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Closing feedback loops for more & better open data in Switzerland

- July 10, 2018 in Events, OK Switzerland, Open Data, Switzerland

Last week, the annual open data conference in Switzerland took place in St. Gallen. In this post, Oleg Lavrovsky, activist for Open Knowledge and board member of the Swiss Chapter, shares a look back at the event showcasing the latest developments in the country, with results of the first Open Data Student Awards. For more coverage, photos and links visit The #opendatach conference is, for the dedicated, a 24 hour event – starting this year around 6pm on Monday, when Rufus Pollock joined us in Zürich, lasting until 6pm on Tuesday July 3, as a light apéro and quick clean-up closed the doors on the eighth annual gathering of the Swiss Open Knowledge community. A group of organizers and core contributors spent a balmy afternoon perched in the loft at the Impact Hub, debating the state of the nation – which a recent blog post recounts – reviewing the recommendations of our Task Force, distributing and discussing the new book. A short night later we were on an early train with Hannes Gassert, checking waypoints over cups of green tea. Finally we arrive on site in St.Gallen, the economic and political center of eastern Switzerland, and host to a modern, internationally renowned University – whose main building was rapidly transformed into our favourite habitat: a burgeoning centre for activism, critical thought and debate.
After quickly saying hello we set to work on setting up the rooms, dodging streams of students rushing to class. In one hacky corner of the event, an unconference showcase sponsored by the local IT community featured 9 projects, submitted through an online platform (, and whose team members were attending the conference. A colorful showcase wall, next to the entrance to the main room where keynotes took place, engendered imaginative discussion, giving participants a chance to find and meet the makers of innovative projects made with open data.

Photo credit: Ernie Deane, CC BY-SA 3.0

You’ll find excellent coverage of the morning’s plenary sessions in the Netzwoche article, highlighting the readiness which our host city St. Gallen demonstrated to support open government data (OGD), sharing a preview of their new open data platform. We learned insights from the cross-border collaboration that has taken place over the past years between the OGD administrations of the cities of St. Gallen and Vienna. Balancing out the mood in the room, we got to hear compelling remarks from a project leader who has so far been frustrated in his attempts to gain funding and political support for his open political data initiative:
“The biggest problem, however, is not the lack of access to data or lack of know-how among those involved. The parliamentary services now provide a good API, so that linking and interpreting various data is feasible. What is lacking above all is sustainability, and in particular sustainable financing.” –Daniel Black, smartmonitor


In the keynote by André Golliez, his upcoming departure from the role as president of was announced, and he shared his vision for the recently founded Swiss Data Alliance. In this, he strives to make open data a key component of data policy and data infrastructure development in Swiss government and industry. Looking back on how open data has fared in politics since Barack Obama, he expressed worries about the pendulum turning in another direction, and encouraged us not to take things for granted. Hitting closer to home, André spoke about the right to data portability, specifically mentioning revisions to the Swiss Data Protection Act which follow the EU’s GDPR – encouraging our community to get involved in the debate and political process. In our final – much anticipated – morning keynote, Rufus Pollock came on stage to share his renewed vision for openness activism, introducing the main ideas from his new book, The Open Revolution, which he was selling and signing in the conference hall. In Switzerland, we have been keeping close track on developments in the open knowledge movement, influencing our own ongoing organizational transformation as a new generation of activists, policymakers, data wranglers push the project forward. The ideas within the book have been a cause of ceaseless debate for the weeks before the conference, and will surely continue through the summer. Some people complain about seeing the relevance, and we have been enjoying the ensuing debate. Even if Rufus did not manage to convince everyone in the room – if the language barrier, stories from foreign shores, or his radical-common-sense philosophy fail to attract immediate policy or media attention (NB: we eagerly await publication of an interview in the next issue of Das Magazin – follow @tagi_magi), they are certainly leaving a deep impression on our community. 105 copies of the new book distributed at name-your-price along with free digital downloads have put a progressive, challenging text into able hands, and the bold ideas within are helping to reignite and refresh our personal and collective commitment to activism for a fair and sustainable information society.

