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Hamburg to launch an open data portal

4. May 2012 – 10:58 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Hamburg will become the latest German city to publish government datasets online, with plans to launch an open data portal by the end of this year. Exactly which data will be released, and when, is still unclear.

Hamburg already publishes some data online and is planning to release more, according to the Senate’s (Hamburg’s Cabinet’s) answer to an enquiry from Hansjörg Schmidt, the SPD parliamentary group’s representative on media and online policy.

Schools performance data, information on cancer patients, air quality and water quality are all available online and in many cases downloadable in Excel format. I had a quick look through these websites and it does appear that information in Excel format is relatively easy to get at, although it is questionable whether this is really raw data since it is presented in a non-standard format and appears in some cases (for example the schools data) to have been pre-crunched. In the case of water data, making this data open is a technical challenge — at the moment, only a description of the data is available due to its size.

The city will  also release geographic data at some point, including the location of play areas and police stations. There appears to be no promise that this will coincide with the launch of the portal and no cast-iron guarantees about exactly what data will be made available.

The Senate’s response does not make a clear commitment to launch a portal, but NDR reports that the City has officially announced its intention to do so by the end of the year.

Alongside talk of an open data portal, the campaign for a Transparency Law is making much greater demands. The backers of the law want to go much further and are pushing for a law that will oblige the local government to open all of its data unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. A comment on Hansjörg Schmidt’s blog suggest that some backers of the Transparency Law may see this as an attempt to diffuse their campaign by opening some data. I am sure this will be a hot topic at the next Open Government Stammtisch on 9th May and the PEP-NET Summit on 14th May.



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Daniel Lentfer to present Hamburg transparency campaign at the PEP-NET Summit

23. February 2012 – 15:54 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Mehr Demokratie e.V., Transparency International and the Chaos Computer Club are campaigning for the adoption of a local law that would give Hamburg citizens and charitable organisations enhanced access to previously confidential information. Daniel Lentfer from Mehr Demokratie, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for more direct democracy in German politics, will present the Transparenzgesetz at the PEP-NET Summit on 14th May.

The proposed transparency law was drafted using a wiki, which was open for anyone who wanted to to participate. It calls for a central information register, listing all of the city’s official publications; a duty to publish, which includes public data; and the extension of the right to information to voluntary organisations, especially campaigning organisations and not merely private individuals.

The campaign argues that such a law would reduce corruption, reduce wasting of taxpayers’ money, increase trust in politicians and the local authority, simplify administrative procedures and make participation easier.

Mehr Demokratie e.V. successfully collected the 10,000 valid signatures required for a local Citizens’ Initiative and the state parliament’s judicial affairs committee will decide whether to accept the law on 28th February. Mehr Demokratie is preparing for it to be rejected, in which case they will have to collect a total of 62,000 valid signatures within three weeks to force a local referendum.



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CFP: Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government

12. October 2011 – 17:16 by Centre for E-Government

In modern democracies, people are to be empowered by means of information and communication technologies. Transparency and access to data, new ways of interacting with government and democratic institutions cause profound changes in society. Social media and the new forms of societal behaviour, including content generation, collaboration and sharing as well as network organisation change our understanding of politics and business. Governmental and private internet services have increased the citizens’ independence and flexibility. However, enthusiastic ideas and projects often failed to produce the expected results as technology is only the basis for new forms of organisation and interaction. CeDEM12 seeks to critically analyse present and future developments in e-democracy and open government. >> http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/cedem

CeDEM12 presents the following tracks:

  • E-Participation
  • Government 2.0
  • Social/Web Media and Public Administration
  • E-Politics and E-Campaigning
  • European Citizen Initiative
  • Participatory Budgeting
  • Bottom-Up Movements
  • Open Data and Open Access
Submission Deadline: 12/12/2011
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We would like to invite individuals from academic and applied backgrounds as well as business, public authorities, NGO, NPOs and education institutions to submit their papers, reflections as well as workshop proposals. We welcome interdisciplinary approaches to the emerging conference topics. This year we want to encourage practitioners to submit papers as we provide a specific section for non-academics. Conference language is English.
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Publications:

The conference proceedings will be published with the Edition Danube University; additionally, the complete proceedings will be made accessible online. A selection of best research papers and case studies of CeDEM12 will be published with the Open Access eJournal of eDemocracy and Open Government. (www.jedem.org)

  • Research papers shall be 12 pages maximum and will be double-blind peer-reviewed.
  • Case studies/project papers shall be 12 pages maximum and will be double-blind peer-reviewed.
  • Reflections shall be 4 pages maximum and will be selected by the chairs.

