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CKANconUS and Code for America Summit: some thoughts about the important questions

Oscar Montiel - June 20, 2018 in ckan, code for america, Events, OK US, USA

It’s been a few weeks after CKANConUS and the seventh Code for America Summit took place in Oakland. As always, it was a great place to meet old friends and new faces of technologists, policy experts, government innovators in the U.S. In this blogpost I share some of the experience of attending these two conferences and a few thoughts I’ve been ruminating about the discussions that happened, and more importantly, those that didn’t happen. CKAN is an open source open data portal platform that Open Knowledge International developed several years ago. It has been used and reused by many governments and civil society organizations around the world. For CKANconUS, the OK US group, led by Joel Natividad organized a one day event with different users and implementers of CKAN around the United States. We had the California based LA Counts, gathering data from the 88 cities in the County of Los Angeles; the California Data Collaborative working to improve water management decisions. We also had some interesting presentations from the GreenInfo Network and the California Natural Resources Agency. And we had the chance to hear about the awesome process of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center to choose CKAN as its platform and how they maintain the project (presentation included LEGOs in every slide). On the more technical side, David Read, Ian Ward and our own Adrià Mercader talked about the new versions of CKAN, the Express Loader and the Technical Roadmap for CKAN, 11 years after its development started. You can view the slides by Adrià Mercader on the CKAN Technical Roadmap overview here. We closed with some great lightning talks about datamirror.org to ensure access to federal research data and Human Centered Design and what Amanda Damewood learned about working in government in improving these processes. The next two days in the Code for America Summit were full of interesting talks about building tools, innovating in our processes and making government work for people in a better way. There were some interesting keynote speakers as well as breakout sessions where we discussed the process to build certain projects and how we can rethink how we engage in our communities. I would like highlight two mainstage talks about collaboration (or the difficulty of such) between government and civil society. The first is a talk and panel about disasters in Puerto Rico, Houston and cities in Florida, where some key points were raised about the importance of having accurate, verifiable and usable information in these cases, as well as the importance of having a network of people who are willing to help their peers. The second is the presentation Code for Asheville presented, regarding their issues with homelessness and police data. This isn’t necessarily what you would call a success story but Sabrah n’haRaven made a great point about working with social issues: “Trust effective communities to understand their own problems”. This may sound like a given in the work we do when working with data and building things with it, but it’s something that we need to keep in mind. Using this line of thought, it seems crucial to keep these conversations going. We need to understand our communities, be aware that there are policies that go against the rights of people to live a fulfilling life and we need to change that. I hope for the next CfA Summit and CKANConUS we can try to find some answers to these questions collectively.

CKANconUS and Code for America Summit: some thoughts about the important questions

Oscar Montiel - June 20, 2018 in ckan, code for america, Events, OK US, USA

It’s been a few weeks after CKANConUS and the seventh Code for America Summit took place in Oakland. As always, it was a great place to meet old friends and new faces of technologists, policy experts, government innovators in the U.S. In this blogpost I share some of the experience of attending these two conferences and a few thoughts I’ve been ruminating about the discussions that happened, and more importantly, those that didn’t happen. CKAN is an open source open data portal platform that Open Knowledge International developed several years ago. It has been used and reused by many governments and civil society organizations around the world. For CKANconUS, the OK US group, led by Joel Natividad organized a one day event with different users and implementers of CKAN around the United States. We had the California based LA Counts, gathering data from the 88 cities in the County of Los Angeles; the California Data Collaborative working to improve water management decisions. We also had some interesting presentations from the GreenInfo Network and the California Natural Resources Agency. And we had the chance to hear about the awesome process of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center to choose CKAN as its platform and how they maintain the project (presentation included LEGOs in every slide). On the more technical side, David Read, Ian Ward and our own Adrià Mercader talked about the new versions of CKAN, the Express Loader and the Technical Roadmap for CKAN, 11 years after its development started. You can view the slides by Adrià Mercader on the CKAN Technical Roadmap overview here. We closed with some great lightning talks about datamirror.org to ensure access to federal research data and Human Centered Design and what Amanda Damewood learned about working in government in improving these processes. The next two days in the Code for America Summit were full of interesting talks about building tools, innovating in our processes and making government work for people in a better way. There were some interesting keynote speakers as well as breakout sessions where we discussed the process to build certain projects and how we can rethink how we engage in our communities. I would like highlight two mainstage talks about collaboration (or the difficulty of such) between government and civil society. The first is a talk and panel about disasters in Puerto Rico, Houston and cities in Florida, where some key points were raised about the importance of having accurate, verifiable and usable information in these cases, as well as the importance of having a network of people who are willing to help their peers. The second is the presentation Code for Asheville presented, regarding their issues with homelessness and police data. This isn’t necessarily what you would call a success story but Sabrah n’haRaven made a great point about working with social issues: “Trust effective communities to understand their own problems”. This may sound like a given in the work we do when working with data and building things with it, but it’s something that we need to keep in mind. Using this line of thought, it seems crucial to keep these conversations going. We need to understand our communities, be aware that there are policies that go against the rights of people to live a fulfilling life and we need to change that. I hope for the next CfA Summit and CKANConUS we can try to find some answers to these questions collectively.

