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World Library Congress – Closing Libraries is ‘short-sighted’

- August 26, 2019 in Featured, library, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

Closing down libraries to save money is ‘one of the most short-sighted decisions that public officials can make’, the World Library and Information Congress has heard.
Speaking at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) annual congress in Athens, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler said ‘libraries are too often seen as an easy target for cuts’. The former MEP for Scotland said libraries can also ‘fill the gap’ in the delivery of coding lessons and data practice in schools, to ensure people across Europe and the world have the skills for the jobs of the future. In 2017, it is estimated that more than 120 libraries closed their doors in England, Wales and Scotland. But a recent study by the Carnegie UK Trust found that people aged 15-24 in England are the most likely age group to use libraries. And nearly half of people aged 25 to 34 still visit them, according to the study. The IFLA World Library and Information Congress (https://2019.ifla.org/) is the international flagship professional and trade event for the library and information services sector, bringing together over 3,500 participants from more than 120 countries. In her address to the World Library and Information Congress, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler said:
“Governments across the world must now work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; as well as making powerful institutions more accountable; and ensuring vital research information that can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change is available to all.
“In short, we need a future that is fair, free and open.
“But this is not the way things are going in the UK, the EU, the US, China and across our world.
“Instead, we see in the UK, councils across the country facing major financial pressures, and libraries are too often seen as an easy target for cuts.
“But closing down a library has to be one of the most short-sighted decisions that public officials can make, with serious consequences for the future of local communities.” She added:
“There is a widespread misconception that the services offered are out-of-date – a relic of a bygone age before youngsters started carrying smartphones in their pockets with instant access to Wikipedia, and before they started downloading books on their Kindle.
“Today, the most successful libraries have remodelled themselves to become fit for the 21st century, and more can follow suit if they receive the right support and advice, and have the backing of governments and councils.
“I have long championed the importance of coding as part of the education curriculum, especially given that my home country of Scotland is home to more than 100,000 digital tech economy jobs.
“But while there remains a shortfall in what is delivered in our schools in terms of coding and data practice, libraries can fill that gap.
“Our world is moulded in code, and libraries offer young people an opportunity to bring ideas to life and build things that will bring joy to millions.
“So by embracing the future, they can continue to be an unrivalled place of learning, like they always were for previous generations.”

Why greater tax transparency is needed to help fix the broken global tax system

- July 30, 2019 in Open Knowledge

Public CBCR by Financial Transparency Coalition is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

