Certified Open Data Trainer: Thanks, ODI London!

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Delighted to break the news: I am amongst the happy few to become a Certified Open Data trainer! Operated by the London-based prominent actor in the field of open technologies, Open Data Institute (ODI), the certification is a rewarding result of a five-day-long intense course that our class inaugurated.

Founded by Sir Time Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, the ODI is an innovative consultancy that puts forward open data and all of its potentials. Training is one of their core activities, and the team considers it a priority to ensure that skilful and experimented open data enthusiasts will also be able to coherently transmit their knowledge to others.

The train-the-trainers session I (as RS Strategy’s CEO) was invited to participate, is the first of its kind for the ODI. We thus pride ourselves not only for being amongst the inaugural fellows, but also to have provided feedback and insights on how to improve the training in the future.

Our inaugural class (see the image above) is composed by:

The picture above is with Gavin Starks, ODI’s CEO, and was snapped by one of our outstanding trainers, David Tarrant. A big ‘thanks’ is in order here, to our trainers: David, Melissa and Kathryn, as well as to the ODI team for the welcome and the healthy lunch breaks.

So, what did we learn? Plenty of things in fact! The training is not geared towards providing open data-related expertise, but towards helping such experts with crafting courses. The content of the training thus considers your open data expertise as a pre-requisite and is entirely focused on providing educational engineering capabilities to the experts.

Amongst the most valuable things, we learnt and directly applied techniques about creating interactive training, tricks about the ways we can build open data knowledge into your core specialist area (e.g., statistics and data visualisation, development for RS Strategy’s case), and of course, efficient ways to design an open data training course. Those competencies take us from being good trainers to great trainers, an upgrade also supported by the strategy we crafted for our individual long-term development as knowledge transmitters.

The five-day course was intense and fun. It involved a great amount of peer-to-peer learning and assessment, which is always a humbling and insightful experience. We felt a bit like students, too, crafting our presentations for the final exam while eating pizza and laughing at anecdotes we would not quite dare include. Great people, great activities — what else?

All throughout the five-day long course and the final exam, we were assessed for the following skills (check the full list here):

  • An understanding and implementation of education theory;
  • An ability to create interactive training with good learning outcomes;
  • Knowledge of open data as applied to their specialist area (e.g., policy, law, data science);
  • A plan for their long-term personal development as a trainer

What exactly happened in North Sinai today?

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[UPDATED: please scroll]

With the coming celebration of the military takeover of power in Egypt, terrorist attacks have intensified. Or this is at least what some claim. I am not exactly sure how much this is true. Others seem to doubt it as well. Another reason why I doubt the July 3 anniversary is THE reason is because of recent encouragements by ISIS to intensify attacks during the holy month of Ramadan. ISIS was coming anyway, Morsi or not Morsi, Sisi or not Sisi; and its horrors are not restricted to Egypt.

Anyhow, the question in this situation is hardly one’s capability to speculate about what the reason is behind these fierce attacks by ISIS-affiliated terrorists. Instead, I figured there is — perhaps a bit more than usual — too much of rumours and beefed-up images and numbers. And as the great people from reported.ly are a bit busy with the Greek euro crisis, I decided to sum up a few findings from this morning.

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Youth, “the Internet” and speech

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Last week, just a few days after my return from Cairo, I stumbled upon an event organised by UNESCO and whose combination of supporting countries amused me. The two-day conference, “Youth and the internet: Fighting radicalisation and extremism”, was supported by Bulgaria and Egypt. Everyone who knows me, understands the amusement. But beyond this fun fact of limited importance, the topic and its relationship to my own work and interests were intriguing enough to dedicate the event a day. I know quite a few people around me are interested in this write-up, I decided to take the time and actually expand it, in a way that it can relate to a broader work I am into: exploring excitable speech through post-colonial lenses in the Balkans and MENA as well as contributing to a project that aims to train citizens to mitigate hate speech online in South Sudan. More on the distinction between ‘hate speech’ and ‘excitable speech’ later (a research paper coming up on that).

