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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:

Youth Data Champions: Empowerment, Leadership and Data

- October 2, 2018 in nepal, OK Nepal, Open Data, training

This post was jointly written by Shubham Ghimire, Chief Operating Officer and Nikesh Balami, Chief Executive Officer of Open Knowledge Nepal as a part of the Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Data Workshop. It has been reposted from the Open Knowledge Nepal blog. This summer,  the PAHICHAN – Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Data workshop was conducted in 6 districts of 3 different provinces of Nepal, where more than 126  energetic youths were trained and sensitized on the concept of open data. The aim was to create a network of young data leaders who will lead and support the development of their communities through the use of open data as evidence for youth-led and data-driven development. The three days in-house workshop were conducted in Itahari, Bhojpur, Butwal, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Dadeldhura from 12th July to 14th August 2018. During the 3 days workshop, the participants were informed about concepts of youth rights, leadership skills, and were oriented about the use of open data, visualization and mapping as evidence to tackle issues in their community. The session about youth empowerment and leadership was facilitated by the YUWA team and the hands-on workshop on data, visualization and mapping were facilitated by Open Knowledge Nepal, Nepali in Data and NAXA. The team was accompanied by the representative of the Data for Development Program in Nepal and local partners. The following local partners helped in coordination in organizing a residential workshop successfully:
Districts Local Partner
Itahari Youth Development Centre Itahari
Bhojpur HEEHURLDE-Nepal
Butwal Rotaract Club of Butwal
Nepalgunj Cheers Creative Nepal – CCN and District Youth Club Network
Dhangadi Far West Multipurpose Center
Dadeldhura Social Unity Club

Open Knowledge Nepal’s Session at PAHICHAN – Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Data Workshop

On the first day of the workshop, Open Knowledge Nepal delivered a session on ‘Open Data in Nepal’, where the history, current situation, definition, importance, working methodology and different open data initiatives from government, CSOs and private sectors were included. On the second day after the orientation about data-driven brainstorming, participants were divided into groups and each group was asked to come up with a problem in their community. Then the groups started working on their identified issues where they explored existing data of the problems, hidden opportunities and probable solutions using data, the challenges, impact, and identification of stakeholders to solve the raised issue. On the final day, the participants further worked in two groups to plan evidence-based campaigns on the issues they have worked on in the second day. Most of the groups planned to do awareness campaigns by making use of data, infographics, and maps. Each group was provided with seed money of NPR 7500  to implement their action plan within one month. We realized the data-driven brainstorming session was very fruitful for the young participants and definitely helped them in understanding local community issues through the use of open data. Now, these participants can easily plan and conduct small impactful projects,  evidence-based action plans, and campaigns with limited resources. A list of issues which were selected for the brainstorming session:
Districts Community Issues
Itahari Illiteracy, Unemployment, Substance Abuse, Caste Discrimination, Pollution
Bhojpur Quality Education, Migration, Physical Infrastructure, Gender Discrimination, Unemployment
Butwal Substance Abuse, Quality Education
Nepalgunj Substance Abuse, Cleanness
Dhangadi Youth Unemployment, Substance Abuse
Dadeldhura Good Governance, Substance Abuse (Alcohol Consumption)

Project Impact

  • Human Resources: The increase in the data demanding human resources, who can now understand and use the available data to tackle the local issues of their community.
  • Data Champions: All the 126 youth data champions are now capable of effectively planning and running evidence-based action plans and campaigns in their community.
  • Community Projects: The campaigns/projects led by each team on the community issues are making a difference in the community by awareness and advocacy through the use of infographics, mapping, and open data.
  • Future: We can mobilize these youth data champions for awareness and advocacy campaigns at the local level.

Major Takeaway

  • Digital Divide: In urban areas like Itahari, Butwal, and Nepalgunj most of the participants have the basic understanding of the overall topics but participants from the peri-urban region like Bhojpur, Dhangadhi, and Dadeldhura were not familiar about the topics and it was difficult for most of them to understand the subject.
  • Female Participation: One of the positive factors is that the female participation rate is higher than the male. Participants were energetic, enthusiastic and curious throughout the workshop.
  • Access to Internet: Due to the lack of internet facility in peri-urban areas, a lot of things were left unexplored.
  • Continuity: Many participants requested to organize similar kinds of events and hands-on workshop frequently. The workshop has definitely helped in strengthening the demand side of the data.
  • Practical Implementation: Participants learned the importance of evidence-based action plans and data-driven campaigns and development, but more of these kinds of the workshop are needed to teach them about the practical implementation.