The workshops

After lunch, we hosted six afternoon workshop tracks (Open Data Startups, Open Smart Cities, Open Data in Science, Linked Open Data, Open Mobility Data, and Blockchain for Open Data), which you can read about, and download presentations from (as well as those of the keynotes), on the conference website. I made a short presentation on Frictionless Data (slides here) in the Science track, which showcased four projects working with, or fostering the development and use of, open data for scientific purposes – and will elaborate a little bit on this workshop here. Marcel Salathé, our workshop lead and a founder of the open initiative, demonstrated the open data science challenge platform crowdAI developed at EPFL, which connects data science experts and enthusiasts with open data to solve specific problems, through challenges. My talk was about containerization formats for open data, introducing Frictionless Data – which addresses this issue through simple specifications and software – and my work on supporting these standards in the Julia language. Donat Agosti spoke about Plazi, addressing the need of transforming scientific data from publications, books, and other unstructured formats into a persistent and openly accessible digital taxonomic literature. Finally, Rok Roškar introduced the Swiss Data Science Center and its Renku platform, a highly scalable & secure open software platform designed to foster multidisciplinary data (science) collaborations. It was a privilege to take part, and I appreciated the learnings shared and eager discussions. The question came up of how many standardization initiatives it really takes, as well as whether and how improvements to the platform for data sharing really address the fundamental issues in science, and how the open data community can help improve access to high quality experimental data, reproducibility, and collaboration. We are following up on some of these questions already.

Open Data Student Award

And then it was, finally, time to hand over the Open Data Student Award, a project that took months of preparation, three days of 3D printing, hours of nail-bitingly intense jury duty, and only 15 minutes allowed to sum it all up. The jury team – consisting of Prof. Stefan Keller (CH Open), Andreas Amsler (OGD Canton of Zürich) and myself ( – were impressed with the projects, each truly exemplary.
Every student and supervisor participating this year deserves recognition for making an effort to use, re-publish and to promote open data. In addition to being put on the big screen at the annual conference in St. Gallen and discussed by all the people gathered there, the projects are being given extra attention through community channels.

Congratulations to Jonas Oesch from FHNW Windisch, whose winning project The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Swiss Open Government Data educates readers in an exemplary way about open data, applying open source technical ingenuity and skillful design to a problem that is critical to the open data community.
The open data community is looking for answers to the question of how to better represent the diversity of datasets, putting them into new clothes, so to speak. The hitchhiker’s guide to Swiss Open Government Data is a project that points the way in such a direction.
Details about all the projects can be found on the official announcement. Additionally, we have shared some background and sources of the award open source for you to peruse. We are happy to get feedback and to hear your ideas for where to take the un/conference and award next year! Just drop us a line in the Open Knowledge Switzerland forum.

Wrapping up

As the football match got going that would eventually see our country rather unconvincingly exit the World Cup, we gave the floor to the people doing much of the day-to-day leg work to convince and support data providers to open up their troves to the Swiss public. Jean-Luc Cochard and Andreas Kellerhalls from the Swiss Federal Archives took turns to recap the situation in Switzerland. The OGD strategy for 2019-2023 is being prepared in the Federal Department of Home Affairs, to be ratified by stakeholder departments over the summer. Our association will make a position statement with and on behalf of the user community in the coming months. The presentations demonstrated both a continued commitment to public service, as well as an admission of where we are coming short, an analysis of some of the many roadblocks and challenges technical, political and cultural, that are part of the strategy review. The next 4 years promise renewal, responsibility, and many lessons to apply across the board.

