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The Belgium leaps forward on the national Open Data Index

December 10, 2015 in Featured, Open Data News

Open Knowledge International just launched the final 2015 index, ranking 122 countries based on the openness of 13 key datasets. In this ranking Belgium jumped from the 53rd place to 35th place and went from being 39% to being 43% open. What does this mean and how will this affect open data publishing in the future?

It means the federal government takes off

In last years blog, we had to put things in perspective on Why Belgium ranks so low on the Open Data Index. One of our outtakes was that open data publishing was very active in local cities and regions, but not so much on a federal level, which is vital to a decent score on the index. That’s because said index mainly focuses on national efforts and datasets. The Belgian government took notice of this during the Open Belgium Conference 2015 and committed to working towards a strategy to overcome this.

Five months later, an Open Data strategy was approved by the federal ministerial council defining the baseline of a more Open Belgium.

Statbel takes the first leap in the dark

After publishing that strategy during the summer, the first noticeable changes happened. Statbel, the federal department responsible for the national statistics was the first one to announce that their data would fall under an open license and has now opened the first datasets, with more coming soon. This is great news as ‘national statistics’ is one of the key datasets on the open index. So normally, this dataset should receive all points on the index of 2016, given that the right data is open.

We’re not quite there yet

There is still a long way to go though, if we ever want to tie with our neighbouring countries. All 13 key datasets focus on very different departments from government spending to weather forecasts. And to make matter more complex, datasets like water quality and pollutant emissions are not a federal responsibility, but a regional one. So even if for example the Flemish, Brussels or Walloon government scores very high on one of these datasets, only if all regions have the same data available will we get to score positive on this matter.

Since Statbel took the first steps and a federal Open Data strategy is on the table now, we’re having high hopes for 2016. Even though we’re not quite there yet, and still lagging behind neighbouring counties, a truly Open Belgium is approaching. We’re looking forward to all Open Data efforts in 2016.

Escalator” by Unsplash is licensed under CC0.

Open data & Biodiversity Research

May 6, 2015 in Events

There is a world of tools, standards and data out there, ready for you to use.

“Biodiversity Informatics” deals with the application of informatics techniques to biodiversity information for improved management, presentation, discovery, exploration and analysis of scientific data. Combined with open data sources on the Internet, this is a powerful new approach in doing research.

Bringing these tools and data to scientists, citizen scientists or open data adepts is one of the task of the Belgian Biodiversity Platform. To achieve this goal we decided to organize the “Empowering Biodiversity Research” conference on May 21th in Brussels 2015.

During this conference, we will like to take you on a tour to the world of biodiversity informatics & open data. Several interesting projects will be highlighted, for example, you will get to know the whereabouts of Eric the seagull, a dataset published as open data on the internet and learn how to deal with rare animal occurrences and putting them in context.

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Whereabouts of the Belgian tagged Seagulls

We will also look at Antartic biodiversity and find out how you could use a taxonomic backbone to improve your biodiversity data.

 

antartica

Antarctic Biodiversity Portal

During this conference we will try to make the link between open data initiatives and freely available biodiversity data on the internet. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility is the worlds biggest aggregator of data when it comes to this type of data. We hope to realise some fruitful discussions with interested persons coming from the open data community.

For more information on this conference, please visit the website. Registration deadline ends in a couple of days, on May 7th. And yes, there is a networking event foreseen.

Open Belgium Conference 2015 is live!

December 3, 2014 in Events, Featured, OpenBelgium2015

The second edition of Open Belgium is upon us. On the 23rd of February 2015 the conference will take place in Palais des Congrès Namur in Wallonia. We hope to see 200 open data pioneers, practitioners, thinkers, researchers and entrepreneurs from all across Belgium to learn and discuss the next steps during this conference.

