Meeting @ INRIA Chile, Santiago, Chile

DSCF6053South America presents a very active environment in terms of Open Data so we didn’t want to loose time and scheduled our first meeting for the next day after our arrival. At their great offices in Santiago’s downtown area, the team from INRIA Chile welcomed us warmly for a great encounter where we could get lots of useful information about Open Data in Chile and its neighbouring countries.

As a joint initiative from both the french research centre INRIA and the chilean innovation incubator CORFO, the non-for-profit organization INRIA Chile is working on several areas (ITC, renewable energies, transparency) with the focus of putting technology in action for society’s good. For this purpose, they rely greatly on data-collection and analysis mechanisms which represent the component of their work we wanted to discover about.

DSCF6047The team of developers, researchers and engineers are developing solutions such as Adkintun, a project which monitors the quality and availability of the internet access provided by the different ISPs in the country. The goal of this project, which counts also with a mobile version for measuring 3G networks, is to ensure that customers get what they pay for, transparently. We could experience as well about their ongoing project to monitor the movement patterns of Santiago’s cyclists and to generate relevant traffic data. This information could be very helpful to support the local administration’s plans for improving the current bicycle roads in the city.

Also a member of Data Publica was among us, another french endeavour working actively with Open Data. Collaborating closely with INRIA, Data Publica is a for-profit organisation which provides a wide spectrum of services around Open Data, Big Data and data visualisation that companies, administrations and other organisations can profit from.

INRIA Chile initiated in January 2013 the event series named Data Tuesday. Taking place in different locations of Santiago every 2 months, the sessions gather experts and data enthusiasts with the aim to discuss and exchange about the state of the art, new projects and future developments. After last year´s success, Data Tuesday will continue in 2014, now with a thematic approach, the next date is the 25th March and focus on Health data.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-28 um 13.47.38The existence of such a high-profile event taking place regularly and attracting numerous attendees is another evidence of the great momentum Open Data is experiencing in Chile nowadays. After leaving the military dictatorship behind in 1990, the country has been quickly transitioning towards a democratic and transparent state. As a matter of fact, Chile belongs to the Open Government Partnership and has already built different online sites promoting Open Government initiatives and citizen’s participation. Additionally, there is an official Open Data platform (implemented with Junar) since 2011 where the government is releasing and showcasing a lot of applications that use the available datasets. Not only the public administration is putting its efforts on this line, but civil society organisations as Ciudadano Inteligente or Poderopedia, and an independent agency for transparency have been all involved.

Indeed, there is a lot going on. Sadly we won’t be in Santiago for the upcoming Data Tuesday, but INRIA Chile has invited us to run one of our sessions on a closer date. We will be happy to meet you on 10th March at their offices for our Open Data Visualisation workshop!

Meeting @ Mozilla Factory, Tokyo, Japan

When it comes to Open Source, it is mandatory to think about Mozilla. Both a company, creator of the well-known non-commercial web browser, and a foundation, promoting free and Open Source software; Mozilla is one of the big players in today’s internet scene.


Some months ago, we experienced about the creation of the Mozilla Factory in Tokyo, a place where people can practice and learn Open Source creation. Straight away, we put it on the list of projects we definitely had to cover.

 Since the Mozilla Japan team changed its office last March, a new space had to be created which reflects the principles of openness that the foundation supports. As the Mozilla creative researcher Noriatsu Kudo shared with us, the space welcomes saturdays everyone with creative ideas and offers a great workplace with lots of equipment in order to put them into action. Players and Tutors (middle, high school and college students) work together with Mentors (members of the Mozilla team and university professors) in several ongoing projects. We could see on the spot several cool concepts for the reinvention of the mouse, such as the warm-hugging one, another for working out while browsing and our favourite one; a mouse that stops functioning after too long period of use, perfect for workaholics.


Another remarkable element of this great place is its Open Source furnitures which have been designed through a collaboration with the studio NOSIGNER. From tables, through plant pots to lamps, the bright space features smart objects that can be replicated and repurposed by everyone since the drawings are available online for free.

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But this is not all! Mozilla’s new project is also worth to mention: the MozBus, a refurbished camping van turned into a nomadic web factory. Equipped with a satellite dish, power-generator and other technology items, the MozBus brings the web to remote places in Japan. On its tours, roving workshops are conducted with the purpose of raising awareness and teaching Open Source to those that cannot afford a trip to the headquarters in Tokyo.

In its recent history, the country had to face tremendous natural disasters and disaster management is also one of the main missions of this great project. The MozBus is ready to drive to affected areas and provide internet infrastructure while working as a mobile hotspot and data collection station or mobile research centre.

If you happen to travel to Tokyo, we definitely encourage you to follow Mozilla Japan and to check their event calendar. We wish we could stay longer to enjoy this inspiring place!

International Open Data Day @ Kyoto, Japan

Map Open Data day

Do you know what happens on the 22nd February? If you do, you may have participated in one of the 145 events taking place worldwide for the International Open Data Day (ODD). This date „is a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments“. Targeted not only for developers or designers but for anyone willing to dive in the topic, the ODD is a great opportunity to get involved with the movement which is already changing the way citizens and government interact.

With the only constraints that the events should be open and take place on the 22.02, local communities are free to shape the form and contents as they want. Since we are currently in Japan, we looked at the list of the 33 events in the country and decided to attend the one in Kyoto.

