Civic Awesome: Open Data In The News For The Week of February 13, 2015

February 13, 2015 12:00 pm PST | Data as a Service

Happy Valentine’s, open data lovers!

Before we get to the news, a quick announcement looking ahead. Next week (February 21st to be exact) is Open Data Day. Consider celebrating by participating in the International Open Data Hackathon and building on your idea for using open data in a meaningful and exciting way. More information and registration at is available at

And now for this week’s open data news…

Open Data: How Mobile Phones Saved Bananas From Bacterial Wilt In Uganda

A disease known as banana bacterial wilt (BBW) has nearly wiped out the fruit which provides nearly 27% of Ugandans daily caloric intake, so the country’s government drew up an “open data plan” to deal with the crisis. Volunteers use mobile phones to report on outbreaks of the disease and how best to protect crops. The information gathered is then distributed as open datasets through SMS. It’s been successful for Uganda, which reports this and similar initiatives are “inexpensive to run and depend on little to work well: minimal technology, the commitment to publishing data openly and an engaged community.”

OMB Announces Unprecedented Release Of Government Data Indexes

When President Obama issued his Open Data Executive Order (M-13-13) it required the Office of Budget and Management to create an inventory of all data being collected by US federal agencies. The Sunlight Foundation requested, via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that data inventory be released to the public. After about a year and a half’s negotiation, OMB announced this week it will release the data inventory after it is next updated on February 28th. Sunlight estimates this represents the largest release of government data indexes to date.

European Commission’s Big Data Platform Will Pull In Open Datasets From 39 European Countries

In an attempt to centralize Europe’s public data, the European Commission (EC) announced it has hired Capgemini to build an open data portal which will hold open datasets from 39 countries and the European Union (EU.) While Capgemini is the lead contractor, other organizations, including Open Data Institute and the University of Southampton will serve as subcontractors for the development of the portal and additional open data-fueled products and services. The €8 million contract is funded in part by the Connecting Europe Facility.

Baton Rouge Mayor Talks Open Data Portal Launch

City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden sat down with GovTech to discuss why his government recently launched an open data portal, called Open Data BR. He said the city-parish believes that technology is a catalyst for the business of doing government, allowing it to take “an introspective look at our internal operations.” So far, the portal has been a success as Holden reports there were 109,000 page views in the first several days. Part of that interest may be owing to Baton Rouge first releasing datasets that were most accessed or queried in other cities.

New Report Reveals How Open Data Is Improving Citizen Engagement In Nigeria

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has issued a report on Nigeria’s open data portal as it reaches its one year anniversary. The portal has grown to include about 90 government datasets and is being used widely by the country’s tech community and media. ODI’s report does acknowledge “problems in making success stories more widespread [including] a lack of high-quality data, a weak enabling environment (low connectivity, scarce technical skills, lack of support from political leaders etc); mismatch between the demand for open data and the availability of appropriate datasets; the digital divide between rich and poor; and a lack of metrics to track and quantify demonstrable impact.”

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