GuideStar International's Blog

June 27, 2012

Guardian Reports on TechSoup Global/Guardian Charity Data Seminar

Big data, open data, charity reporting and crowdsourcing were the order of the day at the recent Transforming your charity by bringing your data to life seminar that TechSoup Global hosted in collaboration with The Guardian. Today, the Guardian published an article about the seminar in their paper, titled: Getting to Grips with Big Data which gives a report of the seminar. The article focuses on why charities should start using ‘big data’ and ‘open data’ for the benefit of their communities. Also discussed were some of the difficulties charities face in knowing what tools to use, and understanding what data they should provide and collect to save money, be more effective and help the public. Videos of 2 of the speaker presentations are available (the other 2 will be posted next week) and you can find a copy of all presentations below.

Some key highlights:
Marnie Webb, Co-CEO and Paul van Haver, Director of Global Services of TechSoup Global Data Services highlighted the need for charities to help transform the way they engage with and service their community through the use of data. Watch the VIDEO! Presentation: We are “Big Data” (and so can you!)

We are “Big Data” (and so can you!)

View more PowerPoint from GuideStarintl

Dave Coplin, Director of Search, Bing, spoke about how big data is transforming how businesses are making decisions, the way it is being used for the popular Kinect, as well as the privacy issues. Watch the Video! Presentation: Big Data, Machine Learning and You

Karl Wilding of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) spoke of the work that the NCVO is doing to provide charity data and gain insights to the sector. He also spoke of the struggle to find sustainable ways to provide data openly. Presentation: Data @NCVO

Nathaniel Manning, Director of Business Development and Strategy at Ushahidi illustrated how they use crowdsourcing, big data and the opensource tools they have developed to help with disaster relief, political accountability and other development issues. Mobile phones were identified as one of the key ways that data is provided and collected in developing countries. Presentation: Ushahidi: Made in Africa

We are also hosting an international tweetchat on charities and data on Wednesday 27 June to discuss topics from the seminar on 10:00 a.m. Pacific time / 6:00 p.m. British Summer Time (BST). You can follow in our tweetchat room and comment on the article, seminar, presentations and tweetchat on twitter using #npdata.



June 12, 2012

Upcoming International Tweet Chat on June 27: Data

Filed under: Access to information — guidestarinternational @ 16:51
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As we posted earlier, TechSoup Global  is hosting a seminar titled “Transforming Your Charity by Bringing Your Data to Life” in conjunction with the Guardian.

To keep this exciting conversation going, we are also producing a tweet chat on Wednesday, June 27 at 6:00 pm London time. The tweet chat is designed to spark an international conversation, spanning multiple time zones.

Join us on Twitter or on using the hashtag #npdata.

The conversation will focus on the power of data and how it can be used to achieve the objectives of nonprofits, charities, libraries, and other civil society organisations. Participants will be able to ask questions and share knowledge around what relevant data they can share to benefit their organizations and the social good sector.

How to Participate

  • Join us directly in the TweetChat room to follow along with the conversation
  • Participate in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #npdata

Have questions about data you want to see answered during the tweet chat? Tweet them to @TechSoup and include the hashtag #npdata.

Never participated in a tweet chat before? Check out this how-to in TechSoup’s Nonprofit Social Media 101 Wiki and watch the video below.

February 14, 2012

What do you think of when you hear “Open Data?”

Filed under: Access to information — guidestarinternational @ 10:37
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By Keisha Taylor

‘Open Data’ has become the way we refer to data that is easily accessible in the public domain and free for anyone to use in whatever way they want. This open data is most valuable however, when it is not only easy to access but also when it is reused. This post that I wrote for the TechSoup Global blog talks about if using the term open data can actually sometimes discourage rather than encourage reuse of this data by community service organisations and the wider public. Read the post.

November 21, 2011

Projects we are watching: OpenDataPhilly

Filed under: Access to information,Access to Public Information — guidestarinternational @ 09:38
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by Keisha Taylor

This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global Blog

Nonprofit organisations and the public are at the heart of a new Open Government Data initiative in Philadelphia!. OpenDataPhilly, a catalogue of online data, applications and APIs is now freely available to the public. Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, Technically Philly, WHYY Newsworks, NPower Pennsylvania, the William Penn Foundation and the City of Philadelphia’s Open Access Philly task force are partnering on this initiative. Collaboration between government, technology companies, nonprofits, the public and inspired techies is prioritised and this is to be commended. Those involved in the project have been building a community of practice around the topic of ‘open data and government transparency’ but also advocating for the release of more and quite varied datasets.

