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Frictionless Planet – Save the Date

- January 10, 2022 in Events, News, Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

We believe that an ecosystem of organisations combining tools, techniques and strategies to transform datasets relevant to the climate crisis into applied knowledge and actionable campaigns can get us closer to the Paris agreement goals. Today, scientists, academics and activists are working against the clock to save us from the greatest catastrophe of our times. But they are doing so under-resourced, siloed and disconnected. Sometimes even facing physical threats or achieving very local, isolated impact. We want to reverse that by activating a cross-sectoral sharing process of tools, techniques and technologies to open the data and unleash the power of knowledge to fight against climate change. We already started with the Frictionless Data process – collaborating with researcher groups to better manage ocean research data and openly publish cleaned, integrated energy data – and we want to expand an action-oriented alliance leading to cross regional, cross sectoral, sustainable collaboration. We need to use the best tools and the best minds of our times to fight the problems of our times.  We consider you-your organisation- as leading thinkers-doers-communicators leveraging technology and creativity in a unique way, with the potential to lead to meaningful change and we would love to invite you to an initial brainstorming session as we think of common efforts, a sustainability path and a road of action to work the next three years and beyond.  What will we do together during this brainstorming session? Our overarching goal is to make open climate data more useful. To that end, during this initial session, we will conceptualise ways of cleaning and standardising open climate data, creating more reproducible and efficient methods of consuming and analysing that data, and focus on ways to put this data into the hands of those that can truly drive change.  WHAT TO BRING?
  • An effort-idea that is effective and you feel proud of at the intersection of digital and climate change.
  • A data problem you are struggling with.
  • Your best post-holidays smile.
When? 13:30 GMT – 20 January – Registration open here. 20:30 GMT – 21 January – Registration opening here. Limited slots, 25 attendees per session. 

100+ Conversations to inspire our new Direction

- January 10, 2022 in News, OKI Projects, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation, Our Work

It has been almost two decades since OKF was founded. Back then, the open movement was navigating uncharted waters, with hope and optimism. We created new standards, engaged powerful actors and achieved change in government, science and access to knowledge and education, unleashing the power of openness, collaboration and community in the early digital days. You were a key mind in shaping the movement with your ideas and contributions. Now, the World changed again. Digital power structures are in the hands of a few corporations, controlling not only the richest datasets but also what we see, read and interact with. The climate crisis is aggravated by our digital dependencies. Inequality is rampant and the benefits of the digital transition are once again, unevenly distributed. We transferred racism and prejudices of the past to the technologies of the future, and the permissionless openness we enabled and encouraged led in some cases to new forms of extractivism and exploitation. What is the role of Open Knowledge Foundation to face the new challenges of “open” and the new threats to a “knowledge society and economy”? Which are the most urgent and important areas of action? Who are the partners we need to bring in to gain relevance and traction? Who are the allies we need to get closer to? Priorities? Areas of opportunity? Areas of caution? We are meeting 100+ people to discuss the future of open knowledge, as we write our new strategy, which will be shaped by a diverse set of visions from artists, activists, academics, archivists, thinkers, policymakers, data scientists, educators and community leaders from all over the World, to update and upgrade our path of action and direction to meet the complex challenges of our times. We want these conversations to reflect the diversity in our societies and the very diverse challenges we will need to face. We are therefore gathering suggestions on people we should talk to, from as many allies as possible. Who do you think would make a difference in this conversation? Who should we go and talk to? Please let us know your suggestion via this form. Stay tuned to know more about these conversations and the outcome they will have on our strategy ahead. The collaborative strategy will be validated by our board of directors and network, and it will be launched this year.

Working with UNHCR to better collect, archive and re-use data about some of the world’s most vulnerable people

- January 7, 2022 in ckan, Interviews, News, OKI Projects, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

Since 2018, the team at Open Knowledge Foundation has been working with the Raw Internal Data Library (RIDL) project team at UNHCR to build an internal library of data to support evidence-based decision making by UNHCR and its partners.

