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Therese Karger-Lerchl from Open Data Institute, one of the speakers at Nordic Open Data Forum 2017

Nordic forum on Open Data - an important beginning

Av Anders Frick den 26 november, 2017

Nordic Open Data Forum attracted attendees from across the Nordic, setting a new beginning for closer cooperation on open data matters. The two-day event saw intensive discussions, workshops and seminars on open data. The 80 attendees arrived from Iceland in the West, Finland to the East, Denmark in the South, and Norway in the North.

This article is made up of two parts, day 1 and – not in the least – day 2. It is also available in Swedish.

”There hasn’t earlier been a suitable common Nordic forum for open data, but with this event, we now have one. It’s really great that many of the discussions, in this year’s event, have resulted in tangible partnerships and collaborations”, says Richard Dahlstrand, Project Manager for open data at the Internet Foundation in Sweden, which arranged the Nordic Open Data Forum.

The first day started with Pecha kucha style short presentations, with around ten presentations ranging from researcher networks, weather data, data journalism, GDPR, information environments, and the importance of implementing the Open Data Charter in the Nordics.

Kristofer Sjöholm, investigative and data journalist, who has spent some years working as consultant at Sweco, announced he’s returning to his former position at the national Swedish broadcaster SVT’s data journalism unit, focusing on next year’s election (data). (Helena Bengtsson, who similarly left her position at SVT, to spend some years heading up The Guardian’s Datajournalism efforts, also returns to SVT this year!). Kristofer has previously advocated data-activism and urged the adoption of the Open Data Charter. During his presentation he further explicated why it’s been so difficult to implement the framework, and also asked the audience about it. ”Too complicated” and ”we lack the necessary resources” were some of the reactions from the audience, which included several public authority representatives.

Björn Hagström, open data/innovation consultant, with a past in the Swedish eGovernment Delegation, has recently worked with the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden) to help it get on board with open data. The goal wasn’t specifically to get the authority to publish open data, but rather to develop a process to guide future work on the topic. Amongst several measures, Björn led a series of educational seminars for the staff, through which a series of important questions developed from the participants, which helped establish a better understanding of the authority’s understanding of transparency work. The result is a series of process documents, instructions and plans for how the authority should proceed.

Fredric Landqvist from the city of Gothenburg presented the city’s work on information system interoperability, and specifically how this is being realised through classification, standards, core-attributes, it-systems and silos. From the presentation it became clear Fredric’s favourite word must be ‘interoperability’.

There’s too little research on open data in Sweden. This was the claim of three researchers, who’ve started a research network to increase the amount of research on this topic, as well as raise the understanding of open data amongst the general public. The network’s founders, Karin Ahlin, Jonathan Crusoe and Josefin Lassinantti emphasised the importance of understanding open data as an ecosystem between many interrelated actors, rather than merely a set of datasets released by authorities and consumed by an anonymous mass.

Angela Yong, was next up, from the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI), previously the head of Hack for Sweden, Sweden’s largest open data related hackathon with public authorities. Angela talked about open weather data, and the benefits of including third parties in the innovation process of opening weather data.

The Six City Strategy (6aika) is a cooperation between Finlands six largest cities, aimed at tackling urban challenges by making cities ”smarter”, with open innovation and opening data, as the main strategies. Anu-Maria Laitinen from Tampere explains more in this video interview:

Årets trafiklabhjälte (”Traffic lab hero of the year”), was also awarded during the day, to Thomas Tydal, from the company Railit. Thomas has, briefly, developed systems to help get trains arriving and departing on time. Watch the video clip (in Swedish) where the programming train driver explains what it’s all about:

Serdar Temiz from KTH and Open Knowledge Foundation introduced Open Knowledge Awards, a competition which, amongst others, annually awards prizes to the best transparency initiative, best data journalistic effort, and best open science initiative. The aim of the competition is to draw public attention to how society can benefit more from using knowledge of the open kind. The award ceremony will be arranged on 13th December.

Tryggvi Björgvinsson works at Hagstofa Íslands (Statistics Iceland). He’s deeply passionate about open data, is part of the openness association Félag um stafrænt frelsi á Íslandi, and has recently authored The Art of Data Usability (which can be bought here with 40% discount with the code ctwind17). The book is about usability of data through quality. See an interview with Tryggvi here, also in Swedish since he lived in Sweden for a while:

Hack for Sweden will, in the future, be arranged by the Swedish Public Employment Service. A key new orientation is that the hackathon be more challenge-oriented. The next edition will happen 13-15 April at Norrsken House in Stockholm. Hear and see Anders Granström, from the agency, introduce Hack for Sweden 2018:

Miska Knapek brought forward the German citizen-crowd-measured air-quality project luftDaten.info. For a cost of 30 euros anyone can build and set up an air quality measuring station. Today there are 700 such measuring stations, mostly in Germany. There are hefty discussions about air quality in Germany, somewhat thanks to the medial attention LuftDaten has gathered. Air quality issues have thus climbed higher on the political agenda in Germany.

Antti ”Jogi” Poikola – ambassador of the MyData concept – showed printouts of positioning data he’d gotten from his mobile operator, on asking for his data. He talked about MyData as a model for user-centered personal data control. Instead of letting company needs decide what happens to the personal data they collect, users should be in central control of this data’s use. That is, people should be able to decide how data about them is used, shared, or sold to third parties. We’ve previously interviewed Anti/Jogi about MyData, who then said this:

Aside from the people mentioned above, representatives of Sambruk and Trafiklab presented interesting insight into different open data related topics.

After a lunch of much mingling, nine workshops were held. One of them was very practically oriented, where participants built their own air pollution/micro-particle sensors, which can then be used to measure and contribute air pollution open data to the luftData.se and luftDaten.info websites. Hear Hannes Ebner from Metasolutions AB explain more:

Here is a list of all the workshops during the first day of the forum:

– Open Mobility Data in the Nordics (Elias Arnestrand – Zeto, Daniel Rudmark – RISE Viktoria, Per-Erik Holmberg RISE Viktoria)
– The Six City Open Data tactics (Anu-Maria Laitinen, City of Tampere)
– Usable Open Data (Tryggvi Björgvinsson, Félag um stafrænt frelsi á Íslandi)
– Hack for Sweden 2.0 (Jonas Södergren och Anders Granström, Arbetsförmedlingen)
– 
Open Data Ecosystem Growth (Josefin Lassinantti, Jonathan Crusoe)
– 
MyData – applying the ”open” principles to personal data (Antti ‘Jogi’ Poikola, Aalto University and Open Knowledge Finland)
– 
Open weather data (Angela Yong – SMHI, Peter Lindgren – Visiarc)
– 
Measure air quality at home (Hannes Ebner, Matthias Palmér, MetaSolutions AB)
– 
Open Data Journalism (Kristofer Sjöholm, Sweco, and Tarjei Leer-Salvesen, innsyn.no)
– Open Data Measurements (Karin Ahlin, Ana Brandusescu)

Note! Scroll down to read about the second part – day 2!

Day 2 – with a broader view

The second day of Nordic Open Data Forum took place at Stockholm Waterfront Congress Center, together with the Internetdagarna (”The Internet Days”, in English) conference. Thanks to this cooperation between the Nordic Open Data Forum and Internetdagarna, Nordic open data friends folks got the possibility to see the keynotes by Sue Gardner, Kentaro Toyama and Primavera de Fillippi.

The first keynote from the Nordic Open Data Forum group as Therese Kager-Lerchl from Open Data Institute. She spoke of Ukraine’s public transparency efforts, with a focus on the public procurement system ProZorro, since renamed ”Open Procurement”.

Therese Kager-Lerchl mentioned the currently popular notion that ‘data is the new oil’, adding she doesn’t personally like the metaphor. She prefers to liken data to infrastructure; data are the new roads. Roads help us navigate to places, likewise, data help us arrive at decisions. All data doesn’t necessarily need be open – especially personal data can be as closed as liked, as long as the individual uses can transfer the data to another actor, for instance in a medical situation.

”We should stop seeing opening data as a goal in itself. It’s not only about making data available and accessible, we should more-so consider which problems the given dataset should solve”, says Therese Karger-Lerchl. See the whole presentation by Therese here.

Tarjei Leer-Salvesen, a Norwegian journalist, then introduced the fascinating story of innsyn.no – Norway’s largest private collection of searchable public documents. In brief, innsyn.no was created due to the local municipality, Kristiansand, beginning to scan printouts of public documents, making it impossible for search engines to search through the documents, and for journalists to use them and do good work. Tarjei then took matters into his own hands and created this collection which now has around ten million searchable documents.

There are 400,000 annual freedom of information requests for public documents in Norway – a number which is probably ten times higher than in any other larger European country, according to Tarjei. We’ve previously written about Tarjei – read the article here or see the filmclip from the forum.

The last speaker before lunch was Juho Kokkola from Industryhack, providing interesting insights into using new and creative ways to create innovation in classical industries. Amongst others, he shared the story of a hackathon where the winner, ”Helper”, recommends optimal routes for snow-plowing and other road maintenance in Helsinki’s winter road network. Industryhack accelerates innovation in classical industry companies by letting developers and entrepreneurs solve relevant challenges of these companies. Read more in the specific article on Industryhack, which has several more examples – or check this video clip.

The day’s moderator was Cathrine Lippert, from the Danish Technological Institute, who then gathered the first three speakers for a panel discussion.

Ana Brandusescu, from the World Wide Web Foundation [aka Web Foundation], then took over the stage. She’s a research and policy expert at the organisation, and highlighted several problems in the open data field. The Nordic countries are lower than they could be in the Open Data Barometer, the annual open data ranking the Web Foundation publishes. Ana explained that while there are some specific Nordic problems, leading to worse open data performance, the main challenges are global. Ana promoted the Open Data Charter, which principles, include a common framework, facilitating implementing open data projects, as well as practical implementations of theoretical principles.

Ana also provided some tips on how the Nordic countries could do better in the rankings. Namely by more actively working with policy, be more present at discussion meetings, webinars, and the like. In short, more active involvement is needed from the relevant authorities.

The last keynote speaker was Antti ‘Jogi’ Poikola, from the Aalto University and Open Knowledge Finland. He outlined the main features of the MyData concepts, which puts the user/person in central control of data collected about them by various companies. Additionally, he announced a MyData hub is starting in Sweden.

Following this there was a quick review of the first day’s workshops:

  • The Open Mobility Data in the Nordics participants have agreed to meet twice annually, and continuously share knowledge in between these meetings. After the end of the year, a roadmap will be developed, such that, maybe, maybe, eventually, one can exchange concrete mobility data across the Nordic borders.
  • The workshop involving participants assembling their own air-pollution monitoring kits, resulted in several new sensors, which measurements will hopefully soon end up on the new website, LuftData.se, focusing on LuftDaten.info sensors from the Nordic region.

Erik Borälv from the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, closed the day reminding us what data is, namely, the infrastructure of our time.

Here’s the whole playlist from the day’s presentations.

Click here to se all the pictures from Nordic Open Data Forum.

Footnote: This article, translated with help from Miska Knapek, is also available in Swedish.

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