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Why do we need OpenStreetMap? It’s the community stupid.

February 10, 2015 in datadays2014, Events, Featured

There are exciting times. Opendata is everywhere! In the past couple of year we have seen a lot of very interesting data open up and as a result things have changed. Startups have popped up everywhere related to opendata and some very successfully.

OpenStreetMap celebrated it’s 10th birthday in 2014, it’s been around for ages when talking about opendata. A very relevant fact related to the topic of opendata is the fact that the project got started because of a lack of open geo data to experiment with. The question that then comes to mind is: Why would we need OpenStreetMap in a world where all (geo)data is open?

From an OpenStreetMap-community-member perspective the answer to this question is obvious; it’s the community, stupid!

In our session at the OpenBelgium conference in Namur we try to give you an inside view of our community and all of it’s different aspects and activities. We hope that those who attend our session will also consider our community as thé answer to the question of why the world needs OpenStreetMap in an open world.

OpenStreetMap is so much more than just an open geo database. If you are looking for new ideas related to geo, want to know more about OpenStreetMap or if you want to become part of our community make sure you don’t miss out and attend OpenBelgium!

Want to know more about the OpenStreetMap community? Come to the Open Belgium Conference OpenStreet Map session and find out what this community looks like and how members contribute.
Or follow the Belgian OSM Community on Twitter or their website.

Cover-image CC-BY-SA

#ddays14 Apps for Europe Business Lounge

March 7, 2014 in datadays2014, Events

We’ve truly been inspired by the contestants during the Apps for Europe business lounge during the Data Days Conference. We had 5 participants with a solid business case and eventually we had a tie between Carambla en Both will present their cases during the International Business Lounge in Manchester later this month. Thank you all for participating and sharing your business case. Here is the storify and the pictures for those who want to recapture the event.

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Apps4EU Businesslounge ddays14, a set on Flickr.

The Open Belgium conference picture show

February 26, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

This is our last blogpost dedicated to the Open Belgium conference on the 17th of February. Here’s a small selection of the pictures that were taken by Thomas Smolders during the conference. Thanks again to everyone for your attendance and we do hope to see you again next year.

[easy-media med=”427,429,422,431,433,435,437,439,441,443,445,447,449,451,453,455,457,459″ col=”4″ align=”center”]

Source: Thomas SmoldersCC-BY

A look back to the Open Belgium Conference 2014

February 25, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

Last monday, on the 17th of February 2014, the first edition of the Open Belgium Conference was held in the STAM Museum in the City of Ghent as part of the three day conference called DataDays. DataDays is an initiative organised by OKFN Belgium, Citadel on the move and LOLA to discuss the role and future of Open Data on a national, European and global level.

The Storify summary below is a way to show everyone, attendees / speakers and people who couldn’t make it on how it all went down.

And for those who want to gaze at the presentations that were given during the event, head over to the DataDays Website. Want to watch the pictures of the event itself? On Facebook there are quite a lot of pictures to be found.

Last but not least we would like to thank our co-organisers, our sponsors, volunteers, speakers, ambassadors and attendees. There are to many to call by name but you know who you are and we thank you for being there at our side.

The true concept of Open Government

February 12, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

“8 principles of Open Government Data” is the title of the now famous manifesto published on December 8th 2007. Over time, the word “Government” was often dismissed, and much pre-eminence was awarded to the word “Data”! Although an important concept, Open Data is all but a modus operandi to implement Open Government, which is a public policy’s philosophy rather than a political strategy. Public actions are aimed at citizens and Open Government may help better shaping e-Government initiatives supporting those actions.

E-Government is a strategy to provide administration services online, so-called digital government. Yet, the number of services available online via Internet is not a measure of success, and the real issue is how to provide better services to citizens. With Open Data, which is a first step towards more transparency, one can start implementing Open Government strategies to ensure more participation and accessibility for everyone. Open Government is not only about providing more Open Data sets through something like, it is really about making sure “Government is where people are !”.

OpenGovImageIn a recent event hosted by the EU Commission, Open Government concepts have been strongly re-emphasized for ICT-enabled Public Sector to deliver the real benefits.

Indeed, “there is sometimes confusion that the (sole) adoption of an Open Data platform creates Open Government in and of itself. This is not the case – Open Data alone is not sufficient to create an Open Government” (S. Spiker).


Even on Twitter we are witnessing that line of reasoning: #OpenData + #Hackathon = #OpenGov with the wrong message sent out to the developer’s communities. “We gave you some of our data (awesome), we want you to do stuff with it (nice, thank you), and hence we now have Open Government (not quite)” (S. Spiker).

