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Fighting for a more open world: our CEO’s keynote speech at Open Belgium 2019

- March 4, 2019 in Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge International, Talks

On Monday 4th March 2019, Catherine Stihler, the new chief executive of Open Knowledge International, will deliver a keynote speech – Fighting for a more open world – at the Open Belgium 2019 conference in Brussels. Read the speech below and visit the Open Belgium website or follow the hashtag to learn more about the event. Catherine Stihler, CEO of Open Knowledge International Thanks to Open Knowledge Belgium for inviting me to speak today. It is great to be you with you all in what is my fourth week in my new role as Chief Executive of Open Knowledge International. This is the first time I have been in Brussels since serving for 20 years as an MEP for Scotland. During that time, I worked on copyright reform and around openness with a key focus on intellectual property rights and freedom of expression. Digital skills and data use have always been a personal passion, and I’m excited to meet so many talented people using those skills to fight for a more open world. It is a privilege to be part of an organisation and movement that have set the global standard for genuinely free and open sharing of information. There have been many gains in recent years that have made our society more open, with experts – be they scientists, entrepreneurs or campaigners – using data for the common good. But I join OKI at a time when openness is at risk. The acceptance of basic facts is under threat, with many expert views dismissed and a culture of ‘anti-intellectualism’ from those on the extremes of politics. Facts are simply branded as ‘fake news’. The rise of the far right and the far left brings with it an authoritarian approach that could return us to a closed society. The way forward is to resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas, to prevent the drift to the extremes. I want to see a fairer and open society where help harness the power of open data and unleash its potential for the public good. We at Open Knowledge International want to see enlightened societies around the world, where everyone has access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; where powerful institutions are held accountable; and where vital research that can help us tackle challenges – such as inequality, poverty and climate change – is available to all. To reach these goals, we need to work to raise the profile of open knowledge and instil it as an important value in the organisations and sectors we work in. In order to achieve this, we will need to change cultures, policies and business models of organisations large and small to make opening up and using information possible and desirable. This means building the capacity to understand, share, find and use data, across civil society and government. We need to create and encourage collaborations across government, business and civil society to use data to rebalance power and tackle major challenges. We need tools – technical, legal and educational – to make working with data easier and more effective. Yet, in many countries, societies are shifting in the other direction making it harder and harder to foster collaboration, discover compromises and make breakthroughs. Freedom House has recorded global declines in political rights and civil liberties for an alarming 13 consecutive years, from 2005 to 2018. Last year, CIVICUS found that nearly six in ten countries are seriously restricting people’s fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. And, despite some governments releasing more data than before,  our most recent Global Open Data Index found that only 11% of the data published in 2017 was truly open, down from 16% of the data surveyed in 2013. Our fear is that these trends towards closed societies will exacerbate inequality in many countries as declining civic rights, the digital divide, ‘dirty data and restrictions on the free and open exchange of information combine in new and troubling ways. Opaque technological approaches – informed by both public and, more often, private data – are increasingly being suggested as solutions to some of the world’s toughest issues from crime prevention to healthcare provision and from managing welfare or food aid projects to policing border security, most recently evidenced in the debate around the Northern Irish border and Brexit. Yet if citizens cannot understand, trust or challenge data-driven decisions taken by governments and private organisations due to a lack of transparency or the challenge of a right of redress to the data held on individuals or businesses, then racist, sexist and xenophobic biases risk being baked into public systems – and the right to privacy will be eroded. We need to act now and ensure that legislation emphasising open values keeps pace with technological advances so that they can be harnessed in ways which protect – rather than erode – citizens’ rights. And we need people in future to be able to have an open and honest exchange of information with details, context and metadata helping to make any potential biases more transparent and rectifiable. As Wafa Ben Hassine, policy counsel for Access Now, said recently, “we need to make sure humans are kept in the loop … [to make sure] that there is oversight and accountability” of any systems using data to make decisions for public bodies. Moving on to another pressing issue, I am very concerned about the EU’s deal on copyright reform – which is due to go before the European Parliament for a vote this month – and the effects that this will have on society. The agreement will require platforms such as YouTube, Twitter or Google to take down user-generated content that could breach intellectual property and install filters to prevent people from uploading copyrighted material. That means memes, GIFs and music remixes may be taken down because the copyright does not belong to the uploader. It could also restrict the sharing of vital research and facts, allowing ‘fake news’ to spread. This is an attack on openness and will lead to a chilling effect on freedom of speech across the EU. It does not enhance citizens’ rights and could lead to Europe becoming a more closed society – restricting how we share research that could lead to medical breakthroughs or how we share facts. I know that there is a detailed session focused on copyright reform at 12:30pm in this room so please join that if you want to learn more. So what can we do about these issues? First, we are calling on all candidates in May’s European Parliament elections to go to pledge2019.eu to make a public pledge that they will oppose Article 13 of the EU’s chilling copyright reforms. This is an issue that is not going to go away, regardless of the plenary vote this spring. When the new Parliament sits, in July, the MEPs representing voters for the next five years will have an opportunity to take action. Second, in coordination with our colleagues at Mozilla and other organisations, we want tech companies like Facebook to introduce a number of improved transparency measures to safeguard against interference in the coming European elections, and I have written to Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs and my former MEP colleague Sir Nick Clegg to request more openness from the social media platform. Facebook have responded but you can add your voice to Mozilla’s ongoing campaign to keep up the pressure and make sure change happens. Third, we encourage you to visit responsibledata.io to join the Responsible Data community which works to respond to the ethical, legal, social and privacy-related challenges that come from using data in new and different ways. This community was first convened by our friends at the Engine Room – who have done great work on this issue – alongside our School of Data who were one of the founding partners. Fourth,  get everyone to use established, recognised open licences when releasing data or content. This should be a simple ask for governments and organisations across the world but our research has found that legally cumbersome custom licenses strangle innovation and the reuse of data. Fifth, when you are choosing MEP candidates to vote for in May, ask yourself: what have they done to push for openness in our country? Have they signed up to key transparency legislation? Voiced support for access to information and freedom of expression? If you’re not sure, email and ask them. We need a strong cohort of open advocates at the European Parliament to address the coming issues around privacy, transparency and data protection. At Open Knowledge International, we will help fight the good fight by continuing our work to bring together communities around the world to celebrate and prove the value of being open in the face of prevailing winds. Two days ago, with support from OKI, Open Data Day took place with hundreds of events taking place all over the world. From open mapping in South America to open science and research in Francophone Africa, grassroot organisations came out in growing numbers to share their belief in the value of open data. Our next big event is the fourth iteration of csv,conf, a community conference for data makers featuring stories about data sharing and data analysis from science, journalism, government, and open source. By popular demand, this year will see the return of the infamous comma llama. We are also very proud of the fantastic work by the Open Knowledge network teams around the globe to nurture open communities from Open Knowledge Finland’s creation of the MyData conference and movement to the investigations by journalists and developers enabled by Open Knowledge Germany and OpenCorporates’ recent release of data on 5.1 million German companies. And here in Belgium, it’s fantastic to hear about the hundreds of students who participated in Open Knowledge Belgium’s Open Summer of Code last year to create innovative open source projects as well as to be inspired by the team’s work on HackYourFuture Belgium, a coding school for refugees. To finish my speech, I want to echo Claire Melamed of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data: “People’s voices turned into numbers have power … and data has a power to reveal the truth about people’s lives even when words and pictures have failed.” So whether you’re interested in open government, open education or any of the other fascinating topics being explored today, I hope that you connect with people who will help you fight for openness, fight for the truth and fight for the rights of people in this country and beyond.

