photo-1464672737497-fb5327f77347-1200x800.jpg

October 25, 2016 Shaida Badiee

Shaida Badiee is the Managing Director of Open Data Watch. She brings several decades of experience in managing global development statistics as the long-time Director of the World Bank’s Development Data Group. During her tenure, flagship global statistical products were launched such as the World Development Indicators, Global Development Finance, and the Atlas of Global Development. In 2010, she led the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative, a ground-breaking program to provide full and free access to the World Bank’s extensive statistical databases. Prior to that, she played a key role in the creation and operation of PARIS21 as well as leading international efforts to coordinate technical and financial support for statistics through initiatives like the Marrakech Action Plan.

Links between the national statistical offices and the wider open data community remain limited despite having much to gain from each other. Innovation, technical resources, and IT platforms are among the resources the open data community can offer national statistics offices while national statistics offices can offer data quality assurance, data security, management, and international processes and standards to the wider community. Capitalizing on these strengths and taking advantage of what the other can offer will be a key enabler to meeting the unprecedented data demands of the SDGs and increased dialogue between the two groups is key.

With our partners, the World Bank, the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21), and Open Data for Development (OD4D) and Development Gateway – all as proud members of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data – Open Data Watch convened several sessions at the 2016 International Open Data Conference (IODC), from Oct. 3-5 in Madrid, connecting the open data community and national statistical offices (NSOs). Our aim is to foster and strengthen linkages between these two critical actors, to create an open space for shared dialogue, and to better match demand for open data solutions at the government level with the current supply of tools at the agency level from those organizations which offer statistical capacity support.

We are pleased by the first-ever inclusion of country representatives from NSOs in this year’s conference, including representatives from Ecuador, Egypt, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Morocco, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Philippines. Below are three takeaways from our two high-level panels events and one preconference workshop that focused on official statistics and open data at the IODC.

  • NSOs face a broad scope of challenges in implementing open data practices and standards. At the preconference workshop, “Openness and National Statistical Offices: A Review of Available Tools and Methods,” NSO country representatives shared experiences, challenges, and plans for implementing open data principles and practices. The challenges facing countries covered technical, capacity, legal and political, financial resources, coordination and planning, and data literacy. It was an enlightening workshop as it reminded us of the reality of implementing open data principles and standards on the ground and that work still needs to be done.
  • Demand > Supply. There is a growing supply of open data tools for NSOs but more is needed to support the NSOs and there are gaps evident in a number of areas. The workshop provided an opportunity to review the demand and supply. Governments shared the status of open data implementation and their perspectives on what more is needed and what are the challenges they face. In response, the international agency experts provided information on the innovative tools and approaches they are using to support open data efforts. We heard an incredible range of tools and assistance available to NSOs, but we have yet to fully address the full range of challenges NSOs face. Tools are available to help address technical infrastructure or identify data gaps, but other barriers remain with less readily available externally sourced solutions. These barriers are often rooted in politics, leadership, and legal frameworks.
  • NSOs can be leaders in open data but they must increase engagement. The attendance of NSO representatives at IODC16 will set a new precedent for future participation in open data conversations. Participation in these conversations will help the open data community consider the NSO perspective while encouraging inclusive data communities. NSOs may be at the core of the data ecosystem but if they remain isolated, then coordination between government ministries implementing open data principles and partnerships among data producers and users will remain a challenge.

NSOs have a unique role as leaders within governments to coordinate and release data, and while open data would benefit both them as producers and the users they serve, financial and technical support is needed to achieve these benefits. We need to actively bring together the open data and NSO communities to bridge the resource divide. Sparking conversation between these two communities at the IODC is the first step in creating greater coordination and more connection between the supply of open data tools and the needs at the country-level. This conversation will help increase the overlap between official statistics and open data until the two are intricately linked. We hope these conversations continue beyond the IODC. The upcoming UN World Data Forum in South Africa represents an opportunity for NSOs and the open data community to engage and further strengthen the connection between official statistics and open data.

 

Featured image: Paul Bergmeir


1.bmp

October 20, 2016 Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí

Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí (@antonigr)communications advisor and political consultant. Founder and Director of ideograma, a communications consulting agency with more than 30 years of experience, operating in Spain and Latin America.

He promotes apps4citizens, an initiative that seeks to become the meeting framework for different agents (organizations, companies, administrations and citizens) with the objective of identifying, promoting and developing mobile apps for social commitment and citizen participation. On March 5, 2016, apps4citizens organized in Barcelona one of the 180 international events held within the framework of the International Open Data Day.

His blog (www.gutierrez-rubi.es) has been awarded with the Victory Award to the Year’s best Political Blog for four consecutive years.