Over the last 4 years, citizen’s attitudes toward our government’s decision-making processes have changed. “There was a time when citizens trusted objective professionals and elected officials to make those decisions […].; this is no longer the case, the Internet accelerates the decline of deference […]. It’s not that we don’t trust; it’s just that we want to verify.” (D. Eaves)

Yet, is “transparency” the new objectivity? And, is “openness” really more than a personality-trait? Why “honesty” shouldn’t be more rewarded i.e. authentic raw data re public actions are made public? And, could empowering the administration to use social media tools as well as connect with external communities gathering citizen-generated information be a better approach to foster collaboration? Recent improvement of the French, allowing user-generated content to be stored along public data is one example of this social move.

Last but not least, Open Government is not much about transparency in decision making than about legislation making. It is a philosophy allowing citizens to provide their Government the benefits of their knowledge and collective intelligence through participation. We welcome you to elaborate on this subject during our break-out session during the Open Belgium conference.

The future: My Open Data most wanted

February 11, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

Open Data Cages

Although there’s a lot of attention paid to Open Data, we must not forget that the pursuit of opening public datasets and the corresponding open data movement, is still a rather young movement, and that each day people undertake steps and tackle boundaries towards a more open future.

The big potential of Open Data is ought to be in the creation of economic value, where open government data is seen as low hanging fruit. The idea is that Open Data are public goods and they belong to the society who paid for the creation of it and they could be as gold and oil for those who get started with it. In the meantime this openness implicates some societal impact as well: the raise of a new dimension in governmental transparency and it allows citizens to interact with government in a new way.

One of the futures evolutions: a transition in eGov.

Where the benefits for releasing data and making it reusable is claimed to be found in the economic sphere, I think that benefits and new innovation can be found in the creator of the data: governments itself. Open Data then can lead to efficiency gains and create an indirect economic growth by making government a beneficiary of its own efforts.

“Governments opening their data is one thing; making them useful and usable by releasing them in a machine readable format, is another”,one of my best colleagues learned me.

With the aforementioned he pointed at the fact that when open datasets are structured in a standardised way, on a technological level ‘communication’ is possible between a dataset or a software program. This technological ‘interoperability’ supports the creation of a common understandable semantic ‘language’, that on its turn facilitates organisational processes becoming more aligned.

The use of open standards, where the introduction of the OSLO format (Open Standard for Local Administrations) is a first milestone in Flanders, then creates the possibility to enhance this interoperability idea. Using new standards can make it for administrations possible to communicate between departments and entities in one organisation, as well as with governmental bodies and levels outside the organisation.

One of my most wanted working fields for Open Data is thus government itself: next to the fact that Open Data promises transparency and stimulates new ways of civil participation (for example via the development of social innovative applications and data-driven (citizen) journalism – it leads to a new dimension in eGovernment.

On the 17th of February during the Open Belgium Conference, I would like to extend this discussion during the ‘Open Data Most Wanted‘ break-out session. The session itself is not a panel or a keynote, but a brainstorm where Open Data experts and individuals without any IT-background alike can share how they see this evolution and what data should be open. The outcome of this session will be the basis for a plan of action in order to open up more valuable and wanted data in Belgium. So feel free to join us at the Open Belgium Conference next week.

Image Source Drawing by Numbers(CC) BY-SA

Data Days goes social

February 8, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

As is a community website, the conference day has some social aspects we hold dear as well. We hope that all data-wranglers, local policy makers and open data experts alike get to meet each other and exchange their Open Data experiences. But the conference venue isn’t the only place where can you meet up, even after the conference itself, there is lots to do.

On February 17 after the conference our dear friends at Ghent Web Valley have prepared an After Drink at Caffè Caffee, just 650 metres from the conference venue. So feel free to fresh-up at your hotel or go out to eat and then join us during this After Drink. It start at 6PM local time. For those who aren’t familiar with Ghent Web Valley. They’re a non-profit organisation that stimulate collaboration and innovation within the web and ICT companies that are located in Ghent. But that’s not all! Really?

Really. Even those who have only bought a one-day ticket for Open Belgium are still welcome without charge to the social event on February 18 in the Bijloke music venue. During this social event, there will be fries and music. Belgium businesses . And not just any kind of music. Red Herring wil bring us some 17th and 18th century inspired baroque music in the concert hall of the Bijloke.

So start printing those extra business cards, chances are that you’re going to need them.

I hope we’ll see you there.

Want a short preview of Red Herring?

Creative Commons and data projects. One license to rule them all

February 6, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

Creative Commons by Kalexanderson, on Flickr

As open data and open data projects are becoming increasingly important as value creators in the modern-day economy, it is nice to see that important efforts are being made to professionalise and perpetuate the open data community. For a while now, it has become clear that the initial approach – which was mainly conceived as an app-competition – doesn’t suffice to keep the communities engaged, nor has it proven to be a breeding ground for sustainable businesses. Luckily high-level initiatives like the Apps4Europe project are being rolled out to provide opportunities to establish a more nurturing environment for the open data community and to foster and streamline the value creation process.

On the legal side of things, the global Creative Commons community has been working hard for the last couple of years to make sure version 4.0 of the Creative Commons licenses caters to these particular needs of open data projects. We personally believe that the new version has set a great standard for the coming years. Unfortunately we also see that data-owners of all sorts are increasingly coming up with proprietary licensing suites. It has not been said that these different license sets are lacking anything in terms of legal thoroughness or comprehensiveness. But we do fear that this license proliferation leads to increased complexity for the end user, especially when combining different datasets. Compatibility issues are never far off and different attribution standards could lead to a legal skein.

If we really want to harvest the potential of open data, we must look beyond regional and national interests when considering yet again a new licensing suite. The open data community is a global movement, so open data projects and it’s licenses should keep this premise in mind. Furthermore, data owners shouldn’t try to use copyright to force attribution claims through proprietary licenses. There are other and better ways to achieve that. Lastly, we should try to set licensing standards. Best practices for data-owners so we can standardise the way content and metadata are being licensed. This is something that can already be found in the Europeana licensing framework for cultural heritage institutions and seems to pay off in the long run.

For Open Belgium, Creative Commons Belgium has invited two very interesting speakers to dig a little deeper into this topic of licensing for data projects and license proliferation. First up is Katleen Janssen, board member of OKFN Belgium with over 12 years research experience in open data and public sector information, who will give a talk about the danger of license proliferation and how we can try to counter the preconceptions a lot of data owners have about the need of proprietary licenses. Afterwards Thomas Margoni, senior researcher at iVIR in Amsterdam, will explain the changes that have been made to  version 4.0 of the Creative Commons licenses and how this can benefit open data projects.

Be sure to check out the rest of the program too. Join us at the Open Belgium Conference during Data Days for an interesting day of sharing knowledge and a couple of drinks afterwards!

 photo by Kalexanderson Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

PSI-Directive implementation path, what can we expect?

February 4, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

PSI Directive image

In June 2013, a revision of the Directive has been adopted by the Union legislator. Member States now have 2 years to transpose the provisions of the revised Directive into national law. But what does this mean?

The revised PSI Directive provides a good legal basis to open up more public data.

New elements

  • A genuine right to reuse by making all content that can be accessed under national access to documents laws reusable
  • Lowers the upper ceiling for charges on reuse applicable in standard cases to marginal costs, i.e. the costs incurred by the individual request for reuse (reproduction, provision and dissemination costs); exceptions are allowed in a limited set of cases
  • Expands the scope of application of the Directive under certain conditions to certain cultural institutions such as libraries (including university libraries), museums and archives
  • Reinforces the obligation to be transparent on conditions and on charges applied to reuse
  • Invites Member State to make more documents available in machine-readable and open formats

These different elements are a good legal basis to move towards Open Data and even Linked Data. The Directive will need to be transposed into national law.  As Belgium is a federal state and the PSI Directive covers public data from Federal state, Regions, and even Communities, a consistent transposition across these different levels is deemed appropriate.

During the break-out session on PSI Directives during OpenBelgium, you will see what the administrations have set up in order to transpose this Directive in time. Are you up for it?

Then register and join us at Data Days!

image by European People’s Party CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

OpenStreetMap @ DataDays

January 27, 2014 in datadays2014, Featured

OpenKnowledge is what happens when OpenData become useful.

Some OpenData providers can see this as a reason to import data into
OpenStreetMap and its versatile ecosystem of tools and applications. This would
increase visibility
of the data and perhaps generate some of that Open Knowledge.
OpenStreetMap is a community of mappers with a sole purpose of mapping the
entire world. Sometime these mappers cannot resist some of the fresh juicy
Open(Geo)Data and also want to import this into OpenStreetMap.

For those that don’t know about this yet, imports are a controversial issue in the OpenStreetMap
community. There are problems of accuracy, licensing, updates, community health,…
You can read more on this on: Why Imports in OpenStreetMap are controversial

The session organized by the OpenStreetMap-BE working group at the DataDays is
about this subject. OpenStreetMap has a complicated hate-love relationship with
external open geo data but there are a lot of opportunities here for both the
OSM-community and the providers of open geo data sets.

The first goal is to try and clearly state the view of the OSM-community on importing
external datasets and the many misunderstandings related to this. We would also
like to point out some opportunities OSM can offer for data providers or
organisations that open their data. Why only import your data when you can
become of member of the OSM-community. The final goal of this session should be
an answer to the question: Is there a better way to cooperate and to improve all our

In more detail we will try to formulate an answer to these questions by using a
discussion panel. We have invited different people from different organisations that
will bring a variety of views to the table:

  • Tom Van Herck from AGIV (The Flemish Geographical Information Agency)
  • Joost Schouppe, OSM-mapper & City Of Antwerp
  • Ben Abelshausen, OSM-mapper, OKFN-BE board member
  • Bart Rousseau, Stad Gent & OpenData-man

At the end of this session we hope to walk away with some ideas that can bring together the OpenStreetMap-community and the open-data community to improve
the quality and access to some of the open-geo-datasets and OpenStreetMap.

More information about our session can be found on the datadays website.

Happy Mapping!

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