Open mapping in Côte d’Ivoire, Mongolia and the USA

Delia Walker-Jones - April 16, 2018 in Côte d'Ivoire, mongolia, Open Data Day, open data day 2018, Open Mapping, USA

Authors: Delia Walker-Jones (OSM-Colorado) and Kanigui Nara (SCODA Côte d’Ivoire) This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2018. On Saturday 3 March, groups from around the world organised over 400 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 45 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by Hivos, SPARC, Mapbox, the Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The events in this blog were supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open Mapping theme.

School of Data (SCODA) Côte d’Ivoire

During the Open Data Day in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), we gathered 13 activists working on extractive industries. Firstly we presented the 2015 EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) report for Côte d’Ivoire. This report contains mainly the payments of extractives industries to Côte d’Ivoire government. The 2015 EITI report has also published the geographical coordinates of operating licenses in the country. We started by showing to the participants where they can find these data in the report. And the first task was to show how these data were organised and what were their meanings. We  explained that for each operating license, there were geographical coordinates of delimitation points of the operating field. We also discussed about the definition of longitude and latitude and the encoding system (degree minutes seconds) that has been used in the report. After that, participants were divided into groups of two persons. And, we asked to each of these groups to use Tabula in order to extract the geographical coordinates of the operating license of Societe des Mines d’Ity. This firm is operating in the west part of the country. One of the important challenges of the day was to clean up the extracted data. We had already prepared a step by step cleaning spreadsheet. We started by introducing the different functions that have been used for cleaning. Functions like “LENGTH”; “FIND & REPLACE” ; “MID” and “SUBSTITUTE” were presented before going through the spreadsheet. Once data were cleaned up and formatted by name of firm, delimitation points, longitude and latitude; we converted longitude and latitude into Degree Decimal format. Then, we made an introduction to Umap and each group created a map project and started to add the delimating points of the operating license of Societe des Mines d’Ity. In terms of lessons, this event was an opportunity for participants to understand geographical coordinates and strengthen their skills in terms of data extraction and data cleaning. We recommend to make sure that participants have a clear understanding of geographical coordinates before starting a mapping event. The next step for us is to design specific training in mapping and to organise mapathon events using OSM.

Open Street Maps (OSM) Colorado: Ger Community Mapping Center mapathon

In Denver, Colorado during Open Data Day, with the assistance of a grant from Mapbox, Open Street Maps Colorado hosted a mapathon for the Ger Community Mapping Center, a non-profit based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The weather outside was warm and sunny, but the mapathon nonetheless lured a number of GIS and geography professionals and students into a local university conference room for an afternoon spent on Open Street Maps, digitizing aerial imagery from Mongolia. We opened the event with a couple presentations about Open Data Day and about the region of Mongolia the Ger Community Mapping Center elected to map. The Arkhangai province, the selected region, is a mostly rural province about 300 miles west of the capital Ulaanbaatar. We saw from the aerial imagery in Open Street Maps the incredibly varied geography of the Arkhangai province, from tiny, barely visible track roads and vast forests in some areas to densely populated residential neighborhoods filled with dozens of gers (yurts) in other areas. As the participants slowly digitized the many features, this varied geography sparked conversations about how to classify smaller roads barely visible in the grass, and where to delineate residential areas in a consistent manner. Conversations moved towards the topic of open data, as well. Questions about how to determine standards for open data, and the ethical ramifications of privacy and open spatial data through aerial imagery came to light. In the case of this mapathon, we discussed gers (yurts) and the importance of including gers in spatial data. While in many Western contexts buildings like gers would not be included, and, in fact, have not warranted a separate OSM tag, gers seemed necessary to incorporate within the cultural context of Mongolia–even inside the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, many Mongolians still live in Gers. Gers, therefore, are not only a feature that belongs on a map of Mongolia, but are also an essential feature to assessing population and the movements of the estimated 30% of Mongolians who are still nomadic or semi-nomadic. By discussing topics like this, we hoped to bring to light a part of the world not many people living in Denver, Colorado know about, and to provide a substantial amount of new shapefiles and data for the Ger Community Mapping Center to use in future projects.  

