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November 8, 2016 Silvana Fumega

contribSilvana Fumega is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a PhD (University of Tasmania, Australia); her thesis is focused on international NGOs working with Open Government Data and Freedom of Information policies. She also holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) and a degree in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina). She also participated of the Research Programme Chevening Hansard (United Kingdom). She has served as a consultant for several international organizations, governments and civil society groups 

Two years ago we –quite impressed– highlighted the fast progress of the open data agenda in Latin America [1]. Today, a bit less surprised, we keep reflecting on the role of many actors from the region in the global open data agenda.

. Recuento de algunas discusiones regionales y globales

Within the framework of the 4th International Open Data Conference, Latin American actors shared some of the initiatives that have been implemented in the region. From research to development of applications in the civic technology sphere, including data journalism, they’ve had their chance during the conference and its many pre-events. In this context, during the first conference day’s afternoon, we had a round table with some of the actors in the region, along with some actors from the Caribbean, to discuss about what’s going on in Latin America. A –quite reduced– list of some of the highlighted topics of this session and the Conference is included below:

    • Latin America has a lot to offer to the open data agenda. These advances are not exemplified anymore as developing countries that try to follow the agenda of first world countries, but as actors with a weight of their own that contribute equally to the dialogue. Perhaps the fact that Argentina will organize the next IODC exemplifies this quite well.

Recuento de algunas discusiones regionales y globales

  • At the Latin America and Caribbean regional talk at IODC16 the work of civil society actors was addressed. These actors are in a very active state in the data release processes and, more comprehensibly, in the promotion of the agenda. In any case, infrastructure in management and public data release terms is still quite precarious in most countries of the region. There is still a long way ahead in this sense.
  • Despite the advances and the dialogue, it is also necessary to identify obstacles and pending tasks such as the data infrastructure. Even though the agenda has experienced strong developments, cultural change around opening (not only data but the government in general) still means a challenge in the region. Cultural change, yet functioning, is still far from becoming a reality in most countries.
  • In order to overcome the obstacles it is a sine qua non condition to start thinking on long-term policies (State polities) and not in short-term projects. The logic of fast wins conspires against the development and the possibility of scaling these policies in the region.
  • Similarly, one of the points that were repeated most often during the conference –and transcended at regional level– was the necessity of focusing on the problems of the different sectors. It is necessary to start thinking about opening policies at sectoral level, responding to the specific problems of public policy implementation in each area and collaborating with the construction of a community of intermediaries who collaborate and add value to these data. We must invest in the construction of a community of users and intermediaries.
  • Regarding the previous point, we need actors who work on the open data agenda to understand, just like other communities did, that this agenda is not an end itself, but a means to achieve/solve other problems.
  • It is also crucial to highlight that language unity, in many contexts, has collaborated along with the leadership of some actors to the fluid dialogue between different actors from the region. Seeing the professional bonds that have turned into personal in many cases, the dialogue and exchange of experiences and reflections is very fluid and doesn’t stop surprising actors from other latitudes. This exchange should be extended to other actors such as those living in the Caribbean. The dialogue between Latin American and Caribbean actors is not yet as fluid as some would think. Hence we need an additional effort to try to connect with these actors and empower the agenda in both regions, which is perceived by many as one only region.
  • This parity is possible due to the capacities that have been developed in the region and that allow the advancement of the agenda. This generation of capacities is a point that needs all the support –through the articulation of actors and resources– to keep on generating actors and initiatives within the region that can continue the advances of this agenda.

To close this blog post I would like to point out something that has generated a lot of discussion (very enriching, though) and numerous tweets: the “open washing” idea.

