All posts by Nisha Thompson

Meet a DMer: Dilip Damle

On the DataMeet list we have started referring to each other as DMers.  So I wanted to start highlighting people who are pretty interesting and have a great insights into open data.

Dilip has been a major contributor to the list for a few years. He is always sharing data, advise, and information. He has contributed to the pincode and shapefile conversations and it always a source of support.

Where are you from? What do you do? 

I am from India, born and studied in Goa. Presently (last 28 years) based in Delhi.

By qualification I am a Mechanical Engineer.
Presently I am a freelancer (worked as an employee between 1981 and 1992)  As a one man SOHO professional I provide services to different Private organisations for themselves and some  Private organisations in turn providing services to Government agencies. Area of specialisation is mainly application of computers to Engineering, CAD, Technical publications, Cartography, Data Maintenance,  MIS reports and custom software.

I am a part time hobby programmer and have been programming since 1983 for fun and to automate my own work– VB, VBA and Autolisp.

How did you find out about DataMeet? 

I wanted to make and publish editable version of Election maps and was looking for the source of updated maps after delimitation.  I bumped in to [Raphael] Susewind’s Blog and via that page came to know about Datameet.

Why are you interested in data?

Mainly to make editable maps in common software, which I have a plan to offer free. More recently I have been doing less work on CAD and more on databases. In the process I am also hooked to the beauty of clean data represented especially in Database as against Excel.

Do you believe in open data? and why?

Yes, At least the data that is relevant to society as a whole.

Reasons:

  1. Only open data can be that Single Truth. Otherwise multiple mismatching versions float around for commercial reasons.
  2. There are no unnecessary fights over wrong data.
    (The most classic example is the India’s Boundary map. In this world of computers we have not provided a “Correct” Boundary accessible to all in a digital format and and want to stop all “Incorrect” data freely available just by legislation and expecting everyone to hold a print in your hand and come to Dehradun for “approval”. It is ridiculous.)
  3. Let there be commercial exploitation by value addition like visualization, Web Access but raw data generated by agencies that run from taxpayer’s money should be available in the open. Except for security, military and personally identifiable data.

What do you hope to learn?

I hope to interact with varied people and know newer things and techniques  that I might not have even heard of before.

What is your impression of the DataMeet community?

Good people but It is too small, needs to be bigger.

What kind of civic projects do you work on? What kinds of civic projects are you interested in working on?

I have worked on Water Supply and  Sewer networks mainly the application of computers for several years. A little on Storm water.
In future I wold love to work on Transportation modeling.

Share a visualization that you saw recently that made a big impression?  Share an article you have read recently that made a big impression? (does not have to be data related)

Share a visualization that you saw recently that made a big impression? Share an article you have read recently that made a big impression? (does not have to be data related)

A visualisation about Evolution.Evo_large

Open Access Week 2015

Late post

Open A20151024_190330ccess Week is used as an opportunity to spread awareness of open access issues throughout the world. It was Oct 24th to the 30th last year. Shravan and Mahroof from the Ahmedabad Chapter suggested we do the first every multi city hangout and bring together different groups working on openness issues throughout the country.

For the event we had a Google Hangout with:

Data.Gov.In started us off with  Alka Misra and Sitansu participating from Delhi. They spoke about new features on Data.Gov.in, new datasets and visualizations available. They were also there to extend invites for more participation from the community.

Rahmanuddin from Access to Knowledge then spoke about Wikipedia and their community dedicated to local language knowledge sharing. They also had pertinent questions to Data.Gov.In regarding using open licenses. Since Wikipedia can’t use any data from Data.Gov.In since a license isn’t specified.

Ahmedabad Chapter went next. Ramya Bhatt, Assistant Municipal Commissioner from Ahmedabad, came and gave a brief talk about their plans for open data and smart cities. Alka from Data.Gov.In offered assistance. Then some students from Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Technology’s machine learning program used some data from Data.Gov.in to do analysis at the event. They looked at high budget allocation per state and drop out rates.

