Monthly Archives: October 2011

Open Data Monthly Review 10/2011

A review of latest news and blog posts in the field of open data.


RTI Supports QinetiQ’s Leadership in Developing World’s First Open Data Model for UK MOD
Real-Time Innovations (RTI), The Global Leader in DDS, today announced that it, among other open-standards companies and a broad range of industry participants, supported QinetiQ in the development of the Land Data Model for Def Stan 23-09. The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD) had chosen QinetiQ as leader of the Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) Group, which consists of defense contractors based in the U.S. and U.K. The VSI Group was tasked with applying open-standards-based architectures to land-based defense platforms.

Television Archives Join Linked Open Data Movement
The EUscreen project has recently taken steps to expand the scope of its aim to provide unified access to large integrated digital collections related to European television history. By implementing the Linked Open Data principles and by signing the new Europeana Data Exchange Agreement, the materials that are made accessible through the platform have become more widely searchable, findable, linkable, and thus more connected to the world wide web, its users… and the machines that link them together.

Iceland to Open Data Center Powered by Renewable Resources
British data hosting company Verne Global has commissioned telecommunications group Colt to build a data center powered entirely by renewable energy in Iceland. The parts will be fabricated in the U.K. before being shipped to Iceland.

Google to Open Data Center in Dublin, Irish Official Says
Internet search company Google Inc. (GOOG) will create 30 full-time jobs in a new data center in Dublin, Irish Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said Friday.

Holding the fort: developing a new
A website for the UK Civil Service was re-launched on Friday 30th September. This site is the primary means of communicating what the constitutional role of the UK Civil Service is, what it does and the codes it is bound by.

Open data activists cry ‘betrayal’ on Maude’s corporation
Plans for a new public data corporation are a “bodge” and a “betrayal” of the government’s pledges on open data, a coalition of transparency activists claimed.

Stockholm goes ‘open data’
The City of Stockholm will release the source code around some so-called application programming interfaces, and give access to some of the city’s many databases.

Open data study finds variations in housing prices in prestigious neighbourhoods of Helsinki
The street, the floor, and the prospect of upcoming refurbishments and renovations on the property are three aspects that a buyer of an apartment considers when deciding on whether or not to pay more for a new home than the average level for the neighbourhood.

The world’s biggest open data event
Hundreds of public servants, NGOs, journalists and developers will gather in a former factory building in Warsaw this week for what will be the world’s biggest ever open data event.

Open data: beware the empire striking back, insiders warn
Two central figures of the UK government’s initiative to open its data for re-use have warned of the risk of ministers being thwarted by reluctant or apathetic bureaucrats. “There is a real risk of the empire striking back,” Andrew Stott, the government’s first director of digital engagement and a former deputy chief information officer, said last week.

Dublinked to support open data for businesses
Irish businesses and communities are being given the opportunity to tap into data collected by the Dublin regional authorities through a new online portal, which it is hoped will generate new business opportunities. The Dublinked initiative promotes open data, and facilitates access to information including planning application data from across the region, air and water pollution maps, noise maps, parking and traffic volumes.

The Europe’s biggest open data event will count with the European Commission participation
Participants from over 40 countries around the world will meet at one of the biggest open data event, the Open Government Data Camp 2011, that will take place on 20-21st October in Warsaw, Poland. Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission and Digital Agenda Commissioner will be one of the speakers at the opening ceremony.

Esri includes OS Open Data into Community Base Map
Ordnance Survey’s (OS) small and mid-scale OS Open Data products are to be included in Esri’s Community Topographic Base Map (CTBM).
In 2010, Esri created the CTBM for geospatial data holders, such as governments and organisations, to contribute information to.

Socitm slams plan for Public Data Corporation
Socitm has come out against the government’s plan to create a Public Data Corporation, claiming that it will do more for existing institutions than the public’s right to data. The organisation for public service IT professionals has made the criticism in its response to the government’s consultation on open data, which closes today.