In September the Open Data Race was launched, enabling non-profits to nominate data sets that they believe if released by the City of Philadelphia would further their missions. The general public can vote for their favourite datasets (and the non-profits that nominated them) until 27th October. The Open Data Race partners will work with the City of Philadelphia to release the winning data sets. At the end of the contest, cash prizes will be awarded to the winners. They are also organising hack-a-thons, to encourage civic hackers to build applications with the newly released data. It is a very innovative way of promoting dialogue between nonprofits, government, the public and the technology community to make open data real and useful for all.

This interesting open government data initiative illustrates very well how nonprofits can be encouraged to engage with open government data. According to Robert Cheetham, CEO and President of Azavea. “Several major cities have released open data catalogs over the past few years. But these municipalities all have limited resources and struggle with prioritizing which data sets will be most useful. The Open Data Race is an experiment aimed at both building a community and constituency around open data and open government as well as helping the City to prioritize the inevitably limited resources it can apply to releasing data sets while also delivering social value.” This project is definitely one to watch!

More info can be found here: OpenDataPhilly Invites the Public to Vote for Data to be Released for Non-Profits

September 22, 2011

Mediating Voices And Communicating Realities

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 09:19
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By Keisha Taylor. This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

This report by Evangelia Berdou speaks about the benefits of using open source tools like the Ushahidi platform and OpenStreetMap. It examines the use of open source, open data, crowdsourcing, and digital media more generally in the developing world. The way in which use of such technology can change relationships between producers and consumers of information is highlighted. It suggests that this can empower communities.

However, the report also examines the obstacles that arise in implementing projects that use such tools. It examines the ways in which they could negatively affect marginalised and vulnerable populations. A study of Map Kibera, a community information platform that utilises OpenStreetMap in Kenya aids analysis. The report also briefly examines community mapping initiatives in Peru and Georgia and SMS reporting in Egypt and Haiti.

Packed with interview excerpts and useful analysis, it provides insight into the use of open source technology in developing countries. The report says that if open source tools are to be used effectively:

  • Education and training are important
  • There is a need to build awareness of why the tools are useful and how they will benefitcommunities.
  • It must be truly inclusive of citizens
  • Mutual trust and transparency must exist

Potential problems identified with the use of open source crowdsourcing platforms and open mapping data initiatives include:

  • Questions surrounding the use of crowdsourced information: “Many of the questions concerning the character of crowdsourced data and their place in the evidence chain touch upon fundamental ethical issues of journalism,social science and action research, but involve new capacities, networksand practices that have yet to be systematically explored.”
  • Uncertainty surrounding the agendas and values of those that advocate for the use of such tools. It was pointed out that “The ease with which these platforms can be deployed means that marginalised groups may be viewed simply as data sensors, cheap sources of hard to get information.”
  • Risks introduced because of the increased and global visibility of local and vulnerable communities supported through these tools.
  • Difficulty in promoting the use of such initiatives for policy and advocacy: “The greatest challenge, for them (involved in Map Kibera), laynot in the production of the map but in promoting the use of the map in policy and advocacy”.

However, this should not devalue the benefits of open source technology in developing countries. As the use of Ushahidi in Haiti has illustrated it is beneficial for many in times of crisis.  Inter-governmental Organisations (IGOs) United Nations and governments are exploring ways in which such tools can be used to further development. Interestingly, the report also notes that “the commercialization of open source software has generated insights on how altruistic motives for participation can coexist with more selfish, individual goals.”  However, as this report reveals, more needs to be done to ensure that it is used informatively, effectively and appropriately. It must be used in a way which supports yet protects the marginalised and vulnerable.

See the full report here:

Mediating Voices And Communicating Realities: Using Information Crowdsourcing Tools, Open Data Initiatives, and Digital Media to Support and Protect the Vulnerable and Marginalised

September 8, 2011

Reflections on NetSquared London Data Privacy Meetup

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 08:45
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By Keisha Taylor. This was originally published on the NetSquared blog

Facilitated by the knowledgeable and engaging Wendy Grossman and Javier Ruiz, the NetSquared London Meetup on Data Privacy surfaced some important, useful and informative discussion. One thing that was made clear is that there is a lot that the average person and nonprofit is unaware of on this issue. There is also a lot that those who are familiar with the issues (including those involved in the use of data for good) are struggling to address. Data privacy goes beyond the big players to middlemen, and beyond the lone hacker to organised crime. It is being driven by commercialism and government interests and laws are failing to keep up.  We discussed the importance of identifying your threat threshold as each person and organisation depending on their activities, interests and level of obscurity may require a different approach to data privacy.

