The gap between what can be done with Big Data and what should be done with it remains, in the words of Edwina Dunn, a form of art and is a particularly difficult issue from a legislative point of view. According to StJohn Deakins, the key to both more accurate and insightful data and to people’s willingness to share their data lies in creating a reciprocal relationship between the individual and the party holding the data. Dunn argued in the same vein that instead of collecting data behind people’s backs, businesses and organisations should aim to build a relationship of transparency and trust with them. Her rule of thumb for the use of Big Data is that it must always benefit the individual, too, not just for the party holding it. If done right, such a two-way relationship could bring phenomenal leaps forward. Dunn praised the Finnish tax system, which combines data from tax officials, banks, and the individuals, as an example of a successful data sharing relationship. Professor Parkin, on the other hand, brought up Facebook as an example of how people are willing to give up a very large amount of data about themselves as long as they feel they benefit from sharing it. He also suggested that people would feel more involved in society were they aware that revealing more data of themselves would be of general benefit.
The danger of breach of privacy predictably emerged as one of the main threats associated with using Big Data. Edwina Dunn remarked that as the customer is the ultimate judge on a company’s actions, brands value the element of trust most highly. Misuse of data can at worst lead to the removal of the permission to use it. While people should be aware of the data they are giving away and take precautions by for example encrypting it, the main responsibility of the security of data should still lie with the businesses and organisations in hold of and using it, StJohn Deakins said. This highlights building a relationship of trust that is based on reality between the individual and society. The misinterpretation of data was seen as another threat, leading potentially to the wrong conclusions and action taken based on it.
All in all, however, the panel was optimistic about the future of Big Data. Professor Parkin encouraged taking more advantage of scientific open source platforms, which would help accelerate the pace of innovation. He also argued that many of the future benefits or developments of Big Data would be impossible to foresee, just as it would have been impossible to envision the technologies we use today 30 years ago. Parkin nevertheless predicted that education would take huge leaps forward, with more people gaining access to education online, and education becoming more individualised. Francine Bennett identified the utilities industry as a potential field for Big Data. She also recommended combining government data over silos more often than is done at the present. Both Edwina Dunn and StJohn Deakins said that the advertising industry would benefit greatly from Big Data by gaining more insight of people, and therefore becoming more relevant to them. In fact, Deakins argued that in the future advertising as such might disappear completely and be replaced by providing information that is of benefit to the individual.
|Image by: Sampo Viiri, CC BY-SA 4.0|
Wikidata is a blooming project, a free centralised knowledge base for structured data that can be read and edited by humans and machines alike. While Wikimedia Commons is for storing images, sound, video and other media files, Wikidata is a similar service for machine-readable data. Wikidata could benefit all kinds of projects but in my opinion one important possible use would be to become a repository for academic researchers who need infrastructure for storing their digital research data.
In the United Kingdom the copyright law was altered in June 2014 so that it allows non-commercial researchers to legally copy material for a text and data mining analysis. ContentMine is a new initiative that exploits this new possibility. They use machine-reading to liberate 100 million facts from the scientific literature and make them free for everyone in Wikidata. This can enable new and exciting research, technology developments such as in artificial intelligence, and opportunities for wealth creation.
Histropedia is a new UK based project that made its public debut at the conference. It is an interactive tool to display historical events and described as “a combination of maps, timelines, and trends”. The site pulls data from Wikidata and Wikipedia plotting events on a timeline which is navigated with simple interface. (Demonstration in Guardian website.)
|Participants gathered on the Barbican courtyard. Adam Novak CC BY-SA 4.0|
Firstly, the Finnish Institute is starting a project which looks into the visibility and impact of contemporary art in society in Finland, the UK and Ireland. More of this project can be read in this blog later. Presumably there would be plenty of possibilities of intertwining this project into the work we’ve done on open knowledge.
The Finnish Institute’s work on open knowledge dates back to 2011, when we compiled a report on the development of open data policies in the UK and subsequently started to promote the subject in the Finnish societal discussion. Recently our focus has gradually shifted towards the role of openness in cultural sector organisations, such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums. In the world of Open, they are collectively known by the acronym GLAM.