Open Access India’s Sridhar Gutam briefly went through the plans OAI has for the upcoming year to promote open access science and journals.

Hyderabad DataMeet is a new and yet to really take shape meet up but we were happy to see a first attempt. Sailendra took the lead as the organizer and brought together some people from IIM Hyderabad. Srinivas Kodali was there to talk about all the data he had made available that week.

 

20151024_184755Banalore DataMeet was there to share what has been going on with DataMeet and any new iniatives in Open Access

 

 

It was a great event, and as with all online events there were some technical difficulties but everyone was patient. It was awesome to see how the open culture space has grown, and to see so many new DataMeet chapters.

You can see the event below:

I hope we do one again soon minus the technical difficulties.

GPS and its Discontents

There is no greater success story for open data than GPS. The decision by the US government to make it available so it can be used for commercial purposes is the stuff of lore and what propels so much of the enthusiasm for open data.

Audiomatic’s show The Intersection is a podcast hosted by the dynamic duo Padmaparna Ghosh and Samanth Subramanian who explore interesting topics every other week.

Last week they did a show about GPS and it’s history and uses. Our own Thejesh GN was interviewed about his hobby of using GPS to go on treasure hunts.  They also talk about the Indian Government’s move to create a national GPS infrastructure with their own satellite so they don’t have to rely on the US.

I found the podcast informative and interesting and it hit on an important note as to why open data in India is so important.

Like GPS infrastructure to support India’s defense; data in India also needs to be invested in and promoted so that the reliance on others can reduce. Why is Google Maps, not Survey of India,  the source of mapping information in India? Why are their so many private data collection networks set up with foreign funds and private interests?Because GOI doesn’t invest in the potential of their data to build markets and make their job easier and more effective.

Open data is just one way of showcasing how better data can be used as well as offer guidance on how the government can invest in data collection and dissemination.

Anway it is a great podcast please give it a listen.

Global Open Data Index: Water Quality

Last year I helped assess the water quality section of the Global Open Data Index (GODI). Given the news of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan and increasingly beyond, safe drinking water is no longer assured even in countries where it’s been guaranteed, so I am very glad they included it in GODI.

GODI is a survey of 122* countries that look at the status of ‘high priority datasets’ and whether they are truly open according to the Open Data Criteria. Water quality was included last year for the first time. So my job was to examine each country’s submission  and assess if the data submitted was what was asked for and met the criteria for being open. This was a daunting task but I figured if I could find water quality data in India of all places it wouldn’t be impossible.

Assessment Criteria/Methodology

GODI looked for very specific parameters:

While there are a lot more parameters that could be asked for, these were a good sample of parameters to assess if there is robust water monitoring in the country.

After the initial submission phase there were a lot questions about why wouldn’t the survey just ask for drinking water quality data or environmental monitoring data?

Choosing parameters instead of programmes is important because monitoring the environment and drinking water quality are connected. Some countries haven’t really established large nationalized water treatment strategies, drinking water comes directly from a natural resource so the environmental monitoring data inadvertently applies to the drinking water scenario.  Which means that if a country really has robust water quality data they must have these 5 parameters because they cover surface and ground water sources and also reflect safe drinking water standards.

The assessment would be rejected if a submitter only found the surface water body monitoring stations (environmental water monitoring) for instance because arsenic and fluoride are only found in groundwater. So the submitter would either ideally find the treated drinking water quality data which will cover all the parameters or the source water quality data for both surface and ground water.

For a full look at the methodology of the entire survey go here.

Some background

There is no one way to create water management systems but there are two major ways by which people get water – directly from the source or piped in from a source or a treatment facility. The origins of the water source is important. If you are getting water from the ground there are different quality issues  than from surface water (lake or river). If water is from a treatment plant there is a possibility that plant is getting water from both surface water, ground water, and in some cases recycled water. Usually water quality is measured at source and after treatment (treatment plants take multiple water quality samples during the treatment process.)