Even though this point should have its own post (we’ll see if time and those pending articles permit), it is worth mentioning that the regional and global open data communities have started to lose innocence –which has taken us at times to an incommensurate enthusiasm and optimism– in order to start questioning some policies and initiatives that, sometimes, seemed more focused on improving the image of certain actors that on achieving an actual opening of a sector or government. This looked like a sign of maturity from many of the involved actors in the promotion of the agenda and this should be celebrated. From now on we still need to see how the agenda will develop in Latin America and the rest of the world and how, all together, we can get to minimize the negative consequences of this “open washing” in the cases where it is identified. At a personal level, I applaud this advance.

[1] 2014: http://silvanafumega.blogspot.com.ar/2014/10/esta-vez-las-noticias-han-llegado.html 2015: http://silvanafumega.blogspot.com.ar/2015/09/los-desafios-de-la-maduracion.html

[2] More info: EN: http://opendatacon.org/increasing-demand-measugin/ ES: http://opendatacon.org/2431/?lang=es


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Pablo Rodríguez Bustamante, Geographer, Owner-consultant at GEOCyL. He holds a Geography, Urbanism and Land Management Advanced Studies Diploma (recognized researcher), PhD candidate and Associate Professor at University of Valladolid (Spain). “Mi Ciudad Inteligente” -My Smart City- Project promoter. He collaborates with several web/blogs writing articles and posts about smart cities, smart mobility and geomarketing and has been recognized with several awards for entrepreneurship.

Today, the digital transformation has become an inevitable phenomenon. Administrations and businesses are more regularly opting for an evolution towards total digitalization. No one wants to be left behind.

But what is digital transformation? It comprises all those processes that virtualize actions, make Administrations closer to the citizens, facilitate processes, make information accessible to the user…basically, they make life easier through digitalization.

Covering the digital gap is one of the main handicaps for businesses, public organisms and, of course, citizens. But it is big corporations that need to face digitalization, not them. In fact, along with public entities, these are the main companies responsible for this digital gap not to happen and for technology to become accessible to everyone; they are at the helm of the digitalization process.

Our cities, regions and states need an international data platform to work with. This is the only way to achieve more reliable, practical and dynamic results; and the same happens with businesses. Organizations need huge quantities of information in order for a correct functioning. If data are open, the digital transformation has a base and is made easier. We need open-data-based management systems to help plan business expansion, evolution, digitalization and change.

“Massive data represent a revolution that’s changing the way we set up businesses, manage our healthcare system, politics, education and innovation. Data collection is so cheap already that we don’t need to work on samples, as we can analyze the totality of data which, initially, will allow us to establish results more accurately.” [1]

Therefore, information is indispensable to carry out the digital transformation. Without data, there is no way to know about the past, our current reality and to make predictions about the future. The value of the digital and the digitalization is based on data, and it is this digitalization what allows anticipating, evolving and modifying the habits of businesses, which often seem blocked and obsolete for the present world.

For instance, the land makes a good model for this. Data are essential to organize space and their use results in the emergence of SDIs (Spatial Data Infrastructures), GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and tools such as geomarketing. The land plays a fundamental role in strategic decision-making, and there is the reason why we use these tools. The search for potential locations for different economic activities or for optimal distribution routes are two objectives of these spatial techniques. This is just a step of the digitalization process that businesses need to take so that they are never left behind.

Finally, open data facilitate use, the conversion of the analogical into the digital and its transformation.

[1] A. Carrión, El Valor Del Big Data on momento.digital (2016) – http://momento.digital/el-valor-del-big-data/ (Extracted from Big Data. La Revolución De Los Datos Masivos, by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier).

 

Bibliographical References

Carrión, Alfredo. «El Valor Del Big Data.» En Momento.Digital, 2016. [Available on: http://momento.digital/el-valor-del-big-data

 

Cover photo by Markus Spiske.


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August 9, 2016 Carlo Ratti

This article was originally published on Project Syndicate.