Open data plans ‘fundamentally flawed’
Local authorities still ‘struggle with the business case’ for publishing their data for free re-use, according to the professional body of IT managers. In its responses to twin Cabinet Office consultations on open data, the Society for IT Management (Socitm) calls on a new government approach with more emphasis on joined up public services and less on “armchair auditors”.

Facebook Seeks Free Love Among Data Center Giants
Facebook іѕ dead hοnеѕt аbουt building common standards fοr efficient hardware іn thе data center. On Thursday, thе social networking giant launched thе Open Compute Foundation, аn industry association thаt aims tο reduce thе cost аnԁ environmental impact οf thе computers thаt rυn fаntаѕtіс swaths οf thе Internet. Thе foundation formalizes аn effort thе social media giant ѕtаrtеԁ іn April, whеn іt ѕtаrtеԁ thе Open Compute Project (OCP).

Government to close open data consultations
People with an interest in government transparency and open data have been urged to voice their opinions quickly before two major consultations on the area are closed. Making Open Data Real, which looks how the government should make open data part of its every day business, and a second consultation on the new public data corporation are both to close on 27 October.


Blog about Stats: Open data: Waiting…

ckan Blog: Warsaw and the ODGcamp CKAN presentation

CTOEdge: Open Compute Plus Open Data Center = A Better Cloud? The State of Open Data 2011

eFoundations: Two UK government consultations related to open data

Europeana: Open Data in the cultural sector: Cultural heritage data in Europeana

Freedominfo: Views on Open Data Contrast During ICIC Sessions

The Guardian: Best bits: open government Q&A and The future of open data?

Inside Higher Ed: The Promise of Digital Humanities

Microsoft Research Connections Blog: Open Data for Open Science: The Rise of X-Informatics Open Data consultations

The New York Times: Behind the Oracle-Salesforce Cloud Brawl

Open Knowledge Foundation Blog: Open Data: Wishlist for the Next Year and Tracking the Sustainability of Open Government Data and Transparency Board urges widest possible response to UK data consultations

Pardon My Finnish: Open Data – Who cares?

Talis Consulting: Will Europe’s National Libraries Open Data In An Open Way?

Yawning Bread: Beyond freedom of information lies open data


Cambridge Now!: Agenda From The Most Recent Waterloo Regional Council Meeting of October 5th

Jason Hibbets: Surfing the open data wave

Toni Preckwinkle: Good Government Through the Looking Glass: Transparency and Accountability

Adrian Short: Why Facebook’s new Open Graph makes us all part of the web underclass

Christopher Smith: Profiting from open data

W. David Stephenson: Why open data standards make good sense, now more than ever

Finns invade Warsaw

Institute’s Fellow Antti Halonen writes about the second annual Open Government Data Camp.

Second annual Open Government Data Camp was held in Warsaw last week (20.-21.10.). Camp was dubbed as the biggest open data event in the world with participants from over 40 different countries and once again it proved to be a great event in terms of networking and sharing ideas and thoughts on open data with all those nice and like-minded people.

Last year I attended the equivalent event in London and the core programme had remained relatively similar. Days were started with keynote speeches and continued with workshops, where developers, open data advocates, civil servants and academics gathered together around different topical issues. Some of the attendees were the same as last year, but the emergence of many new faces with different backgrounds was greeted happily by many of the old guard.

The perception on the state of open data was a bit two-fold. On one hand, the open data community seems to share a certain concern for the future, but on the other hand they simultaneously remain optimistic and enthusiastic about all that could still be achieved.

According to discussions and speeches at the conference, open data movement has seemingly reached a point where a mere increase of data portals and creation of data-powered apps is not enough. We should be able to measure the progress and prove that open data is necessary for businesses and governments alike if the bandwagon is to keep rolling smoothly forward. Moreover, open data principles should be effectively embedded into everyday policymaking and data management systems. This is exactly what we are trying to facilitate with our project on the applicability of open data.

