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.

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.