Carlo Ratti, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Future Cities and the curator of the Future Food District pavilion at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, directs the Senseable City Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Matthew Claudel, innovation scholar at the MIT Lab for Innovation Science & Policy and product manager at Beco Inc. Researcher at the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I want to be a part of it – New York, New York,” Frank Sinatra sang of the city that has attracted so many of the world’s most ambitious people, from artists and performers to businesspeople and bankers. In a sense, this is not a difficult phenomenon to explain; metropolises like New York City, with their multicultural populations, multinational corporations, and multitude of talented individuals, are rife with opportunities. But the impact of large cities runs deeper than economic or even cultural power; cities can fundamentally change people’s lives – and even the people themselves.

In 2010, Geoffrey West, together with a team of researchers, discovered that several socioeconomic measures – both positive and negative – increase with the size of the local population. In other words, the larger the city, the higher the average wage, productivity level, number of patents per person, crime rate, prevalence of anxiety, and incidence of HIV.

In fact, when a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity increases by about 15% per capita. That is why people move to the big city; indeed, it is why cities thrive.

This law remains constant across city sizes. And it is not unique. A growing body of evidence suggests that similar functions govern even more aspects of urban life than the research by West’s team indicated.

How can cities as ostensibly different as New York, with its towering profile, and Paris, characterized by wide boulevards, function so similarly? If, as Shakespeare suggested, a city is nothing but its people, the answer may lie in the characteristic patterns of connection, interaction, and exchange among residents.

HIV – indeed, any sexually transmitted disease – provides a particularly vivid example of the way that social networks shape urban life, as it spreads through linkages of sexual partners. Ideas – and the innovations that result from them – spread in a similar manner.

Just a few years ago, a broad investigation of these complex social networks would have been virtually impossible. After all, the available tools – isolated laboratory experiments and written questionnaires – were both imprecise and difficult to apply on a large scale.

The Internet has changed that. By enmeshing billions of people in seamless connectivity, online platforms have transformed the scope of social networks and provided new tools for researchers to investigate human interaction.

In fact, an entirely new field of study is emerging at the intersection of data analytics and sociology: computational social science. Using data collected online or through telecommunications networks – the wireless providers Orange and Ericsson, for example, have recently made some data available to researchers – it is now possible to address, in a scientific way, fundamental questions about human sociability.

A recent paper (of which one of us, Carlo Ratti, is a co-author) uses anonymized data from telecommunications networks across Europe to explore how human networks change with city size. The results are striking: in large cities, people not only walk faster (a tendency recorded since the 1960s), but they also make – and change – friends faster.

This phenomenon is likely rooted in the fact that, in accordance with West’s findings, the total number of human connections increases with city size. London’s eight million inhabitants regularly connect with almost twice the number of people as Cambridge’s 100,000 residents. This increasing exposure to people – and hence to ideas, activities, and even diseases – could explain the impact of city size on socioeconomic outcomes.

But another tendency is also consistent across cities of all sizes: people tend to build “villages” around themselves. This behavior is quantified as the networks’ “clustering coefficient” – that is, the probability that a person’s friends will also be friends with one another – and remains extraordinarily stable across metropolitan areas. Simply put, humans everywhere are naturally inclined to live within tight-knit communities.

Of course, this idea has been suggested before. The urbanist Jane Jacobs, for example, described the rich interactions occurring in New York City neighborhoods – what she called an “intricate ballet, in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other.” What computational social science offers is the prospect of quantifying such observations and gaining insights that could shape the design of urban environments in the future.

The question is whether these insights could also unlock the power of human interactions in small towns, enabling them to access some of the social and economic advantages of a large city. In this sense, it is critical to recognize the fundamental difference between “urban villages” and their rural counterparts. In the latter, social networks are largely predetermined by family, proximity, or history. City dwellers, by contrast, can explore a wide variety of options to create custom-made villages according to their social, intellectual, or creative affinities.

Perhaps that is why Sinatra left his hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey. Only in a city like New York could he find the Rat Pack.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2016

 

Cover photo by Michael Eggerl.