Discussion in Warsaw seems to match with our initial findings on the open data policies. If open data is to become an integrated part of government infrastructure and thus established effectively as a public policy, there has to be a certain institutional basis for that. Grass root movement and political support are not necessarily enough if the key public sector institutions don’t endorse open data and thus a lack of relevant legislative and institutional framework remains.

On a lighter note, we should remember that data transparency keeps getting more and more government support around the world. It is crucial, however, that we remain vigilant and make sure that this support is real and not window-dressing. Open data must not become a buzzword without content: proper fulfilment of open data definitions is as crucial as ever.

What was especially promising was the fact that the number of Finns who attended the event more than doubled from the last year. Open knowledge movement clearly is gaining more and more wind into its sails in Finland, and who knows what this enthusiasm could lead into?

Watch this space.

Antti Halonen
Fellow at the Finnish Institute in London

Rediscovering the Knowledge Society

Jussi Nissilä writes about the new focus area of the Society Programme.
Sometimes when on a journey it might be difficult find your way to the destination – or even know if you are moving to the right direction at all.

We are living amidst of a socio-technological revolution, a transformation which was enabled by the development of information and communication technology, but which will have a massive impact on most areas of our society: innovation and production, commerce, politics and political participation, social and power structures, working and private life, education and many more.

The next stage of societal development has been called the digital age, the knowledge economy, or the information society – the terms changing with the change of emphasis. I believe that this transformation is much more profound than just the emerging information-based economy or the amount of information technology we use – it is about the central role of (theoretical) knowledge in our everyday life and in our society.

Ever so often the discussion related to the knowledge society focuses on narrow technological issues such as speed and availability of Internet access or on profiting from business models of the previous era such as the copyrights. Could it be that we are sailing on familiar coastal waters, when we should in fact be crossing an ocean? The Society programme of The Finnish Institute in London will be making an effort to steer the the knowledge society discussion towards what we think is the right path – by questioning where we actually want to end up and then the methods of getting to this destination.

We focus our attention on two most important assets needed for knowledge creation – creative people and available information. In “Education and Learning” our aim is to create a shared vision of the future of education, meeting the learning needs of knowledge society. In “Open Societies” our aim is to explore the role of openness in the knowledge society and of open approaches such as open data. We will keep our Society programme website updated of latest projects and development, so feel free to take a look regularly and participate!

Jussi Nissilä
The Finnish Institute in London

Young professionals competing in London

Katja Sauvola from the Finnish Institute blogs about young professionals competing in London.

London hosted a week ago a huge international event called World Skills. World Skills are World Championships for vocational skills for contestants under 25 years of age.  This was the 41st time World Skills were organised. There were more than 960 competitors  representating 50 countries and more than 200,000 visitors came to see World Skills London during the four days of competition.

Finland has taken part in the World Skills since 1989 and over the years the Finnish teams have won a total of 37 medals. This year Team Finland consisted of 46 competitors and 40 experts. Members of the Finnish team have taken part in training which includes fine-tuning vocational skills as well as physical and mental preparation. Their success was good – Finland got five silver medals and three bronze medals. The results can be found here.

National Championship levels are organised in many countries as well. In Finland the competitions are held in co-operation with Skills Finland association, vocational schools, Finnish National Board of Education, Ministry of Education and culture and business partners. The aim of the competitions is to promote the awareness and development of skill levels.

Good example is that large number of school groups visit the competitions. One purpose of the Skills is to make pupils interested in vocational skills and give them options concerning their further education. One could say that Skills Championships are a trendy and fashionable way of showing where a career with a vocational education could lead.

In Finland the number of applicants and the appeal for vocational training has been on the rise for several years. Skilled professionals are needed in working life now even more, when the elder generations are retiring. Skills competitions are one way of increasing the appeal of vocational training.

