hackathon gets to market, we have deliberately availed the solutions to enable potential drivers to test them out. Moreover, we have also approached the different stakeholders such as the Motor Vehicle Accident fund to use the solution to visualize road accidents in real-time. Though, the event was a great success, we have learnt so much, tackling the challenge of road accidents requires diverse skills, we had more hackers than people from other disciplines. In the future events, we have to find ways to get more people from other disciplines also involved. We have been hosting the Open Data Day, since 2015. This year’ event was very successful: it can only get better from here.

How open data and mapping using OpenStreetMap can aid development in Tanzania

- May 9, 2018 in Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, tanzania

This blog has been reposted from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team website This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The event in this blog was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Mapping theme.
To commemorate Open Data Day on March 3rd, Crowd2Map and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) Tanzania organised a free 3 day training conference on how open data and mapping using OpenStreetMap can aid development in Tanzania. Over 90 people from across Tanzania attended the event at the Institute of Rural Development Planning in Mwanza, including community mapping groups from Kigoma, Kagera, Mara and other regions, students from IRDP Mwanza and Dodoma, as well as representatives from Tanzania Red Cross, Tanzania Wildlife Service, Uwezo and many other organisations.

Community Mappers and Youth Mappers receive printed Field Papers of their districts

The training was delivered by Amelia Hunt and Johannes Peters from HOT and covered topics such as what open data is available in Tanzania, what is OpenStreetMap and how it can help Tanzania; how to map your area using satellite images on a laptop; free apps on your phone; and printed Field Papers; and how to create printed village and district level maps. There were a combination of demonstrations, talks and practical workshops, including a session mapping in the field in the area around the campus. Community groups who have benefited from phones and laptops provided by a HOT Microgrant and the Nethope Device Challenge programme learnt how to make the best use of this technology to put their communities on the map for better navigation, planning and development of their areas.

Johanes Peters from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Tanzania provides training on OpenStreetMap

There were also talks by Jonarda Ngissa from Uwezo Tanzania on their citizen led educational assessments, and from Neema Meremo from Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania on how mapping can help protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation.

Talk from Neema Meremo: Mapping to Fight FGM and the Role of Female Mappers

Evaluations showed that people had learnt a great deal from the training and comments included “it will help me be a better planner for my country”, “now I can teach others to improve our development” and “mapping is useful to indicate which water points are functioning, so we can improve access in Tanzania”. Everyone indicated they would like further such training, and so we hope that many will be able to attend FOSS4G and HOT conference in Dar es Salaam in August.