Photo credit: Ernie Deane, CC BY-SA 3.0

We know that not all the actors on the OGD stage are doing a great job, yet – and that to improve the status quo, we need to continue improving awareness and knowledge of the issues. Our role in facilitating cooperation across the digital divide and improving data literacy in Switzerland will be an important stepping stone to future success. Pointing the way to such opportunities was the final keynote of the day, from Walter Palmetshofer (@vavoida), who joined us for the whole 24 hour marathon, and helped to end our conference with a bright acknowledgement of public interest: in good sportsmanship, international cooperation, and sustainable projects to build THINGS THAT MATTER. Walter shared with us the most interesting results, learnings and statistics from the first highly successful years of the Open Data Incubator Europe (ODINE), and let us take home tantalizing glimpses into 57 inspiring startups – each of which could well be at home in Switzerland, to each of which we should be keen to open data, open doors, and learn from.

Open Knowledge Switzerland’s 2014 in review, big plans ahead

- February 6, 2015 in OKF Switzerland, Switzerland, Year-in-review

This is a cross-post from the Open Knowledge Switzerland blog, see the original here. It has been a big year for us in Switzerland. An openness culture spreading among civil administration, NGOs, SMEs, backed by the efforts of makers, supporters and activists throughout the country, has seen the projects initiated over the past three years go from strength to strength – and establish open data in the public eye. Here are the highlights of what is keeping us busy – and information on how you can get involved in helping us drive Open Knowledge forward, no matter where you are based. Check out our Storify recap, or German- and French-language blogs for further coverage. To see the Events Calendar for 2015, scroll on down.

2014 in review


Our hackdays went global, with Milan joining Basel and Sierre for a weekend of team spirit and data wrangling. The projects which resulted ranged from the highly applicable to the ludicrously inventive, and led us to demand better from elite sport. The event was a starting point for the Open Knowledge Sports Working Group, aiming to “build bridges between sport experts and data scientists, coaches and communities”. We’re right behind you, Rowland Jack!


The international highlight of the year was a chance for a sizeable group of our members to meet, interact and make stuff with the Open Knowledge community at OK Festival Berlin. Unforgettable! Later in the year, the Global Open Data Index got journalists knocking on our doorstep. However, the recently opened timetable data is not as open as some would like to think – leading us to continue making useful apps with our own open Transport API, and the issuing of a statement in Errata.


The yearly conference attracted yet again a big crowd of participants to hear talks, participate in hands-on workshops, and launch exciting projects (e.g. Lobbywatch). We got some fantastic press in the media, with the public encouraged to think of the mountains of data as a national treasure. At our annual association meeting we welcomed three new Directors, and tightened up with the Wikimedia community inviting us to develop open data together.


CERN’s launch of an open data portal made headlines around the world. We were excited and more than a little dazzled by what we found when we dug in – and could hardly imagine a better boost for the upcoming initiative Improving data access and research transparency is, indeed, the future of science. Swiss public institutions like the National Science Foundation are taking note, and together we are making a stand to make sure scientific knowledge stays open and accessible on the Internet we designed for it.


Swiss openness in politics was waymarked in 2014 with a motion regarding Open Procurement Data passing through parliament, legal provisions to opening weather data, the City of Zürich and Canton of St.Gallen voting in commitments to transparency, and fresh support for accountability and open principles throughout the country. This means more work and new responsibility for people in our movement to get out there and answer tough questions. The encouragement and leadership on an international level is helping us enormously to work towards national data transparency, step by step.


The Swiss Open Government Data Portal launched at OKCon 2013 has 1’850 datasets published on it as of January 2015, now including data from cantons and communes as well as the federal government. New portals are opening up on a cantonal and city level, more people are working on related projects and using the data in their applications to interact with government. With Open Government Data Strategy confirmed by the Swiss Federal Council in April, and established as one of the six priorities of the federal E-Government action plan, the project is only bound to pick up more steam in the years ahead.


