RTI Stories: Repost Citizen Matters

Troubles in getting data through RTI.

From Akshatha 

It has been precisely five months since I filed an RTI application with the Advertisement department of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) seeking information about legal and illegal advertisement hoardings in the city. (If you haven’t read the first piece you can read it here). And today as I write this second post about the status of my application, I stand in dismay, even as I continue to struggle to get the information that I am looking for.

In the last five months as I ran around pursuing this RTI application, there have been times when I sat counting the days and hours I spent on this chase. I would ask myself, “is it all worth it? What am I going to get at the end of it?” May be after months of prolonged wait, even if I succeed to get the information, it might just turn out to be obsolete. But then if I stop following it up, I for sure know, the lethargic city corporation officers who shifted their responsibility and did their best to wash their hands off, will continue doing the same in future. –
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Data Party! Garbage Go!

At DataMeet we have spent years looking for and trying to make data accessible. The last few years more and more data is being made public which we are excited about however people demand data that fills the gaps in data that already exists or that is more actionable. Data that people want and need isn’t being produced, and if it is being produced it isn’t being shared.

This is the most true in urban spaces where there are tons of projects dedicated to collecting data for the city but none of this data enters the public domain as open data. It isn’t public data because the government doesn’t collect it and the various governance and civic oriented groups who collect the data are more prone to write reports or put the analyzed data up online and not the usable and complete raw data.

So DataMeet along with Oorvani Foundation and Mapunity want to start a monthly Data Party! Where we pick a topic and try to collect as much data as we can over a month. Then we will make the data open for download on OpenCity Urban data portal and also send it to the appropriate person in the government, as well as, write data stories on Citizen Matters.

So please join us on Sept 24th to kick off the first ever Data Party! Garbage Go! 

There are an estimated 9000 garbage blackspots in Bengaluru. We are trying to catch them all!

Sign up to map your neighborhood everyday. Or join us for chai and snacks on Sept 24th and map with friends in 3 locations: Koramangala, Indiranagar or Frazertown.

You have to register and download the app so we can plan for the snacks.

Event location will be sent to you once you register.

Time is 9:30am to 12:30am – Sept 24th Saturday morning.

9:30am – Intro and app explanation
10 to 12 – Mapping
12 to 12:30 – Closing and Next Steps.

All data collected will be made open on the OpenCity.in Urban Data Portal for download and use, and this data will be sent to the BBMP and followed up on.

Indirangar – Maanya – Meeting place MapBox India

Koramangala – Nitin – Meeting place Sagar Fast Foods behind BDA complex

Frazertown – Contact Nisha Thompson – Meeting place French Loaf by Richards Park.

Register here.

Download the app and get mapping.

Link to Mapunity Groups IOS app:
Link to Mapunity Groups Android app.
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Data Policies in Telangana

Government of Telangana  has launched four IT policies related to data on cybersecurity, data centers, data analytics and open data. Honorable IT Minister K T Rama Rao has announced the intention of separate sectoral policies through the launch of Telangana IT policy in the month of April’16. During the launch he stressed the importance of open data policy for the state. In his own words:

” Telangana will be among the pioneers in the country in coming up with this open data policy. The open data policy is the first step in opening up government data to a host of potential applications. The policy sets the necessary framework in place to operationalize the state open data portal. The policy has many enabling provisions in place for multiple stakeholders. Through this policy we hope to catalyze data and to make data driven decision making possible and development of important solutions for societal benefits. “

These policies were made after several consultations with industry, academia, civil society and various individual experts. Though the policies focus on individual sectors primarily, most of the elements are inter-linked with the common element of data.  While the state government intends to foster its economy and business with the help of data, the open data policy focuses on enabling transparency and human development apart from economic development. Telangana, an IT rich state following open data practices will be a major boost for the ecosystem in India too.

We have been interacting with officials from Government of Telangana since December ’15, providing appropriate suggestions for the open data policy. Dileep Konatham, Director for Digital Media, Department of Information Technology was our esteemed panelist during discussions on Digital India at Open Data Camp Delhi ’15.  Datameet will work with the Government of Telangana to help implement the policy with necessary suggestions for guidelines and community building over the coming months.

Links to the policies launched:

Ask Us Anything – Updated

It has been 5 years and we are now at over 1500 members and we thought it would be a good time to do an Ask Us Anything Hangout with DataMeet Central – Thej, Anand S, and me.