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August 4, 2016 Blaise Aboh

Blaise is has a B.sc in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. The first 5years of his career was spent in the Design and Creative Industry.  In the past two years Blaise has delved into Civic Technology, leveraging his design thinking, creativity and analytical skills to trying to understand Open Data, its applications while advocating data using data visualization. He has worked on projects related to Elections, Government spending, Conflicts, Insurgency and most recently Refugees (IDPs).

Towards the end of 2015 I got fed up of the news surrounding Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria with a population of 2.2 million; their food was being stolen and resold, the women and girl child were being raped, food was being exchanged for sex, tents and other infrastructural resources were being carted away. Insecurity was a great challenge as sometime later this year 2016 February, 50 persons were killed by a suicide bomb attack and news of over 1,200 graves existing near Bama IDP camp in Borno with almost 500 being children shocking everyone. Looking at the crisis, it is pertinent to point out how we got here; Nigeria ignored all indicators and data pointing to the worsening conditions and elements which resulted to the present debacle.

We have all been outraged, but I also got fed up of the outrage too because it so seems that the ‘outraged’ do nothing and go back to their businesses at least until there was another distasteful occurrence related to the IDPs in the news. I also knew that outrage without informed positive action was nothing. So I asked myself what my organization Orodata could do since it seemed like more needed to be done. As Analytical Design and Data Lead, I saw the problems, but I also saw that to begin to try to solve these problems or to forge a path for others that could lead to addressing the prevailing challenges, one needed to have access to information related to the IDPs, no matter what it was, this information needed to be available to the public or concerned groups or organizations and the data had to be simple and visual so as to allow for ease of consumption and shareability.

Data related to the IDPs is scarce, but the importance of this data cannot be overemphasized because for solutions to be provided, there needs to be an open and searchable knowledge base with information or data as to the level of infrastructural damages on ground, health challenges, food consumption, births, deaths, incidence of disease, in fact a total composition of the IDP population in Nigeria so as to illustrate their changing structure which will help whoever is looking to provide a solution or appropriate funds understand where to start and the extent of aid needed. More importantly, funds needed to be tracked, data regarding who gave what, who received what and amount or what was received needed to be in a central and easily accessible data infrastructure so as to allow open transparency and accountability while measuring impact of spending. The platform would allow anyone see everything holistically. News of acute undernourishment emanating for the camps and video evidence of ‘re-bagging’ of rice bags donated by charity for sale which emerged later 2016, buttressed this point making it evident that there were forms of corruption, misappropriation of funds and resources going on in the camps.

So early 2016 I and my team at Orodata prepared a proposal for a project named “Security Governance: IDPs Tracker”, the project was to facilitate the creation of a framework linking specific inputs and activities with indicators and their potential impact and measurement. Its infrastructure will allow for TRACKING and facilitation of MONITORING, measurement, visual ANALYSIS, ADVOCACY and evaluation of impact of specific inputs and activities. I reached out to our beloved partner ‘BugdIT Nigeria’ who immediately threw their weight behind the project. The project kicked off on the low, because showing results of our findings, making them available and advocating with them along the way was and is more important.

We have sent FOI request to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and their reply has not been satisfactory especially as related to funds, thus we are fine tuning our questions so as to resend another. We have and are still reaching out to NGOs and Humanitarian Organizations and other arms of government requesting data related to funds and resources donated, appropriated or expended on the IDPs in a specific number of years. So far we have gathered some data and are visualizing and telling stories with them for the world to listen to towards actionable decisions purposes. We want the world to see what is on ground, what is happening, what is being done and see the gaps through VISUAL DATA. We also hope to build a solo platform to host the visual data much later, although now we present the world data first.

 

Cover photo by Ingrid Hall


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July 28, 2016 Adolfo Antón Bravo

Adolfo Antón Bravo, Ph.D. in Information Sciences (Journalism) from the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), Mr. Antón’s professional career has been developed around communication: from graphic design to web design, from IT journalism to data journalism. Nowadays he works as a coordinator of the data laboratory at Medialab-Prado (Madrid).