Open data governance and open governance: interplay or disconnect?  

- February 20, 2019 in Open Data, open data governance, Policy, research

Authors: Ana Brandusescu, Carlos Iglesias, Danny Lämmerhirt, Stefaan Verhulst (in alphabetical order) The presence of open data often gets listed as an essential requirement toward “open governance”. For instance, an open data strategy is reviewed as a key component of many action plans submitted to the Open Government Partnership. Yet little time is spent on assessing how open data itself is governed, or how it embraces open governance. For example, not much is known on whether the principles and practices that guide the opening up of government – such as transparency, accountability, user-centrism, ‘demand-driven’ design thinking – also guide decision-making on how to release open data. At the same time, data governance has become more complex and open data decision-makers face heightened concerns with regards to privacy and data protection. The recent implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has generated an increased awareness worldwide of the need to prevent and mitigate the risks of personal data disclosures, and that has also affected the open data community. Before opening up data, concerns of data breaches, the abuse of personal information, and the potential of malicious inference from publicly available data may have to be taken into account. In turn, questions of how to sustain existing open data programs, user-centrism, and publishing with purpose gain prominence. To better understand the practices and challenges of open data governance, we have outlined a research agenda in an earlier blog post. Since then, and perhaps as a result, governance has emerged as an important topic for the open data community. The audience attending the 5th International Open Data Conference (IODC) in Buenos Aires deemed governance of open data to be the most important discussion topic. For instance, discussions around the Open Data Charter principles during and prior to the IODC acknowledged the role of an integrated governance approach to data handling, sharing, and publication. Some conclude that the open data movement has brought about better governance, skills, technologies of public information management which becomes an enormous long-term value for government. But what does open data governance look like?

Understanding open data governance

To expand our earlier exploration and broaden the community that considers open data governance, we convened a workshop at the Open Data Research Symposium 2018. Bringing together open data professionals, civil servants, and researchers, we focused on:
  • What is open data governance?
  • When can we speak of “good” open data governance, and
  • How can the research community help open data decision-makers toward “good” open data governance?
In this session, open data governance was defined as the interplay of rules, standards, tools, principles, processes and decisions that influence what government data is opened up, how and by whom. We then explored multiple layers that can influence open data governance. In the following, we illustrate possible questions to start mapping the layers of open data governance. As they reflect the experiences of session participants, we see them as starting points for fresh ethnographic and descriptive research on the daily practices of open data governance in governments.

Figure: Schema of an open data governance model

The Management layer

Governments may decide about the release of data on various levels. Studying the management side of data governance could look at decision-making methods and devices. For instance, one might analyze how governments gauge public interest in their datasets – through data request mechanisms, user research, or participatory workshops? What routine procedures do governments put in place to interact with other governments and the public? For instance, how do governments design routine processes to open data requests? How are disputes over open data release settled? How do governments enable the public to address non-publication? One might also study cost-benefit calculations and similar methodologies to evaluate data, and how they inform governments what data counts as crucial and is expected to bring returns and societal benefits. Understanding open data governance would also require to study the ways in which open data creation, cleaning, and publication are managed itself. Governments may choose to organise open data publication and maintenance in house, or seek collaborative approaches, otherwise known from data communities like OpenStreetMaps. Another key component is funding and sustainability. Funding might influence management on multiple layers – from funding capacity building, to investing in staff innovations and alternative business models for government agencies that generate revenue from high value datasets. What do these budget and sustainability models look like? How are open data initiatives currently funded, under what terms, for how long, by whom and for what? And how do governments reconcile the publication of high value datasets with the need to provide income for public government bodies? These questions gain importance as governments move towards assessing and publishing high value datasets. Open governance and management: To what extent is management guided by open governance? For instance, how participatory, transparent, and accountable are decision-making processes and devices? How do governments currently make space for more open governance in their management processes? Do governments practice more collaborative data management with communities, for example to maintain, update, verify government data?   

The Legal and Policy layer

The interplay between legal and policy frameworks: Open data policies operate among other legal and policy frameworks, which can complement, enable, or limit the scope of open data. New frameworks such as GDPR, but also existing right to information and freedom of expression frameworks prompt the question of how the legal environment influences the behaviour and daily decision-making around open data. To address such questions, one could study the discourse and interplay between open data policies as well as tangential policies like smart city or digitalisation policies. Implementation of law and policies: Furthermore, how are open data frameworks designed to guide the implementation open data? How do they address governmental devolution? Open data governance needs to stretch across all government levels to unlock data from all government levels. What approaches are experimented with to coordinate the implementation of policies across jurisdictions and government branches? To what agencies do open data policies apply, and how do they enable or constrain choices around open data? What agencies define and move forward open data, and how does this influence adoption and sustainability of open data initiatives? Open governance of law and policy: Besides studying the interaction of privacy protection, right to information, and open data policies, how could open data benefit from policies enabling open governance and civic participation? Do governments develop more integrated strategies for open governance and open data, and if so, what policies and legal mechanisms are in place? If so, how do these laws and policies enable other aspects of open data governance, including more participatory management, more substantive and legally supported citizen participation?  