I was having my own expectations about the line-up of speakers and the probable directions the discussions would head to. And I was quite correct.

Diversity (or lack thereof)

To start with, female participation was pretty limited. This is not a new fad, we know that female experts and researchers are less represented in general as well as in fora, conferences and the likes. But the female underrepresentation also provoked this sort of nonsense:

How can anyone, in 2015, come up with this bullshit? Which is — even more striking — in a context of work and exchange that favours, highlights, emphasises and calls for inclusion, understanding, nuanced approach and sensibility.(And I will spare you the bewilderment some male researchers and journos I talked to, expressed at Women Without Borders being represented by an elderly male.)

Anyhow, let’s skip the gender bit, for now. There was something else that bugged me: the number of non-youth speaking on behalf of youth. Why not inviting young people? I don’t mean to say that only youth can speak about youth, others have experience, empathy and knowledge to do so. But this doesn’t mean non-youth are the sole entitled to speak about challenges youth (however loosely defined this group is) faces. Inclusion and diversity also means this. I am disappointed as it is very rare to observe target groups being actually actors of happenings and discussions that concern them: if it is about education, we’ll call policy-makers, stars, journalists and perhaps teachers but we’ll rarely if ever will invite learners (pupils, students, kids) to participate and chim in.

Causes of radicalisation

The talks moved to presenting different visions and understandings of why and how radicalisation and extremism spreads online. I was wary of hearing yet again different flavours of the widespread, reductive and short-sighted vision social-networks-and-the-internet-is-guilty-of-terrorism. This happened but — thankfully — was also diversified with more in-depth and nuanced perspectives. One of the participants even mentioned that we can use the online space as a tool to combat extreme speech. Which, against a backdrop of heated debate in France around then-Intelligence Bill and the mass surveillance it enables if promulgated, was a welcome relief.

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Plug & Play News: Sourcing, Verifying and Publishing Info in Real-Time Crisis

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Earlier in May, I attended re:publia, aka Berlin’s annual gathering of innovators from the worldover. This year’s topic was “Finding Europe” [I will post a quick write-up of the #MustSee talks and the #MustFollow people from #rp15].

One of the two talks I gave focused on sourcing, verifying and disseminating information in a rapidly evolving situation, e.g. a real-time crisis. As our team of three kickass ladies was from Eastern Europe, we decided to highlight examples from this region all by re-inscribing this region in Europe. Ironically, while Tetyana Bohdanova and yours truly were providing insights about the ever-complexe-and-tough task of disseminating verified content at the right time and through the right channels, our third ‘partner in crime’, Danica Radisic, was applying these approaches while covering the unfolding turmoil in Macedonia.

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Wonderings and wanderings: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

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Bishkek is the Eastern Europe of 30 years ago, except with mobile phones and internet access. It is more or less a museum relic of the former Soviet Union Bloc.

This quote translates my exact feelings upon arrival in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. Although I remember nothing from the Soviet Union bloc 30 years ago, I do remember how my own homecountry looked like 15 years ago. And even if Bulgaria was not formally a part of the Soviet Union, it was close enough to the Big Brother to look strikingly alike. I have done my best to collect my impressions in a dedicated photoset: a concrete post-Soviet experience, in both senses of the term ‘concrete’.

I arrived on an early freezing morning after a nearly 11-hour trip. It was my very first visit to a country from Central Asia. The welcome was quite special when you think of all the army guys in uniforms checking my passport and the letters of invitation by the highest government authorities that I was carrying. Past this point, the airport was similar to any other airport in a small “developing” country: taxi drivers hurdling around and half-flirting while trying to get me in their cars. The hotel has sent a car for me—and as anytime a high-ranking hotel in a poor country from Eastern Europe wants to appear really high-ranking, they have sent a Mercedes…

On the way to the airport, I felt nearly like home: the road, hardly equiped with lights, was surrounded by trees with their truncs partly painted in white. This is seemingly done to help drivers comprehend where the road ends… Indeed, no safeguards exist on the road; yet, the cars’ lights are reflected by the white painting, so the driver understands where the road ends (well, hopefully). I remembered trees painted in white back home, this was a very bizarre thing to me as a child.