Lesson Learned

  • Educational diversity of participants: We realized that most of the participants were from the same background. It would be better if there were participants from different backgrounds.
  • Onsite improvisation: We had to adjust and improvise our presentations and sessions according to the understanding level of the participants.
  • Digital literacy: You need to have a basic knowledge of technology to understand the use and value of data, visualizations, and mapping. But we felt that most of the participants in peri-urban areas lack the basic understanding. So we think it may not have been that much fruitful for them.
  The workshop was organized by YUWA and Data for Development in Nepal in coordination with Nepal in Data, Open Knowledge Nepal and NAXA, funded by UK Department for International Development implemented by The Asia Foundation and Development Initiatives.

Youth Data Champions: Empowerment, Leadership and Data

- October 2, 2018 in nepal, OK Nepal, Open Data, training

This post was jointly written by Shubham Ghimire, Chief Operating Officer and Nikesh Balami, Chief Executive Officer of Open Knowledge Nepal as a part of the Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Data Workshop. It has been reposted from the Open Knowledge Nepal blog. This summer,  the PAHICHAN – Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Data workshop was conducted in 6 districts of 3 different provinces of Nepal, where more than 126  energetic youths were trained and sensitized on the concept of open data. The aim was to create a network of young data leaders who will lead and support the development of their communities through the use of open data as evidence for youth-led and data-driven development. The three days in-house workshop were conducted in Itahari, Bhojpur, Butwal, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Dadeldhura from 12th July to 14th August 2018. During the 3 days workshop, the participants were informed about concepts of youth rights, leadership skills, and were oriented about the use of open data, visualization and mapping as evidence to tackle issues in their community. The session about youth empowerment and leadership was facilitated by the YUWA team and the hands-on workshop on data, visualization and mapping were facilitated by Open Knowledge Nepal, Nepali in Data and NAXA. The team was accompanied by the representative of the Data for Development Program in Nepal and local partners. The following local partners helped in coordination in organizing a residential workshop successfully:
Districts Local Partner
Itahari Youth Development Centre Itahari
Bhojpur HEEHURLDE-Nepal
Butwal Rotaract Club of Butwal
Nepalgunj Cheers Creative Nepal – CCN and District Youth Club Network
Dhangadi Far West Multipurpose Center
Dadeldhura Social Unity Club

Open Knowledge Nepal’s Session at PAHICHAN – Youth Empowerment, Youth Leadership and Data Workshop

On the first day of the workshop, Open Knowledge Nepal delivered a session on ‘Open Data in Nepal’, where the history, current situation, definition, importance, working methodology and different open data initiatives from government, CSOs and private sectors were included. On the second day after the orientation about data-driven brainstorming, participants were divided into groups and each group was asked to come up with a problem in their community. Then the groups started working on their identified issues where they explored existing data of the problems, hidden opportunities and probable solutions using data, the challenges, impact, and identification of stakeholders to solve the raised issue. On the final day, the participants further worked in two groups to plan evidence-based campaigns on the issues they have worked on in the second day. Most of the groups planned to do awareness campaigns by making use of data, infographics, and maps. Each group was provided with seed money of NPR 7500  to implement their action plan within one month. We realized the data-driven brainstorming session was very fruitful for the young participants and definitely helped them in understanding local community issues through the use of open data. Now, these participants can easily plan and conduct small impactful projects,  evidence-based action plans, and campaigns with limited resources. A list of issues which were selected for the brainstorming session:
Districts Community Issues
Itahari Illiteracy, Unemployment, Substance Abuse, Caste Discrimination, Pollution
Bhojpur Quality Education, Migration, Physical Infrastructure, Gender Discrimination, Unemployment
Butwal Substance Abuse, Quality Education
Nepalgunj Substance Abuse, Cleanness
Dhangadi Youth Unemployment, Substance Abuse
Dadeldhura Good Governance, Substance Abuse (Alcohol Consumption)

Project Impact

  • Human Resources: The increase in the data demanding human resources, who can now understand and use the available data to tackle the local issues of their community.
  • Data Champions: All the 126 youth data champions are now capable of effectively planning and running evidence-based action plans and campaigns in their community.
  • Community Projects: The campaigns/projects led by each team on the community issues are making a difference in the community by awareness and advocacy through the use of infographics, mapping, and open data.
  • Future: We can mobilize these youth data champions for awareness and advocacy campaigns at the local level.