What’s this about? 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a global organisation ‘dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people’.

Around the world, at least 82 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Many of these people are refugees and asylum seekers. Over half are internally displaced within the border of their own country. The vast majority of these people are hosted in developing countries. Learn more here.

UNHCR has a presence in 125 countries, with 90%+ of staff based in the field. An important dimension of their work involves collecting and using data – to understand what’s happening, to which people, where it’s happening and what should be done about it. 

In the past, managing this data has been a huge challenge. Data was collected in a decentralised manner. It was then stored, archived, and processed in a decentralised manner. This meant that much of the value of this data was lost. Insights were undiscovered. Opportunities missed. 

In 2019, the UNHCR released its Data Transformation Strategy 2020 – 2025 – with the vision of UNHCR becoming ‘a trusted leader on data and information related to refugees and other affected populations, thereby enabling actions that protect, include and empower’.

The Raw Internal Data Library (RIDL)  supports this strategy by creating a safe, organized place for UNHCR to store its data , with metadata that helps staff find the data they need and enables them to re-use it in multiple types of analysis. 

Since 2018, the team at Open Knowledge Foundation have been working with the RIDL team to build this library using CKAN –  the open source data management system. 

OKF spoke with Mariann Urban at UNHCR Global Data Service about the project to learn more. 

Here is an extract of that interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.


Hi Mariann. Can you start by telling us why data is important for UNHCR

MU/UNHCR: That’s a great question. Pretty much everyone at UNHCR now recognises that good data is the key to achieving meaningful solutions for displaced people. It’s important to enable evidence-based decision making and to deliver our mandate. And also, it helps us raise awareness and demonstrate the impact of our work. Data is at the foundation of what UNHCR does. It’s also important for building strong partnerships with governments and other organisations. When we share this data, anonymised where necessary, it allows our partners to design their programmes better. Data is critical to generate better knowledge and insights. Secondary usage includes indicator baseline analysis, trend analysis, forecasting, modeling etc. Data is really valuable!

What kinds of datasets does UNHCR collect and use?

MU/UNHCR: We have people working in countries all over the world, most of them in the field. Every year UNHCR spends a huge amount of money collecting data. It’s a huge investment. Much of this data collection happens at the field level, organised by our partners in operations. They collect a multitude of operational data each year.

You must have lots of interesting data. Can you give us an example of one important dataset?

MU/UNHCR: One of the most valuable datasets is our registration data. Registering refugees and asylum seekers is the primary responsibility of governments. But if they require help, UNHCR provides support in that area.

In the past, How was data collected, archived and used at UNHCR?

MU/UNHCR: Let me give you an example about how it used to be. In the past, let’s imagine, there was a data collection exercise in Cameroon. Our colleagues finished the exercise, and the data stayed in the partner organisation, or sometimes with the actual person collecting the data. It was stored on hard drives, shared drives, email accounts etc. Then, the next person who wanted to work with the data, or a similar data set probably had no access to this data, to use as a baseline, or for trends analysis.

That sounds like a problem.

MU/UNHCR: Yes! This was the problem statement that led to the idea of the Raw Internal Data Library (RIDL). Of course, we already have corporate data archiving solutions. But we realised we needed something more.

Tell us more about RIDL

MU/UNHCR: The main goal of RIDL is to stop data loss. We know that the organisation cannot capitalise on data if they are lost or forgotten, or not stored in a format that is interoperable, machine-readable, and does not include a minimum set of metadata to ensure appropriate further use.

RIDL is built on CKAN. Why is that?

MU/UNHCR: Our team had some experience with CKAN, which is already used in the humanitarian data community. UNHCR has been an active user of OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) platform to share aggregate data externally and we closely collaborate with its technical team. After a market research, we realised that CKAN was also a good solution for an internal library – the data is internal, but it needs to be visible to a lot of people inside the organisation. 

What about external partners and the media? Can they access RIDL datasets?

