Open data governance and open governance: interplay or disconnect?


Blog Post by Ana Brandusescu, Carlos Iglesias, Danny Lämmerhirt, and Stefaan Verhulst (in alphabetical order): “The presence of open data often gets listed as an essential requirement toward “open governance”. For instance, an open data strategy is reviewed as a key component of many action plans submitted to the Open Government Partnership. Yet little time is spent on assessing how open data itself is governed, or how it embraces open governance. For example, not much is known on whether the principles and practices that guide the opening up of government — such as transparency, accountability, user-centrism, ‘demand-driven’ design thinking — also guide decision-making on how to release open data.

At the same time, data governance has become more complex and open data decision-makers face heightened concerns with regards to privacy and data protection. The recent implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has generated an increased awareness worldwide of the need to prevent and mitigate the risks of personal data disclosures, and that has also affected the open data community. Before opening up data, concerns of data breaches, the abuse of personal information, and the potential of malicious inference from publicly available data may have to be taken into account. In turn, questions of how to sustain existing open data programs, user-centrism, and publishing with purpose gain prominence.

To better understand the practices and challenges of open data governance, we have outlined a research agenda in an earlier blog post. Since then, and perhaps as a result, governance has emerged as an important topic for the open data community. The audience attending the 5th International Open Data Conference (IODC) in Buenos Aires deemed governance of open data to be the most important discussion topic. For instance, discussions around the Open Data Charter principles during and prior to the IODC acknowledged the role of an integrated governance approach to data handling, sharing, and publication. Some conclude that the open data movement has brought about better governance, skills, technologies of public information management which becomes an enormous long-term value for government. But what does open data governance look like?

Understanding open data governance

To expand our earlier exploration and broaden the community that considers open data governance, we convened a workshop at the Open Data Research Symposium 2018. Bringing together open data professionals, civil servants, and researchers, we focused on:

  • What is open data governance?
  • When can we speak of “good” open data governance, and
  • How can the research community help open data decision-makers toward “good” open data governance?

In this session, open data governance was defined as the interplay of rules, standards, tools, principles, processes and decisions that influence what government data is opened up, how and by whom. We then explored multiple layers that can influence open data governance.

In the following, we illustrate possible questions to start mapping the layers of open data governance. As they reflect the experiences of session participants, we see them as starting points for fresh ethnographic and descriptive research on the daily practices of open data governance in governments….(More)”.

The Lancet Countdown: Tracking progress on health and climate change using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA)


Victoria Moody at the UK Data Service: “The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change—which assessed responses to climate change with a view to ensuring the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide—concluded that “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”. The Commission recommended that more accurate national quantification of the health co-benefits and economic impacts of mitigation decisions was essential in promoting a low-carbon transition.

Building on these foundations, the Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change was formed as an independent research collaboration…

The partnership comprises 24 academic institutions from every continent, bringing together individuals with a broad range of expertise across disciplines (including climate scientists, ecologists, mathematicians, geographers, engineers, energy, food, and transport experts, economists, social and political scientists, public health professionals, and physicians).

Four of the indicators developed for Working Group 3 (Mitigation actions and health co-benefits) uses International Energy Agency (IEA) data made available by the the IEA via the UK Data Service for use by researchers, learners and teaching staff in UK higher and further education. Additionally, two of the indicators developed for Working Group 4 (Finance and economics) also use IEA data.

Read our impact case study to find our more about the impact and reach of the Lancet Countdown, watch the YouTube film below, read the Lancet Countdown 2018 Report …(More)”

Should Libraries Be the Keepers of Their Cities’ Public Data?


Linda Poon at CityLab: “In recent years, dozens of U.S. cities have released pools of public data. It’s an effort to improve transparency and drive innovation, and done well, it can succeed at both: Governments, nonprofits, and app developers alike have eagerly gobbled up that data, hoping to improve everything from road conditions to air quality to food delivery.