A full water quality assessment means lots of parameters and not all of them are tested the same way; some parameters take several days and require specific conditions, others can be taken easily through filters or litmus papers.  Water quality is a deliberate process of sampling and testing, and it not as easy as sticking a sensor into the water and monitor a continuous feed of data (although the potential for these approaches is quickly growing as technology improves.)

What I looked for

Since water quality was a scientific process I figured if I found any proof of water treatment or quality monitoring, a dataset would not be far off. After going through a few countries I noticed that the different water management approaches and policies affected where you would find the data.

Most countries give drinking water treatment responsibilities to local bodies but sometimes is monitored by central government under public health regulation so aggregated data could lie with the public health ministry or the environmental protection body.  In most cases responsibility for environmental monitoring fell to a central government Environmental Ministry.

So this scenario means that multiple datasets exist – a centralized dataset for surface and groundwater that  usually lies with the environmental ministry that could have all the parameters but sometimes doesn’t, or it doesn’t have real time data (this means data  may be available but from less frequent data collection such as quarterly or half yearly efforts). Or the Public Health Ministry has reports of water quality with all the parameters but these are aggregated, and usually in a report form (not a dataset) and not updated in a timely manner.

The US, for instance, falls under this group and can produce confusing submissions. The US has a robust geological survey of surface and ground water sources. However, the drinking water reports are supposed to go to the Environmental Protection Agency but no one seems to be updating the database with information. In my assessment I reduced the score because both are supposed to be available in the public domain.

There are countries like Belgium where water management and monitoring are completely left to the local body and there is no central role for monitoring at all, which meant there is no dataset.

There are countries where there is a strong central role in water management and a dataset could be made open like in France. Korea stood out, because they have live real time water quality information from their treatment plants that gets updated to a website.

Then there are the ‘unsures’: which are countries that seem to treat water to some degree or have national drinking water monitoring programmes but don’t have data online, reports or any mention of data at all. This is not restricted to the developing world. I was very frustrated with several European countries with newspaper articles riddled with reports of how pristine and delicious their water is that don’t have a single public facing dataset.

Take Aways

United Kingdom and the US, both pioneers of the open data movement had terrible water quality data for water treatment, and no effort has been made to bring the data together or make it available in a real time fashion.  Also it is not clear to citizens who holds local bodies accountable for not updating their reports, making reports public or finding ways to bring this data into the light so it can be usable. It is no wonder that the US is now on the cusp of a public health crisis.

It is frustrating that the open data movement hasn’t quite been able to reconcile decentralization and local responsibility with national level accountability and transparency. Public health is a national level issue even though local and regional contexts are required for management. How do we push for openness and transparency in systems like this?

In places like India where water quality treatment is largely left to private players and huge populations are not receiving treated water, the need for data to be available, open, and in the hands of central bodies but also local players is a must, because people need to try to find solutions and where to intervene. Given the huge problems with water borne diseases, the slow but epic arsenic and fluoride poisonings gripping parts of India, and the effects this will have for generations, making this data public, usable and demystified is no longer an option.

All in all, I have to say this was an enlightening experience, it was cool to be able to learn something about each country. In our continuous push for open data we sometimes get lost in standards, formats, and machine readability, but taking a moment to really prioritize our values in society and have open data reflect that is essential. Public health outcomes and engaging with complex issues like it are an essential part of how to grow the open data movement and make it relevant to millions more.

*(Correction: Previous version said the survey included 148 countries, the actual number is 122.)

Bihar Elections

DataMeet has always been interested in doing projects so last year we decided to run a pilot. In the last few years the demand for data work has increased from non profits and journalists and they usually approach data analytics vendors like Gramener. However, these firms can be expensive or have high paying clientele which means that smaller accounts tend to not get their full attention. This leads to an increase in volunteer events like hackathons which don’t always result in finished usable products or can give non profits the long term engagement they need to solve issues. Vendors are not usually privy to the specific data problems a sector has and don’t want to let their tech people invest the time to learn about the subject and understand the particular data challenges. Though the civic tech space is growing, non profits and media houses can’t yet afford or see the need for internal tech teams to deal with their data workload.