He juggles his professional career with speaking and guest lecturing about political communications in courses and postgraduate degrees at different universities. He is also a faculty member at the International Communications School (EICOM).

Open data is not a new concept anymore; yet, it has not ended its journey and is already starting an –expected- evolution and transition not exempt from challenges: it has initiated the change of focus from the supply side (data) and its operators, to the demand side (citizens) and its challenges. The debate around that epicentre, held these days in Madrid at the International Open Data Conference (IODC), as well as the parallel events celebrated in the city such as the Open Cities Summit or the international workshop Visualizar’16. Open data is at a crossroads. Where is it headed?

There is no doubt concerning the fact that data opening has sparked deep changes: improvements in the transparency of governmental action –and even decision-making-, citizen empowerment, or the creation of new opportunities for social and economic entrepreneurship. There is enough evidence about this, even with numerous compilations that aim to document each impact in different countries. In this sense, I recommend visiting the observatory that the GovLab research group is keeping active and the study cases identified and analyzed.

However, it seems that the movement has got stuck, and that is something this development is not hiding. For example, now we know that acting with the objective of opening the highest quantity of data thinking that somebody will use them is not enough. A high share of the datasets published in open data portals within the past few years have fallen into the same well: oblivion. This does not mean that their publication has been of no use. The first objective was achieved, its coming into light, but it has not met the generally presumed usefulness principle. For the most part, the problem lies in that the opening is not enough if the following additional processes are not guaranteed: usability; reuse and creation of new data that allow new perspectives of reality; and its causal or conditional relations. All this is about opening data to look at reality again –or better- to govern it and transform it. Ways of looking, ways of thinking.

As Fabrizio Scrollini -research coordinator at the Latin America Open Data Initiative- states, we are entering the phase of making this data not only public but also useful. Problems are fully identified: limitations in accessing and reusing data due to technical barriers, ignorance from part of the general public and lack of impulse by administrations to promote collaboration between them, the private sphere and civil society.

There is certain consensus on the need for paying more attention to demand, this is, citizens (plus their social and economic organizations) and how demand uses data, its needs, the path they follow after they have been opened, packages and most used formats, etc. This is about defining common indicators and start weighing what is going on. A monitoring process makes a fundamental step -if we want to grow.

What is restraining this weighing process is that not all of us are describing open data in the same direction. There is no global consensus on which key data, which are used the most, nor on the markers that identify these data. In other words, we do not have a universal language to understand each other and think about joint solutions that help us put the user at the core of the process.

In the end, what we are talking about is the change of perspective. Understanding that it is not data what generates value but people who work with them and the new solutions devised for challenges or processes having new information to open or improve the addressing perspective. The dilemma is how we approach these people with such a generally unappealing subject like databases. Enrique Zapata, Assistant General Director of Open Data in the Mexican Government, describes the problem as: “Just by mentioning the word ‘data’ you are generating a barrier between you and the person you are establishing communication with. We must admit that ‘data’ is a boring term for many people and reaching them has also something to do with how we explain the changes we are currently undergoing.”

This is the scenario in which many administrations around the world are working. Fully opening public information and, once put online, working to actually put it closer to citizens. As Amen Ra Mashariki –Chief Strategy Director for Open Data at the New York City Council- stated during his talk at Open Cities, in the end his work only makes sense if it empowers New Yorkers to use data for their own benefit. In his own words, “all our actions aim at two objectives: locating that closed information and opening it, making these data usable for people not only to access it but also work with it. The reason is quite simple: they are the owners of these data.”

Maybe the best lesson drawn from these past few years is that data itself is not what is important but their capacity to generate change. In this sense, we are before a deeply conflicting challenge: open data develops and, paradoxically, urban societies are closing or splitting up. 75% of cities are even more unequal than 20 years ago. This hard conclusion comes from the 2016 Global Report on Cities, published in May, and presented this week in Madrid within the framework of the International Habitat Day, and only two weeks away from Habitat III. We need more data, but not to improve the government of our cities: the one reducing inequality, creating opportunities, improving public resource management. Open data for open, inclusive, sustainable cities. This is the crossroads we must overcome.


photo-1468663881342-4cc64d7b5b4a-1200x800.jpg

October 18, 2016 Kevin Merritt

Kevin is the Founder and CEO of Socrata, Inc. Kevin had previous successes as an entrepreneur. In 2002 Kevin founded MessageRite, which developed and provided a web-based email archiving service. In 2004, FrontBridge Technologies acquired MessageRite where Kevin functioned as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In 2005, Microsoft acquired FrontBridge. At Microsoft Kevin served as Software Architect and Director of Operations before leaving to found Socrata in 2007. At heart, Kevin is a software entrepreneur with a passion for making customers elated by delivering great software as a service.