And to celebrate our online launch we are offering 50 early bird ticket prices in December. You have to admit these would be awesome gifts beneath the christmas tree for open data enthusiasts. You pay 80 euros for early bird tickets instead of the normal price of 130 euros. Want to provide us with a form of sponsoring while buying a ticket? You can buy a supporter ticket of 160 euros to support the organisation of this event and to affirm that we can continue this in the future.

openbelgium

The conference itself is a community driven effort of Open Knowledge, the Open Belgium Community and our partner organisations such as AWT, Packed vzw and others who will join our cause. Together we all want to put Open Data on the Belgian agenda. Through workshops we can learn from each other and be inspired by the different national efforts. We’ll have keynote sessions and a panel with Alexander De Croo and people from the Walloon government about the National and Regional Open Data governments Efforts.

And in the afternoon there are 8 break out sessions divided over 2 timeslots from which you can choose. The format remains the same but the topics and approach will be very different from last year ranging over numerous topics such as Open Culture, Open Transport, Open Tourism, Open Street Map, Local Open Data, Open Science and Open Tools.

Practical

When: 23rd of February 2015
Where: Place D’Armes 1, 5000 Namur
Tickets: Tickets and info: http://2015.openbelgium.be/

Flyerfront Open Belgium

Apps For Europe: Take your Open Data application to the next level.

October 21, 2014 in Events, Featured

Have you participated in an hackathon this year? And are you ready to build a start up around your application? Or are you still tweaking your open data application idea and do you consider turning that idea into a viable start-up? If your app is using Open Data as a resource than we have the perfect opportunity for you.

At Apps for Europe we want to connect the best Open Data applications to a crowd of European investors, incubators and accelerators. But to be allowed to participate during the international business lounge at Future Everything festival, you need to prove your application is worth the attention. That’s why we want to help out with a few thorough preparation sessions:

On saturday the 8th of November we’re organising a pre-business lounge in Ghent. This pre-business lounge will go down during Drupalcamp 2014 in Ghent on the ‘Schoonmeersen Campus’ of HoGent. During the camp we will give a introduction session on ‘Making money with Open Data’, where we discuss open data business models and examples of succesful implementations. Afterwards there is a ‘how-to-pitch’ session in the afternoon with live try-outs where other participants are your soundboard, enabling you to tweak your business pitch perfectly. So on one day you will learn to write the ideal Open Data business pitch. Interested? Let us know you’re coming through pieterjan@okfn.be and register on http://ghent2014.drupalcamp.be/ (it’s free!)

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Next Steps
After the pre-business lounge you will be ready to pitch your application to the whole of Europe. But to be a finalist for the international business lounge in Manchester during Future Everything Festival you need to prove yourself. This can be done in two separate ways.

1. You submit your application online on the Apps for Europe website. A grand jury of experts will decide which application will go through to the international business lounge.

2. You can attend one of the local business lounges. The winner of each local business lounge also gets a direct ticket to the final international business lounge.

Tip: You can enter the online competition and participate in the local business lounge with the samen application.

For Belgium, the local Business Lounge will be on the 3rd of December during the Opening-Up Conference. There you will be able to give a 5 minute pitch to a jury of 5 accelerators / incubators, open data experts and start ups. Convince them of your application and win the local business lounge, which is also good practice for the international business lounge. If you want to join us as a contestant, send a mail to pieterjan@okfn.be. It’s not obligatory to have attended the pre-business lounge to enter the local business lounge, but it recommended for early stage open data ideas or people who are new to pitching their idea.

And if we can’t convince you, maybe Nigel Williams can.

So come to the local business lounge or pre-business lounge to promote or build upon your open data idea or application. If you have questions about the business lounge or the online competition, Tags: , , , , Comments Off

Local Data Census: Do you approve our top 15 datasets?

October 16, 2014 in Featured, local data census

After a first live discussion, a fruitful public consultation and close cooperation with our Open Belgium ambassadors we have what could be the 15 datasets used for the local data census. But before we implement this top 15, we want your final approval or objection if you do not agree. For those who are not familiar with the whole process:

  • We started by collecting proposed datasets and discussing the standard datasets during the Open Antwerp workshop in June.
  • We did a public consultation, asking everyone to rank these datasets through a wiki survey and add new ones as well. You can see the results in this blogpost.
  • We asked our Open Belgium ambassadors to give us their top 15 datasets for the local data census, taking into account the score of the wiki survey.
  • Finally we combined the scores of the wiki survey with the scores based on the top 15 of our Open Belgium Ambassadors.