With all this in mind we wanted to see if DataMeet can help fill and enrich this space as well as help build capacity within non profits to manage data projects. We were trying to find out, can we assemble teams through the DataMeet network to manage the entire pipeline of data work from clean up to visualization. These wouldn’t be permanent teams but filled with freelancers or hobbyists.

For this first project DataMeet would project manage and Gramener would provde the data analysts, the non profit managing partner was Arghyam and the ground partner was Megh Pyne Abhiyan. Megh Pyne Abhiyan works in several districts in north Bihar on water and sanitation issues. They wanted to use data to tell the story of what the status of water and sanitation was in those districts as a way of engaging with people during the election. It was decided we would do water and sanitation (WATSAN) status report cards for 5 districts — Khagaria, Pashchim Champaran, Madhubani, Saharasa, and Supaul — using government data.

This was an exciting project for us because it would be the first time DataMeet would work with a partner who works on the ground and the output would be for a rural, non online, non-English speaking audience.

DataMeet would project manage the process of data cleanup, analysis and visualization (which the team from Gramener would do) and then give the report cards to the Megh Pyne Abhiyan for them to do the translation and create the final representation of the report cards for their audience.

The Data

The partner wanted the data to be mapped to Assembly Constituencies, they wanted analysis for following situations

  1. Sanitation coverage for each Assembly Constituency and Gram Panchayat.
  2. Water quality, what is the contamination situation of the district, Assembly Constituency and Gram Panchayat.
  3. Water access, how do people get their drinking water.

It was also important to understand this data in the context of the flood prone areas of Bihar. For instance if there is an area that gets drinking water from shallow wells, with little sanitation in a high flood area those areas can suffer from high levels of water borne diseases.

The data we got was from

Since we were doing report cards based on Assembly Constituencies we needed the data to be at the Gram Panchayat (GP) level. Luckily the MDWS does a good job of collecting data all the way down to habitation so GP level data was available.

There is no official listing of what GPs are in which Assembly Constituency so the partner was asked to split the data by AC so we wouldn’t have to do that mapping. They agreed they knew the area better and would have the resources to pull together all the GP level data into organized Dropbox folders grouped by districts then split into ACs.

Data Cleanup

We received one PDF file per GP,  for water access and number of toilets, water quality was given in one large file by district.

All the data we received was in PDF. This was a huge hurdle as the data was from the government information management system so it was from a digital format but rendered in a PDF this meant that we had to convert unnecessarily. However, since the ground partner picked the data they needed and organized it by AC we wanted to make sure we were using the data they specified as important. So we decided to convert the data. This job was done by Thej and I and was extremely manual and time consuming and caused some delay in the data being sent to the analysts.  (See how we did it here.)

Analysis

The analysis required was basic. They needed to know at an AC level what the sanitation coverage was, the sources of water, how people were accessing it and what the water quality situation is.  Rankings compared to other districts and ACs were done to give context. Rankings compared to other districts and ACs were done to give context.So in all the analysis stage didn’t take much time.

Example of Analysis

 

Visualization

The UNDP along with the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority had created a map of diaster prone areas including flood. It was in PDF so we asked the folks at Mapbox India to help out with creating a shapefile for the flood map so we layer flood areas onto the Assembly Constituencies.

Bihar AC map with flood prone areas

 

While we had AC maps we didn’t have GP level maps. They didn’t seem to be available and we couldn’t find them in PDF form either.

Since the election is staggered by district we started with Khagaria. After the initial report cards were done the partner wanted just the cleaned up data in tables to use for their meetings. So we then decided to do the report cards, clean up the data and send the spreadsheets over to them.

As we were processing the next 4 districts I found GP level maps of Bihar, with boundaries of ACs included. This was quite exciting and I thought since we had some time we could do maps for the four pending districts.