Open data is no longer a trend. Citizens have an expectation that their government will make information freely available and easily accessible. According to the 2016 Open Data Benchmark Study — which surveyed over 500 government employees in the US — the vast majority of respondents said that their goal is to make the most important and useful data open. The study also found that investments in open data are growing across all levels of government.

Why Governments Are Investing In Shared Data

A few years ago, forward-thinking governments shared raw data, reports, and documents online to show their commitment to transparency. Today, we’ve evolved from publishing information just for the sake of fulfilling a political promise. The open data movement is moving beyond the 1.0 era of putting raw tables online and hoping that people will make sense of it. Governments are shifting from quantity to quality.

Governments that share machine-readable data give people the ability to tap into the data’s value and spur innovation. People use data when it relates their everyday life. And, strong government data programs save money and make operations more efficient.

Open Data Enables Innovation

When companies like Zillow, Buildfax, and Accela, among others, wanted to make building permit data accessible and actionable, they worked together to define a standardized format, now called the Building and Land Development Specification. The BLDS has enabled entrepreneurs to harness the value of permit data. For example, buildingeye, Inc., uses San Francisco’s open data to make building and planning information easier to find and understand. Residents can sign up to receive alerts about construction in their neighborhoods. This business wouldn’t be possible without open data.

Citizens Care About Data (that affects their lives)

Citizens want to know how safe their communities are and one app is harnessing the power of police data to provide this information like never before. CrimeReports.com is one of the largest and most comprehensive crime-mapping websites in North America. Over 1,100 law enforcement agencies are using the app to communicate with the 100 million people they serve. CrimeReports enables citizens to filter crime information to see when, where, and what types of crime are being reported, as well as draw further insights from graphs and analytics.

In Oregon, the Portland Police Bureau saw a 20x increase in traffic to CrimeReports when they embedded the crime map on their department’s homepage. With this timely data, presented in an easy-to-understand visualization, citizens are more informed about public safety near their homes, workplaces, and schools.

Democratized Data Makes Government More Efficient

New York City is a leader in open data. The city shares over 1,500 datasets, ranging from Wi-Fi hotspot locations to 311 calls to restaurant inspection results. This year, the city launched an open budget app, making its $82 billion budget data searchable online, instead of in cumbersome pdfs. While exploring the budget, Ben Wellington, data scientist, discovered a $791 million error that went unnoticed by the City Council that approved the budget. The mistake was obvious when the data was visualized in a bar chart. The city corrected the error, but this finding underscores the operational value of making data publicly accessible.

Public servants have the responsibility to be prudent when they spend taxpayer dollars and even small changes to a government program can affect thousands and sometimes millions of people. In many government agencies, embracing open data has led to the automation of processes that once consumed thousands of staff hours and millions of tax dollars.

These examples show just a small sample of benefits of democratized data to improve government and the lives of the people they serve. On behalf of everyone at Socrata, we’re pleased to be a part of IODC 2016 and look forward to continued collaboration to shape the future of open data.

 

Featured image: Samuel Zeller


29507676593_f9a07b1251_o-1200x800.jpg

Key take-aways from the Measurement Action Track at IODC 2016

During the IODC 2016, the “Action Track: Measurement and Increasing Impact” sought to review the need and role of research for (scaling) open data practice and policy. The track was informed by the various sessions and workshops that took place at the Open Data Research Symposium prior to the Conference. In what follows, we summarize what we heard throughout the conference.

Headline message that emerged from our engagement with the community at IODC: To realize its potential there is a need for more evidence on the full life cycle of open data – within and across settings and sectors.

Many participants acknowledged and shared progress toward gathering evidence on developments, actors and conditions that impact open data. Yet, a consensus emerged that more systematic research is still needed. An “evidence-based and user-centric open data” approach is necessary to drive adoption, implementation, and use.

In particular, three substantive areas were identified that could benefit from interdisciplinary and comparative research:

Demand and use: First, many expressed a need to become smarter about the demand and use-side of open data. Much of the focus, given the nascent nature of many initiatives around the world, has been on the supply-side of open data. Yet to be more responsive and sustainable more insight needs to be gained to the demand and/or user needs.

Conversations repeatedly emphasized that we should differentiate between open data demand and use. Open data demand and use can be analyzed from multiple directions: 1) top-down, starting from a data provider, to intermediaries, to the end users and/or audiences; or 2) bottom-up, studying the data demands articulated by individuals (for instance, through FOIA requests), and how these demands can be taken up by intermediaries and open data providers to change what is being provided as open data.