The international tax system is broken and in need of urgent updating to address issues which allow globalised businesses to move their profits and intellectual property around the world, often to locations where they pay the least tax. Indeed some economists estimate that “close to 40% of multinational profits are shifted to tax havens globally each year” with many of the world’s most important tax havens being connected to the UK. The digital services taxes being proposed by countries such as France and the UK arise from frustrations with the slow pace of progress towards an internationally-agreed solution.  Those processes may continue to be held back by reactions from the US – where many of the largest digital businesses originate – or countries such as Ireland which corporations like Facebook may have chosen as their European base for beneficial tax reasons. The EU has so far failed to pass its own legislation to better tax digital businesses although the incoming president of the European Commission recently stated that the EU must act by the end of 2020 if no other international solution is agreed.  The OECD is currently in discussions about a new programme of work to “develop a consensus solution to the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy. This work is expected to conclude by the end of 2020 and establish a follow-up to their anti tax avoidance Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project. However the BEPS process has been criticised as being biased towards rich countries prompting calls – from the G77 coalition of developing nations, China and others, most recently Norway – for the United Nations to set up a UN tax body to create a truly global solution to modern taxation. Tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook may be some of the most high-profile examples of companies using complicated tax structuring that the public is aware of – thanks to years of media reporting and targeted campaigning – but the problem is systemic. Tax justice advocates – such as those that the Open Knowledge Foundation helped convene for our Open Data for Tax Justice project – argue that the world’s tax systems need to be fundamentally restructured and have also pushed for a variety of measures sometimes summed up as the ABCs of tax transparency. A stands for automatic exchange of information where countries can more easily share tax data on individuals or businesses. B stands for beneficial ownership where the issue of opaque company ownership is addressed by publishing public registers of who owns or runs companies and trusts. C stands for country-by-country reporting where corporations would be required to publish details about the tax they pay, people they employ and profits they make in each country where they operate to build up a better picture of their activities. Taken together, it is believed that such transparency measures would shine a light on the insalubrious practices currently being used by multinational corporations in order to help the push to crack down on abuses as exposed by investigations such as the Mauritius Leaks, Paradise Papers and Panama Papers. The BEPS process has seen pushed automatic exchange of information forwards and many countries are joining the drive for beneficial ownership transparency (see the OpenOwnership project for more). There are also steps being taken towards making country-by-country reporting public, but progress is slow.  Two years after the EU voted in favour of publishing public country-by-country reporting information as open data for all large corporations operating in Europe, the issue remains stuck in trilogue discussions at the EU Council. Meanwhile others are taking on the issue including international accounting standards setters and civil society efforts such as the Fair Tax Mark. We believe that a lack of transparency in current country-by-country reporting standards will fail to build confidence in the treatment of corporations, missing an important opportunity to build tax morale and wider public support for tax compliance.  Research has shown how restricting access to country-by-country reporting exacerbates global inequalities in taxing rights while civil society organisations have set out why public country-by-country reporting is a must for large multinationals to create an “effective deterrent of aggressive tax avoidance and profit shifting”. We urge all policymakers working on tax issues to prioritise increased tax transparency as an essential strand of modernising the global taxation system as a way to improve public trust and ensure corporate compliance.

Transforming the UK’s data ecosystem: Open Knowledge Foundation’s thoughts on the National Data Strategy

- July 17, 2019 in National Data Strategy, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge, Policy