The Technical and Standards layer

Governments may have different technical standards in place for data processing and publication, from producing data, to quality assurance processes. Some research has looked into the ways data standards for open data alter the way governments process information. Others have argued that the development of data standards is reference how governments envisage citizens, primarily catering to tech-literate audiences. (Data) standards do not only represent, but intervene in the way governments work. Therefore, they could substantially alter the ways government publishes information. Understood this way, how do standards enable resilience against change, particularly when facing shifting political leadership? On the other hand, most government data systems are not designed for open data. Too often, governments are struggling to transform huge volumes of government data into open data using manual methods. Legacy IT systems that have not been built to support open data create additional challenges to developing technical infrastructure, but there is no single global solution to data infrastructure. How could then governments transform their technical infrastructure to allow them to publish open data efficiently? Open governance and the technical / standards layer: If standards can be understood as  bridge building devices, or tools for cooperation, how could open governance inform the creation of technical standards? Do governments experiment with open standards, and if so, what standards are developed, to what end, using what governance approach?

The Capacity layer

Staff innovations may play an important role in open data governance. What is the role of chief data officers in improving open data governance? Could the usual informal networks of open data curators within government and a few open data champions make open data success alone? What role do these innovations play in making decisions about open data and personal data protection? Could governments rely solely on senior government officials to execute open data strategies? Who else is involved in the decision-making around open data release? What are the incentives and disincentives for officials to increase data sharing? As one session participant mentioned: “I have never experienced that a civil servant got promoted for sharing data”. This begs the question if and how governments currently assess performance metrics that support opening up data. What other models could help reward data sharing and publication? In an environment of decreased public funding, are there opportunities for governments to integrate open data publication in existing engagement channels with the public? Open governance and capacity: Open governance may require capacities in government, but could also contribute new capacities. This can apply to staff, but also resources such as time or infrastructure. How do governments provide and draw capacity from open governance approaches, and what could be learnt for other open data governance approaches?    

Next steps

With this map of data governance aspects as a starting point, we would like to conduct empirical research to explore how open data governance is practised. A growing body of ethnographic research suggests that tech innovations such as algorithmic decision-making, open data, or smart city initiatives are ‘multiples’ — meaning that they can be practiced in many ways by different people, arising in various contexts. With such an understanding, we would like to develop empirical case studies to elicit how open data governance is practised. Our proposed research approach includes the following steps:
  • Universe mapping: Identifying public sector officials and civil servants involved in deciding how data gets managed, shared and published openly (this helps to get closer to the actual decision-makers, and to learn from them).
  • Describing how and on what basis (legal, organisational & bureaucratic, technological, financial, etc.) people make decisions on what gets published and why.
  • Observe and describe different approaches to do open data governance, looking at enabling and limiting factors of opening up data.
  • Describe gaps and areas of improvement with regards to open data governance, as well as best practices.
This may surface how open data governance becomes salient for governments, under what circumstances and why. If you are a government official, or civil servant working with (open) data, and would like to share your experiences, we would like to hear from you!  

Sweden needs better coordination, skills and concrete incentives to drive the work on open data forward