MU/UNHCR: There are some complicated issues around privacy and security. Some of the data we collect is extremely sensitive. We have to be strong custodians of this data to ensure it is used appropriately. Once we analyse the data, we can take the next step and share it externally, of course. Sometimes our data include personal identifiers, it therefore must be cleaned and anonymised to ensure that data subjects are not identifiable. Once we have a dataset that is anonymised – we use our Microdata Library to publish it externally. Thus RIDL is the first step in a long chain of sharing our data with partners, governments, researchers and the media. 

RIDL is a technological solution. But I imagine there is some cultural change required for UNHCR to reach its vision of becoming a data-enabled organisation.

MU/UNHCR: Yes of course, achieving these aspirations is not just about getting the technology right. We also have to make cultural, procedural and governance changes to become a data-enabled organisation. It’s a huge project. It needs a culture shift in UNHCR – because even if it’s internal, it’s a bit of work to convince people to upload. The metadata is always visible for everyone internally, but the actual data itself can be restricted and only visible following a request and evaluation. We want to be a trusted leader, but we also want to use that data to arrive at a better solution for refugees, to enrich our partnerships, and to enable evidence-based decision making – which is what we always aim to do.

Thanks for sharing your insights with us today Mariann. 

MU/UNHCR: No problem. It’s been a pleasure. 


Find out more

Open Knowledge Foundation is working with UNHCR to deliver the Raw Internal Data Library (RIDL). If you work outside of UNHCR, you can access UNHCR’s Microdata Library here. Learn more about CKAN here. 

If your organisation needs a Data Library solution and you want to learn more about our work, email info@okfn.org. We’d love to talk to you !

Thank you for Joining the Frictionless Data Hackathon

- October 21, 2021 in Frictionless Data, Open Knowledge

Last week over 20 people from around the world joined the Frictionless Data team for the world’s first Frictionless Data Hackathon. Find out what happened, and make sure you sign up for the next one.
Watch video here What’s this about? The team at Open Knowledge Foundation have lots of experience running and attending Hackathons. We know how powerful they can be to create new functioning software and useful innovations in a short space of time. This is why the team at Frictionless Data were so excited to launch the first Frictionless Data Hackathon on 7 – 8th October 2021. Over 20 people from around the world signed up for the event. During two full days, the participants worked on four projects, all with very different outcomes. For example:
  • Covid Tracker was aimed at testing Livemark – the latest Frictionless tool – with real live data to provide an example of all its functionalities. Check out the project Github repository to learn more.
  • the Frictionless Tutorial project created new tutorials using the Python Frictionless Framework (see tutorial here)
  • Frictionless Community Insight focused on building a new Livemark website to tell the story of the Frictionless Community – who we are, where we are from, what we do and what we care about (see draft website here)
  • DPCKAN was a project proposed by a team working on the data portal of the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil to develop a tool that would allow publishing and updating datasets described with Frictionless Standards in a CKAN instance. Check out the Github Repository here.
The prize for the best project, voted by the participants, went to the DPCKAN team. Well done André, Andrés, Carolina, Daniel, Francisco and Gabriel!
    ”I feel pretty happy after this frictionless hackathon experience. We’ve grown in 2 days more than it could have been possible in one month. The knowledge and experience exchange was remarkable”, said the winning team.
Find out more
You can learn more about the Frictionless Data Hackathon here and watch the project presentations here. Learn more about Frictionless Data on our website frictionless.io. Ask us a question, or join the Frictionless Data community here.