With Open Budget visualisations now deployed for the canton of Berne and six municipalities – including the City of Zurich, which has officially joined our association – the finance interest group is quickly proving that it’s not all talk. Spending data remains a big challenge, and we look forward to continuing the fight for financial transparency. This cause is being boosted by interest and support from the next generation, such as the 29 student teams participating in a recent Open Data Management and Visualization course at the University of Berne.


We may be fast, but our community is faster. Many new open data apps and APIs have been released and enhanced by our community: New open data projects were released by the community: such as and SwissMetNet API, based on just-opened national weather data resulting from a partial revision of the Federal Act on Meteorology and Climatology. Talk about “hold your horses”: a city waste removal schedule app led to intense debate with officials over open data policy, the results making waves in the press and open data developers leading by doing.


An OpenGLAM Working Group started over the summer, and quickly formed into a dedicated organising committee of our first hackathon in the new year. Towards this at least a dozen Swiss heritage institutions are providing content, data, and expertise. We look forward to international participants virtually and on-location, and your open culture data!

What’s coming up in 2015

Even if we do half the things we did in ‘14, a big year is in store for our association. Chances are that it will be even bigger: this is the year when the elections of the Federal Council are happening for the first time since our founding. It is an important opportunity to put open data in the spotlight of public service. And we are going to be busy running multiple flagship projects at the same time in all the areas mentioned. Here are the main events coming up – we will try to update this as new dates come in, but give us a shout if we are missing something:

Getting involved

So, happy new year! We hope you are resolved to make more of open data in 2015. The hardest part may be taking the first step, and we are here for sport and support. There is lots going on, and the easiest way to get started is to take part in one of the events. Start with your own neighbourhood: what kind of data would you like to have about your town? What decisions are you making that could benefit from having a first-hand, statistically significant, visually impressive, and above all, honest and critical look at the issue? Lots is happening online and offline, and if you express interest in a topic you’re passionate about, people are generally quick to respond with invitations and links. To stay on top of things we urge you to join our mailing list, follow us on social media, and check out the maker wiki and forum. Find something you are passionate about, and jump right in! Reach out if you have any questions or comments.

Ambassadors, milkmaids, and hot air balloons

- February 4, 2014 in city state, fireworks, milkmaid, solothurn, Switzerland

ZENTRALBIBLIOTHEK SOLOTHURN - Patrick Borer picks out some highlights from their collection of 18th-century prints and looks at what they tell us about life in a Swiss city state.

OKCon 2013 Invited Speakers: Sarah Schacht

- June 20, 2013 in Conference, Geneva, Invited Speakers, OKCon, OKCon 2013, OKF, Open Data, open-government,, Sarah Schacht, Switzerland

Photo: Scott Hadfield Flickr We are proud to introduce Sarah Schacht as one of our invited programme advisors. She was involved in the selection process, helping us work through and evaluate the many excellent Open Government proposals that we received for OKCon 2013. As a political entrepreneur Sarah searches for simple technological solutions to complex social problems. Earlier in her career she worked on the Howard Dean Presidential Campaign (2003), was one of the youngest delegates at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and later interned at Congressman Jay Inslee’s office in 2005. After returning to her native Washington State Sarah founded the non-profit organisation Knowledge As Power, where tools to track legislation online and to communicate directly with legislators are offered to Washington residents. Sarah contributed to the Open Government book published by O’Reilly Books in February of 2010, and she is now in the process of writing her own book on the topic. Video from Ignite Seattle 2009: Overcoming Cacophony: Making Gov 2.0 Work for You – Sarah Schacht At OKCon 2013 Sarah Schacht will be one of our moderators, but also present a talk “What if open data isn’t opening government?” on Tuesday 17th September and host a panel entitled “Transparency and Accountability Initiative Mentorships” for one the satellite events on Thursday 19th. For more details please check our updated schedule, that, and we are sure you agree with us here, is looking more and more brilliant. More than ever, we hope you will join us in Geneva. Please note that the Early Bird Ticket sale has reached its final phase, the reduced price tickets will only be available until this coming Sunday 23rd June. Find more information on Sarah Schacht on her blog and twitter.

