Last week I participated in the Open Data for Development Camp in Amsterdam. I joined a remarkable group of ~130 development practitioners, funders, NGO leaders, consultants and technologists all brought together by the shared vision of opening up our data so that it can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone. (This tweetable definition is as good as any, borrowed from the Open Data Manual.)
SlashOpen = /open
The idea was floated at ODDC to encourage organizations to maintain a page on their websites at the /open URL which explains in clear language their Open Data policies and how to get at the data.
Several organizations already do this, including the White House (http://whitehouse.gov/open), World Bank (http://worldbank.org/open) and the City of Toronto (http://toronto.ca/open), but it is not a standard.
Let’s talk about it – what do you think should be on every SlashOpen page? What are some good examples to follow? Would it be useful to have a search engine or directory of SlashOpen pages? Would you put a SlashOpen badge on your site to help spread the Open Data movement?
Making Kabissa Data Open
I was invited to ODDC specifically to offer the Kabissa contact directory of African civil society organizations as a potential Open Data data set that is self-managed by the organizations themselves.
Currently, to access and use the data in the Kabissa contact directory you need to visit our website and either browse the map or do a database search. Unless you happen to already have the direct URL to an organization profile page (e.g. http://visafrica.kabissa.org) or find it via an Internet search. Open Data presents an opportunity for Kabissa organizations to be found in many more places, including for example on maps or visualizations produced on AidData.org, in print directories produced by partners working in local communities or with specific networks, or some other information portal created by Africans seeking to connect people and organizations around common concerns, geography or issues.
It turns out that Kabissa is already known in this community and many organizations are looking for reliable sources of contact data that they can “mashup” with other data to visualize what is happening in Africa in their field or to arrive at new insights.
On the other side of the equation, ODDC hackers created an Application Programmer Interface (API) that allows a download of Kabissa organization directory data in CSV or XML format suitable for manipulation in a spreadsheet program or mashing up with other data and maps. Now that we know this is possible and have the basic API in place, the next challenges on this side will be:
- coming up with usable interfaces and documentation for selecting and retrieving data (e.g. by country or thematic area);
- deciding which fields to share (e.g. how much contact info? What about geo coordinates?); and
- which data is completely open for anyone to freely use, reuse and redistribute (to be determined in cooperation with our members, with suitable opt out options).
Drop me a line if you have ideas to contribute or want to help implement the Kabissa API and partnerships with other platforms using Open Data. I will be writing another blog post on the topic soon!
Social Development Network (SODNET) in Kenya
I was particularly glad to meet John Kipchumbah and Philip Thigo (pictured talking to me) from SODNET in Kenya, who are working on a range of innovative tech projects including a Budget Tracking Tool for Kenya that makes government info available to citizens via SMS queries. SODNET is also building a new community platform for Kenyan Civil Society called Nani Online (Nani means Who in kiswahili).
Philip and John are very much looking for partnerships as well as ways to complement and build on the work of others (like Kabissa) rather than reinvent the wheel or compete with existing platforms.
ODDC Quick Hits
The following four presentations I found to be particularly interesting. The people and organizations are very much worth keeping an eye on:
1. IATI Standard
Simon Parrish from AidInfo gave a very useful talk about Aid Transparency and the IATI Standard. IATI came up frequently and is an important standard in particular for international development organizations to track their spending on development aid but also can be used for tracking many other kinds of activities. For more info see http://www.aidinfo.org and http://www.aidtransparency.net
2. Apps for Development Competition
Richard Murby presented the Apps for Development Competition which the WB put on in an open and participatory (and ultimately very successful) process in order to raise awareness of how anyone in the world can come up with creative and powerful new ways to use World Bank Data via open.worldbank.org.
3. Apps Store for Development
Bart Lacroix and Thomas Bjelkeman from 1%CLUB and Akvo pitched an ambitious project idea they call Apps Store for Development (with slideshare). “The web app store would be a thin service layer which would enable data exchange between applications, allow the existing applications to communicate with each other, and provide other shared facilities such as authentication and billing services. The web app store would enable others to create their own web applications that would use this services layer. On top of that we would collaborate around the development processes, testing infrastructure, sharing skills and helping each other.”
4. AidData and Geomapping
Anna Lauridsen from the Brussels office of the Development Gateway gave a presentation about AidData (with slideshare), an innovative project that uses geomapping to track and display development financing through useful visualizations and maps. AidData also has an extensive Open Data platform at open.aiddata.org.