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How mundane admin records helped open Finnish politics: An example of “impolite” transparency advocacy

- November 16, 2017 in Freedom of Information, OK Finland, open politics, Transparency

This blogpost was jointly written by Aleksi Knuutila and Georgia Panagiotidou. Their bio’s can be found at the bottom of the page. In a recent blog post Tom Steinberg, long-term advocate of transparency and open data, looked back on what advocacy groups working on open government had achieved in the past decade. Overall, progress is disappointing. Freedom of Information laws are under threat in many countries, and for all the enthusiasm for open data, much of the information that is public interest remains closed. Public and official support for transparency might be at an all time high, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that governments are transparent. Steinberg blames the poor progress on one vice of the advocacy groups: being excessively polite. In his interpretation, groups working on transparency, particularly in his native UK, have relied on collaborative, win-win solutions with public authorities. They had been “like a caged bear, tamed by a zookeeper through the feeding of endless tidbits and snacks”. Significant victories in transparency, however, always had associated losers. Meaningful information about institutions made public will have consequences for people in a position of power. That is why strong initiatives for transparency are rarely the result of “polite” efforts, of collaboration and persuasion. They happen when decision-makers face enough pressure to make transparency seem more attractive than any alternative. The pressure for opening government information can result from transparency itself, especially when it is forced on government. Here the method with which information is made available matters a great deal. Metahaven, a Dutch design collective, coined the term black transparency for the situations in which disclosure happens in an uninvited or involuntary way. The exposed information may itself demonstrate how its systematic availability can be in the public interest. Yet what can be as revealing in black transparency is the response of the authorities, whose reactions in themselves can show their limited commitment to ideals of openness. Over the past few years, a public struggle took place in Finland regarding information about who influences legislation. Open Knowledge Finland played a part in shifting the debate and agenda by managing to make public a part of the information in question. The story demonstrates both the value and limitations of opening up data as a method of advocacy.

Finland is not perfect after all

Despite its reputation for good governance, Finnish politics is exceptionally opaque when it comes to information about who wields influence in political decisions. In recent years lobbying has become more professional and increasingly happens through hired communications agencies. Large reforms, such as the overhaul of health care, have been mired by the revolving doors (many links in Finnish) between those who design the rules in government and the interest groups looking to exploit them. Yet lobbying in the country is essentially unregulated, and little information is available about who is consulted or how much different interest groups spend on lobbying. While regulating lobbying is a challenge – and transparency can remain toothless – for instance the European Commission keeps an open log about meetings with interest groups and requires them to publish information about their expenditure on lobbying. Some mundane administrative records become surprisingly important in the public discussion about transparency. The Finnish parliament, like virtually any public building, keeps a log of people who enter and leave. These visitor logs are kept ostensibly for security and are not necessarily designed to be used for other purposes. Yet Finnish activists and journalists, associated with the NGO Open Ministry and the broadcaster Svenska Yle, seized these records to study the influence of private interests. After an initiative to reform copyright law was dropped by parliament in 2014, the group filed freedom of information requests to access the parliament’s visitor log, to see who had met with the MPs influential in the case. Parliament refused to release the information, and over two years of debate in courts followed. In December 2016 the supreme administrative court declared the records public. Despite the court’s decision, parliament still made access difficult. Following the judgment, the parliament administration began to delete the visitor log daily, making the most recent information about who MPs meet inaccessible. The court’s decision still forced them to keep an archive of older data. In apparent breach of law, the administration did not release this information in electronic format. When faced with requests for access to the records, parliament printed them on paper and insisted that people come to their office to view them. The situation was unusual: the institution responsible for legislation had also decided that it could choose not to follow the instructions of the courts that interpret law. At this stage, Open Knowledge Finland secured the resources for a wider study of the parliament visitor logs. Because of the administration’s refusal to release the data electronically, we were uncertain what the best course of action was. Nobody knew what the content of the logs would be and whether going through them would be worth the effort. Still, we decided that we should collect and make the information available as soon as possible, while the archive that parliament kept still had some possible public relevance. Collecting and processing the data turned out to be a long process.