OKCon 2013 Invited Speakers: Victoria Stodden

- June 12, 2013 in Conference, Geneva, Invited Speakers, OKCon, OKCon 2013, OKF, Open Data, Open Science, OpendataCH, Switzerland, Victoria Stodden

Victoria Stodden We are proud and excited to introduce you to another one of our invited speakers who will join us at OKCon 2013: Victoria Stodden. Known for her research and policy work on open data and reproducible science she is currently working as an assistant professor of Statistics at Columbia University and with the Columbia University Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering. After pursuing degrees in Statistics and Law, her research has focused on the problem of enabling reproducibility in computational science. Victoria has developed the acclaimed “Reproducible Research Standard,” a suite of open licensing recommendations for the dissemination of computational results. Video from Open Science Summit 2011: Victoria Stodden: – Transparency in Scientific Discovery: Innovation and Knowledge Dissemination We are very much looking forward to hear Victoria’s talk at OKCon in September. We are sure it will inspire intense and inspired after-session discussions! And how about you? Will you be there with us? Early Bird tickets are available until 23rd June, 2013.
That’s a little more than ten days from now – time to get yours!
To find out more about Victoria Stodden: official biography, blog, Twitter. welcomes you to OKCon 2013 in Geneva!

- June 7, 2013 in 2013, Geneva, OKCon, OKCon 2013, OpendataCH, Switzerland is the Swiss chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. In September they will be co-hosting OKCon 2013 in Geneva. Hannes Gassert, vicepresident of, has agreed to introduce the Swiss Open Data community and what they have been doing so far schweiz-masse Switzerland is a place known for secrecy, not for openness. Our banks are discreet, privacy is paramount, and the recipes for our cheese we’ll never tell. On the other hand, there’s our cherished direct democracy, our most participatory political culture. And both ideas have roots going back centuries. Our challenge today: how do we translate our system for a networked world, where transparency is so powerful and where mechanisms of participation are accelerated many fold. That’s where OKF Switzerland comes in. OpendataLogo Founded as in 2011, a group of experienced activists started out on a journey that is about to bring them to the center of the OKF network this fall: bringing the global Open Knowledge Conference to Geneva in September will be a major milestone for all of us. Background Looking back, what the group has achieved so far was pretty Swiss indeed: five two-day hackathons, each taking place in one German- and one French-speaking city, each attracting 100+ developers, designers, policy makers and subject matter experts. And, as the Swiss love innovative graphic design, the design schools ZHdK and HEAD were more than happy to host them, as were the EPF Lausanne or the University of Berne. Each of those events had a specific topic: from transportation to health to finance and so on. hackdays1hackdays2hackdays4 They freed the real-time railways API. They ventured into budget visualizations, comparative analysis of hospitals, built an Arduino signal light to tell you when to run for the bus, 3d-printed statistics into earrings and started international collaborations all the way to San Francisco. Participation was amazing, and it was a success – people loved it, the press loved it, and there will be more. hackdays3trainshareup-web In parallel politics had to be dealt with: classic campaigning and lobbying in the Federal Palace, one-to-one discussions with lawmakers, parliamentary enquiries and alliances in administration had to be conducted in order to achieve a broad support throughout the political spectrum, from left-wing ministers to corporate think-tanks. Laws got changed, rules got adapted and Switzerland itself started to change. Both in 2011 and 2012 held conferences with over 200 participants, bringing together the community and also creating links to the global Open Knowledge Foundation: Rufus Pollock and Nigel Shadbolt spoke at the event, and a multitude of academics, civil servants, hackers and makers joined in. During the Conference in 2012, they signed the agreement to officially join the OKF – and at the very same table the idea to bring the world of Open Knowledge to a special place where world leaders gather was born. Geneva, home of the United Nations, the Red Cross and CERN, where the World Wide Web was invented. That event is coming closer and closer now – OKCon will take place in Geneva on 16th – 18th September, at Geneva’s International Conference Center. Now that might sound rather “Swiss” – as in expensive and a tad formal, but rest assured: this is going to be an event to remember, a global one that also shows a different kind of Swiss: great fun, truly participatory – and very open indeed. André and Hannes, Beatrice and Sylvie, Magaly, Antoine, Giorgio, Matthias, Barnaby, Christian, Oleg, Andreas and Jan all are so, so excited to have all of you over and to meet you in person – see you in Geneva! André GolliezHannes GassertSylvie ReinhardMagalyMathys Antoine LogeanGiorgio PaulettoMatthias StuermerBarnaby Skinner Christian LauxOleg LavrovskyAndreas AmslerJanZuppinger