Open Data Day 2022 Update: Focus on the Ocean

- October 18, 2021 in Open Data Day, Open Knowledge

Today we are pleased to announce a new Open Data Day partnership with Friends of Ocean Action that aims to support UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to ‘conserve and sustainably use our ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’. What’s this about? Open Data Day is an annual, global celebration of open data. Each year, 300+ groups from around the world create local events to:
  • show the benefits of open data in their local community; and
  • encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society.
All outputs are open for everyone to use and re-use. For several years we have worked with our partners to deliver hundreds of $300 mini-grants to help people organise Open Data Day events in their communities. These mini-grants have been distributed under four vertical themes:
  • Data for Equal Development
  • Environmental Data
  • Open Mapping; and
  • Tracking Public Funds.
See last year’s events here. Today, we are pleased to announce a fifth vertical theme for the Open Data Day 2022.
  • Ocean Data for a Thriving Planet
Who is involved ? Open Data Day is a community event. Everyone is encouraged to participate. Last year 327 events were registered on the Open Data Day website, with 56 groups from 36 countries receiving financial support to run their event. The Ocean Data for a Thriving Planet mini-grant scheme is supported by our partner Friends of Ocean Action – which is convened by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute. Friends of Ocean Action is a coalition of over 70 ocean leaders who are fast-tracking solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the ocean. Their work falls into five impact pillars – one of which is Creating a Digital Ocean. Learn more here. The Ocean Data for a Thriving Planet mini-grant scheme has received funding from Schmidt Ocean Initiative. We are extremely grateful for their support. What’s next? Over the coming months we will share more information with you about this new initiative. In the meantime, why not check out the list of ocean data resources available on the Open Data Day website, and start planning your ocean themed Open Data Day event! – –
Photo of ocean by Kellie Churchman from Pexels

A new CEO for Open Knowledge Foundation – Renata Ávila

- October 12, 2021 in Open Knowledge

Beyond Open Data, our new CEO will start a conversation about the future of our global knowledge commons. Today we are delighted to announce that the Board of Directors of Open Knowledge Foundation has appointed Renata Avila to be the new CEO of Open Knowledge Foundation – effective from October 4th 2021. Board Chair, Vanessa Barnett, said that Renata was selected after a long and extremely competitive process, over many months.
    ‘Renata is an outstanding choice for CEO of Open Knowledge Foundation, bringing a wealth of experience that will be invaluable to achieve our mission’, Vanessa said. ‘This appointment marks a new chapter for Open Knowledge Foundation and the open movement. We are delighted to have her on board’.
Renata Avila (1981, Guatemala) is an international Human Rights lawyer and digital rights advocate. Throughout her career, Renata has successfully built a global network of networks advancing a decolonial, peoples-centric approach to open technologies and knowledge, as tools to advance rights and create stronger communities.  She comes to the Open Knowledge Foundation to challenge the prevalent narrative and invite our network and extended community to advance a positive vision to bring back open to the most pressing challenges of our times We welcome Renata Avila as the CEO of Open Knowledge Foundation and look forward to working with her to achieve our mission. Commenting on her appointment, Renata said 
     ‘I am honoured to be appointed as the new CEO of Open Knowledge Foundation, which plays such an important role in the international open knowledge movement. Without openness, global actions against climate change cannot scale. Without removing the barriers to accessing knowledge, no real solution against misinformation will be ever found. Without including everyone, and equipping people with skills to transform data into actionable knowledge, open data is just an enabler of the powerful.  Never before was our mission more urgent than today.’ 
She went on to say:
    ‘My goal in the upcoming months is to work together with our global network in designing the open knowledge ecosystem of tomorrow, with tools, strategies, governance structures and communities that are both shielded from abuses, exclusion and data extractivism, and enabled to create, connect and advance our positive agenda.  Our vision for an open future.’ 
Please do join us in welcoming Renata to the Open Knowledge Foundation team. More about Renata here

Help us make Open Data Day more impactful – strategic thinker needed.

- October 1, 2021 in Open Knowledge

Open Data Day is a community event where everyone is invited to contribute. Each year over 300 groups organise activities around the world to show the benefits of open data and to encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society. As the stewards of Open Data Day, Open Knowledge Foundation is committed to ensuring that Open Data Day has the support it needs to thrive in a rapidly changing world. This is why we recently asked you about your experience of Open Data Day. We wanted to learn what worked and what could be improved. You gave us lots of fantastic ideas – which we published here. This is also why we decided to publish our ‘Open Data Day 2021 Report’. This report describes (from our perspective) our stewardship of Open Data Day – what we did, who we worked with, and what happened. Please do download a copy of this report and share it with your contacts.
    In the next stage of our stewardship plan, Open Knowledge Foundation plans hire an expert to help us engage with the whole Open Data Day community, to provide insights into the long-term impacts of Open Data Day, and to help us identify new ways to achieve them.