The hard work of turning documents into data

In the summer of 2017 the parliament’s administrative offices, on a side street behind the iconic main building, became familiar to us. After having our bags scanned in security, the staff would lead us to a meeting room. Two thick folders filled with papers had been placed on the table, containing the logs of all parliamentary meetings for a period of three months. We were always three people going to parliament, armed with cameras and staplers. After removing the staples from the printouts, we would take photographs in a carefully framed, standardised frame. To photograph the entire available archive, data from a complete year, required close to 2,000 images and four visits to the parliament offices. Taking the photos in a carefully cropped way was important, since the next challenge was to turn these images into electronic format again. Only in this way could we have the data as a structured dataset that could be searched and queried. For this task open source tools proved invaluable. We used Tesseract for extracting the text from the images, and Tabula for making sure that the text was placed in structured tables. The process, so-called optical character recognition, was inevitably prone to errors. Some errors we were able to correct using tools such as OpenRefine, which is able to identify the likely mistakes in the dataset. Despite the corrections, we made sure the dataset includes references to the original photos, so that the digitised content could be verified from them. Transforming the paper documents into a useable database required roughly one month of full-time work, spread between our team members. Yet this was only the first step. The content of the visitor log itself was fairly sparse, in most cases only containing dates and names, and little information about people’s affiliations, let alone the content of their meetings. To refine it, we scraped the parliament’s website and connected the names that occur in the log with the identities and affiliations of members of parliament and party staff. Using simple crowdsourcing techniques and public sources of information, we looked at a sample of the 500 people that most frequently visited parliament and tried to understand who they were working for. This stage of refinement required some tricky editorial choices, determining which questions we wanted the data to answer. We chose for instance to classify the most frequent visitors, to be able to answer questions about what parties are most frequently connected to particular types of visitors.

Collaboration with the media

For data geeks like us, being able to access this information was exciting enough. Yet for our final goal, making a case for better regulation on lobbying, releasing a dataset was not sufficient. We chose to partner with investigative journalists, who would be able to present, verify and contextualise the information to a broader audience. Our own analytical efforts focused broader patterns and regularities in the data, while journalists who have been covering Finnish politics for a long time were able to find the most relevant facts and narratives from the data. We gave the data under an embargo to some key journalists, so they would have the time and resources to work on the information. Afterwards the data was available to all journalists who requested it for their own work. We were lucky that there was sustained media interest in the information. Alfred Harmsworth, the founder of the Daily Mirror, is attributed with the quote “news is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; the rest is advertising”. In the same vein, when the story broke that the Finnish parliament had started deleting the most recent data about visitors, the interest in the historical records was guaranteed. Despite the heightened interest, we also became conscious of how difficult it was for the media to interpret data. This was not just because of a lack of technical skills. There simply was such a significant amount of information – details of about 25,000 visits to parliament – that isolating the most meaningful pieces of information or getting an overview of what had happened was a challenge. For news organisations, for whom the dedication of staff even for days on a topic was a significant undertaking, investing into this kind of research was a risk. Even if they would spend the time going through the data, the returns of doing this were uncertain and unclear. After we released the data to a wider range of publications, many news outlets ended up running fairly superficial stories based on the data, focusing on for instance the most frequently occurring names and other quantities, instead of going through the investigative effort of interrogating the significance of the meetings described in the logs. Information that is in the form of lists lends itself easily to clickbait-like titles. For media outlets that could not wait for their competition to beat them to it, this was to be expected. The news coverage was probably weakened by the fact that we could not share the data with a broader public, due to the fact that it contained personal details that were potentially sensitive. For instance Naomi Colvin has suggested that searchable public databases, that open information for wider scrutiny and discovery, can help to beat the fast tempo of the news cycle and maintain the relevance of datasets.