On October 5th 2016, one day before the International Open Data Conference in Madrid (Spain), the city council of Madrid in alliance with other international institutions will be hosting the Open Cities Summit at Medialab Prado.

The Open Cities Summit aims at bringing together open data practitioners from all over the world and showcasing ambitious actions on how cities and citizens are using data to improve lives, particularly by solving environmental, cultural and organizational challenges in cities.

We want this summit to be a meeting point for everyone working to improve cities with open data, so please help us distribute this message, apply for the call for posters (submission deadline 15 August) and come meet us on October 5th to Medialab-Prado (Madrid, Spain).

We would like to invite you to participate in this session by submitting a poster describing how your city or initiative is using open data to improve the lives of citizens at the city level. Posters will be displayed publicly during the Summit and will also inform the final report of the International Open Data Conference.

The Challenges we want to address during Open Cities Summit are:

  • Management of an Open Data Policy.
  • Urban Planning.
  • Environment.
  • Competitiveness.

Management of an Open Data Policy

Open Data is a source for knowledge and decision making. How should a city structure teams to ensure that the publication of datasets is compliant with technical and legal frameworks, is relevant for the administration and citizens, and is constantly updated? What skills and administrative units are convenient to work with data, e.g. do cities need to hire Chief Data Officers and Data Scientists? How to assess and communicate progress in the implementation of an open data policy, e.g. using maturity models to set objectives and verify progress? How to use open data to evaluate public policies?

Urban Planning

As far as urban planning is concerned, Open Data, especially geospatial data, is very useful to understand trends in urban planning. How can a city open and link data sources to improve urban planning? How can open data help in the definition of new solution for common / urban problems?

Environment

In the fight against climate change, Open Data can be an important tool to use. How can a city use Open Data to monitor and mitigate environmental related issues, such as pollution?

Competitiveness
Open Data can be a source for new businesses and social projects that enhance competitiveness in a city. How can a city use open data to generate a vibrant ecosystem capable of developing new jobs and solutions for the city? How should open cities link into other broader discussions, e.g. Smart cities, Entrepreneurship?

 

Cover photo by Carl Nenzen Loven


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July 21, 2016 Francisco Barrientos

Computer Science Engineer and Master’s degree in Research on Systems and Process Engineering. His research line focuses on computational intelligence, data mining and machine learning, and has broad experience as R&D and Innovation project manager on sectors like transport, construction and infrastructure.

The Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative (SPPI) is nowadays the key policy instrument to promote sustainable development and move towards a green economy that fosters the development of products and services maximizing social and environmental benefits. EU public procurement directives oblige contracting authorities to base tendering decisions on the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT) principle, focusing on life-cycle costs and environmentally and socially sustainable products. Member States should generally promote the whole life-cycle cost analysis as standard practice in long-term investment [1].

Transport infrastructure investments have a positive impact on economic growth, create wealth and jobs, but it has to be done in a way maximises these positive impacts and minimises negative impact on the environment [2]. Specifically, rail transport causes 0.2% of global emissions in EU27. Infrastructure supposes 28% of these emissions, half of them caused during construction. This shows the high environmental impact of these activities.

According to the IODC post “Fighting climate change: the ultimate data challenge”[3], data are most powerful when they are available as open data and scientists are using data not only to monitor climate change but to help provide solutions, combining data science with climate science.

In line with these ideas an initiative [4], partially supported by LIFE+ Programme of the European Commission, combines life cycle assessment (LCA) techniques with intelligent data analysis, in order to improve sustainability of railway infrastructure construction processes as a whole, considering environmental, economic and social aspects. The goal is to reduce carbon and water footprints of railway infrastructure construction projects from their earliest stages, i.e. design and planning processes.