U.S. City Open Data Census relaunched: here’s how you can get involved

Alex Dodds - February 5, 2018 in Open Data, Open Data Census, USA

Since 2014, the U.S. City Open Data Census has tracked what datasets are open and available online in cities across the United States. In doing this, the Census is one of the nation’s most prominent (though not perfect) benchmarking tools for city staff and residents to understand what data their city makes available, how their city compares to others across the country, and what datasets their city should consider releasing to be among the nation’s leaders on transparent and accountable government. We mentioned back in November that changes were coming to the Census. Our partners at Open Knowledge International have been making changes to the technical platform that supports the U.S. City Open Data Census (and dozens of similar projects around the world). We’re excited to announce that the relaunched Census website is live and ready for your submissions. Check out the brand new U.S. City Open Data Census to see the new features and datasets, and to add information for your city. We took Open Knowledge International’s technical changes to the site as an opportunity to revisit which datasets were included on the Census. We added four new datasets and removed three. My colleague Greg Jordan-Detamore has a full explanation of the changes to datasets and the site platform. The full list of datasets included on the Census is now: Budget; Business Listings; Code Violations; Construction Permits; Crime Reports; Emergency Calls; Employee Salaries; Lobbyist Activity; Parcels; Police Use-of-Force; Procurement Contracts; Property Assessment; Property Transfers; Public Facilities; Restaurant Inspections; Service Requests; Spending; Traffic Crashes; Website Analytics; and Zoning. More information about what each of these include, as well as examples, are available in our datasets explainer.

A fresh assessment for cities’ open data

One of the Census’s hallmark features is that it assigns a score to each city based on the relative openness of their data. After a last call for submissions at the end of 2017, the cities that were leading the pack were:
Rank City name Total Score*
1 Austin, TX 1855
2 San Francisco, CA 1845
3 Las Vegas, NV 1830
4 New York, NY 1740
5 Los Angeles, CA 1710
6 Chicago, IL 1655
7 Philadelphia, PA 1595
8 Santa Monica, CA 1560
9 San Diego, CA 1550
10 Anchorage, AK 1430
*Cities’ total scores are as of December 31, 2017. Scores are imperfect; they’re a crowdsourced metric and dependent on volunteer contributions.
  As you’ll see on the new Census website, the score for every city in the nation has been reset to zero. For cities that were in the lead, or who had invested time and energy logging dataset information, we know this might be disappointing. The new Census platform required a break from the previous site, and the datasets and submissions changes were significant enough that carrying over scores would be an inaccurate comparison. If you want to see where your city previously stood, the archived version of the old Census is still available. The good news is that this means the field is wide open to showcase your city’s open data work. Whether your city is just starting its open data program or has been publishing open datasets for several years, now is a great time to benchmark what data is open in your city, and take an early lead nationwide. Anyone, in any city, is invited to contribute information to the Census. You do not have to be a city staff member or an open data expert to participate. We extend a particularly warm invitation to cities participating in What Works Cities, as well as cities that have passed an open data policy to participate. To these cities: you are already doing outstanding work on open data; this is a chance for you to show that good work to the rest of the country. In addition, we invite advocacy groups working on specific issues — like policing, public finances, or urban development — to add information about those categories across cities. The Census has the potential to show which cities are leading the way to publish data about important issues facing American communities. Submit information about your city’s data today. We plan to publish a midyear leaderboard in June looking at which cities are scoring highest at that point for 2018. We encourage you to get your city’s open datasets loaded on to the Census before then in order to be included. The U.S. Open Data Census is one of the best ways for cities to see how they compare to one another and to learn from cities that are leading the way. Helping local leaders aspire for ambitious goals, and learn from one another how to accomplish them is one of the great assets way that What Works Cities encourages. We’re looking forward to putting this new platform to use tracking open data across the country. Visit the new site to add information about your own city today.