After receiving the analysis for the next district I decided that since it would take to long to trace the PDF maps, so the analysts could map the GPs, I would just over lay them onto our AC shapefiles in Photoshop. I was going to put icons or circles in the center of the GP and that would be the map. While tedious I figured it would be worth it to show the maps to the ground partner.

However, when I started mapping I realized that analyzed data wasn’t matching up with the GPs on the map. The GPs listed in the Assembly Constituency in our original folders were incorrect, which meant all the analysis was wrong. Everything had to be checked against the maps and reorganized in the final datasets and then reanalyzed. This caused a huge delay.

On top of that the GPs on the map were spelled differently than in the MDWS data, and every dataset potentially had a different spelling of a particular GP. Which meant the remapping of the data had to be done manually looking at the map, the data, other sources, and sometimes guessing if this was the correct GP or not. This ended up being a manual process for every AC, as we didn’t do this mapping and standardization in the beginning.

While the delay caused problems with the maps being used in the election, they were worth doing to understand the problems with the data and the ground partner identified with the maps the most. By the end we were able to produced districts posters for the different parameters.

Sample report card

 

Final Posters

PC_sanitation copy poster madhubani_wateraccess copy poster madhubani_sourceprofileposters madhubani_sanitation poster Supaul_wateraccess copy poster copy Supaul_sourceprofile poster copy Supaul_sanitation copy poster copy Saharsa_wateraccess copy poster copy Saharsa_sourceprofile poster copy Saharsa_sanitation copy poster copy PC_wateraccess copy poster PC_sourceprofile poster

 

Lessons for next time

We learned a lot from this process. Mainly that the issues with standardization of Indian names in data is a real concern. While initiatives like Data.Gov.In are an important first step, it will take real will and dedication to work out this problem.

NGOs and groups that don’t work with data at the scale of modern data techniques are not always familiar with issues like formats, standardization problems, data interoperability,visualization and mapping to other datasets. This means that more time needs to be spent getting the intentions of the project out of the partner not just outputs. Problems like PDFs are not things everyone thinks about so the extra time of working with the partner to understand what data they want and find way to get it are better spent then converting PDFs to CSV if we don’t have to.

Designers are important, I created and designed the maps and posters, while I’m proud of them, they could have been done better and faster by a trained designer. Designers are worth the money and effort in order to make the final product really reflect the care and work we put into the data.

I consider this experience a success, despite the setbacks, we learned how to manage a team that was not full time and how important the initial work with the ground partners are to create realistic deliverables and timelines.

You can get all the data on DataMeet’s github page. 

Big thanks to the Gramener team – Santhosh, Pratap and Girish for dedicating their free time to this.

Sikkim

#LATEPOST

Sikkim State Government passed an open data policy Sikkim Open Data Acquisition and Accessibility Policy in 2014. With pushing from the Chief Minister and Member of Parliament the Honorable Prem Das Rai they turned to open data to take control of the state’s data. The Honorable Mr PD Rai has repeatedly mentioned is the lack of access to government information on demand. It is not uncommon for lawmakers to ask questions only to have to wait a day or more for the answer and lose a moment to use that information for decision making.

An Open Data for Human Development Workshop was organized by the International Centre for Human Development of UNDP India, with the Centre for Internet and Society, AKVO, Mapbox and DataMeet co-facilitating the event in Bangalore last June. The aim was to bring together members of the Sikkim government, IT professionals, and open data enthusiasts.

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In April before the workshop Sumandro (CIS) and I went to Sikkim to have a pre consultation with the Sikkim government on how to prepare for the large workshop in Bangalore. We met with the MP and the heads of the Rural Development, Health, and IT departments to discuss their plans to implement their open data policy. Then there was a large meeting with all the departments and the MP. We presented different things you can do when data is opened and offered suggestions for how to implement the policy. 20150416_123613The departments took turns discussing their issues regarding implementation; concerns like server space, technology needs, how to create incentives to accurate and timely data uploading were shared.