Following an open call for evidence issued by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Open Knowledge Foundation submitted our thoughts about what the UK can do in its forthcoming National Data Strategy to “unlock the power of data across government and the wider economy, while building citizen trust in its use”. We also signed a joint letter alongside other UK think tanks, civil and learned societies calling for urgent action from government to overhaul its use of data. Below our CEO Catherine Stihler explains why the National Data Strategy needs to be transformative to ensure that British businesses, citizens and public bodies can play a full role in the interconnected global knowledge economy of today and tomorrow: Today’s digital revolution is driven by data. It has opened up extraordinary access to information for everyone about how we live, what we consume, and who we are. But large unaccountable technology companies have also monopolised the digital age, and an unsustainable concentration of wealth and power has led to stunted growth and lost opportunities. Governments across the world must now work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; as well as making powerful institutions more accountable; and ensuring vital research information that can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change is available to all. In short, we need a future that is fair, free and open. The UK has a golden opportunity to lead by example, and the Westminster government is currently developing a long-anticipated National Data Strategy. Its aim is to ensure all citizens and organisations trust the data ecosystem, are sufficiently skilled to operate effectively within it, and can get access to high-quality data when they need it. Laudable aims, but they must come with a clear commitment to invest in better data and skills. The Open Knowledge Foundation I am privileged to lead was launched 15 years ago to pioneer the way that we use data, working to build open knowledge in government, business and civil society – and creating the technology to make open material useful. This week, we have joined with a group of think tanks, civil and learned societies to make a united call for sweeping reforms to the UK’s data landscape. In order for the strategy to succeed, there needs to be transformative, not incremental, change and there must be leadership from the very top, with buy-in from the next Prime Minister, Culture Secretary and head of the civil service. All too often, piecemeal incentives across Whitehall prevent better use of data for the public benefit. A letter signed by the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Institute for Government, Full Fact, Nesta, the Open Data Institute, mySociety, the Royal Statistical Society, the Open Contracting Partnership, 360Giving, OpenOwnership, and the Policy Institute at King’s College London makes this clear. We have called for investment in skills to convert data into real information that can be acted upon; challenged the government to earn the public’s trust, recognising that the debate about how to use citizens’ data must be had in public, with the public; proposed a mechanism for long-term engagement between decision-makers, data users and the public on the strategy and its goals; and called for increased efforts to fix the government’s data infrastructure so organisations outside the government can benefit from it. Separately, we have also submitted our own views to the UK Government, calling for a focus on teaching data skills to the British public. Learning such skills can prove hugely beneficial to individuals seeking employment in a wide range of fields including the public sector, government, media and voluntary sector.  But at present there is often a huge amount of work required to clean up data in order to make it usable before insights or stories can be gleaned from it.  We believe that the UK government could help empower the wider workforce by instigating or backing a fundamental data literacy training programme open to local communities working in a range of fields to strengthen data demand, use and understanding.  Without such training and knowledge, large numbers of UK workers will be ill-equipped to take on many jobs of the future where products and services are devised, built and launched to address issues highlighted by data. Empowering people to make better decisions and choices informed by data will boost productivity, but not without the necessary investment in skills. We have also told the government that one of the most important things it can do to help businesses and non-profit organisations best share the data they hold is to promote open licencing. Open licences are legal arrangements that grant the general public rights to reuse, distribute, combine or modify works that would otherwise be restricted under intellectual property laws. We would also like to see the public sector pioneering new ways of producing and harnessing citizen-generated data efforts by organising citizen science projects through schools, libraries, churches and community groups.  These local communities could help the government to collect high-quality data relating to issues such as air quality or recycling, while also leading the charge when it comes to increasing the use of central government data. We live in a knowledge society where we face two different futures: one which is open and one which is closed. A closed future is one where knowledge is exclusively owned and controlled leading to greater inequality and a closed society. But an open future means knowledge is shared by all – freely available to everyone, a world where people are able to fulfil their potential and live happy and healthy lives. The UK National Data Strategy must emphasise the importance and value of sharing more, better quality information and data openly in order to make the most of the world-class knowledge created by our institutions and citizens.  Without this commitment at all levels of society, British businesses, citizens and public bodies will fail to play a full role in the interconnected global knowledge economy of today and tomorrow.

Statement from the Open Knowledge Foundation Board on the future of the CKAN Association

- June 6, 2019 in ckan, Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) Board met on Monday evening to discuss the future of the CKAN Association.

The Board supported the CKAN Stewardship proposal jointly put forward by Link Digital and Datopian. As two of the longest serving members of the CKAN Community, it was felt their proposal would now move CKAN forward, strengthening both the platform and community.

In appointing joint stewardship to Link Digital and Datopian, the Board felt there was a clear practical path with strong leadership and committed funding to see CKAN grow and prosper in the years to come.

OKF will remain the ‘purpose trustee’ to ensure the Stewards remain true to the purpose and ethos of the CKAN project. The Board would like to thank everyone who contributed to the deliberations and we are confident CKAN has a very bright future ahead of it.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Steven de Costa, managing director of Link Digital, or Paul Walsh, CEO of Datopian, by emailing stewards@ckan.org.