But what often gets lost in the conversation is the idea of how public data should be collected, managed, and disseminated so that it serves everyone—rather than just a few residents—and so that people’s privacy and data rights are protected. That’s where librarians come in.

“As far as how private and public data should be handled, there isn’t really a strong model out there,” says Curtis Rogers, communications director for the Urban Library Council (ULC), an association of leading libraries across North America. “So to have the library as the local institution that is the most trusted, and to give them that responsibility, is a whole new paradigm for how data could be handled in a local government.”

In fact, librarians have long been advocates of digital inclusion and literacy. That’s why, last month, ULC launched a new initiative to give public libraries a leading role in a future with artificial intelligence. They kicked it off with a working group meeting in Washington, D.C., where representatives from libraries in cities like Baltimore, Toronto, Toledo, and Milwaukee met to exchange ideas on how to achieve that through education and by taking on a larger role in data governance.

It’s a broad initiative, and Rogers says they are still in the beginning stages of determining what that role will ultimately look like. But the group will discuss how data should be organized and managed, hash out the potential risks of artificial intelligence, and eventually develop a field-wide framework for how libraries can help drive equitable public data policies in cities.

Already, individual libraries are involved with their city’s data. Chattanooga Public Library (which wasn’t part of the working group, but is a member of ULC) began hosting the city’s open data portal in 2014, turning a traditionally print-centered institution into a community data hub. Since then, the portal has added more than 280 data sets and garnered hundreds of thousands of page views, according to a report for the 2018 fiscal year….

The Toronto Public Library is also in a unique position because it may soon sit inside one of North America’s “smartest” cities. Last month, the city’s board of trade published a 17-page report titled “BiblioTech,” calling for the library to oversee data governance for all smart city projects.

It’s a grand example of just how big the potential is for public libraries. Ryan says the proposal remains just that at the moment, and there are no details yet on what such a model would even look like. She adds that they were not involved in drafting the proposal, and were only asked to provide feedback. But the library is willing to entertain the idea.

Such ambitions would be a large undertaking in the U.S., however, especially for smaller libraries that are already understaffed and under-resourced. According to ULC’s survey of its members, only 23 percent of respondents said they have a staff person designated as the AI lead. A little over a quarter said they even have AI-related educational programming, and just 15 percent report being part of any local or national initiative.

Debbie Rabina, a professor of library science at Pratt Institute in New York, also cautions that putting libraries in charge of data governance has to be carefully thought out. It’s one thing for libraries to teach data literacy and privacy, and to help cities disseminate data. But to go further than that—to have libraries collecting and owning data and to have them assessing who can and can’t use the data—can lead to ethical conflicts and unintended consequences that could erode the public’s trust….(More)”.

Leveraging and Sharing Data for Urban Flourishing


Testimony by Stefaan Verhulst before New York City Council Committee on Technology and the Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC): “We live in challenging times. From climate change to economic inequality, the difficulties confronting New York City, its citizens, and decision-makers are unprecedented in their variety, and also in their complexity and urgency. Our standard policy toolkit increasingly seems stale and ineffective. Existing governance institutions and mechanisms seem outdated and distrusted by large sections of the population.

To tackle today’s problems we need not only new solutions but also new methods for arriving at solutions. Data can play a central role in this task. Access to and the use of data in a trusted and responsible manner is central to meeting the challenges we face and enabling public innovation.

This hearing, called by the Technology Committee and the Commission on Public Information and Communication, is therefore timely and very important. It is my firm belief that rapid progress on developing an effective data sharing framework is among the most important steps our New York City leaders can take to tackle the myriad of 21st challenges....

I am joined today by some of my distinguished NYU colleagues, Prof. Julia Lane and Prof. Julia Stoyanovich, who have worked extensively on the technical and privacy challenges associated with data sharing. I will, therefore, avoid duplicating our testimonies and won’t focus on issues of privacy, trust and how to establish a responsible data sharing infrastructure, while these are central considerations for the type of data-driven approaches I will discuss. I am, of course, happy to elaborate on these topics during the question and answer session.

Instead, I want to focus on four core issues associated with data collaboration. I phrase these issues as answers to four questions. For each of these questions, I also provide a set of recommended actions that this Committee could consider undertaking or studying.

The four core questions are:

  • First, why should NYC care about data and data sharing?
  • Second, if you build a data-sharing framework, will they come?
  • Third, how can we best engage the private sector when it comes to sharing and using their data?
  • And fourth, is technology is the main (or best) answer?…(More)”.

Show me the Data! A Systematic Mapping on Open Government Data Visualization


Paper by André Eberhardt and Milene Selbach Silveira: “During the last years many government organizations have adopted Open Government Data policies to make their data publicly available. Although governments are having success on publishing their data, the availability of the datasets is not enough to people to make use of it due to lack of technical expertise such as programming skills and knowledge on data management. In this scenario, Visualization Techniques can be applied to Open Government Data in order to help to solve this problem.

In this sense, we analyzed previously published papers related to Open Government Data Visualization in order to provide an overview about how visualization techniques are being applied to Open Government Data and which are the most common challenges when dealing with it. A systematic mapping study was conducted to survey the papers that were published in this area. The study found 775 papers and, after applying all inclusion and exclusion criteria, 32 papers were selected. Among other results, we found that datasets related to transportation are the main ones being used and Map is the most used visualization technique. Finally, we report that data quality is the main challenge being reported by studies that applied visualization techniques to Open Government Data…(More)”.

Hundreds of Bounty Hunters Had Access to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint Customer Location Data for Years


Joseph Cox at Motherboard: ” In January, Motherboard revealed that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint were selling their customers’ real-time location data, which trickled down through a complex network of companies until eventually ending up in the hands of at least one bounty hunter. Motherboard was also able to purchase the real-time location of a T-Mobile phone on the black market from a bounty hunter source for $300. In response, telecom companies said that this abuse was a fringe case.

In reality, it was far from an isolated incident.

Around 250 bounty hunters and related businesses had access to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint customer location data, with one bail bond firm using the phone location service more than 18,000 times, and others using it thousands or tens of thousands of times, according to internal documents obtained by Motherboard from a company called CerCareOne, a now-defunct location data seller that operated until 2017. The documents list not only the companies that had access to the data, but specific phone numbers that were pinged by those companies.

In some cases, the data sold is more sensitive than that offered by the service used by Motherboard last month, which estimated a location based on the cell phone towers that a phone connected to. CerCareOne sold cell phone tower data, but also sold highly sensitive and accurate GPS data to bounty hunters; an unprecedented move that means users could locate someone so accurately so as to see where they are inside a building. This company operated in near-total secrecy for over 5 years by making its customers agree to “keep the existence of CerCareOne.com confidential,” according to a terms of use document obtained by Motherboard.

Some of these bounty hunters then resold location data to those unauthorized to handle it, according to two independent sources familiar with CerCareOne’s operations.

The news shows how widely available Americans’ sensitive location data was to bounty hunters. This ease-of-access dramatically increased the risk of abuse….(More)”.

Using Personal Informatics Data in Collaboration among People with Different Expertise


Dissertation by Chia-Fang Chung: “Many people collect and analyze data about themselves to improve their health and wellbeing. With the prevalence of smartphones and wearable sensors, people are able to collect detailed and complex data about their everyday behaviors, such as diet, exercise, and sleep. This everyday behavioral data can support individual health goals, help manage health conditions, and complement traditional medical examinations conducted in clinical visits. However, people often need support to interpret this self-tracked data. For example, many people share their data with health experts, hoping to use this data to support more personalized diagnosis and recommendations as well as to receive emotional support. However, when attempting to use this data in collaborations, people and their health experts often struggle to make sense of the data. My dissertation examines how to support collaborations between individuals and health experts using personal informatics data.

My research builds an empirical understanding of individual and collaboration goals around using personal informatics data, current practices of using this data to support collaboration, and challenges and expectations for integrating the use of this data into clinical workflows. These understandings help designers and researchers advance the design of personal informatics systems as well as the theoretical understandings of patient-provider collaboration.

Based on my formative work, I propose design and theoretical considerations regarding interactions between individuals and health experts mediated by personal informatics data. System designers and personal informatics researchers need to consider collaborations occurred throughout the personal tracking process. Patient-provider collaboration might influence individual decisions to track and to review, and systems supporting this collaboration need to consider individual and collaborative goals as well as support communication around these goals. Designers and researchers should also attend to individual privacy needs when personal informatics data is shared and used across different healthcare contexts. With these design guidelines in mind, I design and develop Foodprint, a photo-based food diary and visualization system. I also conduct field evaluations to understand the use of lightweight data collection and integration to support collaboration around personal informatics data. Findings from these field deployments indicate that photo-based visualizations allow both participants and health experts to easily understand eating patterns relevant to individual health goals. Participants and health experts can then focus on individual health goals and questions, exchange knowledge to support individualized diagnoses and recommendations, and develop actionable and feasible plans to accommodate individual routines….(More)”.

Open Data Politics: A Case Study on Estonia and Kazakhstan


Book by Maxat Kassen: “… offers a cross-national comparison of open data policies in Estonia and Kazakhstan. By analyzing a broad range of open data-driven projects and startups in both countries, it reveals the potential that open data phenomena hold with regard to promoting public sector innovations. The book addresses various political and socioeconomic contexts in these two transitional societies, and reviews the strategies and tactics adopted by policymakers and stakeholders to identify drivers of and obstacles to the implementation of open data innovations. Given its scope, the book will appeal to scholars, policymakers, e-government practitioners and open data entrepreneurs interested in implementing and evaluating open data-driven public sector projects….(More)”

Toward an Open Data Demand Assessment and Segmentation Methodology


Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young at IADB: “Across the world, significant time and resources are being invested in making government data accessible to all with the broad goal of improving people’s lives. Evidence of open data’s impact – on improving governance, empowering citizens, creating economic opportunity, and solving public problems – is emerging and is largely encouraging. Yet much of the potential value of open data remains untapped, in part because we often do not understand who is using open data or, more importantly, who is not using open data but could benefit from the insights it may generate. By identifying, prioritizing, segmenting, and engaging with the actual and future demand for open data in a systemic and systematic way, practitioners can ensure that open data is more targeted. Understanding and meeting the demand for open data can increase overall impact and return on investment of public funds.

The GovLab, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, and with the support of the French Development Agency developed the Open Data Demand and Assessment Methodology to provide open data policymakers and practitioners with an approach for identifying, segmenting, and engaging with demand. This process specifically seeks to empower data champions within public agencies who want to improve their data’s ability to improve people’s lives….(More)”.

New Urban Centres Database sets new standards for information on cities at global scale


EU Science Hub: “Data analysis highlights very diverse development patterns and inequalities across cities and world regions.

Building on the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL), the new database provides more detailed information on the cities’ location and size as well as characteristics such as greenness, night time light emission, population size, the built-up areas exposed to natural hazards, and travel time to the capital city.

For several of these attributes, the database contains information recorded over time, dating as far back as 1975. 

Responding to a lack of consistent data, or data only limited to large cities, the Urban Centre Database now makes it possible to map, classify and count all human settlements in the world in a standardised way.

An analysis of the data reveals very different development patterns in the different parts of the world.

“The data shows that in the low-income countries, high population growth has resulted only into moderate increases in the built-up areas, while in the high-income countries, moderate population growth has resulted into very big increases in the built-up areas. In practice, cities have grown more in size in richer countries, with respect to poorer countries where the populations are growing faster”, said JRC researcher Thomas Kemper.

According to JRC scientists, around 75% of the global population now live in cities, towns or suburbs….

The City Centres Database provides new open data supporting the monitoring of UN Sustainable Development Goals, the UN’s New Urban Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The main findings based on the Urban Centre Database are summarised in a new edition of the Atlas of the Human Planet, published together with the database….(More)”.