DSCF5876There, a small group of volunteers (coming from the public and private sector such as members of the OpenStreetMap Foundation) initiated for the first time in the Kansai region a session of the Open Data Day. The event was created and managed via Facebook and took place in the coworking space of the Research Park Machiya Studio. More than 40 participants, a mix of all ages and professions from the surrounding region, were gathered by the wish to learn together how to digitally share knowledge and make use of it. OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia were on the agenda and the attendees were separated in four groups to explore four different areas close to the venue. Because Kyoto is the ancient capital city of Japan and counts with numerous historical places, the central theme was to search for old buildings and places of interest in order to report them on the both collaborative platforms and thus extend the quantity and quality of the data already available. After finding out the basics and downloading the Pushpin OSM mobile editor, each group could go out and start working.


Today´s event was a great environment to research about the general status of Open Data in Japan. If a program for Building e-Government was launched from 2003, the first initiatives were not implemented before 2008, when a public CIO forum was set up and these efforts led afterwards to the creation of the so-called Open Government Strategy in 2012. This development proved to be extremely relevant after the devastating earthquake in 2011. Indeed, thanks to the short-term coordination and reaction possibilities that existing data (partly real-time) facilitated, the damage could be effectively reduced. Actually, disaster management is one of the main focus within the japanese strategy regarding public data.

Fast forward to last year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication released Datameti, a test platform for sharing governmental data. However, this was not done in an open way (copyright licensed) so it was December 2013 when the official central open data platform was launched, also in beta version but this time using Creative Commons licenses. On this platform, built using OKFN’s Open Source framework CKAN, users can find datasets categories by the different ministries and agencies releasing them.

Although there are still many issues to be solved, such as statistical information regarding budget and expenditures still being released under copyright, the overall situation of the Open Data movement in Japan is good. A prolific future is certainly asserted by the engagement of organisations and citizens all over the country, like those taking part in this year’s Open Data Day.

Workshop @ DimSumLabs, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

DSCF5384On our single date in Hong Kong, we were welcomed by the members of another hackerspace, what made us think about the great encounters we had during the first two months we spent in Europe. Dim Sum Labs (DSL) is located on the Hong Kong island, surrounded by a large number of incredibly high skyscrapers. A small but very cozy space full of tools and electronic devices serves as a meeting point and working space for a group of around thirty hackers/makers. DSL hosts regular events like Hackjams, Free Software development evenings and workshops where everyone can learn about electronics, build creative things and have a good time meeting people. Running our workshop there was possible thanks to the help of Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK), a group of passionate individuals that joined forces one year ago and is actively promoting Open Data in the HK region, building a network and organising events around the topic. Our session took place as part of their regular Meet series.

As ODHK has already done a great job making awareness on the benefits of Open Data, we decided not to present our usual beginners targeted workshop and prepared new contents that would be more suitable for the attendees. On the video below, you can see our recap of the most exciting projects we have discovered till now.


DSCF5389The open discussion following our presentation was extremely interesting, probably because of Hong Kong’s unique context. Since centuries, the archipelago has been a cultural melting pot and nowadays shows a very open character in areas such as culture, demographics and economy. Since its retrocession to China in 1997, Hong Kong owns a special status: the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This guarantees a certain independency regarding Open Data/Open Government policies that allows the existence of an Open Data platform although there is no, as in mainland, Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). The HK administration shows itself quite active promoting openness, organises Hackathons and sponsors competitions to encourage the use of the released data. Also, a governmental initiative called Digital21 ensures that public information gets released in machine-readable formats by the time it is created, similar as it happens in the US/UK.

Although our stay in HK was quite short, we have learned a lot from the activists of this amazing metropole. We would like to thank again ODHK for their collaboration and wish them a lot of success on their future activities, specially finding a great space for their headquarters!

Slides of the presentation
Slides of the presentation

Meeting @ Mekong River Commission, Vientiane, Lao PDR

mrc1 For our last meeting in Southeast Asia, we headed to the Lao PDR capital to document the Data Portal developed and maintained by the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS). The agency represents an inter-governmental initiative between four (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam) of the six countries located in the Mekong Basin which, quoting from its website; acts as a joint management of shared water resources and sustainable development of the Mekong River.

The focus of our meeting, held with two members of the IT Team, was to discover more about its Data and Information Services Portal launched in 2005. The MRCS Portal is the access point for data, information and services provided by MRCS via the Internet. It provides access to quality assured datasets, atlases, model setup, model results, Google Earth overview, map services etc. On this platform, built using Open Source technologies, real time water level and quality data among other Mekong Basin related information are available as interactive maps, reports and multimedia contents. As we could experience, the data is being aggregated from different governmental agencies, MRCS Programmes, but also automatically transferred from a network of 47 hydro-meteorological stations within the region, which continuously feed “near” real-time information to the system.


Users can register for free to access the data. Daily, about 40 to 90 visitors from national agencies, research institutes, academia, students and companies accessed the Portal since 2011 when the redesigned Portal was launched. Only registered users who had signed a license agreement can download or purchase data sets. Compared to Open Data platforms, there are restrictions when it comes to downloading and using the information. Depending on the categorisation of the contents, some fees may apply. All users, except internal ones who are national agencies, are required to pay for handling services. The data are owned by the countries, and they are happy to share them among the member countries, but not all the data are meant to be readily available on the website.

Along this line, we could discuss with MRCS’s IT-Team about the benefits of releasing the data in an open manner. As the intention of the portal is to make the data available in a usable way, choosing open licenses for the content would contribute to the goals behind it and might be implemented in the near future. Although, this decision requires a common agreement between MRC’s member countries.

Talking about the future, the team revealed us some interesting new features the platform will offer with an upcoming update. Raw text will be replaced by XML as the chosen format to release the data, users will be able to combine multiple layers on the interactive maps and the last research results about climate change will be soon available increasing the number of datasets.

Back to the context in Laos, there is, as we already experienced in Cambodia and Thailand, no official Open Data platform. Neither we could find any other data portal or similar projects during our research in this country.