The stories that resulted from the data

What did journalists find when they wrote stories based on the data? Suomen Kuvalehti ran an in-depth feature that included investigations into the private companies that were most active lobbying. These included a Russian-backed payday loans provider as well as Uber, whose well-funded efforts extend even to Finland. YLE, the Finnish public broadcaster, described the privileged access that representatives of nuclear power enjoyed, while the newspaper Aamulehti showed how individual meetings between legislators and the finance industry had managed to shift regulation. Our own study of the data showed how representatives of private industry were more likely to have access to parties of the governing coalition, while unions and NGOs met more often with opposition parties. In essence, the stories provided detail about how well-resourced actors were best placed to influence legislation. It confirmed, a cynical person might note, what most people had thought to be the case in the first place. Yet having clear documentation of this phenomenon may well make it harder to ignore. This line of argumentation was often raised with recent large leaks, the value of which may not lie in making public new facts, but providing the concrete data that makes the issue impossible to ignore. “From now on, we can’t pretend we don’t know”, as Slavoj Zizek ironically noted on Wikileaks. Overall the media response was large. According to our media tracking, at least 50 articles were written in response to the release of the data. Several national newspapers ran editorials on the need for establishing rules for lobbying. In response, four political parties, out of the eight represented in parliament, declared that they would start publishing their own meetings with lobbyists. Parliament was forced to concede, and began to release daily snapshots of data about meetings in an electronic format. These were significant victories, both in practices of transparency as well as changing the policy agenda.

On the importance of time and resources

For a small NGO such as ours, the digitising and processing of information on this scale would obviously not have been possible recently, perhaps even five years ago. Our work was expedited by the availability of powerful open source tools for difficult tasks such as optical character recognition and correcting errors. Being a small association had its advantages as well, as we were aided by the network around the organisation, from which we were able to draw volunteers in areas from data science to media strategy. In many cases governments contain the consequences of releasing information through a kind of excess of transparency: they release so many documents, often in formats that are hard to process, that their meaning becomes muddled. When documents can be automatically processed and queried, this strategy weakens. Still, it would be naive to think that technology is enough to make information advocacy effective or enough to allow everybody to participate in it. This line of work was possible due to some people’s commitment and personal sacrifice that spanned several years, as well as significant amounts of funding on the right moments. Notably, no newsroom would by themselves have had the resources to sustain the several months of labour that working through the data required. The strategy of being less “polite”, in Tom Steinberg’s terms, may well be desirable, but the obvious challenge is securing the resources to do it.   Author bio’s Dr. Aleksi Knuutila is a social scientist with a focus on civic technologies and the politics of data, and an interest in applying both computational and qualitative methods for investigation and research. As a researcher with Open Knowledge Finland, he has advised the Finnish government on their personal data strategy and studied political lobbying using public sources of data. He is currently working on an a toolkit for using freedom of information for investigating how data and analytics are used in the public sector.

Georgia Panagiotidou is a software developer and data visualisation designer, with a focus on the intersections between media and technology. She was part of the Helsingin Sanomat data desk where she used to work to make data stories more reader friendly. Now, among other things, she works in data journalism projects most recently with Open Knowledge Finland to digitise and analyse the Finnish parliament visitor’s log. Her interests lie in open data, civic tech, data journalism and media art. We would like to thank the following people who gave an invaluable contribution to the work: Sneha Das, Jari Hanska, Antti Knuutila, Erkka Laitinen, Juuso Parkkinen, Tuomas Peltomäki, Aleksi Romanov, Liisi Soroush, Salla Thure

Ανοικτά δεδομένα για τη φορολογική δικαιοσύνη: Η δημιουργία μιας δημόσιας βάσης δεδομένων με στοιχεία ανα χώρα.