Research should scrutinize each stage (provision, intermediation, use and demand) on its own, but also examine the interactions between stages (for instance, how may open data demand inform data supply, and how does data supply influence intermediation and use?).

Several research questions were proposed including the following: What is the demand for open data – and do interest groups understand the potential value open data conveys for them? If so, how to study these interest groups? Who are the audiences of open data? What are the different types of users (and users of users)? What are their needs? What are the problems or opportunities current and potential users seek to address using open data? When do users become producers of data and vice-versa? What is the role of data intermediaries in providing and using open data? How to study and establish feedback loops between open data users, intermediaries, and providers that can help make open data more relevant to users?  Do we need professional standards for different types of users – such as, for instance, data journalists?

Unfortunately – besides traditional UX research methods – no method exists for data holders and/or users to assess demand and use in a manner that can inform design and policy requirements.

Next steps:

  • Toward that end, it was suggested to create a collaborative effort to develop a “diagnostic tool or method” to map and analyze the ecosystem of open data toward better understanding the needs, interests as well as power relations of different stakeholders, users, non-users and other audiences.
  • In addition, to be more deductive, explanatory, and generate insights that are operational (for instance, with regard to which users to prioritize) several IODC participants recommended to expand the development and exchange of “demand and use” case studies based on interdisciplinary perspectives (and going beyond a descriptive collection of examples).

Informing data supply and infrastructure: Second, we heard on numerous occasions, a call upon researchers and domain experts to help in identifying “key data” and inform the government data infrastructure needed to provide them. Principle 1 of the International Open Data Charter states that governments should provide key data “open by default”, yet the questions remains in how to identify “key” data (e.g., would that mean data relevant to society at large?).

Which governments (and other public institutions) should be expected to provide key data and which information do we need to better understand government’s role in providing key data? How can we evaluate progress around publishing these data coherently if countries organize the capture, collection, and publication of this data differently?

Next Steps: Several steps were suggested to enable policy and decision makers in prioritizing data sets and allocating resources to do so, including:

  • Develop decision trees that compare and integrate evidence on the demand, benefits and risks of data-sets;
  • Identify and analyze “data deserts” – where no or little data is collected and made available;
  • Develop and provide assessment frameworks for National Statistical Offices on the potential value of certain data-sets.

Impact: In addition to those two focus areas – covering the supply and demand side –  there was also a call to become more sophisticated about impact. Too often impact gets confused with outputs, or even activities. Given the embryonic and iterative nature of many open data efforts, signals of impact are limited and often preliminary. In addition, different types of impact (such as enhancing transparency versus generating innovation and economic growth) require different indicators and methods. At the same time, to allow for regular evaluations of what works and why there is a need for common assessment methods that can generate comparative and directional insights.

Next steps: Joint efforts were recommended to develop

  • Data-value chain assessment mechanisms that can identify and illustrate how value gets generated (if at all), at what stage and under which conditions;
  • A conceptual framework that can accommodate the (e)-valuation of data as an infrastructure or “commons” (similar to other public interest resources such as green spaces or air quality).

Research Networking: Several researchers identified a need for better exchange and collaboration among the research community. This would allow to tackle the research questions and challenges listed above, as well as to identify gaps in existing knowledge, to develop common research methods and frameworks and to learn from each other. Key questions posed involved: how to nurture and facilitate networking among researchers and (topical) experts from different disciplines, focusing on different issues or using different methods? How are different sub-networks related or disconnected with each other (for instance how connected are the data4development; freedom of information or civic tech research communities)? In addition, an interesting discussion emerged around how researchers can also network more with those part of the respective universe of analysis – potentially generating some kind of participatory research design.

Next steps: To enable networking and increased matching of expertise, needs and interests, resources and efforts must be directed toward:

  • A collaborative (and dynamic) mapping of the current open data research eco-system – identifying both the supply and demand for research; and how research questions and methods of different research disciplines already intersect and could cross-pollinate each other;
  • Network analysis of the open data research universe to identify gaps and hubs of expertise (including, for instance, possible correlation analysis of participants of different open data-related conferences);
  • Experimentation with participatory research design – not only to study “the user”, but to study open data “with the user”;
  • Experimentation and evaluation of different networking and collaboration platforms. This may increase our understanding of the usability and usefulness of existing research networks.

To conclude, the different papers that were submitted and presented at the Open Data Research Symposium (all downloadable from odresearch.org) and the growing literature on open data (see for instance ogrx.org) indicates that much progress has been made toward an enhanced understanding of open data –its suppliers, users and practices. Yet as the Open Data community matures, more evidence is needed to guide future investments and uses. Ultimately the open data community should “walk the talk” and become more data-driven – which means that more investment is needed to support research and network the evidence and expertise that already exists.