Two years on, little action from the EU on public country-by-country reporting

- May 13, 2019 in OD4TJ, Open Knowledge

Two years ago, members of the European Parliament voted to force large multinational corporations registered in Europe to reveal how much tax they pay, how many people they employ and what profits they make in every country where they work. The transparency measure – known as public country-by-country reporting (or public CBCR) – was first proposed by the Tax Justice Network in 2003 and has gained prominence in recent years following international tax scandals including the Panama Papers. MEPs approved the introduction of the measure by 534 votes to 98 votes and also mandated that the information should be published by corporations as open data to allow anyone to freely use, modify and share it. Calls for action on this issue had come from campaigners including the Tax Justice Network, Tax Justice UK and Transparency International and were echoed by politicians from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and a cross-party selection of UK MPs to the European Commission’s Taxation and Customs Union. Some large companies and investors also spoke out in favour. 78% of British voters would be in favour of public CBCR for multinationals present in UK, according to a 2017 YouGov poll conducted for Oxfam. Oxfam called on the UK government to enforce comprehensive public CBCR for UK companies by the end of 2019. But, ahead of the European parliamentary elections due next week, little progress has been made towards introducing public CBCR across the continent, with legislation being blocked by members of the EU Council. So what will it take for public CBCR to become law?

Public CBCR by Financial Transparency Coalition is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

The European Union already requires companies in the extractive, logging and banking sectors to publish public CBCR information on a regular basis, albeit not as open data. These measures were introduced following the 2007/08 financial crash and in line with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Using this information, researchers have revealed the extent to which the top 20 EU banks are using tax havens and also to show how CBCR requirements have forced some banks to change their behaviour. But academics have also shown how better data is needed and efforts to understand the data have been hampered by the need to extract, structure and clean it from tables or text in companies’ annual reports. Since MEPs voted in 2017, the case for the EU to act to introduce public CBCR across more sectors and industries has only grown stronger. The final report of the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee adopted in December 2017 called for “ambitious public country-by-country reporting in order to enhance tax transparency and the public scrutiny of multinational enterprises” noting that public CBCR is “one of the key measures for achieving greater transparency in relation to companies’ tax information for all citizens”. Investors and those promoting business sustainability have recognised the importance of understanding more about corporations’ tax affairs as well as structuring this information in more of a standardised way. Some businesses have even gone so far as to publish their own CBCR reports ahead of legislation coming into force. In February 2017, as part of our Open Data for Tax Justice project, the Open Knowledge Foundation published a white paper which examined the prospects for creating a global database on the tax contributions and economic activities of multinationals as measured by public CBCR. This found that such a public database was possible and that a pilot could be created by bringing together the best existing source of public CBCR information – disclosures made by European Union banking institutions in line with the Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV) passed in 2013. In July 2017, we took steps towards the creation of this pilot. As European parliamentary candidates enter the final stretch of campaigning, we urge those elected to return to Brussels in July to arrive with a renewed sense of urgency in this area and to focus efforts on making sure public CBCR becomes law before the public’s trust is rocked by yet another international tax scandal.

Announcing the Fiscal Data Helpdesk

- March 12, 2019 in Open Knowledge

Having data for budgets and spending can allow us to track public money flows in our communities. It can give us insights into how governments plan and focus on programmes, public works, and services. So the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), along with Open Knowledge International (OKI), have been working on new tools to make this data more useful and easier to understand. Two of these are the [Open] Fiscal Data Package (OFDP) specification and OpenSpending platform. The OFDP is a data specification that allows publishers to create a literal package of data. This package includes fiscal data mapped onto either standardised or bespoke functional, economic and administrative classifications. Additionally, the different stages of the budget can be mapped, and other fields that are relevant to the publisher. This seeks to reduce the barriers to accessing and interpreting fiscal open data. One of the main benefits of the OFDP is that data publishers can adopt it no matter how they generate their databases. The flexibility of this specification allows publishers to improve the quality incrementally. There is no need to develop new software. Having this structured data allows us to build tools and services over it for visualization, analysis or comparison. The second tool is actually a set of tools called OpenSpending. This is an open-source and a community-driven project. It reflects the valuable contributions of an active, passionate and committed community. OpenSpending enables analysis, dissemination, and debates for more efficient budgets and public spending. It allows anyone to create, use, and visualize fiscal data using the Open Fiscal Data Package in a centralized place with small effort. As part of this collaboration, OKI and GIFT have been working with different government partners to publish using OFDP. But we want to see the adoption of the Open Fiscal Data Package grow even more. This is why we have set up the Fiscal Data Helpdesk to help you in the publication process!  