- March 1, 2017 in Featured, multinational corporations, News, Open Data, Tax Avoidance, Tax Evasion, Tax Havens, Transparency

Τι φορολογία πληρώνουν οι πολυεθνικές εταιρείες στη χώρας σου; Οι μεγαλύτεροι υπέρμαχοι της φορολογικής δικαιοσύνης (συμπεριλαμβανομένου του Δικτύου Φορολογικής Δικαιοσύνης) και ειδικοί στα ανοικτά δεδομένα εργάζονται με σκοπό να σε βοηθήσουν να βρεις το δικό σου πρότζεκτ φορολογικής δικαιοσύνης χρησιμοποιώντας τα δικά τους ανοικτά δεδομένα. Σήμερα δημοσίευσαν ένα κείμενο με τίτλο What do they pay? […]

Europe in the age of Tr… Transparency

- February 21, 2017 in network, OK Russia, Transparency

For the past few years, the USA has been an example of how governments can manage open government initiatives and open data particularly. They have done this by introducing positions like federal chief information officer and chief data officers. With datasets being opened on a massive scale in a standardised format, it laid the ground for startups and citizen apps to flourish. Now, when referring to the example of the US, it is common to add ‘under Obama’s administration’ with a sigh. Initiatives to halt data collection put the narrative on many sensitive issues such as climate change, women’s rights or racial inequality under threat. Now, more than ever, the EU should take a global lead with its open data initiatives. One of these initiatives just took place last week: developers of civic apps from all over Europe went on a Transparency Tour of Brussels. Participants were the winners of the app competition that was held at TransparencyCamp EU in Amsterdam last June. In the run up to the final event, 30 teams submitted their apps online while another 40 teams were created in a series of diplohacks that Dutch embassies organised in eight countries. If you just asked yourself ‘what is diplohack?’, let me explain.

ConsiliumVote team pitching their app at TCampEU, by EU2016NL

Diplohacks are hackathons where developers meet diplomats – with initial suspicion from both sides. Gradually, both sides understand how they can benefit from this cooperation. As much as the word ‘diplohack’ itself brings two worlds together, the event was foremost an ice breaker between the communities. According to the survey of participants, direct interaction is what both sides enjoyed the most. Diplohacks helped teams to find and understand the data, and also enabled data providers to see the points of improvement like better interface, adding relevant data fields to their datasets, etc.   Experience the diplohack atmosphere by watching this short video: All winners of the app competition were invited last week for the transparency tour at the EU institutions. The winning teams were Citybik.es, which h makes use of bike data; Harta Banilor Publici (Public Spending Map) in Romania; and ConsiliumVote, a visualization tool of the votes in the Council of the EU. Developers were shown the EU institutions from the inside, but the most exciting part of it was a meeting with the EU open data steering committee.

Winners of the app competition at the Council of EU, by Open Knowledge Belgium

Yet again, it proved how important it is to meet face to face and discuss things. Diplomats encouraged coders to use their data more. Tony Agotha, a member of the cabinet of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, reminded and praised coders for the social relevance of their work. Developers, in turn, provided feedback with both specific comments like making the search on the Financial Transparency website possible across years; and general ideas such as making the platform of the European data portal open sourced so that regional and municipal portals can build on it. Open data is not a favour, it’s a right’ – said one of the developers. To use this right, we need more meetings between publishers and re-users, we need community growth, we need communication of data and ultimately, more data. TransparencyCamp Europe and last week’s events in Brussels were good first steps. However, both EU officials and European citizens using data should keep the dialogue going if we want to take up the opportunity for the EU to lead on open data. Your comments and ideas are welcome. Join the discussion here.    

Civic Tech or Civic Business? Digital technology will not help democracy without adopting its foundations

- February 15, 2017 in OK France, Open Data, Open Government Data, Transparency

This blog originally appeared on RegardsCitoyens.org and has been translated by Pierre Chrzanowski and Samuel Goëta (Open Knowledge France). Civil society did not wait for the buzzword “Civic Tech” to implement digital technology to serve democratic innovation. But since the boom of this trendy term, there have been many initiatives claiming to belong to what it entitles as a concept without respecting the very basic principles of democracy.