You can download last year’s conference proceedings at the conference website!

Important Dates: 

  • Deadline for the submission of papers and workshop proposals: 12 December 2011
  • Conference: 3-4 May 2012

Further Information

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Profile photo of John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

Birmingham Civic Dashboard: E-Government to We-Government via Open Data

6. October 2011 – 18:31 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
Birmingham Civic Dashboard screenshot

Birmingham Civic Dashboard screenshot

In its recent consultation document ‘Making Open Data Real’, the UK Government expresses high hopes for open data, heralding it as possibly “the most powerful lever of 21st century public policy”. Following several years of open data advocacy, activism and hack days, in the UK open data is moving towards the mainstream thanks to unanimous backing from the coalition government and the opposition.

The latest move in open data comes from Birmingham City Council, which today launched its ‘Civic Dashboard’. This is a web site publishing raw customer services data along with a slick visualisation, which was made possible by a grant that Digital Birmingham received as a result of winning a competition run by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

The Civic Dashboard draws its data from the customer service centre set up as part of the Council’s Business Transformation programme. An extract of data about all customer enquiries, whether by telephone, internet or email, is recorded by the customer relationship management system and fed into the Civic Dashboard in an aggregated (anonymised) form once per day. Where the data is geocoded, it can be presented on a map to show how many contacts originate from a particular ward or constituency. You can even see which channels the enquiries come through, which shows that the Council receives far more enquiries by telephone than through other channels.

This is an important step towards bridging the gap between eGovernment and ‘weGovernment’. Coming from the Council that was heavily criticised for spending £2.8m on its website as part of its eGovernment transformation, especially by Birmingham’s vocal social media users, opening up the data that is produced in the background shows what the new infrastructure can do beyond serving up static content. Doubtless there are many more datasets that exist as a result of the transformation programme, and if these are released in the future, perhaps Brummies will feel they got a better deal out of transformation than they first thought.

This itself is quite a paradox: such a handover of control to the citizen wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the huge transformation programme because IT is absolutely necessary for the collection of data in a reusable form.

Read the rest of this entry »



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Covering the costs of open data

19. January 2011 – 11:44 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

A report to the European Commission recently called upon Member States to step up their efforts to digitise catalogues of cultural works including books and paintings. This presents some challenges which I think help us to reflect on issues surrounding open data.

The act of digitising works costs money and doing it properly – ensuring that prints are of a high quality and high enough resolution to make them useful – can be expensive. As with any expenditure, public organisations have to demonstrate that their investment is justified by a public need or that they can recoup the money by selling what they produce. This is exactly what Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has done by selling on-demand prints of their works online. The argument that these works are public property and should be available free of charge may hold in principle, but if all works are made freely available then the funding must come from elsewhere or they simply won’t be digitised in the first place.

I think the same applies to open data: the data may be on paper, or uncollected. The act of collating this data simply for the purpose of making it public costs money and this investment will need to be justified against many other competing demands on the public purse. Where data is already in digital form and it is simply a case of putting a spreadsheet on the internet, the argument is more straightforward; but when it costs money to collect it and make it available it is more complicated, especially if the data is already a source of income. Why would you want to give companies that happily pay handsome sums for, say, mapping data this information free of charge? Why spend lots of money collating data that perhaps nobody will use?

The Localism Bill (see previous article) attempts to solve this by releasing data according to the wishes of local residents. I think we should be exploring other ways of ensuring that data remains a source of income whilst being available for people like community activists and volunteers who want to use data to improve their surroundings.

Public authorities should think about making data available under a Creative Commons licence. This could allow them to preserve their income streams by prohibiting commercial use, whilst allowing people to use the data for personal and voluntary means. It may even encourage more people to buy their datasets by giving them the option to “try before they buy”. Further, there may be some instances where a private company can work with a public authority to collect data for its own purposes and at its own expense. By obliging the company that collects the information to make it available for non-profit public use, this may be a way of covering the costs of data collection whilst retaining the principle of openness.