How to engage with the Fiscal Data Helpdesk

  Maybe you are already publishing fiscal data through an open data portal? Or maybe you have a platform and want to make it more useful for a larger number of users? Perhaps you have heard about standardization but it sounds complex and you think it might not be for your office? The Helpdesk is around to answer all your questions and support you through the process of getting data up and running in OpenSpending. There are a few good examples of what we want you to get doing. We’ve worked with the Mexican federal government to publish their data from 2008 to 2019 using the OFDP and OpenSpending to make it easier to access. You can navigate their data here. We’ve also worked to get datasets from many countries in the World bank BOOST initiative on OpenSpending. Currently, there are data from countries like Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In the coming weeks, we will publish some resources and a series of blog posts to give you more information about publishing your data in OFDP and using OpenSpending. Interested? You can visit OpenSpending or send us an email at openspending-support@okfn.org. We will get back to you to help get your budgets out in the open!

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.

Facebook challenged to tackle the spread of ‘fake news’ ahead of vital European elections

- February 26, 2019 in disinformation, fake news, Featured, News, Open Knowledge

Facebook’s global affairs boss Sir Nick Clegg has been challenged to tackle the spread of ‘fake news’ on Facebook ahead of vital European elections.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International and a former MEP, has written to the former Deputy Prime Minister to request more transparency from Facebook and its assistance in resuscitating the three foundations of ‘tolerance, facts and ideas’.

Facebook has been at the centre of a series of rows about disinformation on social media, particularly in connection with the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Ms Stihler has asked for detailed statistics on efforts by Facebook to tackle disinformation, an update on the number of fake accounts the platform continues to host, what progress is being made on working with third-part fact-checkers in the EU27, and a response to this week’s Commons report which concluded that Facebook needs stricter regulation to end the spread of ‘fake news’.

In her letter to Sir Nick, Catherine Stihler wrote:

“It is imperative that we do not allow disinformation and fake news to blight this year’s European Parliamentary elections.

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.

The way forward is to resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas, to prevent the drift to the extremes, and Facebook has a vital role to play in that.

With the rise of extremist parties across the continent, we owe it to the people of Europe to let the facts be heard in the run-up to these crucial elections.”

On 11 February, Open Knowledge International joined a group of 35 organizations led by Mozilla that published an open letter to Facebook. Our ask to Facebook: make good on your promises to provide more transparency around political advertising ahead of the 2019 EU Parliamentary Elections. You can read the full letter and add your signature here if you wish to add your support to the campaign.

How to publish budget and spending data openly

- August 31, 2018 in Open Knowledge, Open Spending

At the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) and Open Knowledge International (OKI) we believe that governments’ budget and spending data should be made available to all, so that anyone can see how their tax money is spent,what priorities their governments make, and governments can be held accountable. Increasingly governments make their budget data already openly available, and that is really great to see. Civil society organisations, but also individual researchers, journalists, and anyone who is interested, can use this data to generate insights and share those with the public. But still much of the information is only available in PDF and other non-open formats, and not published as data. As a result, scrutinising and putting the data to use is difficult and requires a lot of work. GIFT and OKI have partnered to address this issue. Along with the BOOST World Bank initiative and a dedicated open data community, we developed the [Open] Fiscal Data Package. Its version 1.0 is now available! We built the OpenSpending portal on top of the [Open] Fiscal Data Package, to make it really easy to publish budget and spending data. Once it is up, a whole suite of tools are readily available to anyone to view, visualise and integrate the data.