Adapted from a photo of Alexis (CC0)

Digital technology is not democratic in itself. Its simple use would not be enough to magically manage the essential democratic stakes, quite the contrary. Having a blind faith in technology opens the door to a loss of sovereignty and democratic control. There is a reason why the global “Open Government” movement has found its foundations in the Open Data dynamic (https://public.resource.org/8_principles.html) and the collaborative governance of the Internet, themselves deeply tightened to the principles of democratic transparency, public deliberation and open source communities. It would not be acceptable if the digital transition of democratic life were to come along with the creation of lucrative monopolies whose mechanisms would be hidden from society. This digital transition must therefore at the very least scrupulously respect the level of transparency and sovereignty of our democratic heritage. The Open Government Partnership global summit in Paris was a new opportunity to observe the public authorities boast, support and proudly announce the use, or even promote the tools of several “Civic Business” startups who specifically refuse to apply these democratic principles. Some of these companies, like Cap Collective (a startup also leading Parlement & Citoyens, that sells its proprietary consultation tool to the French government for most of its participatory initiatives), even claimed for years, for purely advertising purposes, to adhere to the principles of transparency and openness, but in reality never applied them. This is the reason why it seems urgent today to reaffirm that any democratic digital project needs to be based on open source code, ensuring diversity, transparency, participation and collaboration which are the very principles governing “Open Government”. While Regards Citoyens is not primarily dedicated to the promotion of free software (many organizations such as April or Framasoft are already doing so well at the national level), it is at the heart of our statutes as well as in all our projects. It is not a question of taking a dogmatic, purist or even a technical posture. It is more of an ethical position. Since its beginnings and until today, democracy has had to equip itself with tools such as the collaborative counting of votes, official newspapers and public deliberations to ensure a minimum of transparency and equal access to public life and provide a sufficient level of trust to citizens. It is essential that these same principles now apply to digital tools who aim at accompanying public institutions in our modern democracy. If “code is law”, only free software can ensure transparency and collective governance of this code, both essential in regards to trust in these new “laws”. That’s the whole issue of the transparency of algorithms that participate in public decision-making. Publishing the data generated as open data is also necessary, but as Valentin Chaput very well says “retrospectively publishing a dataset from a non-auditable platform is not a sufficient guarantee that the data has not been manipulated”. On NosDeputes.fr (Regards Citoyens’ Parliamentary monitoring website)  and its visualizations of parliamentary activities, for example, it is crucial that anyone can check that our algorithms do not implement any discriminatory treatment for a specific MP or political group. To gloriously invite world-renowned and fervent advocates of commons and free software such as Lawrence Lessig, Audrey Tang, Pablo Soto, Rufus Pollock or mySociety, while promoting initiatives that refuse to apply these principles, is purely and simply called “open-washing”. The fact that the French secretary in charge of digital affairs can organize and animate an international overview of Civic Tech during the OGP summit, while France is only represented by an initiative which is also the only one of the panel that sells proprietary software, is particularly caricatural, and shares a disastrous image for France among these international ambassadors of digital democracy. Nonetheless, this does not mean that the use of digital tools to support democracy is incompatible with any form of remuneration for Civic Tech actors! The same way we advocate for a fair compensation for elected officials and that we support that many policy makers have relatively low income in comparison with their responsibilities, we consider the remuneration of developers and animators of Civic Tech tools as a major issue. This debate must however not forget that democracy lives mostly based on volunteering. For instance, political activists getting involved in an electoral campaign knowing they will never be elected, or citizens mobilized during months to influence a political decision. Unfortunately too often, Civic Businesses dogmatically reproduce usual economic models, forgetting about the space and the issues in which they operate, exempting themselves from essential democratic values. By reproducing authoritarian models of startups and other sorts of incubators, Civic Tech may unleash cryonism, conflicts of interests, and actors who only want to enrich and empower themselves. However, many companies have well understood there are business models out there compatible with an open governance, with the production and use of free software, and with the transparency of algorithms. Everyone can be open! Simply applying the same requirements of exemplarity and transparency to our own structures is enough. Our workshop dedicated to Transparency applied to NGOs during the OGP summit was most illustrative in this matter and included many key actions, simple but essential, with which civil society can engage: free software and open data obviously, but also apply a more horizontal open governance, by for instance publishing detailed accounts, declaration of interests of representatives, minutes of meetings or also opening to oversight or the participation of all to meetings and ongoing works… So many opening actions that can become beneficial to structures who implement them and without which (at least) the growing French Civic Tech may sadly lose its soul. Digital technology will not renew democracy by feeding distrust with more transparency.