We presented things for them to think about in a preparation for the June event and for how to work with the open data community in India.

In June the workshop was held as NIAS. Thej gave a session on data tools that can be used to assemble, clean, analyze, publish and visualize data. Some of the tools that he introduced and used during the workshop are

  • Tabula Its difficult to extract data from PDFs. But Tabula allows you to extract that data into a CSV or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet using a simple, easy-to-use interface. Tabula works on Mac, Windows and Linux.
  • Open Refine – is a powerful tool for working with messy data: cleaning it; transforming it from one format into another; extending it with web services; and linking it to databases like Freebase.
  • DataWrapper allows you to create powerful charts very easily.
  • CartoDB is the Easiest Way to Map and Analyze Your Location Data

“Overall interaction was great. Delegates from Sikkim were very interested in DataMeet community and work we do as community. Some part of the workshop was used to introduce the community aspect of Data.”

You can see the full notes of the event at Centre for Internet and Society’s blog.

We are looking forward to see Sikkim be the first state to implement an open data portal using the Data.Gov.In platform.

To Hack or Not to Hack….

Hackathons are a source of confusion and frustration for us. DataMeet actively does not do them unless there is a very specific outcome the community wants like freeing a whole dataset or introducing open data to a new audience. We feel that they cause burn out, are not productive, and in general don’t help create a healthy community of civic tech and open data enthusiasts.

That is not to say we feel others shouldn’t do them, they are very good opportunities to spark discussion and introduce new audiences to problems in the social sector. DataKind and RHOK and numerous others host hackathons or variations of them regularly to stir the pot, bring new people into civic tech and they can be successful starts to long term connections and experiments. A lot of people in the DataMeet community participate and enjoy hackathons.

However, with great data access comes great responsibility. We always want to make sure that even if no output is achieved when a dataset is opened at least no harm should be done.

Last October an open data hackathon, Urban Hack, run by Hacker Earth, NASSCOM, XEROX, IBM and World Resource Institute India wanted to bring out open data and spark innovation in the transport and crime space by making datasets from Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and the Bangalore City Police available to work with. A DataMeet member (Srinivas Kodali) was participating, he is a huge transport data enthusiast and wanted to take a look at what is being made available.

In the morning shortly after it started I received a call from him that there is a dataset that was made available that seems to be violating privacy and data security. We contacted the organizers and they took it down, later we realized it was quite a sensitive dataset and a few hundred people had already downloaded it. We were also distressed that they had not clarified ownership of data, license of data, and had linked to sources like Open Bangalore  without specifying licensing, which violated the license.

The organizers were quite noted and had been involved with hackathons before so it was a little distressing to see these mistakes being made. We were concerned that the government partners (who had not participated in these types of events before) were also being exposed to poor practices. As smart cities initiatives take over the Indian urban space, we began to realize that this is a mistake that shouldn’t happen again.

Along with Centre for Internet and Society and Random Hacks of Kindness we sent the organizers, Bangalore City Police and BMTC a letter about the breach in protocol. We wanted to make sure everyone was aware of the issues and that measures were taken to not repeat these mistakes.

You can see the letter here:

We are very proud of the DataMeet community and Srinivas for bringing this violation to the attention of the organizers. As people who participate in hackathons and other data events it is imperative that privacy and security are kept in mind at all times. In a space like India where a lot of these concepts are new to institutions, like the Government, it is essential that we are always using opportunities not only to showcase the power of open data but also good practices for protecting privacy and ensuring security.

Investing in Data: Pre Budget Consultation with the Finance Minister

Last Thursday DataMeet was lucky to be invited to a Pre Budget Consultation with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. We were invited to attend with the IT sector group and give some suggestions on how the next budget could invest in open data.

After some consulting with the various city chapter organizers we came up with some recommendations that could appeal to this audience.  We decided to emphasize that government data is a financial asset that needed to be invested in, in order for it to reach its optimal economic impact.  A stance the US government made in it’s open data policy.