On a recent keynote speech, Martina Werner, member of the European Parliament and the ITRE Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, argues that many manufacturers concentrate on competing mainly on the basis of the mere purchase price. A thorough implementation of the procurement directives and particularly the MEAT principle gives suppliers a competitive advantage. Numerous factors now can be taken into account during the procurement procedure. This includes the reliability of the supply chain, services, maintenance costs, environmental factors and criteria of corporate social responsibility.

Based on environmental and social impact of most relevant tasks, an Open Access tool provides selected specific footprint values and environmental & social indicators as open data to the community, promoting the incorporation of environmental criteria on construction projects. This tool is available online, with all the information regarding LCA and Social LCA (SLCA) and it is intended for spreading the word on sustainable development and paving the way for the use of this or similar tools by public bodies or bidders.

 

Bibliographic references

[1] EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. Motion for a resolution. European Parliament resolution on the competitiveness of the European rail supply industry. 2015/2887(RSP).

[2] EUROPEAN COMMISSION. White paper. Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport systems. COM(2011) 144 Final.

[3] GURIN, JOEL. Fighting Climate Change: The Ultimate Data Challenge.  In: IODC Blog. Available in: http://opendatacon.org/fighting-climate-change-the-ultimate-data-challenge/

[4] LIFE HUELLAS Project. Available in: http://www.life-huellas.eu/

 

Cover photo by Joshua Newton.


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June 9, 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.  

Chief Data Officers (CDOs) working in the public sector are tasked with designing and executing on a progressive open data agenda that simultaneously increases transparency and improves decision making in municipalities.

Those with a clear vision for building a comprehensive, sustainable strategy for municipal open data are starting to define best practices. Here are a few examples we at Open Data Nation (opendatanation.com) have observed in our work designing open data science initiatives (fivar.org) with city and county CDOs.

  • Create agency demand for opening up data.

Motivating agencies to engage and dedicate effort, with existing budgets, amidst competing agency priorities, to a new, locally un-validated open data directive can beget more, high quality, and high value data assets into an open data catalog. But to get agencies on board is a real challenge. Short-term, high-impact demonstration projects (fivar.org), that create business intelligence and improve the performance of willing agencies, can motivate agencies to participate in the publication of new, high-quality, high-value data assets.

This demand-driven approach for open data also re-orients the CDOs office as the convener of agencies working on similar issues and funders seeking out innovations within government. It liberates CDOs to innovate on cross-agency priorities that generate beneficial and quantifiable returns for the municipality government and its people.

Read more about Chief Analytics Officer Amen Ra Mashariki’s demand-driven approach that has New York City agencies requesting and competing to work with the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics.

  • Build capacity and communities of practice within government.

To be truly transformative, the processes, operations, and infrastructure for data analysis, design of interventions, and data-driven decision making must be built from within agencies. The Chief Data Officer can play a role in perpetuating these outcomes by organizing a “data cabinet” and convening a community of practice across agencies to assess opportunities and expose barriers to building a culture of data, transparency, and productivity within government.

Read more about the Department of Communities and Local Government’s approach to a data cabinet in London, UK.

  • Engage civic technologists and spur economic growth.

Municipalities have the highest concentrations of civic technologists willing and prepared to work with government and improve the quality of life in the places they live. Opening up the doors and inviting civic technologists, advocates, and students to be more involved in activities, via a formal fellowship program and informal events, transforms some into qualified public servants and others into entrepreneurs. Greater engagement simultaneously augments capacity at a low cost, improves the identification of priority issues, and results in better coordination between the public and private sectors.

Read more about San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation’s call for civic innovators and entrepreneurs to participate in summer fellowships.

  • Plug into existing networks of CDOs to learn from best practices and attract investment.

Convenings, such as the MetroLab Network, What Works Cities and Data-Smart City Solutions, to name a few, share best practices across municipalities and also articulate the needs and vision of cities to philanthropies. By bringing municipalities into these ongoing conversations, CDOs gain a platform to demonstrate leadership, worthy of recognition and foundation funding.