It will be Tuesday September 20th, at 6:30pm. We will be doing a broadcast Google Hangout will send the link out half hour before.  Bring your thoughts and questions about DataMeet, data in India, things we have done, things we should do, etc. It would be helpful to have some questions beforehand so feel free to comment here, if not you can ask during the hangout!

Hope to see you then!
Updated!
Thanks to everyone who joined the hangout! Here’s the video.

Save the Map – Update

From Sajjad

Thank you so much for supporting Save the Map ()
and sending your thoughts to the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill. We manage to send over1700 emails to the MHA, and several organisations and groups sent feedback to them expressing disapproval of the current state of the bill.

As of the monsoon session the bill was not submitted to Parliament and seems to have been put on the back burner. There has been no official response regarding if they will change the draft and incorporate any of the feedback. So as of right now we are unsure if the bill will come back and what form it will take.

We will be continuing to monitor the situation and send updates when there are new developments. You can see some other responses/comments that have been sent to the MHA [1].

Again thank you for your support and quick action. We hope to continue working toward a good policy on geospatial information that supports individuals and businesses to continue to innovate in the space.

Cheers,
Sajjad for Save the Map team

[1]

* DataMeethttp://datameet.org/2016/06/02/our-comments-on-the-geospatial-information-regulation-bill-2016/
* FICCI – http://blog.ficci.com/geospatial-information-regulation-bill/6446/
* Digital Empowerment Foundation –
http://internetrights.in/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/DEF-
Comments-on-Draft-Geospatial-Bill.pdf
* Center for Internet and Society –
http://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/comments-draft-geospatial-information-regulation-bill-2016
* Medianama – http://www.medianama.com/2016/06/223-medianamas-submission-to-the-geospatial-information-regulation-bill-2016/
* Internet Freedom Foundation –
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9LKE-1DkhtFaGpENjRtallHcEFrVGRjbW1IYndWUl96VUhZ/view

Happy Independence Day and Open Indian Village Boundaries

One of the longest and most passionately discussed subject on the Data{Meet} list is the availability of Indian Village Boundaries in Digital format. Search for Indian Village shape files and you can spend hours on reading interesting conversations.

Over last two years different members of community have tried to digitize the maps available through various government platforms or shared the maps through their organizations.

A look at the list discussion tells you that boundaries of at the least 75% of the states are available in various formats and quality. What we need at this point is a consolidate effort to bring them all on par in format, attributes and to some level quality. So some volunteers at Data{Meet} agreed to come together, clean up the available maps, add attributes, make them geojson and publish them on our GitHub repository called Indian Village Boundaries.

Of course this will be an on going effort but we would love to reach a baseline (all states) by year end. As of now I have cleaned up and uploaded Gujarat. I have at the least 4 more states to go live by month end. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa. I will announce them on the list as they go live.

The boundaries are organized by state using state ISO code. All the village boundaries are available in geojson (WGS84, EPSG4326) format. The project page gives you the status of the data as we clean and upload. Data is not perfect yet, there could many errors both in data and boundaries. You can contribute by sending the pull requests. Please use the census names when correcting the attributes and geojson for shapes. Please source them to an official source when sending corrections.

Like everything else community creates. All map data will be available under Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL). This data is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. If you find issues we are more than happy to accept corrections but please source them to an official source.

On this 70th Independence day, as we celebrate the historic event of India becoming Free and Independent, Data{Meet} community celebrates by cleaning, formatting and digitizing our village boundaries. Have a great time using the maps and contributing back to society.

https://github.com/datameet/indian_village_boundaries

Picture: Kedarnath range behind the Kedarnath temple early morning. By Kaustabh, Available under CCBYSA.

Guide on Digitizing Static Maps

I was recently invited to Nagpur by a group called Center for Peoples Collective, to brainstorm doing for Nagpur the kind of things I’ve done in Pune for budget data processing/viz and mapping. We found that they didn’t have any digital data (ie, shapefile, kml etc) of Nagpur’s electoral wards, but they did have some high-res images released by Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) with the boundaries marked. So I walked them through a process that I’ve worked out, which uses free online services and doesn’t need any software or advanced skills to do. I’m sharing that process here.
Continue reading Guide on Digitizing Static Maps

Sikkim Data Portal and Sensitive Information

Sikkim was the first state to come up with its own Sikkim Open Data Acquisition and Accessibility Policy (SODAAP) on the lines of National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP).  Continuing to lead Sikkim is now officially the first state to have its own data portal we are really happy to see this development and hope more states follow.  DataMeet has been carrying consultations with officials of Sikkim in framing the policy and helping them with workshops and insights to use the data. Honorable Member of Parliament Dr. Prem Das Rai has also been our keynote speaker during the Open Data Camp 2015 at Delhi sharing experiences about the on-going work in Sikkim.

