Civic Awesome: Open Data In The News For August 29, 2014
Get your passports ready! Civc Awesome goes all international this week, as we take a look at the biggest stories in open data and its impact on everyone from Kenya to Australia.
The International Workshop on Open Data for Science and Sustainability in Developing Countries met in Nairobi, Kenya and called for global open data sharing in an effort to reduce to the digital divide between developing and developed countries. If access to data is free and open across borders, the developing world will be able to tackle such complex issues as food security and the eradication of poverty, one of the workshop’s organizers said. Experts attending the workshop called for the formulation of policies and legal frameworks that support open access to data, especially those in Africa.
As the above article, here too we hear that “so far open data has had limited impact in the developing world.” But, it continues, last month’s election in Indonesia may have been secured thanks to open data. Indonesia’s interest in open data (it is a founding member of the Open Governance Partnership) prompted its own elections commission to make its vote tallying process more transparent. Working with Google, a website where volunteers could easily and openly see scanned files from the election commission was quickly built. “By short-circuiting the long and fraught manual tallying process, [the site] played a ‘very important’ role in restoring public faith in the process and deterring fraud.”
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) self reported a data breach to the Australian Privacy Commissioner. When the AFP provided sensitive data to the country’s Senate, those data were accidentally made publicly available via parliamentary websites, revealing information about criminal investigation and other police activities. The data has seems been removed, but the revelation has sparked concern among civic liberties and other groups, who argue “the retention of large amounts of personal information for an extended period of time increases the rio of a data breach.”
Speaking of police forces, the Metropolitan Police Service, the UK’s largest, has pledged to open data relating to the outcomes of its stop and search program. This on the heals of public outcry against the measure calling it a misuse of power and damaging to the public’s trust in the police. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary determined that “27% of stop and searches did not contain reasonable grounds for suspicion” and that the procedure was disproportionately used on black and other ethnic minorities, thus leading to controversy and public concern.
Computer Weekly completed an analysis of 50 data releases on spending from the UK’s Cabinet Office and determined “they were so marred by ‘dirty data’ and inconsistent computer encoding, systematic scrutiny would require advanced computer programming skills.” This, the publication concludes., is in part because agencies have been uncooperative with the government’s data edict, widespread use of Excel spreadsheets, and a general misunderstanding of the difference between good and bad data by civil servants.