Think this list is incomplete and/or your municipality should be included. Write info@opendatanation.com to be featured.

 

Cover photo by Daniela Cuevas


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June 2, 2016 Eva Cabanach

An ambitious and experienced online marketer specialized in online strategy in an international and fast paced environment. Deep knowledge of online marketing and multi-channel communication including Email marketing, Display advertising and Social media. Capable of engaging in problem solving in a logical, positive and professional manner, with the highest levels of motivation and organization on every occasion.

Communicative, goal oriented and intuitive, able to establish and sustain relationships with clients, stakeholders and business associates.

The concept of “open data” is the idea that data should be freely accessible to everyone without restrictions. Websites and organizations like NYC Open Data and Data.gov are doing their part in making information free and available. But what can you do with that information once you have it?

CartoDB is working towards innovation in favor of open data and open source, with location intelligence (http://go.cartodb.com/location-intelligence-white-paper) and data-driven visualization and analysis as an essential way to take advantage of open data.

The “Open Data Spirit” is what we talk about at events like IODC, or initiatives such as GIS (Open Street Map, https://www.openstreetmap.org/) or governments with “open” consciences such as New Zealand (https://data.govt.nz/) or Canada (open.canada.ca/).

Sharing data with this vision in mind helps governments like Medellín (http://go.cartodb.com/visualizing-the-future-of-smart-cities-with-location-intelligence-cartodb), Chicago, or New York manage incidents related to weather, day-to-day resources, and logistics management.

Businesses can also benefit from the “open data spirit.” Organizations and companies need a good data augmentation application (https://cartodb.com/case-studies/illustreets), that facilitates decision-making based on data — from generating datasets with a clear focus, to using tools that help people to integrate available data with other interesting databases, as well as several private initiatives that give insightful business intelligence an advantage, such as the Real Estate use case Grow London (http://go.cartodb.com/visualizing-connections-with-grow.london-and-cartodb).

CartoDB embraces the open data spirit and we look forward to continuing the discussion at IODC on how businesses, governments, and everyone can take advantage of open data sources. Let’s make open data a reality through more open access and architecture!

Happy data mapping!

 

Cover photo by João Silas.

 


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May 17, 2016 Marc Garriga0

Marc Garriga graduated in Computer Engineering from UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and in Market Research and Techniques from UOC (Open University of Catalonia). Being an expert on Open Data and, more generally, in open government, he has taken part in various initiatives in each field. By mid-2012, he set up desideDatum Data Company, a company focused on offering services related to management and data opening such as consulting the Generalitat de Catalunya (on the creation of the Catalonia Transparency Portal, which will host more than a thousand public entities), among many other projects related to open data, open government and Smart Cities.

Besides, desideDatum Data Company is one of Socrata’s main partners, the most important open data service provider globally.

He is a pro-public sector, pro-transparency, pro-open government and pro-Network Society activist; among others, he is founding member of the Spanish Chapter on the Open Knowledge Foundation Network (OKFN-Spain), of Xarxa d’Innovació Pública (XiP), of the group Catalunya Dades, and he is a node atTheProject (THP).

Usually, when someone hears the words “open data,” what comes to mind is public sector data and, more specifically, data related with accountability for the citizens or focusing on public sector transparency for society.

This is understandable and, besides, totally right. Undoubtedly, we can give transparency to our public sector through the release of data, contributing to what Alberto Ortiz de Zarate defined as “Collaborative Transparency.

But many more needs can be covered with the release of data. We can release other public data such as, see, traffic data, providing a better mobility in the cities with the reuse of those data by private companies. This is the case of Waze, the application that completely transformed mobility between two points thanks to the smart management and generation of traffic data. The Tel Aviv (Israel) city council released data related with closed roads; thanks to the reuse of these data, Waze users could reduce driving time by 19%. We can also release other public data such as the location of traffic tickets to detect black spots in traffic signs and improve it (as occurred in New York City).