Amazon, Google, IBM m.fl. skapar plattform för öppna data

Kristina Olausson - August 11, 2015 in Amazon, Analysis, Barack Obama, europa, Google, IBM, NOAA, Open Cloud Consortium, Open Data, öppna data, SMHI, USA

President Barack Obama utfärdade i maj 2013 den exekutiva ordern om att offentlig information ska ha “the default state of new and modernized Government information resources shall be open and machine readable”. Sedan dess har federala myndigheter behövt följa en öppna data policy och publicera sin information i ett öppet, tillgängligt format. I den exekutiva ordern sattes tre tydliga mål upp, vilka alla innefattade en tidsram för genomförande. Detta är ett i leden av de policies för att främja vidareutnyttjande av offentlig information som har genomförts under Obama-administrationen. I våras följdes detta upp med ett initiativ som Europeiska makthavare borde inspireras av. För det räcker inte enbart med att myndigheter gör sin data tillgänglig. Data får sitt verkliga värde först när den används och då krävs det ofta stora och dyra datainfrastrukturer som kan hantera snabb och kontinuerlig överföring av stora mänger data. I många fall är det på denna punkt som statliga myndigheter faller, både i USA såväl som i Europa. Men det finns aktörer inom den privata sfären som har satsat stora summor på just denna typ av infrastruktur. Det är även där fördelen ligger med det nya samarbetet mellan U.S. Department of Commerce och Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Microsoft Corp., samt the Open Cloud Consortium. Denna så kallade data-allians kommer att arbeta med att göra the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, motsvarigheten till svenska SMHI) data tillgänglig via molntjänster för användning.

Källa: Arduinoesmall vid Wikipedia, CC-BY 3.0

Initiativet går ut på att de privata företagen står för infrastrukturen och de statliga myndigheterna för datan. NOAA producerar 20 terabyte data varje dag och kommer från flera olika insamlingsmetoder. Idag är dock bara en liten del tillgänglig för allmänheten att använda. NOAA gjorde därför en förfrågan bland privata aktörer förra året, och bad om förslag på hur de kunde göra mer data tillgänglig. Detta ledde till det nya samarbetet som lanserades i april i år. Google, IBM, Amazon m.fl. kommer att erbjuda infrastrukturen till den statliga myndigheten, utan kostnad. I utbyte tillåts de ta betalt för användning av data under den tid den efterfrågas av användaren, vilket kan vara medborgare så väl som företag. Ett krav är dock att alla aktörer erbjuds data på samma villkor, och att inga speciella arrangemang görs för exempelvis större data-användare. På så vis undslipper staten de enorma kostnader som ny infrastruktur innebär. Samtidigt skapas nya plattformar för vidareutnyttjande hos välkända aktörer som många privata användare redan känner till vilket borde underlätta att metoden får fäste. En prototyp väntas lanseras hosten 2015. Detta leder oss naturligtvis till frågan om ett liknande samarbete skulle gå att åstadkomma i Europa. Vi har inget eget Amazon, Google eller IBM. En möjlighet skulle givetvis vara att de Europeiska makthavarna med ansvar för vidareutnyttjande av offentlig information gör en liknande förfrågan. Men Europeiska Kommissionens anti-konkurrens utredning mot Google om prisjämförelsetjänsten samt det formella granskningsförfarande om Android om öppnades i april i år, för inte precis med sig en förbättrad relation till företaget. Och det bör noteras att den amerikanska staten överlag har en närmare relation till de stora företagen, jämfört med Europa. Ett initiativ av denna storlek har bäst förutsättningar att lyckas på Europeisk nivå, då ett mervärde finns i att samla information från olika medlemsstaters myndigheter. Förslagsvis skulle myndigheter likt NOAA med ansvar för datainsamling inom väder- och klimatområdet vara föremål för en första omgång. Lyckas det amerikanska initiativet lär andra myndigheter haka på. För att inte förlora alltmer fotfäste i konkurrensen på området för öppna data med USA, borde Kommissionen utreda förutsättningarna för att ett Europeiskt datasamarbete ska kunna sättas igång. Problem finns självfallet i att medlemsstaternas offentliga information är föremål för olika regleringar. Samarbetet bör därför, till att börja med, vara frivilligt. Om ett sådant projekt gick i hamn, innebär det en mycket attraktiv möjlighet för de Europeiska medlemsländerna att skapa nytt värde med sin offentliga information. I efterdyningarna av den ekonomiska krisen borde tillväxtmedel som detta vara särskilt attraktiva – det har chans att skapa otroliga mervärden genom en förbättrad tillgång till data vilket i sin tur skulle bidra till skapande av nya produkter, tjänster och innovativa lösningar – utan att det kostar staten ett öre.