Major Takeaway

  • Digital Divide: In urban areas like Itahari, Butwal, and Nepalgunj most of the participants have the basic understanding of the overall topics but participants from the peri-urban region like Bhojpur, Dhangadhi, and Dadeldhura were not familiar about the topics and it was difficult for most of them to understand the subject.
  • Female Participation: One of the positive factors is that the female participation rate is higher than the male. Participants were energetic, enthusiastic and curious throughout the workshop.
  • Access to Internet: Due to the lack of internet facility in peri-urban areas, a lot of things were left unexplored.
  • Continuity: Many participants requested to organize similar kinds of events and hands-on workshop frequently. The workshop has definitely helped in strengthening the demand side of the data.
  • Practical Implementation: Participants learned the importance of evidence-based action plans and data-driven campaigns and development, but more of these kinds of the workshop are needed to teach them about the practical implementation.

Lesson Learned

  • Educational diversity of participants: We realized that most of the participants were from the same background. It would be better if there were participants from different backgrounds.
  • Onsite improvisation: We had to adjust and improvise our presentations and sessions according to the understanding level of the participants.
  • Digital literacy: You need to have a basic knowledge of technology to understand the use and value of data, visualizations, and mapping. But we felt that most of the participants in peri-urban areas lack the basic understanding. So we think it may not have been that much fruitful for them.
  The workshop was organized by YUWA and Data for Development in Nepal in coordination with Nepal in Data, Open Knowledge Nepal and NAXA, funded by UK Department for International Development implemented by The Asia Foundation and Development Initiatives.

The next target user group for the open data movement is governments

- September 18, 2018 in Open Data, Open Government Data

Here’s an open data story that might sound a bit counterintuitive. Last month a multinational company was negotiating with an African government to buy an asset. The company, which already owned some of the asset but wanted to increase its stake, said the extra part was worth $6 million. The government’s advisers said it was worth at least three times that. The company disputed that. The two sides met for two days and traded arguments, sometimes with raised voices, but the meeting broke up inconclusively. A week later, half way round the world, the company’s headquarters issued a new investor presentation. Like all publicly listed companies, its release was filed with the appropriate stock market regulator, and sent out by email newsletter. Where a government adviser picked it up. In it, the company  advertised to investors how it had increased the value of its asset – the asset discussed in Africa – by four times in 18 months, and gave a valuation of the asset now. Their own valuation, it turned out, was indeed roughly three times the $6 million the company had told the government it was worth. Probably, the negotiators were not in touch with the investor relations people. But the end result was that the company had blown its negotiating position because, in effect, as a whole institution, it didn’t think a small African government could understand disclosure practise on an international stock market, subscribe to newsletters, or read their website. The moral of the story is: we need to expand the way we think about governments and open data. In the existing paradigm, governments are seen as the targets of advocacy campaigns, to release data they hold for public good, and enact legislation which binds themselves, and others, to release. Civil society tries hunts for internal champions within government, international initiatives (EITI, OGP etc) seek to bind governments in to emergent best practise, and investigative journalists and whistleblowers highlight the need for better information by dramatic cases of all the stuff that goes wrong and is covered up. And all of that is as it should be. But what we see regularly in our work at OpenOil is that there is also huge potential to engage government – at all levels – as users of open data. Officials in senior positions are sitting day after day, month after month, trying to make difficult decisions, under the false impression that they have little or no data. Often they don’t have clear understanding and access to data produced by other parts of their own government, and they are unaware of the host of broader datasets and systems. Initiatives like EITI which were founded to serve the public interest in data around natural resources have found a new and receptive audience in various government departments seeking to get a joined up view of their own data. And imagine if governments were regular and systematic users of open data and knowledge systems, how it might affect their interaction with advocacy campaigns. Suddenly, this would not be a one way street – governments would be getting something out of open data, not just responding to what, from their perspective, often seems like the incessant demands of activists. It could become more of a mutual backscratching dynamic. There is a paradox at the heart of much government thinking about information. In institutions with secretive cultures, there can be a weird ellipsis of the mind in which information which is secret must be important, and information which is open must be, by definition, worthless. Working on commercial analysis of assets managed by governments, we often find senior officials who believe they can’t make any progress because their commercial partners, the multinationals, hold all the data and don’t release it. While it is true that there is a stark asymmetry of information, we have half a dozen cases where the questions the government needed to answer could be addressed by data downloadable from the Internet. You have to know where to look of course. But it’s not rocket science. In one case, a finance ministry official had all the government’s “secret” data sitting on his laptop but we decided to go ahead and model a major mining project using public statements by the company anyway because the permissions needed from multiple departments to show the data to anyone else, let alone incorporate them in a model which might be published, would take months or years. Of course reliance on open data is likely to leave gaps and involves careful questions of interpretation. But our experience is that these have never been “deal breakers” – we have never had to abandon an analytical project because we couldn’t achieve good enough results with public data. Because the test of any analytical project is not “is it perfect?” but “does it take us on from where we are now, and can we comfortably state what we think the margins of error are?”. The potential is not confined to the Global South. Government at all levels and in all parts of the world could benefit greatly from more strategic use of open data. And it is in the interest of the open data movement to help them.