As emails were being pushed about the launch of the portal on 15th July, we were alerted about sensitive data being published through the data portal by Abhay Rana. Two datasets on the portal had sensitive information like 1) name, 2) religion, 3) caste, 4) father’s name, 5) mother’s name, 6) gender, 7) birth date, 8) residential address, and 9) information regarding disabilities (if any) of school children, teachers with additional detail of marital status for the teachers.  We alerted both NIC and the chief data officer in charge for the datasets to get them taken down immediately.  Open data does not promote any sensitive information being shared publicly and it violates the very core principles. We applaud the quick response by the data controller in response.

It was an unfortunate accident that sensitive information not to be published under the policy was shared through the data portal. NDSAP along with SODAAP has mandates for every department to make sure sensitive information has restricted access and is not to be published. This incident is not the first where we encountered sensitive information was being published by government officials. Most of the times such information is in the public domain by accident or due to lack of awareness among officials about type and parameters available under the datasets. More incidents like this can harm officials from publishing further data and is a threat to the ecosystem of open data.

As more and more data becomes part of the public domain it is important that we all can work together to ensure that we do not violate privacy or put up sensitive data. More guidelines and frameworks are needed to maintain and report sensitive data which is already public.

We request you to bring to our attention if any sensitive information is being published under the pretext of open data. For now explore the new data portal and use open data to bring positive change in your community.

Our Comments on Draft Government Open Data License

A draft government open data license has been released by the oversight committee implementing National Data  Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP).  This license will be ideally applicable to all datasets being shared under NDSAP and through Open Government Data Platform (data.gov.in) and has been visioned to support all government data for public use.

While we welcome the requirement for a license to share government data, the license oversteps its boundaries in certain clauses and restricts data rights of users and citizens accessing public data along with a clause for no warranty of data. It also transfers liability of accessing sensitive data to the user and grants impunity to the data controller releasing such data incidentally or accidentally. Our submission for draft consultation has been uploaded to my.gov.in .  Please go ahead a do an upvote if you agree with our submission.

Other notable submissions are also being shared for reference.

Submissions from Medianama
Submissions from Factly

BMTC Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and need for Open Transport Data

Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has recently launched its Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) in May’16. First announced in 2013, this was one of the systems most data enthusiasts in urban transport were eagerly waiting for. The system was designed to scale on paper and BMTC made sure the data rights of data being generated are with them instead of the contractor. Even with extreme planning, the system was delayed by 2 years and has several issues with it. Some of these issues have been highlighted to BMTC by members of datameet’s transport working group with suggestions to make it better in early June.  Along with the suggestions we had several questions regarding the project, we have asked BMTC to help us understand the ITS system in a better way and expressed interest to be part of the Evaluation & Monitoring (E&M) of the ITS project.  It is important that the project is closely monitored to improve public transportation for Bengaluru.

 

We also shared some of the previous work carried out by members of the group and suggestions to use open transport standards like GTFS, usage of openstreetmap data to reduce maintenance costs for currently using third party services like Google Maps which is not entirely free.

Members of datameet have been working on transport data of BMTC since 2010. Thejesh GN hosts static data of routes and schedules  of various years through his project OpenBangalore.  As a community of researchers, data users and enthusiasts we have been studying and experimenting with the evolution of data practices in India. Open Data is helping us be aware of our surroundings and also contribute back to the city in our own way. BMTC’s ITS implementation is a opportunity for most of us, we can potentially use GPS data to understand traffic patterns, rash driving of bus drivers, skipping of bus stops and trips. The ITS system will help the commuters more than ever if being utilized the right way. Open Data can help make this dream a reality by letting any commuter analyze his ride. Officials of BMTC has made announcements of bringing up a data sharing policy on the lines of National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP). In this regard we requested them to host a public consultation for their draft data sharing policy. We hope we can help BMTC and Bengaluru in a better way by bringing a policy suitable for all commuters and not just data users.

 

DataMeet is a community of Data Science and Open Data enthusiasts.