Katja Sauvola
The Finnish Institute in London

Open Data – Who cares?

Institute’s Fellow Antti Halonen comments on the perceptions of open data.

Arguably the most visible aspect of the recent drive for more open data in the UK has been the Transparency agenda that was implemented by the current coalition government last year. At the core of the agenda is the publication of all public spending information worth over £500 on local government level and over £25,000 on central government respectively.

With the agenda, government hopes to release nothing less than – in the words of Community Secretary Eric Pickles (con)  – “a revolution in Town Hall openness” which would effectively result in increased accountability and a dramatic cut in public waste. Moreover, information would be presented in a linked and open format, which is hoped to encourage the public to exploit it in a variety of ways.

Despite the very early nature of the agenda, some initial observations can already be made on the impacts and perceptions of the project.

Sadly, it seems that the level of public interest towards data is relatively low: according to some local government data producers nearly non-existent. In a survey conducted earlier this year (1), a vast majority of local government officials responsible of publishing spending data shared a view that the number of data downloads and page hits on council’s open data pages is significantly smaller than expected. In addition, data producers fear that the general level of understanding of data is minimal due to the lack of proper context.

Other studies seem to indicate similar findings. In aggregate level, the general public is not interested in spending data and thus the expectations of immediate benefits of the agenda appear to have been overly optimistic. This could potentially be a significant problem in terms of arguing for more data transparency. Data need to have a proper context and thus be more relevant to public in order to be exploited efficiently and in a productive manner. In case of spending data, the demand and context does not seem to be there yet.

Another problem that has been imminent is the partly politicised environment in which the transparency debate has taken place. Instead of potential positive impacts of open data, the main arguments that have flown have usually been either accusations of the coalition government using transparency as a “gimmick for more cuts” or of Labour-led councils trying to cover up their “reckless waste of tax payers’ money”. Central and local governments have accused each other, as well, with Department for Communities and Local Government blaming LG on hugging their data and making up excuses for not releasing them while LG feels that guidance given from central government has been inappropriate, or even rubbish at times.

It may very well be true that open data is no silver bullet, but despite these early setbacks, we at the Institute feel that there is no reason to abandon open data, far from it. Given the skeptical views towards the transparency agenda it is even more crucial to conduct research on the practical solutions that have arisen and to examine whether open data policies have supported the applicability of data, thus potentially resulting in smaller scale success stories. Spending data is, after all, only one aspect of the whole open data phenomenon. Wider discussion on the intrinsic justification of open data and its conceptual relationship with other aspects of open society is also needed. 

We care about open data. We care about it because we believe in the creative value of sharing and that things can always be done better. The open data revolution will probably never shake the very foundations of our society, but at least it could nudge us towards a more responsive and collaborative society, where common resources would be put into proper use for the common good.

Antti Halonen
Fellow at the Finnish Institute in London

(1) Research conducted by author. Results not yet published.

Open Data Monthly Review 9/2011

A review of latest news and blog posts in the field of open data.


Finnish Big Brother Awards 2011
Electronic Frontier Finland Effi ry has given the Finnish 2011 Big Brother Awards on Sunday, 11th September. This year’s Big Brothers are Ministry of Internal affairs (public sector category), Google (business category) and the former Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (individual category). Special Life Work Award went to Jouni Laiho, civil servant in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Independent Transparency and Privacy Review
The British Cabinet Office has published an independent review of the impact of transparency on privacy. The review was commissioned to inform the Government’s approach to the release of data as part of the Transparency Agenda.

Using Open Data To Understand War And Peace
A new project, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, will make hard-to-find data on war and conflict available to academics–and help crowdsource military tactics.

Maude: ‘open data reducing death rates’
Government minister Francis Maude has said the coalition’s approach to opening access to public data will not only transform public services, but in some cases has seen a reduction in death rates.