OpenGLAM offers intriguing opportunities for a cultural institute like the Finnish Institute. This is partly because our mission is to apply methods of social sciences and arts in order to identify emerging issues in contemporary societies and take thinking of social challenges and cultural practices in new, positive directions. We recognise the immense value of cultural data that may still lie behind barriers of accessibility and understandability and work to raise awareness on the importance of public domain. In this regard OpenGLAM offers a huge potential in both enrichening the arts and culture sector but also in the very key societal questions, such as education (museum pedagogy) and quality of decision-making (access to archival material).
According to the festival session Maintaining a healthy and thriving public domain – exploring the notion of originality and copyright when digitising analogue works, there is an increasing need to encourage culture sector organisations to release those contents that should legally be in public domain under actual public domain licenses. This is not always the case: many organisations apply restricting licenses to contents that should be placed in the public domain which causes both confusion and also at some scale frustration for open knowledge practitioners.
One suggestion of how to encourage GLAMs included generating a rating system similar to five star open data model. However, it is worth asking whether a rating system would in fact discourage culture sector organisations of releasing their contents, as they would be afraid of getting bad results despite a genuine will to be open. Arguably it would be better for the organisation to have no mention of rating at all than to have ⅕ stars.
Therefore, it seems that there is a demand for creating new methodologies of evaluating the value of public domain for society at large and most importantly for GLAMs themselves. In this work we could potentially apply both the existing work of Open Knowledge and their OpenGLAM Benchmark Survey and methodologically, our own upcoming research on the significance of modern art. Having said that, we would also like to know if there already is a widely accepted method of evaluating the qualitative and quantitative value of public domain for culture sector organisations, or if such an evaluation is not considered necessary.
Secondly, after several discussions with the delightfully plentiful array of Finnish contacts at Open Knowledge Festival, it emerged that there would be a real demand for:
a) strengthening the international ties in the field of open data and open knowledge research
b) giving young Finnish open data researchers / practitioners an opportunity to work a short while in the UK, which is recognised as one of the leading European countries in the field of open data.
There is an intriguing opportunity to look into possibilities of creating an open data fellowship program that would possibly intertwine with our existing fellowship programme for museum and archives sector professionals. Mobius-fellowship offers Finnish, British and Irish museum and archives professionals an opportunity to spend a three-month period in an international partner organisation. For a young Finnish open data practitioner, for instance, it might be useful to be able to spend a couple of months in the UK and to work within the British open data community.
These are not finalised programme plans, but merely ideas what the Finnish Institute might do in the future regarding open knowledge. In the name of openness, if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas, we’d be happy to receive them. Similarly, we’d be delighted should you wish to start a project of your own based on these ideas.
Sampo Viiri blogs about the Finnish Open Cultural Data course’s study trip to London 15–16 May 2014.
What is the gender gap in open knowledge community and how to improve it? This article was originally meant to be published in The Open Book, but was unfortunately left out in the final editing process. The study was facilitated by Mayo Fuster Morell from Berkman Centre for Internet and Society and developed in collaboration with the Gender & diversity stream of Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki last year.
This contribution to the Open Book presents an study to monitor gender at Open Knowledge Festival (OKFest). As in any other event, the monitoring of gender at OKFest aims to increase gender consciousness among OKFest community, and ultimately aims to contribute to reduce gender gap in open and technological sectors.
Gender gap refers to the “gap” in gender equality, that is, when one gender predominates more than and over the other. We acknowledge that gender equality is more complex than gender balance (that is, equal presence of male and female). However, in this study we adopt gender balance as an indicator of gender equality, also assuming that better gender balance contributes to improve gender equality.
Gender “what”? What is this about?
Gender gap is the difference between women and men involvement. To provide some data to exemplify the gender gap, according to surveys developed in Wikipedia, around 88% of Wikipedia editors are male (Source: Wikimedia Foundation Annual Editors Survey 2011); according to a EU survey, 98.5% of developers in free and open source software projects are male, while they are 70% in the software industry (Source: Gender: Integrated Report of Findings. UCAM, University of Cambridge. March 2006). This is also present in conference. According to our counting from Wikisym – International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (http://www.wikisym.org), at Wikisym there is 89% men at Symposium Committee (8 men / 1 woman), 78% men in Program Committee (54 men /12 women) and 80% of the program of speakers were men .
Most technological sectors (even if not in all) are more populated by male, and projects, communities and conference in those sectors might reproduce it. However, this is not a uneatable situation. Furthermore, in some occasions the projects, communities and events not only reproduce the gender balance in its sectors, but more importantly, results in worth gender balance percentage that do not represent the sector. Importantly, projects, communities and conference could help to improve the gender balance in its sectors. There are ways to solve the gender gap projects and conferences which are gender conscience and put in practices the methodologies than reduce gender gap are able to generate gender balanced communities. This is the case of Wikihow (a community about how to manuals) which has an almost gender balance community of contributors (Source: Women in Wikihow presentation at Wikimania 2012 (http://wikimania2012.wikimedia.org/wiki/Submissions/Women_on_wikiHow). The same could be said to academic institutions such as the Berkman center for Internet and society at Harvard University (which according to our counting from its web, the Berkman center program of fellows for 2011 and 2012 is gender balanced). This is also the case of technological conferences such Personal Democracy Forum with a speaker gender balance of 60% men 40% women according to our counting (Source: http://personaldemocracy.com/conferences/nyc/2012/archive).
Which is the methodology of this event gender balance monitoring?
This study was facilitated by Mayo Fuster Morell and developed in collaboration with the Gender & diversity stream of OKFest. The methodology was based on counting male and female presence in each of the ways to engage with a conference. We acknowledge that gender is a complex constructions that goes beyond female and male categories, such as the hermaphrodite. However, for this study we used the categorization of gender as female and male for methodological purposes. We classified people according to their names or/and apparency in pictures in the web.
This study is available at a wiki together with data on other events: http://wiki.digital-commons.net/Gender
Data on gender at OKFest 2012
Visualization provided by Michael Bauer
Mean of % of gender balance in all the categories at OKFest = 26,83%
* Core Organizing Team: 83.33% m / 16.6% w
* Advisory Board: 75% m / 25% w
* Guest Programmer Planners: 59% m / 41 % w
* Featured Speakers: 81% m / 19% w
* Speakers: 72.5% m / 27,5% w
* Participant Testimonial: 71,5% m / 28,5% w
|Total people||% Gender Balance|
|Core Organizing Team||Total 6 = 5 m + 1 w||83.33% m / 16.6% w|
|Advisory Board||Total 16 = 12 m + 4 w||75% m / 25% w|
|Guest Programmers||Total 63 = 37 m + 26 w||59% m / 41 % w|
|Featured Speakers||Total 26 = 21 m + 5 w||81% m / 19% w|
|Speakers||Total 381 = 276 m + 105 w||72.5% m / 27,5% w|
|Gender balance per stream:|
|Ranking of women inclusion|
|1. Gender and Diversity in Openness (75% w)|
|2. Open Cultural Heritage (42,85% w)|
|3. Open Development (38,88% w)|
|4. Data Journalism & Data Visualization (38,09% w)|
|5. Transparency & Accountability (32,96 w)|
|6. Open Research & Education (24,24% w)|
|7. Business and Open Data (24% w)|
|8. Open Geodata (22,22% w)|
|9. Open Democracy & Citizen Movements (21% w)|
|10. Open Knowledge & Sustainability (19,35% w)|
|11. Open Cities (17,24% w)|
|12. Open Design, Hard., Man. & Making (15,6% w)|
|13 Open Source Software (9,09 % w)|
|Participant Testimonials on the web||Total 14 = 10 m + 4 w||71,5% m / 28,5% w|
|m = men w = women|
Overview and best practices insights from OKFest for improving gender at conferences
Some points for an overview of gender performance at OKFest and insights on best practices for women engagement in Internet and technology related conferences:
i) OKFest 2012 had a gender and diversity in openness stream in its program, which was not the case in previous OKFest, and it is not common in other conferences on Internet and society issues.
ii) This OKFest had several sessions in the program on gender, more than in the program of previous OKFest years.
iii) The Gender Stream had a 75% of female and 25% men. For next occasions, it might be good to see how to better balance it and engage more male in the Gender stream. However, this seems a better % than other gender events in which around 95% are female. Even if the Gender Stream is predominantly female, this had the good effect of contributing to rate the female presence in the overall conference. Over all to have a gender stream has increased the overall gender balance of the conference. In this regard, it seems a recommend best practice to other Internet & Society related events to have gender specific activities in order to attrack women.
iv) Overall OKFest had a balance of 73.16% male and 26,83% female. In this regard, OKFest has a long process to do in order to assure gender diversity and inclusion in the conference and to keep working in that direction is something to do. However, in contrast to other Internet & society conference, the actual balance at OKFest is not the worth (conference like Wikisym are around 85% male dominated, but better cases in contrast to OKfest can also be found like Open Personally Forum with 60% male 40% gender balance). In sum, there is much to be done, but this is not the worse starting point.
v) What it seems to be more problematic is what happened in some specific stream topics at OKFest 2012. That “Open Software” stream was the worth (with 91% male 9% female) is not a surprise, neither that “Hardware, Manufactures & Making” was also bad (15,6% female). However, it is in certain degree a negative surprise that topic streams like “Open Cities” (82% male 17,24% female) and “Open Democracy & Citizen Movements” (79% male 21% female) performed so badly. Those are topics that could be said that has less challenging aspects to include women that other streams. These results open up questions such as: How can we think cities or democracy with such a poor involvement of women?. For future OKFest editions there could be done a more explicit effort for assuring that the balance in those (and all) streams to be better.
vi) Observing the relationship between guest program organization and the number of speakers per stream seems to suggest that (in some cases) involving more women in organizational tasks tend to have a higher presence of more women in the program of speakers. However, the data does not provide strong statistically significant support for this.
vii) The distribution of travel bursaries making sure it also favors women could be a way to assuring women participation.
Institute’s Head of Society Programme Antti Halonen writes about government transparency, open data and freedom of information
Finland has one of the oldest freedom of information (FOI) laws in the world and – like its Nordic counterparts – its government is frequently considered one of the best-functioning and less-corrupted. The spirit of Chydenius and Forskål has encouraged Finland to showcase itself as a frontrunner of government transparency and good governance. Since its inclusion to the European Union in 1995, the Nordic state has argued for greater transparency within the supranational body, and in 2011 the newly elected Finnish government made open data one of its principle objectives in its government programme. Earlier this year, Finland joined Open Government Partnership, a new intergovernmental project for more transparent and accountable societies.
This was the setup for an all-afternoon discussion event held at the residence of the Finnish Ambassador, HE Pekka Huhtaniemi on 30 May. The event was organised by the Finnish Institute, Embassy of Finland, Center for the Study of British Politics and Public Life at Birkbeck University and the University of Helsinki.
The first part of the event comprised of a lecture by Dr Tero Erkkilä from the Department of Political and Economic studies at the University of Helsinki and a commentary from Dr Ben Worthy from Birkbeck University. Dr Erkkilä has recently published a book “Government Transparency and its Unintended Consequences” where he forms an argument on how the conceptual shift from publicity to openness and transparency has in fact lead to several paradoxes in terms of democratic accountability and accessibility of public sector information.
The second part consisted of a panel with Christopher Cook (Financial Times), Paul Gibbons (SOAS) and Dr Gesche Schmid (Local Government Association) sharing their views and answering questions on the topics of the event.
One of the outlining themes of Dr Erkkilä’s lecture was the gradual shift in discourse from publicity towards market-oriented transparency. In the 1970s freedom of information was perceived mostly in democratic terms, as a right to access governmental documents, whereas during the 1990s the government started to realise the market potential of public sector information and the efficiency-driven term transparency began to emerge.
This conceptual shift together with Finns’ high trust towards their government has lead to a one example of unintended consequences, that being the economic exploitation of information such as census data. When government started to see public sector information as an economic commodity and started to attach a price tag to data, citizens’ access to this information arguably became more restricted.
The consensus-driven political culture has arguably lead to another unintended consequence, that being the “grey area” of openness, where the relevant information is being circulated among the decision making elite, but where the information will not necessarily reach the general public.
Dr Worthy responded to the lecture by contrasting the long tradition of FOI in Finland with the secretive administrative culture of the UK. However, certain similar trends seem to emerge in both countries due to the digitisation of information and the evolving efficiency-driven discussion around the role of public sector and provision of public services.
The panel further strengthened the observation of increasingly efficiency-oriented transparency discourse. Dr Gesche Schmid pointed out that especially in the UK the recent open data agenda has foremost focused on saving public resources. Open data agenda started as a technology-driven initiative but later on has transformed into primarily a way to save public resources.
Another interesting argument concerned the usability of data. According to Christopher Cook, comment editor of Financial Times, much of the data that is released as open data is almost unusable for the journalists since the data is not designed for using. Instead, there are datasets that are released under license and that are designed for journalists’ purposes. National Pupil Database is a good example of a dataset that is restricted from the public use, but selected individuals have access to it under a strict license.
Paul Gibbons, the creator of FOIman blog, pointed out the increasing division between FOI and open data. It is argued that the goals of the open data agenda have less and less resemblance with the initial democratic goals of FOI. Moreover, some of the most senior figures in the British public policy have recently argued in favour of proactive release of open data to replace the reactive FOI. Prime Minister David Cameron has even argued that FOI is merely “furring up the arteries of government”.
Gibbons further highlighted the importance of records management. In fact, one unintended consequence of open data might be the undermining of records management profession. In order to ensure the good quality of data and to protect privacy, it is crucial to involve records management into open data processes, because in many places records management professionals possess the required legal knowledge and have enabled the everyday mechanics of good governance.
Of course, FOI is not the only tool for ensuring democratic accountability, but without it it is hard to contemplate any serious progression. Moreover, the question of transparency is not a zero-sum game: open data does not automatically undermine FOI, far from it. In fact, open data can be used in various innovative ways to improve the state of FOI. As Ben Worthy mentioned in his comment, interesting things will presumably happen where FOI, open data and citizen engagement interact and this is what we should further support.
The Finnish Institute together with Embassy of Finland and Birkbeck University will host a discussion event on freedom of information and open data on Thursday 30 May at the residence of the Finnish Ambassador, HE Pekka Huhtaniemi.
The event consists of two parts: we will start off with a talk by Dr Tero Erkkilä, assistant professor in the Department of Political and Economic studies at the University of Helsinki, followed by a comment from Dr Ben Worthy, lecturer in politics at the Birkbeck University. Dr Erkkilä’s talk will be based on his new book “Government Transparency: Impacts and Unintended Consequences” (Palgrave Macmillan 2012).
In the second part, we will have a panel discussion with plenty of time for questions from the floor. Christopher Cook from the Financial Times, Paul Gibbons (Information Compliance Manager at SOAS & creator of the FoI Man blog) and Dr Gesche Schmid (Programme Manager at Local Government Association) have kindly agreed to join the panel.
The event is open for everyone interested, so feel free to share the invitation but please do RSVP to tiina.heinila(at)formin.fi in advance if you’d like to attend.
Date and time: Thursday 30 May 2013, 2pm-6pm
Location: Finnish ambassador’s residence, 14 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QP
14.45-15.15 Dr Tero Erkkilä
15.15-15.45 Dr Ben Worthy
16.00-17.00 Panel and Q&A
17.00-18.00 Drinks and canapés
Transparency has recently become one of the defining concepts in public administration. Arguably transparency is now globally seen as a key part of democratic governance, and it has gained an increasingly significant status in debate over government and institutional design.
This event aims at identifying why and how transparency has become such a topical concept and how has it reacted with the rapid digital development. The main questions that will be asked are as follows:
Post-industrialised societies have recently taken a form where many key infrastructures are increasingly based on digital data and where the friction in creating and disseminating information has rapidly vanished. The amount of information available has increased exponentially and the relationship between governments and citizens in this data society has arguably changed in terms of information creation and use.
In addition to the amount of information, also the diversity of information types has increased exponentially. In the digital age information can refer to anything from genes to geodata and from literature to source code. The questions of fair access to information and universal right to use information are topical societal challenges that remain unsolved. Moreover, research results indicate towards a vast economic potential in the free reuse of public sector information.
One of the key questions for contemporary information societies, however, is to distinguish between open data’s potential for growth and innovation in one hand, and for democracy in the other. What also needs to be addressed is the potential risk of undermining freedom of information if open data policies prematurely replace reactive freedom of information laws. We need to be aware of the potential ambiguity of government transparency: does increased “transparency” in fact increase democratic accountability or merely administrative efficiency.
The event is targeted at a high-level audience consisting of policy-makers, journalists, civil servants, academics and public policy enthusiasts.