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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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March 1, 2016 IODC

The Call for Proposals for the 4th International Open Data Conference (IODC16) –held in Madrid on October 6 and 7, 2016– will be open for applications from March 1 to April 3, 2016. An event of global reference, organized by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, through the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Information Society and the public institution Red.es.

After the third edition held in Ottawa (Canada), Madrid takes the baton and will be the location of the next edition of the Conference, supported by international entities such as the World Bank, the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC), and the Open Data for Development Network (OD4D).

Under the motto ‘Global Goals, Local Impact,’ IODC16 will continue the work initiated in the previous editions and undertakes the challenge of promoting new projects, facilitating dialogue about the situations that the international open data community has to face, and favour the diffusion of solutions to present problems.

IODC16 will be one of the foremost meeting points to explore and debate the topics established in the International Open Data Charter, and search for innovative solutions in areas such as Education, Transport, Consumer products, Electricity, Extractive industries, Healthcare, and Personal finances.

Call for proposals

With the launch of the Call for Proposals, the whole open data community is invited to participate in the elaboration of the programme of the 4th International Open Data Conference.

The proposals are meant to collaborate in the definition of the Conference programme, organized on the basis of three lines of work:

  • Call for impact: specific open data initiatives that have real impact on people’s lives.
  • Call for sharing: sessions focused on sharing the knowledge on the field, discuss specific topics or collect best practices implemented by different collectives (companies, civic organizations and research groups, among others, including governments from all over the world).
  • Call for action: lectures, forums and work groups with the objective of building a roadmap for the global open data community.

All the necessary information about the bases and conditions of the Call for Proposals can be found on this link.

The deadline for the submission of proposals is April 3, 2016; then, there will be an evaluation period of six weeks. After the evaluation period, the selected authors will be informed and invited to take part in the official programme of the 4th International Open Data Conference.

Submit your proposals and collaborate with the entire open data community in defining the IODC16 programme.

Please consult the website for further detail on IODC16.

Download press release


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February 23, 2016 Mary Nakirya

Author: Mary Nakirya

A Program Manager at Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative an NGO in Uganda, A volunteer and organizar at Net Squared Uganda Network Passionate about Open data, rural development, Agriculture and Education using ICT as an enabler. Good at social media and technology for social good. Believe that Information is an asset and it should be free and transparent.

Despite the fact that they are many advantages of open data ranging from improving public service delivery, reduction of corruption and enhanced transparency, it has been a debate on whether open data can work for rural areas especially because most of the rural population have no access to the internet or even to computers. I believe that for such communities to access data, there must be a lot of innovation on the methods used and type of content made available to them.

Creation of data and making it available online may not mean much alone but information becomes valuable when it can be used by the intended communities. When dealing with the rural communities the right data needs to be sent to them. Also the community needs to be involved. That way, they will be able to get the right data according to their information needs.

Uganda is an Agricultural country with more than 80% of its population employed in the Agriculture sector. As such, any form of outbreak affecting agriculture will greatly affect the economy of the whole country.

Uganda is endowed with many crops. However, bananas are one of the major food crops in central, East and western Uganda. They are the main staple food crops and at the same time are used as cash crops for both export and local market. Throughout Uganda, banana plantations had been infected by banana wilt disease, killing the entire crops which had started affecting food security and farmers’ income. For example the entire Masaka district was a banana growing area , but within about six months the whole district had been wiped off the precious crop. As such, the farmers who are entirely dependent on it were stuck, some blaming it on government for not helping them to control the spread of the disease.

Prevention methods for banana bacterial wilt (BBW) existed, but the government’s challenge was how to determine the most vulnerable regions of the country and get prevention and treatment information to the actual banana growers.

A team from the World Bank suggested to use open data build and spread by ICTs – information and communication technologies, the question was how to do it. They got a network of 190,000+ volunteers across the country who used mobile technology to report on various issues of interest to UNICEF including Banana Bacteria Wilt affected areas. Within a few days, the team was able to raise awareness, visualize the spread of the bacteria, and disseminate symptoms, and treatment options to farmers through mobile phone SMS. This saved the crop and many were able to plant again.