- February 12, 2019 in Open Data

The assessment of Sweden’s commitments in the framework of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)* has just been published. The assessment shows that Sweden’s third OGP action plan led to greater access to public service information. However, Alina Östling, the researcher who carried out the evaluation, underlines that future action plans could be more ambitious and be preceded by wider consultations with civil society during their development and implementation.
Sweden has faced issues with digital management and coordination for many years. A previous study by the Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV) found that progress towards digitization in the public sector varies significantly across different state and municipal organizations with a few excelling, while the majority lags behind. The government assignments given to the pilot agencies in the framework of the Digital First programme have led to some improvements in terms of access to information, as several agencies have released substantial amounts of open data. For example, in September 2017, the Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority (Lantmäteriet) released open geographic data according to the CC0 license (meaning that all rights are waived), and the Environment Agency released data in July 2018 that should facilitate navigation in protected areas that are free to use in proprietary applications. However, Lantmäteriet suggests that important obstacles remain, including a fragmented and partly analogous information supply. This impedes access to information, leads to unnecessary duplication of work for stakeholders, and to uneven development and progress. Based on desk research and interviews with stakeholders, the OGP researcher recommends improving national coordination in access to basic public sector information and to invest in skills necessary for public sector digitization.
In terms of opening up Public Sector Information (PSI), the OGP assessment shows that it has become easier to re-use PSI. Sweden has increased both the number of PSI datasets published and the number of visitors on the national open data portal. According to the European Commission, Sweden has reached ‘portal maturity’ and is now an open data ‘fast-tracker’. The National Archives has further developed the national open data portal, and has almost tripled the number of datasets between July 2017 and August 2018 (from 494 to 1,432). The number of unique visitors per month has increased from 330 in 2016 to 2,000 in 2017, and the portal contains 90-99 percent of all openly licensed datasets.
However, despite good progress, the OGP report stresses that more needs to be done in order to increase the re-use of information, including more initiatives in the field of open data and a strategy that outlines the long-term priorities. Many authorities are still uncertain about how to facilitate opening data, and lack concrete incentives for driving the work forward. Progress has not been uniform across authorities and tends to concern only some spearheads in the public administration. The responsibility to promote PSI and open data, as well as to assist public agencies in publishing such data has recently been taken over by the new Agency for Digital Government (DIGG) and the progress of Sweden in the field of open data will largely depend on the strategy and performance of DIGG.
  • The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country. This report summarizes the results of the period July 2016 to June 2018: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/sweden-end-of-term-report-2016-2018-public-comment
  [1] “Digitalization of public Sweden – a follow-up”. (The Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV), March 2018), https://www.esv.se/publicerat/publikationer/2018/digitaliseringen-av-det-offentliga-sverige–en-uppfoljning/ [1] Creative Commons CC Zero License (cc-zero) is intended to be a ‘public domain dedication,’ i.e., a waiver of all rights including those of attribution. (“Creative Commons CC Zero License (cc-zero)” (Open Definition, 22 July 2018), http://opendefinition.org/licenses/cc-zero/.) CC0 is currently recommended as the preferred method for releasing software to the public domain by the Free Software Foundation. (“Various Licenses and Comments about Them” (Free Software Foundation, 27 June 2018), https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html). CC0 is also used by major players such as Open street map on Wikipedia. [1] “Now it becomes easier to use the Lantmäteriets open data” (Geoforum Sweden, 14 August 2017), https://geoforum.se/nyheter/266-oppna-data/3173-nu-blir-det-enklare-att-anvaenda-lantmaeteriets-oeppna-data [1] Geoforum Sverige, 16 July 2018, https://geoforum.se/nyheter/266-oppna-data/3484-naturvardsverket-slapper-oppna-data-som-forenklar-friluftslivet [1] “Digital First- For a smarter community-building process” (The Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority (Lantmäteriet) January 2018), https://www.geodata.se/globalassets/dokumentarkiv/styrning-och-uppfoljning/geodatastrategin/slutrapport-digitalt-forst.pdf [1] European Data Portal, Open data maturity dashboard, 24 August 2018, https://www.europeandataportal.eu/en/dashboard#tab-detailed [1] The IRM researcher verified the number of available datasets during the data collection for the second IRM mid-term reports on 17 July 2017, on the oppnadata.se portal. [1] The IRM researcher verified the number of available datasets during the data collection for the second IRM end-of-term reports on 24 August 2017, https://registrera.oppnadata.se/status/overview [1] “Sweden – Overview”, European Data Portal,  https://www.europeandataportal.eu/sites/default/files/country-factsheet_sweden.pdf. [1] About 40 percent of the national authorities and 60 percent of municipalities and county councils have not implemented any specific measure at all to make available for re-use. Source: The evaluation of the re-use of data and public documents carried out by the Agency for Public Management (Milestone 2.3.) published on 9 January 2018, http://www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2018/201802.pdf [1] The evaluation of the re-use of data and public documents carried out by the Agency for Public Management (Milestone 2.3.) published on 9 January 2018, http://www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2018/201802.pdf [1] The website of DIGG with a description of the scope of the Agency: https://www.digg.se/utveckling–innovation/oppna-data-och-datadriven-innovation

Sweden needs better coordination, skills and concrete incentives to drive the work on open data forward

- February 12, 2019 in Open Data

The assessment of Sweden’s commitments in the framework of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)* has just been published. The assessment shows that Sweden’s third OGP action plan led to greater access to public service information. However, Alina Östling, the researcher who carried out the evaluation, underlines that future action plans could be more ambitious and be preceded by wider consultations with civil society during their development and implementation.
Sweden has faced issues with digital management and coordination for many years. A previous study by the Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV) found that progress towards digitization in the public sector varies significantly across different state and municipal organizations with a few excelling, while the majority lags behind. The government assignments given to the pilot agencies in the framework of the Digital First programme have led to some improvements in terms of access to information, as several agencies have released substantial amounts of open data. For example, in September 2017, the Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority (Lantmäteriet) released open geographic data according to the CC0 license (meaning that all rights are waived), and the Environment Agency released data in July 2018 that should facilitate navigation in protected areas that are free to use in proprietary applications. However, Lantmäteriet suggests that important obstacles remain, including a fragmented and partly analogous information supply. This impedes access to information, leads to unnecessary duplication of work for stakeholders, and to uneven development and progress. Based on desk research and interviews with stakeholders, the OGP researcher recommends improving national coordination in access to basic public sector information and to invest in skills necessary for public sector digitization.
In terms of opening up Public Sector Information (PSI), the OGP assessment shows that it has become easier to re-use PSI. Sweden has increased both the number of PSI datasets published and the number of visitors on the national open data portal. According to the European Commission, Sweden has reached ‘portal maturity’ and is now an open data ‘fast-tracker’. The National Archives has further developed the national open data portal, and has almost tripled the number of datasets between July 2017 and August 2018 (from 494 to 1,432). The number of unique visitors per month has increased from 330 in 2016 to 2,000 in 2017, and the portal contains 90-99 percent of all openly licensed datasets.
However, despite good progress, the OGP report stresses that more needs to be done in order to increase the re-use of information, including more initiatives in the field of open data and a strategy that outlines the long-term priorities. Many authorities are still uncertain about how to facilitate opening data, and lack concrete incentives for driving the work forward. Progress has not been uniform across authorities and tends to concern only some spearheads in the public administration. The responsibility to promote PSI and open data, as well as to assist public agencies in publishing such data has recently been taken over by the new Agency for Digital Government (DIGG) and the progress of Sweden in the field of open data will largely depend on the strategy and performance of DIGG.
  • The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country. This report summarizes the results of the period July 2016 to June 2018: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/sweden-end-of-term-report-2016-2018-public-comment
  [1] “Digitalization of public Sweden – a follow-up”. (The Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV), March 2018), https://www.esv.se/publicerat/publikationer/2018/digitaliseringen-av-det-offentliga-sverige–en-uppfoljning/ [1] Creative Commons CC Zero License (cc-zero) is intended to be a ‘public domain dedication,’ i.e., a waiver of all rights including those of attribution. (“Creative Commons CC Zero License (cc-zero)” (Open Definition, 22 July 2018), http://opendefinition.org/licenses/cc-zero/.) CC0 is currently recommended as the preferred method for releasing software to the public domain by the Free Software Foundation. (“Various Licenses and Comments about Them” (Free Software Foundation, 27 June 2018), https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html). CC0 is also used by major players such as Open street map on Wikipedia. [1] “Now it becomes easier to use the Lantmäteriets open data” (Geoforum Sweden, 14 August 2017), https://geoforum.se/nyheter/266-oppna-data/3173-nu-blir-det-enklare-att-anvaenda-lantmaeteriets-oeppna-data [1] Geoforum Sverige, 16 July 2018, https://geoforum.se/nyheter/266-oppna-data/3484-naturvardsverket-slapper-oppna-data-som-forenklar-friluftslivet [1] “Digital First- For a smarter community-building process” (The Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority (Lantmäteriet) January 2018), https://www.geodata.se/globalassets/dokumentarkiv/styrning-och-uppfoljning/geodatastrategin/slutrapport-digitalt-forst.pdf [1] European Data Portal, Open data maturity dashboard, 24 August 2018, https://www.europeandataportal.eu/en/dashboard#tab-detailed [1] The IRM researcher verified the number of available datasets during the data collection for the second IRM mid-term reports on 17 July 2017, on the oppnadata.se portal. [1] The IRM researcher verified the number of available datasets during the data collection for the second IRM end-of-term reports on 24 August 2017, https://registrera.oppnadata.se/status/overview [1] “Sweden – Overview”, European Data Portal,  https://www.europeandataportal.eu/sites/default/files/country-factsheet_sweden.pdf. [1] About 40 percent of the national authorities and 60 percent of municipalities and county councils have not implemented any specific measure at all to make available for re-use. Source: The evaluation of the re-use of data and public documents carried out by the Agency for Public Management (Milestone 2.3.) published on 9 January 2018, http://www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2018/201802.pdf [1] The evaluation of the re-use of data and public documents carried out by the Agency for Public Management (Milestone 2.3.) published on 9 January 2018, http://www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2018/201802.pdf [1] The website of DIGG with a description of the scope of the Agency: https://www.digg.se/utveckling–innovation/oppna-data-och-datadriven-innovation