Nominera till Open Knowledge Awards 2016!

- November 5, 2016 in Asmen Gul, Business, Data Journalism, Jan Ainali, OKA, open gov, Open Knowledge Awards, Open Knowledge Awards 2016, Open Science, OpenByDefault, Transparency

Fram till den 15 november kan du nominera till Open Knowledge Awards, första gången som det delas ut i Sverige av Open Knowledge Sverige (som nyligen blev godkänt som ett filial av Open Knowledge International). Priset delas ut i sju kategorier:
  • Bästa initiativ för transparens
  • Bästa offentliga tjänsteman
  • Bästa initiativ inom Open Science
  • Bästa kommun/region
  • Bästa datajournalism
  • Bäst i civilsamhället
  • Bästa företagsinititativ
Du kan lämna nomineringarna direkt här.

Detta blogginlägg förekom från början på OpenByDefault.se skrivet av Jan Ainali under en Creative Commons Erkännande-DelaLika 4.0 Internationell licens. Vissa modifieringar har gjorts.

Nominera till Open Knowledge Awards 2016!

- November 5, 2016 in Asmen Gul, Business, Data Journalism, Jan Ainali, OKA, open gov, Open Knowledge Awards, Open Knowledge Awards 2016, Open Science, OpenByDefault, Transparency

Fram till den 15 november kan du nominera till Open Knowledge Awards, första gången som det delas ut i Sverige av Open Knowledge Sverige (som nyligen blev godkänt som ett filial av Open Knowledge International). Priset delas ut i sju kategorier:

  • Bästa initiativ för transparens
  • Bästa offentliga tjänsteman
  • Bästa initiativ inom Open Science
  • Bästa kommun/region
  • Bästa datajournalism
  • Bäst i civilsamhället
  • Bästa företagsinititativ

Du kan lämna nomineringarna direkt här.

Detta blogginlägg förekom från början på OpenByDefault.se skrivet av Jan Ainali under en Creative Commons Erkännande-DelaLika 4.0 Internationell licens. Vissa modifieringar har gjorts.

Nominera till Open Knowledge Awards 2016!

- November 5, 2016 in Asmen Gul, Business, Data Journalism, Jan Ainali, OKA, open gov, Open Knowledge Awards, Open Knowledge Awards 2016, Open Science, OpenByDefault, Transparency

Fram till den 15 november kan du nominera till Open Knowledge Awards, första gången som det delas ut i Sverige av Open Knowledge Sverige (som nyligen blev godkänt som ett filial av Open Knowledge International). Priset delas ut i sju kategorier:
  • Bästa initiativ för transparens
  • Bästa offentliga tjänsteman
  • Bästa initiativ inom Open Science
  • Bästa kommun/region
  • Bästa datajournalism
  • Bäst i civilsamhället
  • Bästa företagsinititativ
Du kan lämna nomineringarna direkt här.

Detta blogginlägg förekom från början på OpenByDefault.se skrivet av Jan Ainali under en Creative Commons Erkännande-DelaLika 4.0 Internationell licens. Vissa modifieringar har gjorts.

And what are your plans for Transparency Camp Europe?

- May 2, 2016 in Europe, event, Events, network, Transparency

This post was written by our friends at Open State Foundation in the Netherlands.  tcampEU Let’s face it. When it comes to relevant open data and transparency in European decision-making, we have a lot to do. Despite growing open data portals, and aggregating European data portal, if you want to make sense of European decision-making and public finance, it takes a lot of efforts.