The types of data being kept and disclosed to third parties include:

  1. Public sector data e.g. education data or other data held in the public domain
  2. Private sector data – e.g. ISPs are required to keep records of data traffic including VOIP. Amazon and airline companies also keep data.
  3. Data submitted voluntary – e.g. through social media sites
  4. Automated data – e.g. CCTV cameras automated plate recognition systems
  5. Hidden data – e.g. super cookies and flash cookies, data exhaust
  6. Location data e.g. from mobile phones
  7. The data you store about other people – e.g. photographs and other information on your computer or phone.

Who wants data?

  1. Advertisers
  2. Governments
  3. Suppliers
  4. Criminals (including money launderers)
  5. Researchers
  6. Journalists
  7. Everyone (depending on what the data is!)

Issues that arose in the Meetup

  • Privacy issues can also arise when opening up government data. If aggregated data is made available, eventually, with the skills, time and right resources you may be able to identify individuals.
  • If data is made open without the respective capacity to make best use of it the private sector may be the primary beneficiary of the data.
  • Some lose social capital when their privacy is violated.
  • Profiling may increase with the release of certain types of government data leading to discrimination
  • ‘Fraud as a service’ is now the norm
  • There is huge financial loss to governments, and corporations when privacy is violated e.g. did you know that according to Semantic the average data breech cost the UK £1.9 m to recover from
  • The commercialisation of privacy in an era of not only open data but big data (See McKinsey report on Big Data) leads to an increase in data privacy violations.
  • There is no longer the worry of only the lone hacker as online crime is organised crime.
  • Legacy mistakes don’t get forgotten as more data is being stored for longer.

This is a brief summary of some of the issues discussed. For further information on how to protect yourself and your nonprofit have a look at  information on the following websites, to determine what may be of importance to you:

You can also read the EU Data Protection Directive and find out about the controversial EU Data Retention Directive and the UK Digital Economy Act.

In addition, if you would like to be involved in ongoing discussions about open government data and privacy you can subscribe to the Ogd-privacy mailing list.

Inter-governmental organisations sharing and linking open and real-time data for inclusive governance, development effectiveness and protection of privacy and security

Photo Credit: Linking Open Data cloud diagram by Richard Cyganiak and Anja Jentzsch

By Keisha Taylor. This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog


The rapid rise of the Internet has encouraged the use of open, real-time, and linked data to help understand and improve development processes. This has gained prominence in the public, private, and civil society sectors, as each one independently and collaboratively examines ways in which the vast amounts of data and information generated online can be mapped and linked to help with research and development in all fields, including economics, sustainable development, education, health, agriculture, science, and humanitarian and disaster relief, at local, national, regional, and international levels. The availability of data online is also generating increased possibilities for interdisciplinary study and cross boundary research and analysis. Organisations are not only making data available online for reuse by others but are also using data generated actively and passively by the public to inform business and government decisions. Moreover, individuals are using data for day to day decisions about issues that are of importance to them, their families, and their communities. The advancement of data use for development without an Internet governance framework, however, raises the importance of inclusion of the most marginalized, as well as privacy and security. This paper will examine such issues, as well as the role inter- governmental organisations can play in helping to encourage the use of data while supporting the protection of privacy and security.  Read the entire paper.

April 11, 2011

Enter to Win the European Open Data Challenge

This was first posted on the NetSquared blog

Are you interested in using open data for good in Europe? The Open Data Challenge is designed to encourage interesting ways of reusing public data for the benefit of European citizens.  The competition encourages anyone from programmers to non-technical idea-makers to help create a useful app using public data.

Do you have a great idea? Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Ideas – Anyone can suggest an idea for projects which reuse public information to do something interesting or useful.
  • Apps – Teams of developers can submit working applications which reuse public information.
  • Visualisations – Designers, artists and others can submit interesting or insightful visual representations of public information.
  • Datasets – Public bodies can submit newly opened up datasets, or developers can submit derived datasets which they’ve cleaned up, or linked together

The Open Data Challenge is open between now and June 5. Enter your ideas to win one of several cash prizes!