You can read the note we submitted here:

The meeting was Thursday morning in Delhi at the Finance Ministry offices, Sumandro came to represent CIS and I attended to represent DataMeet.

The Finance Minister was there along with the Secretaries;
Shri R.N. Watal, Finance Secretary, Shri Shaktikanta Das, Secretary, DEA, Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, Revenue Secretary, Ms Anjuli Chib Duggal, Secretary, Financial Services and Dr. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser (CEA).

It was a round table and the participants were organized by software and hardware, and we presented in the order we were seated.

  1. Shri Ramadas Kamath, Infosys,
  2. Shri P.V.Srinivasan, WIPRO,
  3. Shri Anil Chanana, CFO, HCL,
  4. Shri Pauroos D Karkaria,TCS,
  5. Shri R. Chandrashekhar, Chief Economist, NASSCOM,
  6. Ms Nisha Tompson, Founder, Datameet,
  7. Shri Vinod Sharma, Chairman, Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council,
  8. Shri Nitin Kunkolienker, Vice President, Manufactures Association for Information Technology (IT),
  9. Shri Rajoo Goel, ELCINA Electronic Industries Association of India,
  10. Shri Hari Om Rai, Co-Chairman Task Force on Mobile Phone Manufacturing,
  11. Shri Suraj Saharan Ajit Pai, COO,Delhivery,
  12. Shri Sumandro, the Centre for Internet & Society and
  13. Shri Vikas Jain, Member, Task Force on Mobile Phone Manufacturing

While most of the suggestions were related to tax breaks, subsidies, and trade issues, I was able to introduce the idea that the Government of India’s data is an economic asset that can help create markets, increase innovation, and allow for more accountability in scheme implementation. In order for the data to do these things it has to be opened up and that means the government must invest in the NDSAP policy and focus on data standardization, cleanup,  and collection. Also policies need to be reviewed and revamped in order to keep up with demand and use of data. Like the mapping policy should allow for more contributions from private sources and crowdsourcing so the Survey of India can keep up with demand for geospatial information. The Copyright Act also needs a clarification on the status of data and the Ministries must be willing to release data under open licenses.

In all the meeting was short, with the main focus being toward how to encourage manufacturing sectors because of the Make in India initiative. I was happy to be there and mention ideas and concepts that were not being discussed in rooms like that one and to also offer a perspective on open data.

We hope to keep in touch with the Ministry and continue to take advantage of any opportunity to share our experiences and views on how an investment in data can be a huge economic asset to India.

You can see the Government’s Press Release here.

2nd Open Data Camp Delhi!

Last Su23024327289_8965388572_znday DataMeet Delhi hosted their 2nd Open Data Camp!  60 people decided to spend their Sunday with us to discuss Digital India and find ways to make this programme more Open and Transparent.

The Delhi chapter decided to examine the role of openness in Digital India, especially how the open data agenda should be integrated into the initiative.  Digital India is the flagship programme of the Government of India to harness the possibilities of information technologies for accountable governance, effective citizenship, and a productive and job-creating digital economy.

This event also explored the recent international push towards better global availability of interoperable 22569224613_8e3f363c28_zand comparable data, such as the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development initiative of UN and the International Open Data Charter introduced by the Open Data Working Group of Open Government Partnership.  The discussion looked at these wider conversation in the keynote and the morning panels.

 

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Keynote: Honourable MP from Sikkim P.D. Rai.

The MP from Sikkim started off the day by talking about his experience setting up the first state level Open Data Policy, Sikkim Open Data Acquisisiton and Accessibility Policy (SODAAP),, and why it was important for them to take control of the state’s data through openness.

He stated the the “lack of reliable, structured, and proactively available data is a key barrier to good governance.”  So the SODAAP would allow state legislators to get access to data as they need it instead of having to go through the current structure of asking the Centre for data.  “Why is it that we have fancy phones but we can’t get data on public policy & schemes on it for good decisions.”