    The world is changing rapidly, and like any organisation, we need to make plans to ensure our work remains relevant into the future and that the work of the Open Data Day community continues to achieve impact. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity – please email opendataday@okfn.org.
Learn more about Open Data Day here, and join the discussion here.

Make a difference! Our invitation to join the Advisory Council of The Justice Programme

- September 28, 2021 in Open Knowledge

What’s this about? = = = = =
Do you have professional expertise in emerging data driven technologies such as artificial intelligence and their relationship with the law – especially the legal systems of the UK, Republic of Ireland and the EU? Are you up to date with the debates around surveillance technologies and their potential negative impacts on human rights? Do you understand innovation in big data and machine learning, and the opportunities these technologies present? Are you also working to ensure these technologies can be deployed in a way that ensures that everyone benefits? Would you like to use these skills to influence the future of artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision making in the UK, and around the world?
= = = = = If this is you – we invite you to be part of the Advisory Council of The Justice Programme. Email justice@okfn.org to find out more. Also – if you know someone who would be a great fit for the role – please either share this with them, or email us their details and we will get in touch with them directly.

Learn about automated decision making in the UK housing benefits system

- August 30, 2021 in Open Knowledge

– Are you a lawyer, campaigner or activist working in the UK housing benefits system?
– Do you want to learn how automated decision systems are currently used in the housing benefits system in the UK ?
– Do you want to learn about legal strategies for challenging the (mis)use of these technologies?
= = = = = = = Join the The Justice Programme team for an online 90 minute interactive workshop on Thursday September 23rd 2021 between 12.00 – 13.30 BST (London time). Tickets for the event cost £110 (inc VAT) and can be purchased online here. = = = = = = = Tickets are limited to 20 people – to ensure that everyone who attends can maximise their learning experience. If you are unwaged and can’t afford a ticket, please email justice@okfn.org. The Justice Programme is offering two places at a 75% discount (£27.50 each). All proceeds from this event are reinvested in the work of The Justice Programme, as we work to ensure Public Impact Algorithms do no harm. = = = = = = = What will I learn ? In this Interactive Workshop on housing benefit and automation we will: – explore how AI and algorithms are presently being used and likely to be used in UK and elsewhere
– review a summary of how algorithms work
– discuss the potential harms involved at the individual and societal levels
– summarise legal strategies, resources and best practices
– participate in a group exercise on a realistic case study You will also get access to a guide summarising the key points of the workshop and documenting the answers to your questions. This workshop is brought to you by Meg Foulkes, Director of The Justice Programme and Cedric Lombion, our Data & Innovation Lead. Read more about The Justice Programme team here. About The Justice Programme The Justice Programme is a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation, which works to ensure that Public Impact Algorithms do no harm. Find out more about The Justice Programme here, and learn more about Public Impact Algorithms here

The registration for the first EU Open Data Days is open!

- August 9, 2021 in Open Knowledge

Here at Open Knowledge Foundation, we are really pleased to see that registration is now open for participants for the first EU Open Data Days. The programme lasts three days from 23rd to 25th November 2021, and is split in two main parts.
    – EU DataViz, a conference on open data and data visualisation for public administrations, from 23rd to 24th November 2021; and
    – EU Datathon, the annual EU open data competition, on 25th November 2021.
It’s free and open for everyone to attend, and is designed for a broad audience – including experts, open data enthusiasts and the public. = = = = = = = Registration can be done here. = = = = = = = Since EU Open Data Days launched in March 2021, Open Knowledge Foundation is proud to be an official partner of EU Open Data Days. We hope to see you there !