The impression of being suddenly sent back in time could not but grow in the coming days. The air smelt of warm coal, just like home when the general heating system is ON. The streets had multiples holes and cracks but benefited from little lights around. Nearly nobody speaks English, and the bulk of taxi drivers is under-qualified people having left their countryside to seek for a living in the capital. Which is why they have no idea whatsoever where you want to go—so, they ask you to tell them the way… Which is, erm, quite tricky for anyone coming to Bishkek for the first time ever. The people are however really nice yet straightforward (which may be seen as adversarial at times); the waiters and waitresses in restaurants stuff you with food and drinks as this is what hospitality means to them. Oh, and they still do these weddings in fancy restaurants with kitsch clothes and Western popmusic from the 1980s where everyone goes to the middle of the restaurants and dances. We bumped into one such happening, it was quite surreal for me to find the exact same scheme as back home more than a decade ago. And honestly? Really made me laugh and feel emotional again.

I visited Bishkek in late November 2014 while on a work mission for the World Bank. I was there to help bolster a demand for Open Data, leading the ‘demand side’ of the mission (my colleague, Ton Zijlstra, was leading the ‘supply side’ of the mission). With fellow Open Data enthusiasts from the Bank and other places in the world, we were organising the Kyrgyz Open Data Days and bootstraping an Open Data Readiness Assessment aimed to evaluate how best to initiate an Open Data initiative in the Kyrgyz Republic. The event live-tweeted under #OpenDataKG saw the Prime Minister delivering a speech (the guy on the pic below) along with quite a few government officials, NGOs and entrepreneurs joining.

The Kyrgyz press extensively covered the Kyrgyz Open Data Days: An example. Image by Ton Zijlstra, CC-by-NC-SA 2.0 on Flickr

The Kyrgyz press extensively covered the Kyrgyz Open Data Days: An example. Image by Ton Zijlstra, CC-by-NC-SA 2.0 on Flickr

Ahead of the event, World Bank and UNDP Kyrgyzstan staff have described some of the major challenges which Open Data could help address. The event and its stakes have been extensively covered by the World Bank and the live-tweet. I have also uploaded my slides, in both Russian and English:

See you soon, Bishkek! I think we could get to know each other better (despite your airport being a total dump).

Legal Challenges to Opening up Research Data in France

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We at RS Strategy are strong supporters of open knowledge. Our founder is a trained scientist, thus opening up science and research are a soft spot for us. We are thus happy to join a dedicated workgroup at the French National Institute for Agriculture Research (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, INRA) aiming to map current legal framework of research data production and management. To our knowledge, this workgroup is the first of its kind at the institutional level in France. The group’s members wish to explore the legal challenges ahead of opening the Institute’s data. An expected outcome is a handbook for researchers to smoothen their journey towards Open Science Data.

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Love Your Data — And Let Others Love It, Too

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[Lire en français]

The Projects initiative, a Digital Science endeavour, provides a desktop app that allows you to comprehensively organise and manage data you produce as research projects progress. The rationale behind Projects is that scientific data needs to be properly managed and preserved if we want it to be perennial: there’s indeed a worrisome trend showcasing that every year, the amount of research data being generated increases by 30%, and yet a massive 80% of scientific data is lost within two decades.

Projects and open science data sharing platform figshare published an impressive and pretty telling infographic on science data preservation and chronic mismanagement [scroll down to see it]. What struck me looking at these numbers is neither the high-throughput data production nor the overall funds it requires – 1,5 trillion USD spent on R&D! – but the little to no information on public policies aimed at solving the problem.

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We Partner with r0g Agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation

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RS Strategy is proud to announce our new partnership with the r0g_agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation.