But we can go even further…we can and we must.

Why not using data release technology for other uses far from the traditional perspective of open data?

For example, the newspaper L`Équipe, one of the main sports newspapers in France, offers a nutrition and sports service.  This service offers recipes for athletes (according to the ingredients you want to eat and other variables). This service is based on open data technology (although, visually, it does not seem so).

Another excellent case is that of the company Climate Corporation (currently in the Monsanto Group). This company offers insurances concerning weather forecast, especially for the agricultural sector. This forecast is made, in part, thanks to open data by the meteorological agencies. Their clients –mostly farmers– are not aware of what open data are; however, thanks to them, they are benefiting from quality insurances.

Companies also consume open data in Spain. For example, Eixos supplements open data – Cadastro data, among other sources– with their own data to provide services of analysis of the urban economic fabric.

The common characteristic between these three examples is that they have focused on managing open data consumption efficiently with a clear objective: offering a service that meets a specific need.

But we can go even further…we can and we must.

Why not using data release internally?

Why not using “selective data release”? The following are two examples of opening data selectively:

  • Releasing data with our providers/clients. We can use open data technology to share with our clients their consumption levels of our services.
  • Releasing data internally among employees of our organization. This would be open data within the limits of the organization, and this can be quite big, as is the case with multinational corporations.

Who said open data had to be offered to the whole society? Open data technology can be used to provide data to the whole society or just part of it (our clients, providers, employees or members of our neighborhood association).

In sum, we are just in the prologue to this suggestive book called “Open Data,” which surely will become a best seller.


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May 12, 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.

In the past few years, an important number of materials have been published to help data holders with that release of open government data. In his article “The good, the bad…and the best practices”, Martin Alvarez gathered a total of 19 documents, including guides, manuals, good practices, toolkits, cookbooks, etc. Different kinds of authors have invested  resources in the development of these materials: national governments, regional governments, foundations, standardization organisms, the European Commission, etc.; hence the number of different perspectives.

On the other hand, a large amount of effort is still being made in the development of standards for the release of open government datasets, either for general purposes or specific domains.

Too often, however, very easy rules that facilitate sustainable open datasets reuse are forgotten when datasets are published. I am just mentioning some of the obstacles we often find when we explore a new dataset and assess whether it is worth incorporating it to our service:

  1. Records do not include a field with a unique identifier, which makes it very difficult to monitor changes when the dataset is updated.
  2. Records do not contain a field with the date when it was last updated, which also complicates monitoring which records have changed from one publication version to the next one.
  3. Records do not contain a field with the date of creation, which makes it difficult to know the date each one were incorporated to the dataset.
  4. Fields do not use commonly agreed standards for the type of data they contain. This often occurs in fields with dates and times, or economic values, etc…but is also common in other fields.
  5. Inconsistencies between the content of the dataset and its equivalent published on HTML web pages. Inconsistencies can be of many types, from records published on the website and not exported to the dataset to differences in fields that are published in one format or the other.
  6. The record is published on the dataset much later than on the website. This can make a dataset useless for reuse if the service requires immediacy.
  7. Service Level Agreements on the publication of datasets are not specified overtly. It is not that important to merely judge those agreements as good or bad; what is really important is that they are known, as it is very hard to plan data reuse ahead when you do not know what to expect.
  8. These elements are not provided: a simple description about the content of the fields and structure of the dataset, as well as the relevant criteria used to analyze that content (lists of elements for factor variables, update criteria, meaning of different states, etc.).

As you can see, these practices are not necessarily linked to open-data-related work; they rather deal with the experience in software development projects, or simply with common sense.

Even though most of them are very easy to implement, they are of great importance to convince somebody to invest their time in an open dataset. As you may know, dealing with web scrapping can be more convenient than reusing open datasets; And these are a few simple practices that make the difference.

 

Cover photo by Barn Images


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