Nominations open for Swedish Open Knowledge Awards 2018

- January 22, 2019 in network, OK awards, OK Sweden, Open Data, Sweden

This blog has been reposted from the OK Sweden blog. Open Knowledge Sweden is aiming to create a tradition to acknowledge people and organizations to foster better, open, democratic, inclusive and innovative society. Open Knowledge should be a mainstream concept and a natural part of our everyday lives. That is why we are organising the 2018 edition of the Swedish Open Knowledge Awards (OKA), the first award event on open knowledge in Sweden, covering categories such as transparency, entrepreneurship, open science, ministry/municipality and business initiative. Each category in which organizations, companies and authorities are tested in, will annually be determining the most exemplary initiative working in favour of open data, open knowledge and transparency. The award winners will set an example of how businesses and organizations have best used open knowledge for innovative solutions, how authorities have been more transparent with the use of open knowledge and how public figures have used their influence for change in that direction, both cultural and legal. Open Knowledge Sweden has held previous OK Awards in collaboration with KTH, Wikimedia, and Dataföreningen. This year, we expect to have more nominations and guests at our event with support from the Open Knowledge community. As OK Sweden, we believe that OKA is providing recognition to change makers that push for innovation as well as transparent and accountable democracy. It also raises the bar every year for all open knowledge stakeholders in Sweden.

OK awards jury

The jury consists of experts and researchers in open knowledge related domains: Britta Duve Hansen is an IT strategist and solution architect at the City of Lund. With backgrounds in mathematics and geographic IT, her core focus today is on Business Intelligence, digitalisation, and Open Data. She believes in transparency, collaboration, and common standards as the key drivers of digital transformation in the public sector. Björn Söderlund is head of development at the Swedish municipality of Lidingö stad and one of the last year’s award winners. Björn has been engaged many years at the local, regional and national level in finding ways of publishing more open data from the public sector to stimulate openness and innovation. He is also involved in national work with the aspects and challenges of information security issues as the municipality’s CISO. Lidingö stad is still one of the public organizations that has published the most number of datasets and believes it remains one of the important future challenges for information use, reuse and development. On the reasons why we should do better he believes that the simple answer is to turn the question around- “Why shouldn’t we?” Halit Koşmaz is the chairman of Open Knowledge Sweden. He is a Master of Science engineer in electro-physics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Halit is very pragmatic problem-solver in any context with innovation and heavy wide competence. Halit has extensive experience from master and expert roles within the Telecom, public authorities, financial companies, renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions. Halit has worked in roles as President, Chief Operating Officer, IT and system architect, development engineer, project manager and business developer. He has extensive knowledge in the field of IT security, identity management, payment and credit solutions, PKI, mobile services, as well as ECM/document management. Halit has developed even hardware (laser) for fiber optic network, energy harvesting solution for the roof and nanomaterial for insulation and air-filter. Halit has extensive experience working abroad where he has worked with major international and companies. Halit is a devoted soldier to child pornography on the internet. He has fought in all fronts to keep the internet free from CSEM. Halit has always advocated open data in the public sector, convinced that only open data confers strong democracy. Jessica Bäck is responsible for Sales and Partner Relations at the Internet Foundation in Sweden. She is a board member of the government initiative Hack for Sweden. Jessica is the founder of Teknikklubben, a meeting place for tech-interested transgender kids and a runner-up for the Unionen HBTQ-award 2018. At the Internet Foundation, Jessica has published a series of Internet Guides that have headlined national newspapers and been translated into several languages.