OKCon 2013 Event Update

- May 31, 2013 in 2013, blog, Events, Geneva, News, OKCon, OKCon 2013, Switzerland

The OKCon 2013 conference on Open Data – Broad, Deep, Connected is being held in Geneva, Switzerland in September. OKF Events and Marketing Team Beatrice Martini and Elaine Shaughnessy have been to check out the venue and to meet up with our colleagues from – Andre Golliez, Hannes Gassert and Jan Zuppinger and with Sylvie Reinhard and Magaly Mathys from Lift Events. The venue is at the CICG Conference Centre and is a great space for listening to our keynote speakers and engaging with the programme and for community workshops, exhibitions and events. Participants will have an area where they can give a ‘stand up/pop up show’ to talk about their own projects and ideas.  There will also be challenges and competitions and a preview of the Urban Data Challenge exhibition, a 3-city transportation data challenge between the cities of Geneva, Zurich and San Francisco. GCIG Conference Centre, Geneva We had discussions on the programme and were really excited that there were already over 200 great responses to the Call for Proposals.  They were so good that the deadline was extended until tonight (at 23:59 BST)! Also exciting is that the keynote speakers are confirming their attendance – so keep your eyes on the blog as Jan will be posting some speaker profiles next week. We thank the Swiss team for their hospitality and for helping us check out Geneva’s attractions including a very charming jazz bar and an evening apero sitting in the sun alongside the river Rhone. GVA_crop

OKCon 2013 Call for Proposals deadline extended to 31st May!

- May 23, 2013 in 2013, Geneva, OKCon, OKCon 2013, Switzerland, Volunteers

pre OGDcamp 2011 preparations
  • Event. OKCon 2013 – 17th-18th September 2013, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Call for Proposals. Find the call, FAQs and the submission form on the OKCon 2013 Call for Proposal webpage.
  • Deadline. New deadline to submit your proposals is May 31st, 23:59:59 GMT. Results will be published by 17th June, 23:59:59 GMT.
  • Tickets. Early Bird tickets are on sale until 23rd June!
Dear OKF community, You left us speechless. The OKCon Call for Proposals is due to end tomorrow and you’re filling up our mailboxes (and our spreadsheets) with dozens of amazing ideas and actions plus sending us e-mails to asking for last-minute information, Twitter messages to have hints about the best way to present a talk, and what’s the right field for it in the form? So, excited by your enthusiasm and contagious energy, we have decided to extend the Call’s deadline. You have one more week! New deadline: 31st May. And this time we’re serious. Keep sending your most brilliant and groundbreaking proposals. We’re looking forward to reviewing them all!

Welcome to the OKCon 2013 Blog!

- March 23, 2013 in 2013, blog, Geneva, News, OKCon, OKCon 2013, Switzerland, Twitter

OKFest 2012: Press Event Welcome to the OKCon 2013 Blog!
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Facebook: OKCon 2013 – the Open Knowledge Conference CICG A look at CICG, the OKCon 2013 venue. Join us in Geneva, get your Early Bird ticket now!