January 24, 2011

Social Actions API, Semantic Web, and Linked Open Data: An Interview with Peter Deitz

Filed under: Access to information,Access to Public Information — guidestarinternational @ 09:53
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This was originally posted on the NetSquared Blog by Amy Sample Ward. You can read the original post here

Peter Deitz is a long-time member and contributor in the NetSquared community; he started the NetSquared Montreal group and his Social Actions project was a winner in the 2008 N2Y3 Mashup Challenge. Over the last few years, we have watched and supported the growth of Social Actions, including partnering for the Change the Web Challenge in 2009 – a Partner Challenge designed to tap into the NetSquared Community to find innovative ways of using the Social Actions API and data stream. We are really excited about the latest developments to the Social Actions API and the larger implications of what these updates mean for powering open data and supporting action around the world. To learn more about it, I caught up with Peter earlier this week to get all the details and am excited to share them here first!

Hear from Peter Deitz about the Social Actions API!

Let’s start at the beginning: What is Social Actions and where does the API come in?

I describe Social Actions as an aggregation of actions people can take on any issue that’s built to be highly distributable across the social web. We pull in donation opportunities, volunteer positions, petitions, event, and other actions from 60+ different sources. That’s today. A few years ago, we had just a handful of pioneering platforms in microphilanthropy.

The Social Actions project began in 2006. I wanted to make some kind of contribution to the world of microphilanthropy. My intent was to inventory every interesting action I came across to make it easier for people to engage in the causes they cared about. There wasn’t much scalability in the way I was pursuing the project.

In 2007, I realized that a much more effective way to aggregate interesting actions would be to subscribe to RSS feeds from trusted sources. I wrote about the potential for aggregating RSS feeds of giving opportunities in a blog post called, Why We Need Group Fundraising RSS Feeds. Three months later I had a prototype platform aggregating actions from RSS feeds, with a search element around that content.

Around  the time of the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2008 NTC conference, an even brighter light bulb went on. I remember sitting in a session by Kurt Voelker of ForumOne Communications, Tompkins Spann of Convio, and Jeremy Carbaugh of The Sunlight Foundation. They were talking about API’s. (API stands for Application Programming Interface, and refers broadly to the way one piece of software or dataset communicates with another.) In fact, the name of the session was “APIs for Beginners.”

I knew I wanted to be in the session even without really knowing why. It was there that I realized my RSS-based process for aggregating actions could be so much more with a robust distribution component. I wrote a blog post called, Mashups, Open APIs, and the Future of Collaboration in the Nonprofit Tech Sector. I left that session knowing exactly the direction I wanted to take Social Actions.

And what would you describe as the social definition of Social Actions API – the purpose?

There’s a groundswell in interest, on the part of “non-nonprofit professionals,” to engage with social movements and causes. It’s well-documented at this point that people are hungry to engage with causes they care about in various forms.

The premise behind Social Actions is that there are enough actions floating around on the web that nonprofits produce, but that they’re not linked up properly or adequately syndicated. There are a million opportunities to take action on a cause you care about, but it’s not easy to find them. The Social Actions API attempts to address the distribution and syndication challenge while also encouraging nonprofits to make their actions more readily available.

What were the limitations that Social Actions and its API were hitting up against before the recent updates?

We have encountered a number of challenges over the years. Originally, adding actions manually. was difficult. That challenge was resolved by creating a platform that used RSS feeds to pull in opportunities,  which in turn evolved into the Social Actions API, allowing people to access the full dataset from any application that connected to it.

The vast majority of applications that have been built since 2008 match actions with related content: for example, by reading a blog post and searching the Social Actions dataset for related actions. The quality of the search results were limited by our querying capabilities and relevancy ranking. The results we were able to produce didn’t reflect the full contents of our database. They tended to reflect only the most recently-added actions, not the most relevant. As a result, we weren’t equipping developers with a platform that allowed for more accurate location- and issue-based searches. Until the recent enhancements, producing the best possible search results for a given phrase or keyword was a biggest challenge.

What did the recent updates accomplish, and how did the opportunity to make them come about?

The updates introduce Semantic Analysis and Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities to the Social Actions API and begin to connect Social Actions to the wider Linked Open Data community.