Dieter Schalk / Open State Foundation

The time is ripe. With the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and Brexit, debates around immigration and refugees, new bailout talks between the EU and Greece, decisions by the EU affect millions of citizens living and working within its member states and people around the world. As everyone has the right to information, people need to know how these decisions are taken, who participates in preparing them, who receives funding, how you can make your views known, and what information is held or produced to develop and adopt those decisions.  In the wake of the Panama Papers, renewed calls for open company registers and registers on beneficial ownership, the need for open spending, contracting and tenders data, require us to come together, join efforts and help to make the EU more transparent. TransparencyCamp Europe comes at the right moment. This unconference on open government and open data, to be held on June 1 in Amsterdam will bring together developers, journalists, open data experts, NGOs, policymakers, and activists. In the run-up, an online European-wide open data App Competition (deadline for submissions May 1) and a number of local events or diplohacks are organized. This will all come together at TransparencyCamp Europe, where apart from numerous sessions organized by participants themselves, developers will present their open data app to a jury.

Dieter Schalk / Open State Foundation

EU decision making is quite complex, involving national governments and parliaments, the European Commission and the EuropeanParliament, the European Council and the many EU institutions and agencies involved.  Still, there is already quite some open data available, differing in quality and ease of use. Definitely, you want to know more about the EU’s institutions, who work there and how you can contact them. Although the information is available at the EU Whoiswho website, the data is not easily reusable. That is why we scrapped it and had made it available to you on GitHub as CSV and JSON. And if you’re crawling through information on EU budgets, finances, funds, contracts and beneficiaries, you’ll notice there is much room for improvement. So, there you go, join us and help to make the EU more transparent as TransparencyCamp Europe comes to Amsterdam. Registration for the unconference is free, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to the newsletter.

And what are your plans for Transparency Camp Europe?

- May 2, 2016 in Europe, event, Events, network, Transparency

This post was written by our friends at Open State Foundation in the Netherlands.  tcampEU Let’s face it. When it comes to relevant open data and transparency in European decision-making, we have a lot to do. Despite growing open data portals, and aggregating European data portal, if you want to make sense of European decision-making and public finance, it takes a lot of efforts.

Dieter Schalk / Open State Foundation

The time is ripe. With the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and Brexit, debates around immigration and refugees, new bailout talks between the EU and Greece, decisions by the EU affect millions of citizens living and working within its member states and people around the world. As everyone has the right to information, people need to know how these decisions are taken, who participates in preparing them, who receives funding, how you can make your views known, and what information is held or produced to develop and adopt those decisions.  In the wake of the Panama Papers, renewed calls for open company registers and registers on beneficial ownership, the need for open spending, contracting and tenders data, require us to come together, join efforts and help to make the EU more transparent. TransparencyCamp Europe comes at the right moment. This unconference on open government and open data, to be held on June 1 in Amsterdam will bring together developers, journalists, open data experts, NGOs, policymakers, and activists. In the run-up, an online European-wide open data App Competition (deadline for submissions May 1) and a number of local events or diplohacks are organized. This will all come together at TransparencyCamp Europe, where apart from numerous sessions organized by participants themselves, developers will present their open data app to a jury.

Dieter Schalk / Open State Foundation

EU decision making is quite complex, involving national governments and parliaments, the European Commission and the EuropeanParliament, the European Council and the many EU institutions and agencies involved.  Still, there is already quite some open data available, differing in quality and ease of use. Definitely, you want to know more about the EU’s institutions, who work there and how you can contact them. Although the information is available at the EU Whoiswho website, the data is not easily reusable. That is why we scrapped it and had made it available to you on GitHub as CSV and JSON. And if you’re crawling through information on EU budgets, finances, funds, contracts and beneficiaries, you’ll notice there is much room for improvement.
So, there you go, join us and help to make the EU more transparent as TransparencyCamp Europe comes to Amsterdam. Registration for the unconference is free, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to the newsletter.