How to get your budget and spending data in OpenSpending

There are two ways to make your data available via OpenSpending. The first is to manually upload the data using the OpenSpending Packager. If you have your fiscal data available as a CSV file, you can try it today. The packager will guide you through an intuitive process, which in a few easy steps means that your data can be accessed and visualised by anyone via the OpenSpending platform. If you have any questions about it, reach out on our forum or find us on our chatroom on Gitter. If you want to publish your data more regularly and automatically, we can help you by setting up what we call a pipeline. This is fairly technical process that we have trialled with the Mexican government. Because this is an automated process, it makes it easier longer term for governments to adopt this process. If you are interested in this, we would love to hear from you via openspending-support@okfn.org. An example of what it could look like to have your data published, is on Mexican transparency portal as you can see below:
OpenSpending integrated in the Mexican Transparency Portal. Get in touch with us to learn more about this process.

OpenSpending integrated in the Mexican Transparency Portal. Get in touch with us to learn more about this process.

Want to learn more? Join our webinar!

If you are a local, regional or national government interested in learning how you can benefit from OpenSpending, please join our webinar on 12 September at 10am EST (3pm BST / 4pm CEST). OKI’s Fiscal Transparency lead Sander van der Waal will present the Fiscal Data Package specification version 1 and the OpenSpending toolset. This is a great opportunity for government representatives to learn how they can work with us to get their data into OpenSpending. The webinar can be accessed here. Bookmark your calendar now! 
Join our OpenSpending webinar on 12 September

Join our OpenSpending webinar on 12 September

Do you have any questions? Please reach out to us via email on openspending-support@okfn.org. We would love to hear from you!

The Open Revolution: rewriting the rules of the information age

- June 12, 2018 in News, open, Open Data, Open Knowledge, Open/Closed

Rufus Pollock, the Founder of Open Knowledge International, is delighted to announce the launch of his new book The Open Revolution on how we can revolutionize information ownership and access in the digital economy.

About the book

Will the digital revolution give us digital dictatorships or digital democracies? Forget everything you think you know about the digital age. It’s not about privacy, surveillance, AI or blockchain – it’s about ownership. Because, in a digital age, who owns information controls the future.

Today, information is everywhere. From your DNA to the latest blockbusters, from lifesaving drugs to the app on your phone, from big data to algorithms. Our entire global economy is built on it and the rules around information affect us all every day.

As information continues to move into the digital domain, it can be copied and distributed with ease, making access and control even more important. But the rules we have made for it, derived from how we manage physical property, are hopelessly maladapted to the digital world.

In The Open Revolution, Pollock exposes the myths that cloud the digital debate. Looking beneath the surface, into the basic rules of the digital economy, he offers a simple solution. The answer is not technological but political: a choice between making information Open, shared by all, or making it Closed, exclusively owned and controlled. Today in a Closed world we find ourselves at the mercy of digital dictators. Rufus Pollock charts a path to a more “Open” future that works for everyone.
Cory Doctorow, journalist and activist: “The richest, most powerful people in the world have bet everything on the control of information in all its guises; Pollock’s fast-moving, accessible book explains why seizing the means of attention and information is the only path to human freedom and flourishing.”

An Open future for all

The book’s vision of choosing Open as the path to a more equitable, innovative and profitable future for all is closely related to the vision of an open knowledge society of Open Knowledge International. Around the world, we are working towards societies where everyone has access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives. We want to see powerful institutions made comprehensible and accountable. We want to see vital research information which can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change available to all as open information. The Open Revolution is a great inspiration for our worldwide network of people passionate about openness, boosting our shared efforts towards an open future for all.
Get the book and join the open revolution at openrevolution.net, or join our forum to discuss the book’s content.

About the author

Dr Rufus Pollock is a researcher, technologist and entrepreneur. He has been a pioneer in the global Open Data movement, advising national governments, international organisations and industry on how to succeed in the digital world. He is the founder of Open Knowledge, a leading NGO which is present in over 35 countries, empowering people and organization with access to information so that they can create insight and drive change. Formerly, he was the Mead Fellow in Economics at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. He has been the recipient of a $1m Shuttleworth Fellowship and is currently an Ashoka Fellow and Fellow of the RSA. He holds a PhD in Economics and a double first in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge.