India Open Data Summit, 2015

ODSummit1Open Knowledge India, with support from the National Council of Education Bengal and the Open Knowledge micro grants, organised the India Open Data Summit on February, 28. It was the first ever Data Summit of this kind held in India and was attended by Open Data enthusiasts from all over India. The event was held at Indumati Sabhagriha, Jadavpur University. Talks and workshops were held throughout the day. The event succeeded in living up to its promise of being a melting point of ideas.

The attendee list included people from all walks of life. Students, teachers, educationists, environmentalists, scientists, government officials, people’s representatives, lawyers, people from the tinseltown — everyone was welcomed with open arms to the event. The Chief Guests included the young and talented movie director Bidula Bhattacharjee, a prominent lawyer from the Kolkata High Court Aninda Chatterjee, educationist Bijan Sarkar and an important political activist Rajib Ghoshal. Each one of them added value to the event, making it into a free flow of ideas. The major speakers from the side of Open Knowledge India included Subhajit Ganguly, Priyanka Sen and Supriya Sen. Praloy Halder, who has been working for the restoration of the Sunderbans Delta, also attended the event. Environment data is a key aspect of the conservation movement in the Sunderbans and it requires special attention.

ODSummit2The talks revolved around Open Science, Open Education, Open Data and Open GLAM. Thinking local and going global was the theme from which the discourse followed. Everything was discussed from an Indian perspective, as many of the challenges faced by India are unique to this part of the world. There were discussions on how the Open Education Project, run by Open Knowledge India, can complement the government’s efforts to bring the light of education to everyone. The push was to build up a platform that would offer the Power of Choice to the children in matters of educational content. More and more use of Open Data platforms like the CKAN was also discussed. Open governance not only at the national level, but even at the level of local governments, was something that was discussed with seriousness. Everyone agreed that in order to reduce corruption, open governance is the way to go. Encouraging the common man to participate in the process of open governance is another key point that was stressed upon. India is the largest democracy in the world and this democracy is very complex too.Greater use of the power of the crowd in matters of governance can help the democracy a long way by uprooting corruption from the very core.

ODSummit3Opening up research data of all kinds was another point that was discussed. India has recently passed legislature ensuring that all government funded research results will be in the open. A workshop was held to educate researchers about the existing ways of disseminating research results. Further enquiries were made into finding newer and better ways of doing this. Every researcher, who had gathered, resolved to enrich the spirit of Open Science and Open Research. Overall, the India Open Data Summit, 2015 was a grand success in bringing likeminded individuals together and in giving them a shared platform, where they can join hands to empower themselves. The first major Open Data Summit in India ended with the promise of keeping the ball rolling. Hopefully, in near future we will see many more such events all over India.

India Open Data Census

The India City Open Data Census is an ongoing, crowd-sourced measure of the current availability of the municipal datasets across India. It is run by Open Knowledge India and was conceptualized on the last Open Data Day (February 22, 2014). Any community member can contribute to the assessment of these datasets in their municipality at any time. Census content is peer-reviewed periodically by a volunteer team called the Open Data Census Librarians, within the Indian chapter of Open Knowledge.

Presently, the census has been conducted for 7 major cities — New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. We have presently the following aspects to rate their openness: Real-Time Transit, Annual Budget, Expenditure, Election Results, Air Quality, Transport Timetables, Public Facilities, Crime Statistics, Procurement Contracts, Food Safety Inspections, Traffic Accidents, Building Permits, Service Requests, Business Permits and Business Listings. Scores are given, taking into account a number of parameters that relate to different levels of openness. A few of the basic questions that are asked, while rating a given dataset, are: Does the data exist? Is it available in bulk? Is is machine-readable? It is openly licensed? Is it publicly available? Is it online? Is the data provided on a timely and up to date basis? etc.

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The total number of existing datasets is 105. However, none of these is completely open and the percentage of open datasets found is zero therefore. What this means is that our governments have a lot of work to do and a lot of improvement is to be made to realize the potential of Open Governance in India. In many cities, like Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore and Mumbai, many of the existing datasets can be made open simply by presenting them in a machine-readable format. In other cities, the governments need to work harder, as the existing datasets for these cities lag behind on various parameters. In fact, many of the datasets do not even exist!

The Central Government of India and the Regional State Governments have overcome this issue mostly. Although, previously all datasets existed either as PDF or XLS formats, much of them are now in more machine friendly formats. However, the local governments have a long way to go, before we can have this sort of effect at the local level too. Transforming the existing datasets into machine-readable formats is the most important challenge that municipal governments face.

A much graver problem is that some of the cities’ datasets are outdated. This is another aspect that we need to focus a lot of our attention to. Further, we failed to find any data on a major head like Food Safety Inspections in any of the cities that we studied. As the census moves along further, we hope that issues like this get addressed with proper attention. Progress has been made already as we are working with governments at various levels to make the data open. One other field that needs our special attention is the visualization of data. Opening up data is one thing and making it meaningful to the general public is quite another. To that effect, we have initiated a Visualized Data platform. Presently, most of the visualizations that we have done relate to national, regional or state levels. In the coming days, we intend to include more and more visualizations related to the datasets from the local governments too.

Meeting & Workshop with KLP @ CIS, Bangalore, India

klp_mapThe last organisation we have met in Bangalore is the Karnataka Learning Partnership (KLP), an initiative launched in 2007 by the Akshara Foundation, which collects, analyses and visualises data to improve primary education in Karnataka. By browsing its website, users can find a very elaborated map and reports containing information on public primary schools. Position, availability of sanitation facilities, demographic and nutrition statistics are the kind of datasets that are being presented. Among others, public officials are making use of this material for the improvement of the decision-making process. The data comes from various sources: public administration, collaborating organisations and volunteer surveys too. Since these information is also relevant for parents, who most of them don’t have access to online resources, KLP is working on a SMS/phone based methodology for them to access the data. The results have been already proven to be really successful and the future plans include the expansion of the number of districts covered, currently 3. We invite you to watch the following video to experience more about it:

We met Gautam John, Head of KLP, former lawyer who actively works in the educational sector and initiated also Pratham Books, a non-profit publishing house that uses Creative Commons licenses to further distribution, translation and reuse of children’s books.

Together with him, we organised our event at the Centre for Internet and Society, which is a non-profit research organisation in Bangalore that works on numerous relevant issues like freedom of expression, accessibility for persons with disabilities, access to knowledge, intellectual property rights reform and openness; engaging in academic research on digital natives and digital humanities.

frameAn intense open debate characterized our workshop and many of the around twenty participants had ongoing projects to show as example of smart use of data. Most of them are indeed active members of the datameet group, the indian-wide online forum that we have already mentioned in our previous articles. We experienced about projects like theballot.in, a weekly online data publication which presents political facts and figures about the world’s largest democracy by using richly illustrated graphs and charts. Also, we could learn more about the Indian Water Portal, an organisation with a deep understanding on how to use data to improve water management; and even one member of TacticalTech talked about their activities we have recently covered. However, there were attendees who are still working on the initial phase of their projects, in areas such as the fight against sexual harassment or the improvement of waste management at neighbourhood level. Those were specially interested in topics as data collection or how to face challenges like the lack of data or citizen engagement. It was for sure an interesting session!

With this productive event, we put an end to our busy week in Bangalore. We are happy to have met such passionate activists and learned so much from them!

Update: Here you can watch the video of the theoretical part of our presentation. Not complete, apologies for that…

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/81172590[/vimeo]

Meeting @ KSHIP, Bangalore, India

Our meeting today took place in the central office of KSHIP (Karnataka State Highways Improvement Project), an initiative of the Public Works Department of the Government of Karnataka for improvement of road network of the southern indian state. By creating a special committee called [email protected], the organisation aims to include Open Governance mechanisms in its workflow, thus encouraging citizen’s participation and giving transparency more weight.

DSCF0267We were invited to be part of the second meeting of the committee and were asked to give an input on tools and strategies in the field of Open Data they could adopt to realise their goals. For us, it was really interesting to have an insight on how such a project gets developed in a public organisation from its initial state. Since the project is still in the concept phase, where the basic steps have to be defined, our presentation and the big amount of examples we introduced served as inspiration and reference of what can be done in a later phase.

DSCF0273Our participation in this meeting wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Sridhar Pabbisetty, one of the contacts we established in the indian IT-Metropolis. With a background in Computer Science and a MBA at IIM Bangalore, Sridhar is one of the most active individuals pushing Open Government initiatives and the constructive use of Open Data in India.

His activities in the field are numerous. First, he conducted the creation of opengovernanceindia.org, the first Open Data platform in India which was launched just one week before the one from the national government. Besides participating in worldwide events as the OKCon 2012, where he held a lightning presentation, he is advising administrations and organisations about the benefits of acting towards openness, allowing citizens to be part of the decision-making process and raising consciousness of a sustainable use of resources.

After leading the Center of Public Policy, he took the decision to contest for the Hebbal Assembly constituency in the Karnataka Assembly Elections (MLA) in spring 2013 obtaining encouraging results. Parallel to all of this, he initiated the Center for Inclusive Governance, a team of people that “strives to enable citizens to lead the change they want to see, helping them to understand the legal, bureaucratic, political and civil society perspectives.”. We are happy to have met such an remarkable activist today and wish him all the best for his future projects.

Bangalore has proven to be a very productive environment for our research. Next Monday, we still have our workshop at the Center of Internet and Society and look forward to discovering even more!

Meeting @ Tactical Tech, Bangalore, India

imagesTacticalTechnology Collective is the first organisation we have met as part of this intense week in Bangalore, the indian IT-Metropolis. Tactical Tech is both a dutch NGO and a registered studio company. In the beginning, the members of the organisation worked as a worldwide network of individuals, in the last years the structure has being strengthened and soon they will settle their main office in Berlin.

TacticalTech provides expertise and Know-How to NGOs, activists and rights advocates working on corruption, transparency, human rights and a long list of other relevant issues. After spending time together and analysing their needs, Tactical Tech helps them use safely and effectively digital tools and work with data visualisation for campaigning, communication and awareness making.

Besides this, the Berlin/India based NGO is sharing all this knowledge by generating a large number of contents which are available in form of films, toolkits, guides, trainings and events.

A very elaborated multimedia output

DSCF0215First, we have these wonderfully designed books and toolkits which contains guides and essential information around topics like creating and running a NGO (ngo-in-a-box, a collection of essential Open Source tools for running a small-to-medium NGO that has become a piece of cult), mobile advocacy (mobiles-in-a-box, 2008) and making media with impact (message-in-a-box, 2008). Although their work consists on analysing critically how we make use of technology (security-in-a-box), they have not forgotten the importance and effectiveness of the print and visual media. In fact, they have produced and released several movies that complete their online and printed material.

visualising_information_for_advocacy_book_pic_sWe would like to specially remark their last publication (Visualising Information for Advocacy, September 2013) which has been developed out of their experience over the last past ten years and reflects what they have learned about working with information, technology, design and networks in advocacy.

This book contains ideas, strategies and valuable information accompanied with numerous examples and successful worldwide stories that show how information can be used effectively on making awareness, telling stories and exploring issues. We definitely recommend you to get the book in case you are looking for an inspiration source and a-z guide on the topic.

And all of this with a worldwide approach! Most of the products has being translated to several languages and their workshops and trainings take place all over the world. Not to forget, events like the Info-Activism Camp they have organised twice, the last one taking place this year in Italy. This is probably a consequence of the multicultural nature of the collective.

Read, use, and pass on!

One of the reasons we are covering TacticalTech’s activities is that they are real supporters of the principles behind Open Source and Creative Commons. All their works are being released under Creative Commons licenses which allows others to take their contents as a basis for derivative works.

A remarkable proof of this collaborative potential dates back to March 2013, when Tactical Tech met with five organisations in Beirut to brainstorm ways in which their range of info-activism resources could be adapted for use by activists in the Arab region.

The interesting results contained the translation of some of their printed and online contents, the contextualization of some of the strategies in critical environments like the syrian revolution movement or the development of printed versions from existing online resources.

See you in Berlin

We wish the team behind Tactical Tech, specially Maya Indira Ganesh, who kindly received us in their office in Bangalore, a successful future and look forward to meeting them in Berlin once they move in their brand new office.

Meeting & Workshop @ Transparent Chennai, Chennai, India

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-26 um 21.12.33Transparent Chennai is a project that was started three years ago with the aim to improve the quality of data used for urban governance in Chennai, and present it in ways that help people understand and use the data for planning, monitoring, and for making claims on the government. It is housed in the Centre for Development Finance (CDF), one of three centres for research at IFMR, a business school in Chennai. This small group of researchers, mostly women, does a great job aggregating, creating and disseminating data and research about important civic issues facing the city of Chennai, including those issues facing the poor. Quoting their website: „Our work aims to empower residents by providing them useful, easy-to-understand information that can better highlight citizen needs, shed light on government performance, and improve their lives in the city.“

We met researchers Satyarupa Shekhar and Vinaya Padmanabhan, who explained Transparent Chennai’s ongoing research. In few words, their work consists on researching and collecting data with a focus on: slums and informal settlements, solid waste management, walkability and pedestrian infrastructure, and water and sanitation. A great part of this collected information is accessible in an aggregated form through the interactive map which users can find on their website.

The way they collect this data represents a laborious and passionate task. Depending on the project, they work with local residents or call for volunteers to conduct citizen surveys. They collaborate with other citizens groups and civil society organisations, and work closely with the local administration, which provides them with first-hand data. As you can read on their blog, they work closely with residents and that enables them to develop a better understanding of the problems and actual needs of the population of the city, who is at the end the one who will benefit from the output of their action.

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One successful case is the recent study about the current state and optimal location of public toilets. The results of this research are going to help the municipality to define an efficient strategy for the construction of new sanitation facilities.

Another project that showed the impact of their smart use of data: by conducting surveys, they could map the location of homeless people in different neighbourhoods of Chennai and contrasted it with the position of the existing shelters. Through this research, they could find relevant inconsistencies and propose a better distribution in order to improve the quality of life of this group of less fortunate citizens.

And Open Data? Does Transparenct Chennai release the collected data as open? We obviously formulated this question during our meeting. On the Database Section in their website, you can find some of the data sets they have generated so far. Also, and without leaving the Open Data topic, we experienced that they are participating in the Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) project. This study, led by the World Wide Web Foundation, has the goal of understanding how open data is being put to use in different countries and contexts across the developing world.

DSCF8971After this enriching exchange, we could present our workshop counting with around 15 attendees from different areas: representant of the region Tamil Nadu, Open Source activists, students, members of research institute and renewable energy initiatives,… From the beginning on, the audience showed a big interest in the data collection methodology and data visualisation tools. Many projects were mentioned during the closing discussion. For example, the results of the national rural employment programme conducted by the indian Ministry of Rural Development, which can be visualised online and downloaded as CSV file since last week only.

Finally, we were asked whether we were going to pass by Bangalore. Indeed, the capital of the Karnataka region is well known in India for being the headquarters of many Open initiatives and the participants pointed us many organisations and individuals we could meet there. For sure! Bangalore was already on our schedule and it seems that we will experience a lot there. We expect to arrive around mid november and will keep you updated!

Meeting & Workshop @ NCR, Delhi, India

Our event in the NCR (National Capital Region) would have never been possible without the support of Satyaakam Goswami. In the last 20 years, Satya has been working actively in the fields of Open Source, Open Hardware, and what we are most interested about, Open Data. As freelance consultant, he has worked with many different organisations and individuals and is the right person when it comes to bring people together. Satya has been involved in a lot of interesting projects recently. The last summer, he has mentored a big group of students as part of the programme “In Pursuit of an Idea”. Co-organised by the National Informatics Centre together with the University of Delhi, this initiative consisted in developing civic apps based on its available datasets. The resulting applications are very impressive considering that these students didn’t have advanced programming skills at the beginning. As Satya expressed, the most important positive output of this experience was the generated know-how among the participants.

Talking with Satya, we get a better overview on the actual status of Open Data in India. Connected through the datameet group initiated three years ago, activists are sharing thoughts, organising regularly meet-ups and supporting Open Culture in all regions of the country. Looking at the different threads, one can notice how dynamic the indian scene is. We had also the opportunity to meet Subhransu Sekhar, one of the developers of data.gov.in. He shared with us a lot of relevant information about the platform which is going to be improved in the new upcoming weeks with new features: regional datasets, SAAS model for cloud storing, API for accessing data and new on-site visualisations. They are not only releasing the code as open source, they also help building similar platforms in Ghana and Rwanda.

DSCF8783Hosted in the new office of Kayako Support Systems Pvt. Ltd. situated in the 16th floor of one of the business buildings in Gurgaon, our workshop gathered developers from the company as well as interested people from various backgrounds. After the usual theoretical and practical part, the open debate contained this time the presentations of a couple of interesting Open Data related projects. First, Isha Parihar introduced us two products the dutch non-profit foundation Akvo has developed: Akvo Flow, a tool for conducting geo-referenced field surveys for international development teams and Akvo Openaid, a web platform for publishing development aid data in a human-friendly format. These and other products have been released as Open Source.

DSCF8806Secondly, again Subhransu Sekhar showed us the Data Visualizer WordPress plugin which can be easily used to generate and integrate data visualisations (graphs, maps, pie charts, …) within the widely used blogging platform. The same technology has been embedded in http://datavisualizer.in/ where the results of the upcoming elections in India will be graphically represented.

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Thanks to the co-organisers and the attendees we get a more detailed insight about the commitment of the indian public administration and the engagement of passionate fellows from the civil society. As national capital, there are a lot of things and projects going on in Delhi, and one day was unfortunately not enough to cover them all. The next workshop is waiting for us on the 26th more than 2000 kilometres down south!

Meeting & Workshop @ Smt. Hansa Mehta Library, Baroda, India

libraryFounded in 1950 and named after the university’s first chancellor, the Smt. Hansa Mehta Library represents a remarkable example of making knowledge accessible to everyone. Professor Dr. Mayank Trivedi, University librarian since 2010, gave us the opportunity to run our workshop in Baroda (Gujarat state) and to discuss with him about Knowledge Sharing in academic institutions.

trivediLeading a group of 125 staff members, Professor Dr. Trivedi has brought new ideas to the library. On his initiative and launched three months ago, the Open Knowledge Gateway is an internet platform where everyone, not only students of the university, can access a vast amount of educational content for free and in several languages. From Thesis to E-Books, through academic online courses, the daily updated database links the user to valuable information without needing to register or moving away from his desk and serves as a perfect start point for any research work.

The passion and commitment of Dr. Trivedi and his team, who have realised a tremendous effort to put all the information together, has achieved important results. Since its start, the platform has attracted more than 23000 visitors.

During our discussion, we agreed that these online resources should be more present, specially in countries where not everyone has access to traditional education. We could also experience about other interesting projects the library is currently realising. Such as IR, a platform (based on the open source software DSpace) for digitalising and archiving thesis which, among other similar repositories, is integrated in Shodnganga.

ws1Our workshop gathered around 40 participants: students, researchers and part of the library staff, what represents the most attended of our events so far. Interestingly, this time software developers and computer scientists were counted in a small number. However, this fact did not affect the general interest of the audience regarding our technical demonstration on how to visualise open data using cartodb.

ws2Teaching about open data and its visualisation in an academic context has been something new but very enriching for us and the next steps of our project. In a very relaxed atmosphere, we could exchange with the participants about the situation of Open Data in India and the benefits of open cultures, specially in the academic area. Many questions arose related to Open Source software in library science and also about where to find data sources for research purposes.

Although India has been participating in the Open Government Initiative since 2012 and the government has being releasing data on their platform since then, it is relevant to say that the majority of the attendees were not aware of this yet. Actually, the concept of Open Data and the existence of organisations as the OKFN was something new for a great number of participants. This motivates us to keep on divulging these principles. We are still visiting other places in the sub continent and look forward for the upcoming encounters.

Slides of the presentation
Slides of the presentation

Meeting & Workshop @ Webnotes Technologies, Mumbai, India

Our first encounter in India took place in the big city of Mumbai, where we were kindly invited by Web Notes Technologies to pass by their office in the Vidyavihar-West area.

Founded in 2008, the small enterprise consists of a team of young open source enthusiasts and represents one of the few Indian companies developing own open source solutions. Their main product ERPNext.com is a good example of a complete software piece being released as open source with a business model behind, which is fair and makes sense. No surprise that ERPNext.com has been recently listed as one of the top open source applications of 2013 by the magazine InfoWorld.

meetingWhile exchanging about open source and specially about open data, we discovered that they have a couple of great projects coming up soon. First, there is codeformumbai.org which is a platform that makes browsing the datasets available on the Indian open data website more easily and user-friendly. Interestingly, this clever approach was conceived and implemented in less than 24 hours as part of a Hackathon the government organised.

But this tool is just in a very early stage. According to their plans, it will become a more complete solution to address the main problems that most open data platforms are facing today: format standardisation and dataset categorisation. A new upcoming version should participate in the App challenge organised at data.gov.in till the 30th September. Full support for them!

participantsAfter this enriching meeting, we could run our workshop on the spot and were happy to count around 20 people among the audience. While most of them had an IT-background as the previous sessions in Europe, we also gathered various profiles this time, youngsters and seniors, girls and boys, students, executive directors, architects and political activists. Their interest focused particularly in the visualisation part and its technical tools. Many attendees were indeed already working with a certain amount and kind of data, but still searching how to visualise and use it. Our examples in the political area and our data mappings were very inspiring for their work.

erpnextMumbai and north of India are not so much advanced regarding open data initiatives as southern regions, the audience pointed out. Probably one of the reasons why the debate brought rather new ideas and projects being currently developed instead of finished ones. For example, one of the participants is developing a platform which fights human trafficking by helping families to recognize lost children working illegally in the streets of Mumbai. Also, the project Karnakata Election Watch, a platform to report election irregularities in this southern region, was presented and remembered us the similar initiative of za’lart we covered in Albania.

As we experienced, some big steps have been already made. India participates in the Open Government Initiative since 2012 and counts already lots of datasets on its Open Data Platform, mostly about economics, and organises Hackatons and App Challenges to promote their use. Other topics are being covered independently as by the United Nations – DevInfo, so we can state that something is happening in the sub continent regarding Open Data. However, something we would love to see, is its participation in the Open Government Partnership. We believe this can become true soon since India is on the list of the eligible countries 2013 and could apply to take part in this promising initiative.

Our next event will take place in the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, 400km north from Mumbai. After that, we will head south to experience ourselves the differences between indian regions and discover new Open Knowledge related projects there.

Slides of the presentation
Slides of the presentation