This blogpost intends to start a conversation how we can better research open data. We invite everyone interested in this important area to discuss with us the possible research topics proposed in this blogpost. How can we operationalize the topics described above? Are any important research areas missing? Please feel free to use established venues including the Network of Innovators and the Open Knowledge Discuss Forum for Research and Policy. This allows us to create central discussion channels that will bring interdisciplinary research interests together.

See also: Open Data Research Symposium

 

Featured image: International Open Data Conference.


photo-1473436832735-7b9909567308-1200x900.jpg

October 17, 2016 Carl Piva

Carl is Vice President Strategic Programs at TM Forum. He is passionate about market and technology disruptions and about helping the TM Forum membership transform to successful digital service providers in the emerging digital economy.

He is now leading the Smart City Forum with the vision to provide the business and technology blueprint for a scalable and sustainable Smart City, underpinning the top 100 Smart Cities by 2020.

Carl has been working 20 years in the IT and communications industries and has a background from consultancy and global software organisations. Carl holds a M.Sc. in Engineering Physics from Uppsala University and is an Honorary Research Fellow at Shanghai Academy.

One of the things that came through loud and clear from speakers and delegates from 170 smart cities around the world at our recent Smart City InFocus event in China’s smart city capital, Yinchuan, is how technology and data are not important in themselves, but how they enable citizen value, citizen inclusion and city sustainability. I believe we will see this demonstrated even more clearly as cities advance to an economy of data model driven by services consumed by citizens.

Many cities around the world are already using open data, whether static or real-time, to work more efficiently and spot patterns. A growing number are using platforms or data hubs to integrate that internal open data and augment it with data from paid, third-party sources, such as local businesses. The next stage of this is scaling up to sharing data and services between cities, which was a hot topic among the 1,000+ delegates at our recent smart city InFocus conference.

A step further

The benefits of enabling this kind of data sharing will be huge – we are only at the early stages of understanding the possibilities. Data could be shared across cities to support wider innovations and a smart region, smart nation approach. This avoids each one reinventing the wheel, duplicating investment and repeating mistakes: The trends in one city could help with understanding those in another or across a region. Further, the bigger and richer datasets are, the more statistically relevant and reliable they become. This leads to much better insights into of trends, city operations and citizens.

In particular, areas such as security, health and environmental sustainability stand to benefit from inter-city data sharing.

One city is not a market

Commercial and end-to-end apps have a lot of potential too. If apps, services and solutions can be developed once and used in multiple cities, as well as end-to-end between those cities, the proposition is a much more compelling proposition for developers, which should ensure more innovation and greater benefit for citizens.

As Jarkko Oksala, CIO, City of Tampere, remarked in his presentation at Smart City InFocus, “One city is not a market.” He outlined work on scaling the use of data through the Six Cities initiative, a strategy for sustainable urban development between the six largest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu. The strategy has three focus areas: open innovation platforms, open data and interfaces, and open participation.

The innovation platforms are used to create and test new services and products in real-world conditions. Meanwhile, the data and interfaces opened up by the cities serve as the raw material for developing new services and operations. To achieve this vision, common standards and APIs are required to ensure interoperability.

Scaling it

To scale this further, Tampere is active in the Open and Agile Smart Cities (OASC) initiative, which recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TM Forum to use our Smart City Maturity & Benchmarking Model for its members.

OASC also works to bring the Forum’s digital partnering application program interfaces (APIs) to market, which are bundled with those of FIWARE, an open, cloud-based platform for the creation and delivery of smart city applications and services.

Indeed, APIs are a major strand of TM Forum’s efforts through a number of inter-related initiatives. APIs are key because they unlock the usefulness of data, enabling them to be combined with other internal or external data assets quickly and easily. Consequently, they allow mashed-up services to be assembled at unparalleled speed and scale, bringing all kinds of information, individuals, companies and other organizations together for purposes limited only by imagination.

For this reason, TM Forum’s member organizations have developed a suite of 18 open APIs, with more in the pipeline. These include Product Catalog, Product Ordering and Product Inventory.

Proving it

We are proving the value of these APIs in a smart city context through the work we are doing with FIWARE on a Business Framework for the economy of data and in our Catalyst projects.

Through this work, we are tackling challenges such as creating the technical foundations for the management and monetization of different kinds of digital assets involving multiple partners. We are also working on areas such as managing service-level agreements and ensuring trust.

In addition, as part of the Yinchuan Innovation Center initiative, TM Forum is working in collaboration with ZTEsoft and Smart Yinchuan to build a city platform using these APIs.