This provided the following ranking: Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 16.13.14

Yesterday, during a final online meeting with the Open Belgium ambassadors we asked them whether this top 15 was balanced enough to publish on the Local Data Census. We wanted a lists of datasets that can be opened by almost every city or municipality, regardless of size of population. We also wanted a balance between datasets which are easy to obtain and open up and datasets that are hard to obtain on a practical and a political level.

In the end we changed two datasets in the ranking in order to have a balanced top 15. What we eventually left out:

Number 5 Public Tenders

Simply because the dataset Public Tenders can be found twice in the top 15 ranking as displayed above and we felt that Public Tenders dataset number 8. has far more interesting requirements than 5. So we chose 8. to stay and replace 5. with the number 16. in the ranking Crime Statistics.

Number 14 Noise Pollution

Although Noise pollution is a very interesting dataset, it is not a dataset that every city or municipality can obtain because it requires expensive recording equipment, especially if you want real time data. So we decided to replace it with a more feasible option: Local Schools which is number 17 in the total ranking.

So that means the 15 datasets of the Local Data Census Belgium are:

  1. Road constructions: Overview of different road constructions
  2. Traffic accidents: Geo overview of the traffic incidents in certain regions of the city
  3. Parking space: Overview of parking facilities and/or the available parkings spots
  4. Annual budget: Total annual budget for the city administration
  5. Zoning plans (Bijzondere Plannen van Aanleg en Ruimtelijke UitvoeringsPlan – BPA’s en RUP’s)
  6. Opening hours: Opening hours of public city services
  7. Public tenders : granted party, amount, type of contract, decision council
  8. Service requests: Requests for city services assistance, non-law enforcement related. Eg. Littering
  9. Environmental permits: Overview of the different applied environmental permits in the city
  10. Subsidy systems: Enumeration of the different available subsidy systems
  11. Tax information: Information breakdown and conditions of local taxes
  12. Health facilities: Overview of number of doctors, hospital beds, pharmacies
  13. Decision making process: Breakdown of the decision making process in the city council
  14. Crime statistics: Statistics about the crime rates in and around the city
  15. Local schools: Geo overview of the local schools in the city

Is this list of datasets something you approve? If not, please let us know why and what suggestions you have by sending an email to pieterjan [at] okfn.be. I’ll send the email to the Open Belgium ambassadors with the inquirer in CC.So please do let us know if you think there could be a more suitable top 15.

If we do not receive any feedback after the 16th of October we’ll assume this list is approved.

Choosing the cities
What we also discussed is which cities we will include in the Local Data Census at first, because adding all 589 municipalities and cities would be an overload to manage. So we decided to base ourselves on the 50 cities with the biggest population in Belgium, found in this list: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabel_van_Belgische_gemeenten. However municipalities who are not in this top 50 can be added to the list upon request.

Next Steps

After the approval process we need to write proper definitions for each dataset, publish the list and definitions on http://be-city.census.okfn.org/ and start incentivising cities and open data hackers to add the datasets of their respective municipality.

If you want to help out with the definitions or the dissemination of the census or the adding of datasets, let us know and we’ll keep you posted.

Headerimage CC-BY J.D. Hancock – Flickr

Apps for Europe is looking for the best open data apps

September 1, 2014 in Applications, Featured, Open Data News

With 10 Business Lounges happening throughout Europe this year, Apps for Europe is trying to find the best open data applications and startups that Europe has to offer. Open Belgium invites all the Belgian developers, startups and companies that use open data as a recourse to join this competition. You have the chance to win a spot at the International Business Lounge @ Future Everything at Manchester in February 2015. The finalists have the chance to pitch their open data application to a crowd of international investors, open data experts, incubators and more.

There are two possible ways to enter the competition.

1. You can find a Local Business Lounge hosted in one of the many European Cities. In Belgium the Local Business Lounge will be hosted in Transforma BXL during Open Data Brussels. More information about this business lounge on this blog later this month.

2. You can also enter the online business lounge by providing information about your application, team and business model. The Apps for Europe online competition will run from September 1st to December 31st 2014.

About last years competition

Last years winner BikeCityGuide.org has show the potential of using open data to enhance their company and expand their services. Since the international Business Lounge at Future Everything last year they were able to reach new cities and raise almost 140.000,- in crowdfunding. A true success story!

And talking about a successes, the audience award was won by Nostalgeo, a Belgian application from Nazka that enables you to compare old postcards with todays street view. Nostalgeo was a finalist at the international business lounge by entering the local Business Lounge during Open Data Day in Flanders.

Other Belgian finalists were data.be, making KBO data searchable and Carambla, the parking app that provides information about parking space in 3 major cities in Belgium. And next year we want a strong Belgian presence at the international Business Lounge as well.

Nostalgeo at the International Business Lounge

Ides from Nostalgeo receiving the Audience award at the International Business Lounge 2014

Over the past years many local, regional and national app competitions in Europe have been organized to stimulated developers and companies to build new applications with open data. Apps for Europe has taken it to the next level. By adding Business Lounges to local events we introduce the world of open data development to that of investors, accelerators, incubators and more. Want more information about the Apps for Europe project? Mail to Pieter-Jan or leave a comment below.

Choose local open data with us

August 21, 2014 in Events, Featured, Open Data News

Open Belgium has been carefully planning the release of a Local Open Data Census, which is a benchmark, similar to the National Open Data Census, as a way to measure local Open Data efforts. The goal is to acknowledge Open Data efforts of Belgian local governments who already have a lot of datasets online and to motivate those who are considering Open Data as well. Which Open Datasets we’ll use as a benchmark for this ranking is entirely up to all of you!

Go to the Allourideas survey and choose which of the two proposed datasets seems the most interesting to you. If neither of them sounds good, just add your own dataset with a short explanation. The more you vote between two datasets and add new datasets, the more enriched data we have to make this a good census.

The objective is to have 10 to 15 datasets to rank the local governments on this page. The survey runs for three weeks, which means we’ll stop the survey on friday the 12th september at noon. So start voting and suggesting!

Local Data Census

 

A little background

OKFN central released the local city data census earlier this year in order to rank local governments within a certain country on their Open Data efforts. Excited as we were, we immediately asked if we could moderate this ranking for Belgium. The only thing was that the standard datasets, which you can still view on the local data census template, are not always applicable to the local governments in Belgium. For example, air quality is something that is measured on a regional level in Belgium, not on a local one. So you can’t motivate cities to open up these datasets, because they don’t own them in the first place.

That’s why decided to change the datasets by the power of the crowd: The Belgian citizens and open data enthusiasts. In order to start up the local data census we want involve as many people as possible in this 3 part process. Three parts you say? Yes!
We started by asking the attendees of Open Antwerp in June what they found of the standard datasets in the local data census and whether these were applicable on a Belgian local level. It was a good testing ground, seen that the room was filled with citizens, open data experts and public servants at the same time. In the end they all rejected 8 of the 15 datasets, accepted 6 and doubted about 1 of them. Even better, they suggested 20 more datasets!

IMG_20140625_194732

OK that’s 26 datasets, what now?

That’s what we wondered as well, we didn’t want to choose ourselves between these 26 datasets and communicate that a group of plus 20 people decided on one afternoon which datasets will be used for the local data census. No we wanted to ask everyone what they think of these datasets and if we missed any of them that might be better alternatives. So that’s why we started this public survey that will take about 3 weeks. We hope this will provide us with an idea which datasets are preferred by the general audience.

After 3 weeks we’ll stop the ‘All our ideas’ survey and will submit the list of datasets and their popularity to the Open Belgium ambassadors. They will figure out whether the new datasets do apply on a local government level and which of the most popular datasets should be assigned to the local data census list. In order to narrow the list of datasets down to 10 to 15 they’ll take into account the popularity of a dataset, the variation of different datasets (Mix between transport, financial, health, environmental, legislative and civic information datasets) and which datasets apply to big as well as small and medium local governments.

When approved by the ambassadors, this final list will be implemented in the Belgian Local Data Census and we’ll start contacting Local City Governments and encourage them to fill in the census for their city. The local data census, just as the national one, is community based, so citizens themselves can also add datasets to their respective city.

 

A glimpse of the hopefully near future:

 
After the release of the local data census we want to involve the regional governments in building a regional census, which means less parties to approach, but all the more complicated, as we work with regions and communities in Belgium. This would enable us to set-up an interactive webpage on OpenBelgium.be, aggregating the results from the National, Local and Regional data censuses, enabling anyone to see who is doing what concerning Open Data efforts in Belgium.

A challenge? Yes, but one we want to tackle together with the community.

Magazine image by aussiegall

Attention to all datajournalists and devs.: The Pre-Dataharvest+ Hackaton is upon us

April 30, 2014 in Events, Featured

journalismfund.eu is organising the fourth edition of the Dataharvest+ conference next week. Investigative journalists, data specialists and coding whizzkids will once again gather in Brussels on Friday 9, Saturday 10 and Sunday morning 11 May 2014. The conference is the way to get up-to-speed about new research methods, bounce story ideas off experienced colleagues, get help from expert data analysts for your investigation and find out about cutting-edge ways to present your story. But what’s even more interesting is the day before, the hackathon.

journalismfund.eu is, together with OKFN, inviting developers and data journalists to come to the conference site on thursday the 8th of May for a Datajournalism Hackathon. They will spend a day digging deep into the EU’s data.

DHplus600x250_0

In a hands-on event addressed at both coders and journalists, you’ll be able to work in small teams to extract fresh data from EU institutions, make visualisations and find stories worth telling. In the run-up to the EU elections later in the month, you’ll work on two topic streams:

1) EU public contracts: Where does the money go?

Starting in January 2014, the EU Publications Office has finally made available a machine-readable copy of the EU Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) database. This database contains information on the procurement processes of EU institutions, but also all major contracts from each of the member states.

For many of the contained contracts, we find the beneficiary and the contract amount – great data for journalists to look into what public bodies are buying, who they purchase it from and if they’re paying a good price.

As the TED database is fairly large and complex, the best way to mine it is through collaboration between coders and journalists – so Dataharvest gives you a unique opportunity to understand where public contracts money in the EU goes.

2) EU election freestyle

Two weeks ahead of the EU parliament elections, there will be many questions to answer: will Europe see the rise of right-wing extremist parties in the parliament? What policies do the candidates actually propose? Who will be part of the new commission?

The EU election challenge will not mandate a dataset; that’s why during the hackathon we will rather work together with the participants to generate stories and graphics relevant to the upcoming election. The organisers will also share their resources to make sure that everyone has the right data and tools to do good results reporting.

If you’re still not convinced, take a look at http://ted.openspending.org/ and review the datasets that will explored throughout the hackathon.

Some practical info

Date & time:
Thursday the 8th of May 2014, the hackathon start at 10:00 and will go on until the evening.

Registration:
Please register on the journalismfund website, that way you’ll be on the list of participants and the mailinglist for more updates. You might notice that there is a fee for the conference itself, this does not apply for the hackathon, so just send your name to administration@journalismfund.eu after your registration. That way Dataharvest+ will make a note to wave your entrance fee.

Location:
Erasmushogeschool, 70 Zespenningenstraat, Brussels

Hope to see you there.

What’s on the Apps For Ghent IV Menu?

March 19, 2014 in Events, Featured


If there is one thing we learned from (co)-organising hackathons, it’s that they’re fast and full of interesting talks and tracks. Apps For Ghent is no exception and it’s this saturday. We give a quick oversight of the programme to mentally prepare and figure out what concept you’ll be working on this year.

appsforghentbp

START!

09:00 Reception and breakfast
Stack up on the coffee and couques, sugary energy for everyone.
+
Speedtalk about The Datatank
Jan Van Steenlandt will give you a speed course in using and finding the right datasets with the Datatank, which is the system running behind data.gent.be.
+
Short introduction of the datasets of the City of Ghent and Sensolus
The city of Ghent has some new datasets (Dutch) ready for you and Sensolus will get you up to speed about the sensors that you can use live, as well as using data from sensors that already gathering data as we read on.

09:30 Start Hackathon
Find your buddies, take out those laptops and get started. You have until 16:00 to work on your idea.

10:30 – 12:30 : Apps for dummies (1st floor)

Apps For Dummies (Dutch) is a separate citizen development workshop for those who want to create an app without coding skills. Yes, you’ve heard right, now everybody can make an app. Thimo Thoeye and David Slosse will give a workshop about the neighbourhood applications based on application template developed by Citadel on The move.

11:00 Inspiration session 1: How can sensor data support relevant applications?
Still wondering how you can integrate sensor data into your concept? No worries, Johan Criel and Laurence Claeys from Sensolus will give an inspiration session about how you can use that data.

12h:30 Inspiration session 2 : Apps and the Ghent green pools
How can data and mobile apps contribute to the involvement around the Ghent green pools (Dutch)? If you don’t know what green pools are, those are the 4 big green areas that will provide the necessary room for green space and recreation around the city.

12:30 Lunch
Time to take in more than sugar and coffee. Short foodbreak.

14:00 CoderDojo
Codoerdojo starts their track for 7-16 year olds.
The team already had a head start, but beware for these new prodigies, they learn fast.

14:30 Datatalk 1:
Olav Peeters from IRCEL (interregional cell for the environment) will talk about environmental data and services that will be able to provide you with the necessary data, the services that already running on it (eg. Sensor Observation Services), the legal frame and INSPIRE. There’s also some attention to Sensor Observation Services on a Raspberry Pi and possibilities for a project where data of onboard computers in car can be made available.

15:15

Pieter Colpaert, not only part of Open Knowledge Foundation Belgium, but also the coordinator of the international Open Transport working group, is going to introduce the concept of Open Transport Data.

16:00
Put down your pens…, I mean laptops. It’s time for the teams to present their results.

17h30 jury deliberation

17h30 Presentation and presentation by CoderDojo

17h45 Start Reception

18h45 Award ceremony

19h30 End

That’s all of it. It’s a big schedule, are you ready for it?
If you want to come but still need a team and/or a project, why not join the edit-a-thon team. I’ll be your personal assistant during the whole activity and we’ll have a blast.

Got any more questions about Apps For Ghent?
You can always tweet to @AppsforGhent or just mail us.

Trouble getting there?
Slimweg has a whole webpage dedicated to getting to the AC Portus building (Dutch only)

Apps For Ghent IV DataDive: The Prequel

March 5, 2014 in Events, Featured

Datadive

May the fourth be with you. Oh yes, the fourth edition of Apps For Ghent is right around the corner and to inspire the digital minds in Ghent, we’re organising a data-dive on the 11th of March.

Datadive? 

Don’t worry, you don’t need a wetsuit. The data owners providing the data for the Apps For Ghent hackathon will tell us more about their datasets, how they are maintained, for which purposes they exist and what the challenges considering policy are. The datasets belong to the Ghent environment service, the green maintenance service and the health service. So let’s make applications that are ‘lean’ and green.

After the session about the data there is room for some brainstorming on possible projects during Apps For Ghent on the 22nd of March. So you’ll be ready and inspired for the hackathon itself.

Interested?

Come and join us on 11 March 2014, confirm by signing up on Eventbrite

Address:

AC Portus

Keizer Karelstraat 1 – 1st floor

9000 Ghent

Schedule:

18h30 Reception

19h00 Start data explanations

20h00 Brainstorm ideas

21h00 End

 

Original image source by DiverJim  provided by the SXC Image Licence agreement

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