Nomination process

This year, in order to have better judgement of year 2019, Open Knowledge Awards for 2018 will be held on February 27th, 2019. You are welcome to nominate an individual, group, or organization for each category from now on. The schedule of the nomination process as below:
  • Public Nomination: 22 December 2018 to 28 January 2019
  • Nominations Announcement: February 1, 2019
  • Finalist Announcement:  February 15
  • Price Ceremony: February 27, 2019
To nominate entities/people and for more information about the OK Awards for 2018 event: http://okawards.org/nominate-2018. You can read more about the OK Awards on our website www.okawards.org, or read about the previous year’s winners here. Feel free to contact us regarding press, sponsorship or volunteer contribution. Best regards,
Erhan Bayram Project Leader E-mail: erhan@okfn.se
Phone: +46(0)720212408

Open Knowledge Awards 2018

- December 27, 2018 in Open Data

Nominations for Open Knowledge Awards for 2018 is Open! This year, in order to have better judgement of year 2019, Open Knowledge Awards for 2018 will be held on February 27th, 2019. You are welcome to nominate an individual, group, or organization for each category from now on. The schedule of the nomination process as below: Public Nomination: 22 December 2018-28 January 2019 Nominations Announcement: February 1, 2019 Finalist Announcement:  February 15 Price Ceremony: February 27, 2019 Open knowledge Sweden is aiming to create a tradition to acknowledge people and organizations to foster better, open, democratic, inclusive and innovative society. Open Knowledge should be a mainstream concept and a natural part of our everyday lives. OK Awards covers categories such as transparency, entrepreneurship, open science, region/municipality and business initiative. The award winners will set an example of how businesses and organizations have best used open knowledge for innovative solutions, how authorities have been more transparent with the use of open knowledge and how public figures have used their influence for change in that direction, both cultural and legal. Open Knowledge Sweden has held previous OK Awards in collaboration with KTH, Wikimedia, and Dataföreningen. This year, we expect to have more nominations and guests at our event with support from the Open Knowledge Community. As OK Sweden, we believe that OKA is providing recognition to change makers that push for innovation as well as transparent and accountable democracy. It also raises the bar every year for all open knowledge stakeholders in Sweden. To nominate entities/people and for more information about the OK Awards for 2018 event: Visit our website www.okawards.org You can read more about the previous year’s winners here Feel free to contact us regarding press, sponsorship or volunteer contribution Best regards,
Erhan Bayram Project Leader
E-mail: erhan@okfn.se
Phone: +46(0)720212408

Open data and the fight against corruption in Latvia, Sweden and Finland

- December 7, 2018 in financial transparency, finland, Latvia, network, OK Finland, OK Sweden, Open Data, Sweden

This blog has been crossposted from the Open Knowledge Sweden blog.
Transparency International Latvia, in collaboration with Open Knowledge Sweden and Open Knowledge Finland, has published a new study on open data and anti-corruption policies in Latvia, Sweden and Finland, showing that governments in the three countries could do more to leverage the potential of open data for anti-corruption policies and public accountability.  The study comprises an overview report summarising the overall findings and identifying opportunities for knowledge transfer and regional cooperation as well as specific reports assessing to what extent governments in Latvia, Sweden and Finland have implemented internationally agreed-upon open data principles as part of their anti-corruption regime, providing recommendations for further improvement at the national level.                                 The study is the outcome of a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The aim of the project was to gain a better understanding of how Nordic and Baltic countries are performing in terms of integration of anti-corruption and open data agendas, in order to identify opportunities for knowledge transfer and promote further Nordic cooperation in this field. The study assessed whether 10 key anti-corruption datasets in Latvia, Finland and Sweden are in line with international open data standards. The datasets considered in the frame of the study are:
  1. Lobbying register
  2. Company register
  3. Beneficial ownership register
  4. Public officials’ directories
  5. Government Budget
  6. Government spending
  7. Public procurement register
  8. Political Financing register
  9. Parliament’s Voting Records
  10. Land Register
Within this respect, Sweden has made only 3 of 10 key anti-corruption datasets available online and fully in line with open data standards, whereas Finland have achieved to make 8 of these datasets available online, six of which are fully in line with open data standards.  As for Latvia, 5 of them have been found to be available and in line with the standards. When it comes to scoring these three countries with regard to anti-corruption datasets, in Sweden, the situation is more problematic compared to other two countries. It has the lowest score, 5.3 out of 9, while Finland and Latvia have scored 6.1 and 6.0, respectively. Similarly, there are some signals that transparency in Sweden has been worsening in recent years despite its long tradition of efficiency and transparency in the public administration, good governance and rule of law as well as being in the top-10 of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for several years. The problem in Sweden stems from the fact that the government has had to cope with the high decentralization of the Swedish public administration, which seems to have resulted in little awareness of open data policies and practices and their potential for anti-corruption among public officials. Thus, engaging the new agency for digitalisation, Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), and all other authorities involved in open data could be a solution to develop a centralised, simple, and shared open data policy. Sweden should also take legal measures to formally enshrine open data principles in PSI (Public Sector Information) law such as requiring that all publicly released information be made ‘open by default’ and under an ‘open license’. The situation in Finland and Latvia is more promising. In Finland, a vibrant tech-oriented civil society in the country has played a key role in promoting initiatives for the application of open data for public integrity in a number of areas, including lobbying and transparency of government resources. As for Latvia,in recent years, it has made considerable progress in implementing open data policies, and the government has actively sought to release data for increasing public accountability in a number of areas such as public procurement and state-owned enterprises. However, the report finds that much of this data is still not available in open, machine-readable formats – making it difficult for users to download and operate with the data. Overall, in all three countries it seems that there has been little integration of open data in the agenda of anti-corruption authorities, especially with regard to capacity building. Trainings, awareness-raising and guidelines have been implemented for both open data and anti-corruption; nonetheless, these themes seem not to be interlinked within the public sector. The report also emphasizes the lack of government-funded studies and thematic reviews on the use of open data in fighting corruption. This applies both to the national and regional level. On the other hand, there is also a considerable potential for cooperation among Nordic-Baltic countries in the use of open data for public integrity, both in terms of knowledge transfer and implementation of common policies. While Nordic countries are among the most technologically advanced in the world and have shown the way with regard to government openness and trust in public institutions, the Baltic countries are among the fastest-growing economies in Europe, with a great potential for digital innovation and development of open data tools. Such cooperation among the three states would be easier in the presence of networks of “tech-oriented” civil society organisations and technology associations, as well as the framework of cooperation with authorities with the common goal of promoting and developing innovation strategies and tools based in open data.