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All in a day’s work: Munich does eGovernment, eParticipation & Open Data

1. December 2010 – 14:40 by John Heaven (TuTech Innovation GmbH)
mogdy

Screenshot from MOGDy website

They say a week is a long time in politics, and in eParticipation a day is just as long: Munich Open Government Day (MOGDy) is lasting, er, several months.

Starting today, the City of Munich is asking citizens to answer three questions using its dedicated online platform:

– what online services should the local government provide?
– what eParticipation initiatives should the city engage in?
– what apps could make use of the data that the city will shortly release?

    Any citizen can suggest ideas and rate other people’s ideas. The five people with the top ideas will get tickets to the Oktoberfest. At the MOGDy Camp on 21st and 22nd January 2011, the city will launch its open data programme in which it will be releasing data and encouraging developers to get stuck in and create useful apps out of them. The best apps will be awarded prizes and the City will present them online.



    Profile photo of Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

    Making big budgets understandable through visualization

    17. September 2010 – 15:45 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

    One of the first steps in trying to open up the budgeting process is to present a communal, regional or even national budget into in way that is accessible for the average citizen. In most cases budgets are published as documents with hundreds of pages and enormous tables with number containing a bunch of zeros – which might be a hurdle for many people to join into a discussion about this important topic.

    The German website OffenerHaushalt.de (in German), built by Tactical Tools (“a network of enthusiast and experts”), tries to address this problem by presenting the federal budget of Germany in an interactive and intuitive fashion. The picture below shows the front page with each ministries budget presented in a different colour.

    ss-2010-09-17_153739

    After clicking a budget (like in this case defense) the allocation of the budget to different areas and activities is shown in an easy to understand way. This way you can drill down into the budget to get a sense of its structure and how funds are used.

    ss-2010-09-17_153755

    All data presented can also be exported in different standardized formats (JSON and XML among them) and all source data is also accessible. However there is also a sign for the need of more structured open data as the site is asking its visitors for hints to a machine readable version of the 2011 federal budget.

    In summary this website is a great example of how to display complex numerical information in an accessible way. The ideas presented here could be integrated into eParticipatory budgeting processes to lower the barrier to entry for citizens or to help to introduce new audiences to these processes.



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    The Government 2.0 Camp 2010 in Berlin – Public administration eye to eye with Social media

    8. September 2010 – 12:05 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

    On September 30st and October 1st Berlin will be the place to be for public servants, academics and all sorts of people active in the field of Government 2.0. After the very successful first Gov2.0 Camp last year the idea of an unconference aimed at bringing together Social Media experts and activists with public administration representatives has made its mark on Germany and consequently let to the organisation of the Government 2.0 Camp 2010.

    The video below shows the Government 2.0 Camp 2009 and keeping the development in Germany since then in mind this year’s crowd will possibly be even bigger:

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    Introduction to Open Data by Sir Tim Berners-Lee

    29. April 2010 – 14:52 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

    Open access to government data is an important factor in modernising how government and democracy works and is closely related to the development of electronic forms of participation. Sometimes the discussion about Open Data is quite abstract or technical – but it does not need to be.

    The six minute talk by Sir Tim Berners -Lee gives a short and passionate introduction to why Open Data matters and how it can be used to improve people’s lives:

    If you got 15 more minutes at hand take a look at Mr. Berners-Lees talk on “the next Web” which also features the Open Data topic: Read the rest of this entry »



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    Open Data: the Guardian launches a database

    24. January 2010 – 21:57 by Roberto Zarro

    In connection with the launch of data.gov.uk, the new British government website offering free access to a huge amount of public-sector data for private or commercial reuse, the UK Guardian has published the World Government Data Search, a search engine that collects datasets and other open data services provided by governments around the world. At the moment the service searches across the UK, US, New Zealand and Australian governments’ data sites. The Guardian published also a gallery of the 10 best mash-ups built on top of government data provided in the United Kingdom and a similar gallery dedicated to the experiences promoted in US, New Zealand and Australia