Find out more: www.tmforum.org/smartcity.

 

Featured image: Greg Rakozy.


photo-1471038688616-61af8a9255b0-1200x800.jpg

October 13, 2016 José Luis Marín

Holding both a Telecommunication Engineering Degree and a Business Administration Degree from the University of Valladolid (Spain), Mr. Marín’s professional career has been developed at the company Gateway S.C.S. (owner of the brand “EUROALERT.NET“), where he is currently one of the partners and member of the management board, as well as CEO. In his position, Mr. Marín is supervising the huge challenge undertaken by Euroalert to build up a pan-European platform to aggregate EU public procurement data which represents about 18% of EU GDP, and deliver commercial services for SMEs and organizations all over the world.

He is author of the book “Web 2.0. Una descripción muy sencilla de los cambios que estamos viviendo”, published by Netbiblo, (2010) and co-author de “Open Data: Reutilización de la información pública” (2013). As a strong supporter of open source software, innovation, and the spread of free and open knowledge, Mr. Marín participates in many initiatives, projects and events such as those related with the Open Data movement. He has been speaker at events like FICOD09, PSI Meeting 2010, Digital Agenda Assembly, Share PSI or SICARM, and Universities like Oviedo, Almería or Girona, always with the objective to promote the release of public sector data in open and reusable formats.

Despite the notable –but slow– advances we have been experiencing in the opening of public data during the past few years, there is an area, in my opinion, that has not made such a decisive progress yet: the impact measurement of open data initiatives.

Even though we have seen the publication of a number of documents (“Towards   Empirical   Analysis   of   Open   Government   Data  Initiatives”) and studies (“Exploring   the   emerging   impacts   of   open   data   in   developing   countries”) showing evidence that this impact is very positive in different sectors, we still do not have the ultimate measure to close the debate. One could say that not even the academic community has produced enough literature to create models, thorough analyses or structured comparatives supporting progress and debate in this area.

This situation provides space for one of the most reiterated arguments by those who are not easily persuaded, which is that there’s no evidence of the economic impact attributed to open data policies. Likewise we usually hear doubtful arguments about assigning public resources to releasing data in the hands of the government in these times of crisis. Even the British Government, one of the strongest advocates of open data policies, has shown its disappointment towards the reuse levels resulting from its public data release initiatives.

Many of us believe open data policies are worth it from various perspectives, but we must admit that we have not yet succeeded in the design of indicators that allow measuring the impact and the return of the investment put on its development.

It seems clear that potential benefits and wealth generated by the opening of data held by public authorities can be very high, while related costs are very low compared to other investments. However, we still have a long way ahead for public data to be seen as roads, this is, as infrastructure, but for the digital economy, and to reach an appropriate situation in which public and private initiatives for the generation of added-value services coexist. And the sooner we get to advance in the measurement of the impact of open data policies, the earliest we will reach that objective.

 

Featured image: Peter Clarkson


0-Oq5sK9llpLGAqX8-1200x504.jpeg

October 11, 2016 Antonio Sánchez Zaplana

Antonio Sánchez Zaplana. Urban Innovator, Telecommunications Engineer and MBA, 19 years of experience in the application of technology on urban challenges. Currently he is Chief Director of the Technological Area of Aguas de Alicante. Editorial Coordinator of “iambiente cities” area, covering those smart cities in the i-ambiente network. He is part of the Action Group “Citizen Focus,” at the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities.

The title of the article may seem like a transcription error or a rhetorical figure (“reduplication”), but it’s actually a fact that I’d like to explain in the following lines.

A practical example: let’s assume we are a medium-sized company offering auxiliary public works services that wants to carry out business expansion plan in different Spanish geographical areas. To do the study, the company read in newspapers that, where it’s based, there is a new open data portal where information is provided to citizens and companies for free.

Then our company, all excited, believes it has found the “Holy Grail,” as if those portals are publishing an inventory or public works concession requests given by town councils, it will be able to easily carry out a thorough study.

But here’s where we find the first obstacle: it searches for one single point where all these datasets are federated and doesn’t find it; the http://datos.gob.es/ portal doesn’t include data gathered from the rest of open data portals (just those that have been federated voluntarily).

Not giving up, it tries searching for an official open data portal catalogue and finds the Fundación CTIC portal, but there’s one disappointment: there are no portals from any town councils.

Accepting the situation, our company starts “diving” (there’s not a better word for it) through the published information, and starts realizing that not all portals are publishing the public works concession requests and the periodicity with which data is updated is different (from daily to annual), as well as the formats and information they include.

As we can see, this practical example shows that there is still a long way to go in the open data field, especially in the need for accurate metrics to analyze open data.