A short story about Open Washing

- August 20, 2018 in IODC, iodc18, Open Data, Open Government Data, openwashing

Great news! The International Open Data Conference (IODC) accepted my proposal about Open Washing. The moment I heard this I wanted to write something to invite everyone to our session. It will be a follow-up to the exchange we had during IODC in 2015. First a couple disclaimers: This text is not exactly about data. Open Washing is not an easy conversation to have. It’s not a comfortable topic for anyone, whether you work in government or civil society. Sometimes we decide to avoid it (I’m looking at you, OGP Summit!). To prepare this new session I went through the history of our initial conversation. I noticed that my awesome co-host, Ana Brandusescu summarised everything here. I invite you to read that blogpost and then come back. Or keep reading and then read the other post. Either way, don’t miss Ana’s post. What comes next is a story. I hope this story will illustrate why these uncomfortable conversations are important. Second disclaimer: everything in this story is true. It is a fact that these things happened. Some of them are still happening. It is not a happy story, and I’m sorry if some people might feel offended by me telling it. There was once a country that had a pretty young democracy. That country was ruled by one political party for 70 years and then, 18 years ago decided it was enough. Six years ago, that political party came back. They won the presidential election. How this happened is questionable but goes beyond the reach of this story right now. When this political party regained power the technocrats thought this was good news. Some international media outlets thought the new president would even “save” the country. The word “save” may sound like too much but there was a big wave of violence that had built from previous years. Economic development was slow and social issues were boiling. There was a big relationship of this to corruption in many levels of government. In this context, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The president’s office decided to make open government a priority. Open data would be a tool to promote proactive transparency and economic development. They signed all the international commitments they could. They chaired international spaces for everything transparency related. They set up a team with young and highly prepared professionals to turn all this into reality. But then, the tunnel seemed to extend and the light seemed dimmer. In spite of these commitments some things that weren’t supposed to happen, happened. Different journalistic researches found out what seemed like acts of corruption. A government contractor gave the president 7 million dollar house during the campaign. The government awarded about 450 million USD in irregular contracts. Most of these contracts didn’t even result in actual execution of works or delivery of goods. They spied on people from the civil society groups that collaborated with them. 45 journalists, who play a big role in this story, were murdered in the last 6 years. For doing their job. For asking questions that may be uncomfortable for some people. There is a lot more to the story but I will leave it here. That doesn’t mean it ends here. It’s still happening. It seems like this political party doesn’t care about using open washing anymore. They don’t care anymore because they’re leaving. But we should care because we stay. We need to talk and discuss this in the open. The story of this country, my country, is very particular and surreal but holds a lot of lessons. This is probably the worst invitation you’ve ever received. But I know there are a lot of lessons and knowledge out there. So if you are around, come to our session during IODC. If you’re not, talk about this issue where you live. Or reach out to others who might be interested. It probably won’t be comfortable but you will for sure bring a new perspective to your work. This is also an invitation to try it.