OPEN DATA AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION IN LATVIA, SWEDEN AND FINLAND

- December 2, 2018 in Open Data

Transparency International Latvia, in collaboration with Open Knowledge Sweden and Open Knowledge Finland, has published a new study on open data and anti-corruption policies in Latvia, Sweden and Finland, showing that governments in the three countries could do more to leverage the potential of open data for anti-corruption policies and public accountability. The study comprises an overview report summarising the overall findings and identifying opportunities for knowledge transfer and regional cooperation as well as specific reports assessing to what extent governments in Latvia, Sweden and Finland have implemented internationally agreed-upon open data principles as part of their anti-corruption regime, providing recommendations for further improvement at the national level.                                 The study is the outcome of a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The aim of the project was to gain a better understanding of how Nordic and Baltic countries are performing in terms of integration of anti-corruption and open data agendas, in order to identify opportunities for knowledge transfer and promote further Nordic cooperation in this field. The study assessed whether 10 key anti-corruption datasets in Latvia, Finland and Sweden are in line with international open data standards. The datasets considered in the frame of the study are: 1) Lobbying register 2) Company register 3) Beneficial ownership register 4) Public officials’ directories 5) Government Budget 6) Government spending 7) Public procurement register 8) Political Financing register 9) Parliament’s Voting Records 10) Land Register Within this respect, Sweden has made only 3 of 10 key anti-corruption datasets available online and fully in line with open data standards, whereas Finland have achieved to make 8 of these datasets available online, six of which are fully in line with open data standards.  As for Latvia, 5 of them have been found to be available and in line with the standards. When it comes to scoring these three countries with regard to anti-corruption datasets, in Sweden, the situation is more problematic compared to other two countries. It has the lowest score, 5.3 out of 9, while Finland and Latvia have scored 6.1 and 6.0, respectively. Similarly, there are some signals that transparency in Sweden has been worsening in recent years despite its long tradition of efficiency and transparency in the public administration, good governance and rule of law as well as being in the top-10 of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for several years. The problem in Sweden stems from the fact that the government has had to cope with the high decentralization of the Swedish public administration, which seems to have resulted in little awareness of open data policies and practices and their potential for anti-corruption among public officials. Thus, engaging the new agency for digitalisation, Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), and all other authorities involved in open data could be a solution to develop a centralised, simple, and shared open data policy. Sweden should also take legal measures to formally enshrine open data principles in PSI (Public Sector Information) law such as requiring that all publicly released information be made ‘open by default’ and under an ‘open license’. The situation in Finland and Latvia is more promising. In Finland, a vibrant tech-oriented civil society in the country has played a key role in promoting initiatives for the application of open data for public integrity in a number of areas, including lobbying and transparency of government resources. As for Latvia,in recent years, it has made considerable progress in implementing open data policies, and the government has actively sought to release data for increasing public accountability in a number of areas such as public procurement and state-owned enterprises. However, the report finds that much of this data is still not available in open, machine-readable formats – making it difficult for users to download and operate with the data. Overall, in all three countries it seems that there has been little integration of open data in the agenda of anti-corruption authorities, especially with regard to capacity building. Trainings, awareness-raising and guidelines have been implemented for both open data and anti-corruption; nonetheless, these themes seem not to be interlinked within the public sector. The report also emphasizes the lack of government-funded studies and thematic reviews on the use of open data in fighting corruption. This applies both to the national and regional level. On the other hand, there is also a considerable potential for cooperation among Nordic-Baltic countries in the use of open data for public integrity, both in terms of knowledge transfer and implementation of common policies. While Nordic countries are among the most technologically advanced in the world and have shown the way with regard to government openness and trust in public institutions, the Baltic countries are among the fastest-growing economies in Europe, with a great potential for digital innovation and development of open data tools. Such cooperation among the three states would be easier in the presence of networks of “tech-oriented” civil society organisations and technology associations, as well as the framework of cooperation with authorities with the common goal of promoting and developing innovation strategies and tools based in open data.

Paris Peace Forum Hackathon: A new chance to talk about open data

- November 27, 2018 in Events, Open Data, Open Government Data, open-government, paris peace forum

A few weeks ago we had the chance to attend the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum. The goal of this new initiative is to exchange and discuss concrete global governance solutions. More than 10,000 people attended, 65 Heads of State and Government were present, and 10 international organizations leaders convened for those three days at La Grande Halle de La Villette.   In parallel, the Paris Peace Forum hosted a hackathon to find new approaches to different challenges proposed by four different organizations. Hosted by the awesome Datactivist team, during these three days we worked on: Transparency of international organizations budgets, Transparency of major international event budgets, Transparency of public procurement procedures and Communication of financial data to the public. We had an attendance of about 80 participants, both experts in different topics, students from France and people interested in collaborating on building solutions. The approach was simple: Let’s look at the problems and see what kind of data will be useful. Day one The first day of the hackathon we got to hear the challenges that each organization had for us. Then we form teams based on the interests of the participants. This left us with smaller teams that would get to work on their projects along with the mentors. On that first day we also had the presence of two Heads of State to talk about innovation and technology. The first day concluded with a few ideas of what we wanted to do as well as a better understanding of the data that we could use. Day two Day two was the most intense. The teams got to decide what their solution would be and build it, or at least get to a minimum viable product. This was no simple task. Some teams had a hard time deciding what kind of solution they wanted to build. Some teams made user personas and user stories, some authors looked at data and built their solutions from there and some others started from a very specific set of problems related to their challenge. By the end of this day the teams had to present their projects to the other teams as well as to the mentors with at least some advances on their final projects. ​Day three Day three was a day full of excitement, but also for the mentors since we had to take one final project to present on the main stage of the Paris Peace Forum. During the morning the teams tweaked and fixed their projects and prepared their pitches, then presented to the mentors. Selecting only one final project for each of the challenges was a challenge by itself. But in the end we ended up with four really great projects:
  • Contract Fit selected by Open State Foundation
  • Tackling Climate Change – selected by the World Bank
  • LA PORTE – selected by the Open Contracting Partnership
  • Know your chances – selected by ETALAB
Each of these teams presented their projects at the main stage of the Paris Peace Forum. You can see the video here. This was a really interesting first edition of a hackathon in such a high level event covering such important topics. I was really happy to see so much engagement from both participants and mentors. It was also great to see the amazing job that our hosts made at putting all this together. We expect to see this exercise of innovation become a crucial part of future instances of the Peace Forum.  