When asked how to get government to change he stated, “I’m not the executive, I’m a lawmaker. I don’t represent the government.  I question it as much as you do.”

 

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Open Data and Digital Governance

Anoop Aravind, Konatham Dileep, and Nikhil Pahwa

 

This panel focused on the Digital India from a government and journalistic point of view of Digital India.  The panel had a representative from Telegana, KPMG who is implementing E-Panchayats, and from Media Namma.

Dileep the Digital Media Director for Telegana pointed out that the government is the biggest creator of data but they are not set up to share, and are not encouraged to.  Anoop from e-Panchayats pointed out that there are technical issues with implementation and technology infiltration at the local level.  He said the biggest problem for them is the lack of mapping data that can used to help with planning.

Nikhil from Media Namma made the point that the government should proactively disclose data, “why do we need to get personal relations to get the data?” but this doesn’t replace people’s right to ask for information and not just rely on information provided by open data. Right to Information is still vital and this includes an expanded effort to protect people’s privacy.

When asked what are the challenges of openness for Digital India? That despite the big fanfare there is uneven implementation and issues that have to be solved before the dreams of Digital India are realized, and that people have to work with the government to show them the reason to be open.

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Open Data and Digital Citizenship 

Bhanupriya Rao, Dr. Biplav Srivastava, Nic Dawes, and Shashank Srinivasan

Bhanupriya Rao an RTI activist described out RTI has a pro-active disclosure requirement, however, it is not in practice and without that RTI is the best tool for now.  There is no right to data concept.

Nic Dawes described journalism as a constitutional mandate and went on say that that open data and journalism communities must work together more.  Journalists can deal with biases, data interpretation issues, graphic presentations, and tell compelling stories using tech and design.

Biplav Srivastava spoke about the need to move toward smart data consumption, for policy decisions and  individual decisions. That the next steps are data integration/re-use/standards, and linked data for analytics.

Shashank Srinivasan shared his experience with open data for conservation (WWF), how they consume OSM data for needs of protecting wildlife. What are risks for crowdsourcing for wildlife conservation?  Open data can be a problem for conservation, control over the end user is needed.

Questions to consider:

How can open data improve our work? How can academia and open data converge? Can donors influence on releasing data? What does it mean to be a digital citizen?

Lightning talks

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Guneet from Akvo shared their smart phone app that detects Fluoride levels in water.

 

 

23272573835_0385565697_zManing from  HotOSM shared their work around the world providing maps during natural disasters, including the Nepal Earthquake.

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Transport Working Group shared the work looking at bus data in Delhi.

 

 

 

 

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Bihar Gender Watch shared the work of looking at the gender split in elected bodies.

 

 

 

 

 

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NewsPie is an online news site, they shared the data work they have done in roads and around net neutrality.

 

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Aditya Dipankar shared his work designing information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

23096714180_58a2a19d0b_zAruna from MapBox shared their work mapping road naming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turam shared his project that built more data collection tools on the Open Data Kit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yogesh from Random Hacks of Kindness  (RHOK) on his vision for an open revolution! Also the work of RHOK in India bridging gaps between organizations on the ground and technologists.

 

 

 

23392480785_b93d014558_zMonish Khetrimayum a PHD student spoke about big data, governance and citizenship.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rakesh from Factly describes how they use RTI information and open data to make sense of information for journalists and citizens.

 

 

 

 

Group Activity: Response to Digital India

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Groups were formed to discuss each pillar and come up with questions.

We have gathered all the questions and put them in the DataMeet hackpad, you can find each pillar here.

Please feel free to take a look and add more questions and dataset requests.

After a week’s time we will be gathering everything and writing a letter of request for openness to Digital India and the various departments, DIETY, to ask them to make this information available.

It was a fantastic day! DataMeet Delhi did an amazing job putting together really interesting speakers to make this a well rounded interactive event.

Thank you especially to the sponsors for helping make this event great!

  • SARAI for the space
  • AKVO for travel
  • ICFJ for food and other support.
  • RHOK for travel