Wir suchen: Projektmanager für DIGIWHIST – ein Projekt mit Schwerpunkt Transparenz, Korruptionsbekämpfung und Whistleblowing

- January 27, 2015 in Featured, Jobs, OKF Deutschland, Open Knowledge Foundation, Transparency, Whistleblowing

8210336893_c76839a169_b Halbe Stelle, Festanstellung für die gesamte Projektlaufzeit von drei Jahren, Gehalt nach Öffentlichem Dienst Berlin E13 Stufe 3, Bewerbungen bis 20. Februar 2015 Die Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland (e.V.) ist eine der führenden NGOs im Bereich Freies Wissen, Offene Daten und Transparenz in Deutschland. Viele unserer Projekte gelten als Pionierarbeiten, unsere Expertise wird von Regierungen, Anbietern wie Nutzern Offener Daten geschätzt und wir sind ein wichtiger Förderer der deutschen Open Data Community. Wir suchen zum 1. März 2015 einen Projekmanager für das H2020 EU-Forschungsprojekt „The Digital Whistleblower. Fiscal Transparency, Risk Assessment and Impact of Good Governance Policies Assessed (DIGIWHIST)”. Ziel von DIGIWHIST ist es, das öffentliche Auftragswesen transparenter und effizienter zu gestalten sowie Whistleblower zu unterstützen, um Korruption zu bekämpfen. Unser Arbeitsschwerpunkt im Projekt ist die Konzeption und Entwicklung von Transparenzwerkzeugen. Zu Deinen Aufgaben gehören
  • Das administrative und koordinierende Tagesgeschäft im Management des geförderten EU-Forschungsprojektes
  • Die Kommunikation innerhalb des Konsortiums
  • Das Finanz- und Berichtsmanagement und seine Abwicklung
  • Die Entwicklung und Umsetzung des Projektplans
  • Die Unterstützung der Dissemination
Was wir bieten
  • Spielraum für Mitgestaltung beim Aufbau einer dynamischen und gut sichtbaren NGO
  • Ein junges und motiviertes Team, das sich auf Dich freut
  • Ein spannendes Arbeitsumfeld in Berlin, mit flexiblen Arbeitszeiten und netter Büroatmosphäre
  • Einbettung in das internationale OKF-Netzwerk
  • Möglichkeiten zur Weiterbildung und Teilnahme an Konferenzen
Was wir erwarten
  • Abgeschlossenes Hochschulstudium (Master oder Diplom)
  • Mindestens 2 Jahre Berufserfahrung, idealerweise im NGO-Umfeld
  • Identifikation mit unseren Vereinszielen Vereinszielen
  • Präsenz im Berliner Büro und Lust auf Teamarbeit
  • Erfahrungen in Bezug auf Projekt- und Finanzmanagement
  • Sicheres Auftreten und hohe soziale und kommunikative Kompetenz
  • Eigenständige und strukturierte Arbeitsweise
  • Fähigkeit zu Priorisieren und Deadlines einzuhalten
  • Gute Deutsch- und Englischkenntnisse in Wort und Schrift
  • Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsweise sowie einschlägige Erfahrung mit Recherche und dem Verfassen von Texten und Dokumentationen (Englisch)
  • Keine Scheu, sich in unterschiedliche Online-Werkzeuge einzuarbeiten
  • Idealerweise Kenntnisse im Bereich digitale Transparenz und Korruptionsbekämpfung
  • Thematische Affinität zu Open Data, Transparenz, Whistleblowing, und verwandten Themenfeldern, sowie erste Arbeitserfahrungen in einem EU-Forschungsverbundprojekt ist ein Plus
Bitte schicke uns Deine Bewerbung inkl. Deiner Gehaltsvorstellung per E-Mail an getinvolved@okfn.de und daniel.dietrich@okfn.org, der Dir auch für Rückfragen zur Verfügung steht. Projektbeschreibung: “The central objective of DIGIWHIST is to combine the provision of data on public spending with actionable indicators and provide a whistleblower reporting channel that strengthens accountability and transparency of public administration. In particular, it aims at improving trust in governments and efficiency of public spending across Europe through the systematic collection, analysis, and broad dissemination of information on public procurement and on mechanisms that increase accountability of public officials in all EU and some neighbouring countries. Availability of such information can provide an effective tool to private actors such as NGOs, academia, and businesses to ensure that governments are accountable and transparent in their management of public resources, especially when an effective whistleblower reporting channel also underpins accountability.” See our press release.