Open Washing: digging deeper into the tough questions

- October 25, 2018 in IODC, iodc18, Open Data, openwashing

This blog was written by James McKinney, Oscar Montiel and Ana Brandusescu For the second time in history, the International Open Data Conference (IODC) opened a space for us to talk about #openwashing. The insights from IODC16 have been brilliantly summarised by Ana Brandusescu, also a host of this year’s session. On this occasion, we dug deeper into some of the issues and causes of open washing. We expect and hope this to be a discussion we can have more than once every couple of years at a conference, so we invite you all to contact the authors and let us know your thoughts! In order to discuss open washing in a very limited time, we framed the discussion around Heimstädt’s paper from 2017. To go beyond data publication, we asked participants to think about four key questions:
  1. How does a particular context encourage or discourage open washing?
  2. How does openness serve, or not serve, non-technical communities?
  3. How is a lack of openness tied to culture?
  4. What is our role as civil society organization/infomediary or government in tackling open washing?
This last question was key to try and frame open washing as something beyond blaming one group or another as the sole culprit of this practice. To accommodate the large number of Spanish and English speakers, we split into two language groups. Here, we summarize the key points of each discussion.

English group

Lack of power

Participants described scenarios in which publishers lacked the power to publish (whether by design or not). For example, an international non-profit organization (INGO) receives donor funding to hire a local researcher. The INGO has an open data policy, but when you request the data collected by the researcher, the INGO refers you to the donor (citing intellectual property clauses of the funding agreement), who then refers you to the researcher (wishing to respect the embargo on an upcoming article). In short, the INGO has an open data policy, but it lacks the power to publish this data and others like it. In this and many other cases, the open data program limited itself to data the organization owns, without looking more comprehensively at how the organization manages intellectual property rights to data it finances, purchases, licenses, etc. Such scenarios become open washing when, whether deliberately or through negligence, a government fails to secure the necessary intellectual property rights to publish data of high value or of high interest. This risk is acute for state-owned enterprises, public-private partnerships, procured services and privatized services. Common examples relate to address data. For example, Canada Post’s postal code data is the country’s most requested dataset, but Canada’s Directive on Open Government doesn’t apply to Canada Post, as it’s a state-owned enterprise. Similarly, when the United Kingdom privatized the Royal Mail, it didn’t retain the postcode data as a public dataset. Besides limits to the application of open data policies, another way in which organizations lack power is with respect to their enforcement. To be effective, policies must have consequences for noncompliance. (See, for example, Canada’s Directive on Open Government.) One more way in which power is limited is less legal and more social. Few organizations take responsibility for failing to respect their open data principles, but acknowledging failure is a first step toward improvement. Similarly, few actors call out their own and/or others’ failures, which leads to a situation in which failures are silent and unaddressed. Opportunities:
  • Open data programs should consider the intellectual property management of not only the data an organization owns, but also the data it finances, purchases, licenses, etc.
  • Open data programs should extend to all of government, including state-owned enterprises, public-private partnerships, procured services and privatized services.
  • To be enforceable, open data policies must have consequences for noncompliance.

Lack of knowledge or capacity

Participants also described scenarios in which publishers lacked the knowledge or capacity to publish effectively. Data is frequently made open but not made useful, for lack of care for who might use it. For example, open by default policies can incentivize ‘dumping’ as much data as possible into a catalog, but opening data shouldn’t be ‘like taking trash out.’ In addition, few publishers measure quality or prioritize datasets for release with stakeholder input, in order to improve the utility of datasets. In many cases, public servants have good intentions and are working with limited resources to overcome these challenges, in which case they aren’t open washing. However, their efforts may be ‘washed’ by others. For example, a minister might over-sell the work, out of a desire to claim success after putting in substantial effort. Or, a ranking or an initiative like the Open Government Partnership might celebrate the work, despite its shortcomings – giving a ‘star’ for openness, without a real change in openness. Opportunities: Make rankings more resistant to open washing. For example, governments can read the assessment methodology of the Open Data Barometer and ‘game’ a high score. Is there a way to identify, measure and/or account for open washing within such methodologies? Are there any inspiring methods from, for example, fighting bid rigging?

Other opportunities

While the discussion focused on the areas above, participants shared other ideas to address open washing, including to:
  • Make it a common practice to disclose the reason a dataset is not released, so that it is harder for governments to quietly withhold a dataset from publication.
  • Balance advocacy with collaboration. For example, if a department is open washing, make it uncomfortable in public, while nurturing a working relationship with supportive staff in private, in order to push for true openness. That said, advocacy has risks, which may not be worth the reward in all cases of open washing.
 

Spanish group

Political discourse

Participants described how, in their countries, the discourse around openness came from the top-down and was led by political parties. In many cases, a political party formed government and branded its work and ways of working as ‘open’. This caused their efforts to be perceived as partisan, and therefore at greater risk of being reversed when an opposing party formed government.  This also meant that public servants, especially in middle and lower-level positions, didn’t see the possible outcomes of openness in their activities as an important part of their regular work, but as extra, politically-motivated work within their already busy schedules. Opportunities: Make openness a non-partisan issue. Encourage a bottom-up discourse.

Implementation challenges

Participants described many challenges in implementing openness:
  • A lack of technical skills and resources.
  • A focus on quantity over quality.
  • Governments seeing openness as an effort that one or two agencies can deliver, instead of as an effort that requires all agencies to change how they work.
  • Governments opening data only in ways and formats with which they are already familiar, and working only with people they already know and trust.
  • A fear of being judged.
Opportunities: Co-design data formats.  Author standardized manuals for collecting and publishing data.

The value of data

A final point was the lack of a broad appreciation that data is useful and important. As long as people inside and outside government don’t see its value, there will be little motivation to open data and to properly govern and manage it. Opportunities: Research government processes and protocols for data governance and management.  

Wrapping up

At IODC18, we created a space to discuss open washing. We advanced the conversation on some factors contributing to it, and identified some opportunities to address it. However, we could only touch lightly on a few of the many facets of open washing. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on these discussions and on open washing in general! You can contact us via Twitter or email: