Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of June 15, 2015

June 19, 2015 1:00 pm PDT | Open Data

Open data shined all over this week. Cities around the globe are getting a serious, multimillion euro lift for their open data efforts, while open data took to the streets in Jamaica and tackled disease in Africa. In the world of sports, Europe’s favorite pastime got a stern call to transparency. Also: What is the Data Act, anyway?

Open Maps in Jamaica

Julian Robinson, a Jamaican Cabinet Minister, wants to see the nation boost its economy and communication with open data, reports the JamaicaObserver.com. Robinson, speaking at a workshop on open data and mapping held at the University of the West Indies in St. Andrew, Jamaica, called out the opportunity of OpenStreetMap, “which is non-proprietary and which would be available to the public free of cost.” Robinson wants to see the tool more publicized and populated by citizens. He also showed the civic benefit: “If you have hurricanes, from which we suffer, it can assist first responders in knowing where to go.”

Open Data Helps Cure Tropical Disease

Health workers, medical researchers, and government officials believe sharing data openly on clinical trials can transform disease in Africa, states SciDev.net. Tim Wells, of Open Source Malaria, explains how his organization’s work “promotes the discovery of treatments against malaria through access to an open database of resources that lack patents.” He and his fellow medical scientists want to expand the effort to neglected diseases in Africa. The idea has backing from some pharmaceutical companies, including the GlaxoSmithKline Open Lab Initiative.

Cities’ Data Efforts Get Major Funding

Cities are the focus of a new 4 million euro data effort, Citadel-on-the-Move, funded by the European Commission. As Julia Glidden states in OpenSource.com, the project engaged over 140 cities from across six continents, to illuminate “existing open data practice (as opposed to best practice theory).” The work uncovered key findings about what cities need to deliver open data, and how to make it easy and practical to use — including the overwhelming preference for technically simple datasets architected with CSV (Comma Separated Values). “Data standards advocates would do well to take their lead from this bottom up finding rather than try to impose a technical ideal from above,” Glidden states.

Data Act 101

On June 9 and 10, 2015, open data advocates in the tech, government, and nonprofit sectors met to improve implementation the Data Act. The federal legislation “requires the Department of the Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget to transform U.S. federal spending from disconnected documents into open, standardized data, and to publish that data online,” explains DataCoalition.org. The requirement breaks down into many areas, including “financial management, payments, budget actions, procurement, and assistance.” The legislation attaches mandated deadlines for the establishment of federal open data policies, as well as reporting and performance information.

FIFA Reform: Is Open Data the Answer?

While FIFA, the international football association, struggles with allegations of corruption, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and others see open data as the solution. As Gavin Starks comments in theGuardian.com, “Football’s popularity means that FIFA has wide-ranging implications for society,” including the billions spent by governments hosting the World Cup. Open data “is the first step towards holding leaders to account for failures and wrongdoing,” Starks notes, and would give FIFA the needed financial transparency to restore public trust. Starks calls on FIFA to get transparent about development contracts and their performance, as well as about FIFA governance itself.


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