  • What volume of information is being published?
  • How often is it updated?
  • What is the assessment of the real usefulness of data for reusers?

The UNE 178301 Smart Cities law on open data helps cover these gaps to some extent, but we still have a long way ahead in this subject, where we have to make open data really open and truly useful for society.

Featured image: Matt Gallivan


photo-1430364917171-5ad508ea49c9-1200x800.jpg

October 10, 2016 Carey Anne Nadeau

Carey Anne Nadeau is the Founder & CEO of Open Data Nation (opendatanation.com) and created FIVAR (fivar.org). Before founding Open Data Nation, Nadeau worked for the past decade doing quantitative research and analysis using open data at the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute. Nadeau’s work has received multiple awards, including the O. Robert Simha prize for most outstanding contribution to planning at MIT. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Rolling Stone, among others. 

Nadeau holds a Masters in City Planning from MIT and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Policy from The George Washington University.  

In October 2015, I was at an outdoor bar and restaurant when I got bitten by a rat that ran over my foot. The entire experience was pretty disgusting and astonishingly bloody. After a visit to the hospital, a bottle of horse-pill-sized antibiotics, and a bandage later, my family suggested I never go back to that establishment.

But that artichoke sandwich with garlic aioli on a toasted, brioche bun was too delicious. I couldn’t keep away, reasoning that one rat, outside the kitchen and the addition of cats to the bar staff, would mitigate my risk. I don’t wear flip-flops anymore, but I did go back to eat, many times.

On that day, this bar and restaurant would have failed a health inspection. As recent articles in the Boston Globe suggest, had I seen an F grade posted on the door, I may have thought twice about eating there. But in making the choice to return, I was making the calculation that the restaurant was probably safe and forecasting that it was not likely to fail again.

As judicious consumers, we use previous inspection results and resulting letter grades as a proxy for whether or not it is safe to eat at a restaurant. And for the most part, that is good intuition. But it is not perfectly accurate —  not all restaurants that fail are likely to fail again. Giving these restaurants a bad grade misguides consumers at best and is disastrous for business at worst.

So how do we know who will fail, in the future tense? Those assigning grades or doing inspections – often county or city inspection departments or environmental health agencies — can apply data science and predictive statistics to understand the risks lurking in their communities and predict which restaurants are likely to fail.

A data-science enabled web application called ‘Food Inspection Violations, Anticipating Risk’ or FIVAR for short, is assisting cities and counties across the nation to do just that. Developed by the small, social benefit company, Open Data Nation, FIVAR feeds in open, public data, processes it through a locally customized algorithm, and gets actionable, statistically significant, information into the hands of health inspection agencies. With FIVAR, agencies track what factors contribute to violations, prioritize inspections according to risk in near real time, and keep the public safer from food borne illness.

Across the localities piloting FIVAR, Open Data Nation has statistically proven what factors have an effect on a restaurant’s likelihood to fail in the future. They include some things your intuition might lead you to expect – a previous history of violations, proximity to restaurants that have violated, and Yelp star ratings to name a few. But other risk factors are less obvious – nearby permitted construction and high temperatures on the day of the inspection.

Take construction, for example. Our hypothesis as to why construction matters when it comes to food safety is that electricity is being turned off at construction sites during hours that restaurants are not in operation. Chefs return to find their refrigeration system running and food cold, but food has unknowingly spoiled after falling into the “danger zone” –four hours without refrigeration.

Construction may also be an important factor because it stirs up rats. A fact I wish the restaurant or I knew last October.

What I’ve learned in doing this work is that restaurants don’t need grades, but rather information and education to do their part and mitigate risk. By working collaboratively with restaurants to promote public health, we have an opportunity to reduce risk not only by deterring consumers with bad letter grades or over-policing, but also by preventing violations in the first place.

 

Featured image: John Wilson


photo-1465487031582-bbc9519cc957-1200x752.jpg

October 7, 2016 Martín Álvarez-Espinar

Martín Álvarez-Espinar, Engineer in Computer Science, is the Manager at the W3C Spanish Office. He has broad experience in Web standards development. Martín has worked as eGovernment consultant at CTIC since 2007, specialized in the Open Government field. He has participated in the development of over a dozen of Open Government Data initiatives in Europe, and he is part of various working groups at W3C and in the European Commission’s Joinup, for the standardization of technologies in the Open Data an PSI re-use field.

Athletics is considered as the most global of the sports. Popular across the globe, it is the flagship sport of the Olympic games in terms of participation (e.g., at Rio 2016 199 nations took part in athletics competitions), also in popularity (it’s the most followed and watched). Due to this universal interest, information about these events — athletes’ bio and performance, timing, competition, venues, etc. — is considered as of great value for an international audience. Statisticians and journalists find it immensely useful.