The enhancements effectively put Social Actions back on the cutting edge of social technology. These were changes that we had wanted to make for a long time. In Spring 2009, we were approached by a group that was building an advanced video + action platform and that wanted to draw on the Social Actions API. Link TV, in prototyping their ViewChange platform, noticed that the Social Actions API wasn’t producing the best possible results. They invited us to explore with them what would be involved in updating our platform so that ViewChange could feature more relevant results.

Link TV, along with Doug Puchanski and Rob DiCiuccio of Definition, helped us articulate the changes that would need to occur and then connected us with a funder who could underwrite what amounted to a very significant enhancement to our code base. In one month, we had approximately as large an investment in the technology as we’d had in total up until that point. It has been incredibly exciting to see how open source projects like Social Actions tend to grow in fits and bursts, depending on the demands and resources made available by users.

What do “Semantic Analysis” and “Natural Language Processing” mean, and how do they make the Social Actions API better?

Semantic Analysis and Natural Language Processing both have to do with the process of identifying the meaning of a collection of words together. Semantic analysis, for example, can help to identify the meaning of a phrase like “poverty relief” as distinct from what “poverty” and “relief” mean independently. The Social Actions API now uses a tool called Zemanta to apply these processes when searching the actions contained in the dataset. As a result, we can say with more confidence what an action is about and where it is taking place. When searching for the phrase “poverty relief,” for example, not only are the search results more accurate, but Zemanta helps us to identify other actions that might not in fact use that phrase but are nonetheless linked in meaning to it. It’s a difficult concept to explain, but hopefully this makes sense.

And what does “Linked Open Data” refer to?

Just like in 2008 when I had an “aha moment” about APIs, in June 2009 I had an “aha moment” about Linked Open Data. I was presenting Social Actions at the Semantic Technology Conference (SemTech), describing how Social Actions was an open database and how we encouraged developers to build open source applications that distributed this data widely. Ivan Herman from W3C listened to the presentation asked, “Why are you building something that’s so closed? Why aren’t you publishing this data in RDF?”

I was surprised to the say least. Defeated in fact. I had spent close to three years trying to build this open platform only to have someone more tech-savvy than me explain that what we had built was in fact still a closed platform. It turns out I was at the epicenter of the Linked Open Data community.  Their mission is to link the world’s knowledge in the same way that all of the world’s web pages have been linked to one another.

If you can imagine that today the web is a collection of links between pages, the web of tomorrow (proposed by these folks and Tim Berners-Lee) will be a collection of links between discreet knowledge, or datasets. Anyone will be able to follow the connection that’s been made between one repository of data and another the same way people can now hyperlink between one web page and another.

Linked Open Data essentially refers to building connections between these repositories in a standard format not unlike HTML and hypertext.

What role do API’s, and the people who build them, play in Linked Open Data?

The stewards of databases are no longer just asked to open up their datasets but to make them available in such a way that they link with other data repositories by design. In the case of Social Actions, Ivan from the Wc3 was effectively saying, “It’s great you have all of this data on actions people can take, but what are you doing to link that data with other datasets? What are you doing to help people make the connection between ‘poverty relief’ as an issue, for example, and existing data sets on the prevalence of poverty in a specific location?”

The Social Actions API now cross-references issues and locations with universal identifiers that have been assigned to them. Just like you might cross-reference the subject of a book with a Dewey Decimal number, we are now cross-referencing each action with a universal identifier that helps to link it to related data. Using Zemanta, we are able to provide URIs (Uniform Resource Identifier) from Freebase and DBPedia that make the connection between actions in our system and other material on the web that relates to the same topic.

You can see examples of this at Search for any phrase. Below each result you’ll see a link to “Entities.”

Can you tell me more about what ViewChange has done:

ViewChange is an example of an application that queries our actions using Freebase and DBPedia URIs as well as traditional keywords and phrases. The application says to Social Actions, “Show me everything that matches this URI.” The same query is submitted to the Social Actions API as is submitted to any data repository – news articles, videos, blog posts, etc. It’s truly commendable that Link TV, through the ViewChange project, has driven these enhancements on our platform.

To you, what might the future look like for people who want to take action on the causes they care about?

The technology exists for us to do really amazing things when it comes to matching people with actions they can take to make a difference. The technology itself is advancing, opening up more possibilities for even smarter applications.

The future of social technology, specifically creative implementations of the Social Actions API and similar open source platforms, is very exciting provided nonprofits and foundations continue to make rich data available and link it up with other repositories in the way I’ve attempted to described. The future is also very bright if we continue to experiment with how these linked data repositories can be deployed for forms of community engagement that we would not have thought possible a few years ago.

If everything goes incredibly well in the coming years, what might emerge is ubiquitous infrastructure of enabling technology and complementary applications that continuously present individuals with meaningful and relevant opportunities to enact change.


The Social Actions API – a pioneering open source project since 2008 – continues its boundary-pushing agenda by embracing the semantic web and contributing to the Linked Open Data cloud, encouraging the sector as a whole to leverage open source software and linked data for greater impact.

October 7, 2010

PDF Conference discusses Open Data and Social Media in Europe

Filed under: Access to information,Accountability,ICT for Development,Transparency — guidestarinternational @ 12:20
Tags: ,

By Caroline Neligan, Director Partnerships and Development, GuideStar International, TechSoup Global

The Personal Democracy Forum came to Europe on 4-5 October 2010 to learn more about Open Data and Social Media activities in the region and to bring together activists in the space to meet and exchange ideas. Some overarching questions asked in this conference were:

  • Is there a transparency movement?
  • Are there common threads?
  • Is it changing people’s lives?

My answer would be yes, yes, not yet – or at least, not fundamentally.

As you would expect from such an event, there was a rich conversation with lots of perspectives and so I won’t attempt here to distil this into a short report. But I think it is worth providing some overview and reactions to the key themes of open data and social media and the potential that exists to fundamentally change the way that citizens and government engage with one another.

In essence, people need to see that participation in e-government/governance makes a difference to their lives. But, there seemed to be more discussion of ‘impact’ in terms of how many people ‘like’ a ‘cause’ or made up a network.  But is this really impact? What was largely lacking was evidence of how social media platforms actually enable policy or legislative change.

However, this gap is not stressed with the intention of diminishing the event – the event was full of motivated, passionate people doing exciting work, rather that we are at the beginning of the journey that has lots of potential to be game changing but that is still in its early days.

I wasn’t aware of a delegates list (a pity) but of the 100 or so people in attendance, it seemed the majority were European activists with a policy/technology bent. There was some government representation; the UK Foreign Office, a representative for the German Christian Democrats, Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic MP as well as some participation from the European Union (although I’m not sure in what capacity).

Here is a link to the full agenda and speakers. I attended break out groups on Open Data/Open Government, Crisis Response and Transparency and Open Information in the US and Western Europe.

As is always the case in a regional gathering such as this, the differences between countries were as striking as the similarities. Marko Rakar from Croatia was one of the most powerful speakers of the event; his campaign for government transparency has left him a marked man by the government. He spoke with a mix of humility, humour and conviction that makes our complaints about government attitudes to transparency in other countries pale in comparison.

In this mix of contexts where government attitudes to open data range from inept, to inadequate, to obstructive and threatening (threatened?), Hakon Wium Lie observed that open data is in its infancy but he was emphatic that the laws that our countries are built upon is fundamental and that access to government data – that as tax payers we have already paid for – is a democratic and legal right. People need to be able to be able to access, understand and translate the data that is made available to make it useful to particular constituencies.

Building on this theme, Paul Johnston from Cisco stressed that we need to change the ‘black box’ of policy making and focus first and foremost on transparency before trying to secure participation. He also suggested that we shouldn’t expect large social platforms that are successful in generating large crowds to necessarily translate that success into policy or legislative change. Rather we need tools that enable experts, or people close to an issue, to suggest research, best practice or to discuss options for policy making.

This doesn’t mean that the general public will be locked out of the debate, rather we need to get ‘more mature about mass participation’.  It is up to those in and outside the government (and I think you can extend this to any institution which wields power or controls resources) to ensure people are engaging at a suitable level to ensure their input has maximum value.

He gave the example of the You Choose website, which engages citizens in the budgeting process and, because they provide a range of options and spending priorities, it encourages deliberation and an understanding of the trade-offs involved, therefore taking citizens beyond a single issue area.

In one of the final presentations of the day, Hakon Wium Lie compared the Web to the printing press in terms of its transformative effect on society and predicted that it will be around in 500 years time. But, he asked, who else will be around? Facebook? Twitter? Probably not. So he stressed the need for open data standards and transparency as a priority for activists in this area. This instead of putting pressure on politicians and other leaders to be present on today’s hot social platforms because if they go down, they will take a lot of data with them.

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