Agriculture advice especially on disease out breaks have been provided by Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative (BROSDI) through its program Collecting and Exchange of Local Agriculture Content (CELAC). This helped farmers in 14 districts to save their crops and animals. A case is during the outbreak of bird flu, a contagious disease to birds, alerts were sent to farmers to take precautions and this saved thousands of chicken.

Also this project is able to collect information especially through knowledge sharing forums, which is validated by the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO), saved in csv format and sent back to farmers using various ICT methods including SMS, radio and village noticeboards.

Once open data is relevant to the rural population, they embrace it. The issue is how to involve them and make this data available to these communities.


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January 7, 2016 Lejla Sadiku

Guest post from Lejla Sadiku

Lejla Sadiku works in UNDP’s Istanbul Regional Hub on Open Data in Europe and Central Asia, the regional node of the Open Data for Development program. She has worked on use and re-use of open data to increase transparency and improve public services, leading initiatives which aim to bring citizens, including youth, closer to their decision-makers through the use of technology, and engaging young people as agents of change through collaborative design methods.

2015 was an exciting year for open data, and for me it has been an exploration of bringing global conversations into the local and making sure local developments feed into the global. As the coordinator for the Open Data in Europe and Central Asia network, the regional node of the Open Data for Development program (OD4D), our key role is in bringing these two, often separate and independent aspects, into the same space and allowing for learning and innovation to take place.

There were two developments, which in my view contributed to such an exchange, and the results of which have set the platform for open data work to continue into the next years: the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada in May 2015 and the side event on open data at the G20 Summit that took place in Antalya, Turkey in November 2015. I will concentrate in the latter.

The event in Antalya, co-organized by the Turkish Presidency of the G20, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through the OD4D program, brought together a rich mix of speakers and participants from around the world. The focus of the event was on the role of open data as an enabler for the fight against corruption in the G20. A key message that was conveyed was that the event demonstrated that open data has entered the political agenda for G20 countries and their development partners. In addition, during the event, the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) package was launched, the adoption of the G20 Open Data Principles by the ACWG was announced, and the C20 Open Data Position Paper was launched.

The event took stock of the G20’s efforts to limit the impact of corruption on economic growth, trade, and development, and discussed new ways of facilitating public sector transparency and accountability. But in fact, the conversation is much broader than solely pertaining to the G20.

In fact, through my work, I work with teams that are using open data to further developmental and economic goals, and at the same time, work on the policy and normative side of things.

And in the month of November, when the event in Antalya took place, I was in the process of completing the first open data challenge for the region of Western Balkans, dubbed “Ministry of Data”. With the team of people working on Ministry of Data, we had just gone through the process of acquiring data, identifying champions, working with the eco-system, growing the eco-system, and had understood the limitations stemming from unreliable and inconsistent data, and the general lack of awareness about open data. In light of such, conversations about the International Open Data Charter, the Open Contracting Standards, overcoming the digital divide, and using data for the Global Goals, that took place at the G20 side event, while more abstract and normative, were answers to concrete problems I and others in this area had struggled with.

There were three key lessons I came out with:

1) A continuous communication flow is necessary to ensure that norms, principles, and legal acts reflect the needs on the ground of the users of data.

2) There is an inherent dependency between the two levels and the only way to get the results we want is if they are in sync.

3) Meeting and networking at conferences is important, but the discussions need to be turned into actions, which is linked to the two previous points.

To my final point above (#3), one can see the importance in items such as the IODC Roadmap (outlined in the IODC 2015 Final Report), which outline the outcomes of such discussions and breaks the required actions down into five Action Areas (the Charter, Standards, Skills and Learning, Problem Solving, and Measurement). These Action Areas continue to become increasingly important as we look forward to the next edition of the International Open Data Conference, which will be held October 6-7, 2016 in Madrid, Spain, and other open data conferences, events, and symposiums.

You can view a video with the speakers of the G20 Summit side event I was involved in and check out the presentations.


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