Open Data Key to Driving Public Sector Modernisation
The modernisation of the public sector lies in openly publishing data say a panel of public sector experts. Publishing data will allow developers to create new ways for the sector to reach their audience at little cost to the organisations themselves. This is the view of a panel of public sector experts at a recent round table debate held by hosting specialist UKFast.

Open Data Center Alliance Holds Cloud, Data Center Best Practices Contest
Open Data Center Alliance announced it has launched “Conquering the Cloud Challenge,” a competition to find best practices for cloud and data center solutions with a $10,000 grand prize. The contest is open to corporations, universities and non-profits which are in the planning stages, developing solutions, or have already implemented cloud-based solutions.

Being open about aid
Transparency seems to be the new standard in the development aid industry. After facing harsh criticism in recent years for being ineffective and wasteful, many NGOs now prioritise openness and honesty over how they spend their money. And it’s not only NGOs opening up, this week the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands announced that the majority of data about Dutch aid budgets will be accessible to the general public.

Privacy review sounds alarm on open data
The government’s open data programme could pose threats to individual privacy unless immediate steps are taken, an independent review for the Cabinet Office warns today. The review, entitled Transparent Government, Not Transparent Citizens, by Professor Kieron O’Hara of Southampton University, warns that the distinction between private and public data could be threatened by the government’s proposed “right to data”.

Open Data Center Alliance, Open Compute Project Team Up on Standards
Data center organizations The Open Data Center Alliance and Open Compute Project announced they are collaborating to define system and data center specifications. The partnership is designed to drive adoption of efficient data center and infrastructure design, stimulate rapid hardware innovation, and encourage greater openness and industry collaboration.

E.U. Sets 2013 Deadline for Open Source Public Data Mining Portal
Sticking with her original deadline announced last year, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes told a European interoperability standards forum that a public portal for access to government and public data from across the continent is on track to go online in Spring 2012. Following that, the next stage in Comm. Kroes’ agenda includes an ambitious project to launch a community-built, crowd-sourced public data platform for all of Europe.


Building an Open Data Repository: Lessons and Challenges by Limor Peer
The Internet has transformed scholarly research in many ways. Open access to data and other research output has been touted as a crucial step toward transparency and quality in science. This paper takes a critical look at what it takes to share social science research data.

Evaluating the Impact of Open Data Websites by Eleonore Fournier-Tombs
Over the past few years, the steady increase in the number of government open data websites has led to a call for appropriate evaluation tools. While some have expressed optimism as to the potential of government open data, others have been more hesitant. This paper therefore aims to answer the following question: how does one evaluate the success of open data websites in reaching democratic objectives?


ComputerworldUK: Open Data: Help “Make it Real” and Making Open Data Real: A Response

Demos: The future of open data The Economics of Open Data – Mini-Case, Transit Data & TransLink

Global Integrity: Is Open Data a Good Idea for the Open Government Partnership?

The Guardian: Public data’s Desert Island challenge: which dataset would you pick?

Library Journal: How the W3C Has Come To Love Library Linked Data

NewScientist: Subversive apps help citizens fight state silencing

OpenGongress: Economic benefits of open data

Open Knowledge Foundation: How to Build an Open Data Initiative for your City

Spatial Sustain: Why should open geospatial data and software be taken seriously?

techPresident: Analysis Based on Open Data Finds Many Federal Websites Are Behind the Times

techPresident: The Europe Roundup: A Good Week For Open Data

Wellcome Trust: #Solo11: Open data = sooner treatments?


Shayne Burgess: Build Great Experiences on Any Device with OData

Alexander Howard: Open Data + Maps Tell The Local Story of Unemployment, Recovery, Spending

Alexander Howard: On open data, open government and the Open Government Partnership

John Karr and William S. Cole: Open Data Opens New Potential for International Development

Todd Park: Unleashing the Power of Data and Innovation To Improve Health

Tom Steinberg: How to create sustainable open data projects with purpose

Dick Vinegar: Power to the patients, even the reluctant ones

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