SaveOurAir: An experiment in data-activation

- July 17, 2018 in Open Data

Contemporary cities seem to be in a race to be increasingly ‘smart’ and data-driven. At smart city Expos around the world, visitors are presented with new visual modes of modes of knowing and governing. Dashboards providing birds-eye views of the real-time movement of objects in the city, are perhaps the most iconic of these visualizations. Often presented in a sort of control room environment, they illustrate the promise of instantaneous overviews things like cars, people and trans bins. These are all relevant objects for organizing dynamic cityscapes and creating an efficient city. In short – they seem like the bureaucratic engineers dream of an ordering tool. While such visualizations may be good for a form of cybernetic control of the city, it seems that there is a need for different ways of depicting the contemporary city as well. SaveOurAir – a project funded by EU’s Organicities program – was born out of this idea. What if we could activate data about air pollution in other ways that just providing generic overviews of pollution on a map? Would it be possible to tell more ‘local’ data stories about the issue of air pollution? Can the ‘local’ even be operationalized visually in other ways than points of latitude and longitude? If yes, what would the relevant visual metaphors be and which types of data would they draw upon? From October 2016 to May 2017 we decided to pursue these questions together with a selection of people with a stake in the discussion about air pollution. In this context, the ‘we’ included researchers from The Public Data Lab (see publicdatalab.org) and the ‘people’ included activists, teachers, politicians and public officials from England and Denmark. Through two week-long co-design workshops we co-produced three different functional prototypes that each have its own distinct way of telling a local data-story about air pollution. Full details of all the work can be found on SaveOurAir website, but we will quickly go through each in turn. First, in the MyAir project we produced a teaching kit that enables pupils in upper secondary school to explore issues of air pollution with reference to their own daily whereabouts. Armed with a mobile pollution monitor and their mobile phone, pupils in the Danish town of Gentofte constructed personalized and interactive map maps that contained data about the routes they had traveled and the amount of pollution they had been exposed to at various points on these routes. The aim of the teaching kit is to stimulate pupils to do inquiry into the sources of air pollution that influences their personal lives. You can explore the project here.  

Pictures of the air sensors and the interface for data-exploration made available by the MyAir software

Second, n the Mobilizing Our Air project we produced an online platform which portrays activist groups concerned with air pollution in the Borough of Camden, London. The activist groups’ interests are categorized into interest tags of which the platform’s user can select as many as wished for. Based on the user’s selection the platform shows a geographical map which outlines the location of the activist/activist group. The platform has three main goals: 1. the platform supports local activist groups to connect with each other through visibility on the platform, 2. the platform informs individuals interested in activism about activist groups in their vicinity and invites them to join the movements, 3. the platform brings the topic of air pollution to other activist groups’ attention which already support the cause of better air quality. You can explore the project here.

Four interfaces of the platform prototype for Mobilizing Our Air: groups, groups profile, campaigns, and stories.

Third, in the project entitled The Hot Potato Machine we wanted to understand and visually explore different ways of responding to and apportioning responsibility for complex issues such as air pollution. As actors involved in air pollution will often pass the blame, ‘the hot potato’, to someone else we wanted to create a visual interface for exploring what different actors say about each other in relation to how to tackle air pollution. Rather than focusing on measurements of pollutants, we were interested in how digital data might tell us about different ways of seeing air pollution as an issue, different imagined solutions, the fabric of relationships around it, and where there might be tensions, differences, knots and spaces for movement. Our prototype focuses on a specific “issue story” revealing different views on who is responsible for reducing air pollution from diesel taxis. You can explore the project here.  

Interfaces of the platform prototype for the Hot Potato Machine

These three projects represent the experimental outcome of the SaveOurAir project and they are good illustrations of the way we approach data in the Public Data Lab. We strive to organize social research as an open process – a process in which the research methods are developed at the same time as their results (the prototypes). But neither the methods nor their results are the specific object of our research. Instead, what we hope to hatch through our interventions are new “data publics”: publics that are not just the passive object of commercial and institutional monitoring, but who produce their own data actively and “by design”. For more info, contact Anders Koed Madsen.