Although management of athletics information is complex, the underlying database model is similar in most of the territorial federations around the world. This information is not usually considered public sector data, since it is managed by sport associations, but its potential makes it a good candidate to be considered a successful case of open data. The high demand for information about popular events and athletes — from following stars such as Usain Bolt in the 100m final to national team representatives in an international marathon — guarantees the interest in new open data based products and services.

In addition to professional athletics, amateur running competitions are increasing year after year with a direct, multi-billionaire impact on the markets. In this case, where business is between private corporations and runners, there is a similar competition process (registration, timing, results) but there are no common standards to represent and share the information among stakeholders. Most of these companies collect and manage information in their systems without any potential integration with external systems. Thus, open standards in the amateur running industry would enable opportunities, such as international partnerships, to enhance the services for runners (athletic history, complex reporting, social network integration, etc.) and new business models behind this trend-setting pastime.

As a first step to evolve the technology in this sport, athletics associations (led byEuropean Athletics), open data experts (ODI,CTIC) and private companies already working on re-use (ReportLab,Tilastopaja) will gather together at the IODC. In a public event, experts in data analysis, reporting, and open data will discuss standards for representing and sharing athletics information.

Everyone interested in this topic and other related themes —e.g., health, wellbeing, and tourism— is welcome to take part in this side-event on 7th October at the main venue of IODC. Learn more about this initiative and sign up for the event that will shape the future of sports.

Featured image: David Schap


african-open-data-agenda.jpeg

October 6, 2016 Paul Mungai

Even though open data in Africa began in 2011, where Morocco and Kenya respectively pioneered the initiative, there was not much activity until the year 2015. Even then, out of a total of 54 countries in Africa, only ten countries have held open data events. It was also observed that some of the countries that looked promising at the beginning, Morocco being a case in point, have not held a significant number of open data events. This is demonstrated in Table 1 below, which provides a count of the events that have been held per country/region since 2011. Regional includes events which involved two or more African countries and are not counted as part of the host country events.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total Events
Morocco 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Kenya 1 0 1 1 3 1 7
Nigeria 0 0 0 1 6 0 7
Ghana 0 1 0 0 5 1 7
South Africa 0 0 0 1 0 2 3
Tanzania 0 1 0 0 0 2 3
Cameroon 0 0 0 0 1 2 3
Sierra Leone 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Uganda 0 0 1 1 0 0 2
Regional 0 0 0 0 5 4 9
Total Events 1 2 2 5 20 15 45

Table 1: Yearly count of open data events per country or region

Following an analysis of the goals, event activities, and participants, it was observed that there are more African countries than the ones listed above that have been participating in the identified open data events. Examples of these include Liberia, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Ghana. It is important to determine what is required for them to replicate similar open data activities in their countries. Using Kenya as an example, there is a need for open data champions to spearhead the open data initiatives in these countries.

The main champion needs to hold a senior and influential position in government to help in creating awareness and sensitization among government policy makers. This also applies to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative, since open data is critical in realizing a country’s commitments. Participation by other countries outside Africa such as Jamaica, USA, Canada and UK suggest a willingness to collaborate and share experiences and expertise on open data implementation and institutionalization.

Despite the fact that the initiative is almost six years old now, there is still a need to have events focusing on awareness, sensitization, stakeholder buy-in, and training, even in countries that have held a significant number of events.

There is also need to empower and obtain goodwill and collaboration from the statistical agencies in each country. For instance, Kenya has had several open data activities but with very little participation from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. They are the major implementing partners of open data, and their support is critical in implementing the open data agenda from a national perspective.

On the issue of sustainability and growth, most of the implementing partners such as Code for Africa and Open Knowledge Foundation School of Data are not for profit organizations and are dependent on donor support to carry out their activities. Despite the fact that not many for-profit organizations based on open data have emerged since 2011, there is need to rethink this model and find ways to support new and upcoming for-profit organizations, such as Data Science Ltd in Kenya.

This would help in value creation as companies identify opportunities, and create various commercial products. Already established companies with other sources of revenue, especially the media houses could be interested in working with open data startup companies to help them build some of their products. A good example is The Kenya Nation Media Group, which has created an editorial division based on data driven journalism and has been publishing its articles under a column called NewsPlex in their daily newspaper. Most companies will not want move away from their core business and will be willing to issue contracts to small companies which specialize in data science to conduct some of the analysis and research.

Featured image: Riccardo Annandale


Use of cookies

This site uses cookies in order to improve your user experience. By continuing to use the site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies and accepting our cookies policy. .

ACEPTAR