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

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