Based in Berlin (Germany), r0g_ is a transnational agency for open culture and critical transformation:

r0g_ thus follows a philosophy of ‘open knowledge for open societies’, with a focus on creating sustainable open systems solutions for post-conflict development. In doing so, the r0g_agency acts to put into practice the mechanisms of sustainable open culture methodologies using appropriate and community-based resources and technologies including Open Source (i.e. FOSS and Open Hardware), Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Data and related Open ICT4D, DIY and Up-Cycling methodologies.

Stephen Kovats, one of the r0g_agency co-founders, is a cultural and media researcher and has been the artistic director of the transmediale, Berlin’s festival for art and digital culture 2008 – 2011. Mr Kovats and the r0g Agency have been instrumental in producing a wide range of resources among which an insightful report for UNESCO in connection to the debates on the future of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Through our partnership, RS Strategy will contribute our expertise in the field of development and conflict mitigation through open knowledge. The forthcoming efforts and initiatives we will be involved with will unfold in Kosovo, South Sudan and Mali.

#OSJUBA for peace. Image by the r0g_agency, CC-by 2.0

For further details on r0g_agency’s outstanding work in South Sudan and a better grasp of efforts towards the introduction of open technologies in post-conflict scenarios, have a look at Stephen Kovats’s keynote during the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva (2013) and explore the r0g website!

The Startup Revolution in the Arab World

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It’s a fact, the startup ecosystem is blossoming in the Arab world. How did it happen? Who are the main players? How can the Arab diaspora help?

In partnership with WamdaSimplon.co, a French diversity-aiming digital co-working space, and StartupBRICS, a French-written blog on startups in the BRICS countries, are inviting French entrepreneurs and members of the Arab diaspora to discuss this startup revolution.

Several key players will lead the debate:

  • Julien Le Bot, co-founder at Yakwala, a French media focusing on hyperlocal news and data;
  • Rayna Stamboliyska, expert on open data and technology in the Middle East, founder at RS Strategy;
  • Ahmed Chebil, Tunisian entrepreneur (hosting, cloud and data security), via Skype;
  • Aline MayardWamda‘s French Editor;
  • Akram Belkaïd, author of “Être Arabe aujourd’hui”.

The debate will be curated by Hugo Sedouramane, a journalist at l’Opinion and project manager at Club 21ème Siècle. The event is #Simploff 3, and will take place on 2 December 2013, at Simplon.co’s premises in Montreuil.

Technology for Better Governance in MENA

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SafirLab brings together young people with media and civil society initiatives from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). SafirLab is a joint effort by l’Institut Français and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its media cooperation branch, CFI. SafirLab sees itself as an accelerator for projects that youth from the MENA region aims to drive forward.

The 2013 SafirLab edition was its second one, taking place 18-29 November 2013 in Paris.

I was invited by to mentor, with a focus on technology for transparency and better governance. Other mentors, we were happy to interact with include Tariq Krim, the founder of Netvibes and JoliDrive, and Morgane Tual, a blogger and journalist at Le Monde interested in ‘ethical tech’.

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#HackDataCulture, Automne Numérique and the Public Domain

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I was invited to participate in a series of events organised by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, MCC). In the Ministry’s framework for cultural and art education, three events were organised:

  • 23 Nov 2013: a day dedicated to public domain works mashup at ENSCI Les Ateliers, an art-design school in the heart of Paris. I was a mentor this day;

Public domain mash-up, #MashupENSCI | Mash-up du domaine public. #MashupENSCI. CC-by-SA 3.0

Public domain mash-up, #MashupENSCI | Mash-up du domaine public. #MashupENSCI. CC-by-SA 3.0

  • 25-27 Nov 2013: a 52-hour long hackathon, the first-ever such event organised by the Ministry and revolving around cultural Open Data (more than 150 datasets released by the MCC); I was invited by the Ministry to be a member of the jury;

The jury deliberating. (Le jury est en train de délibérer ! Les équipes seront jugées sur les données publiques mobilisées, l’utilité, le design et le caractère innovant du service.)

The jury deliberating. (Le jury est en train de délibérer ! Les équipes seront jugées sur les données publiques mobilisées, l’utilité, le design et le caractère innovant du service.)

  • 7 Nov 2013: the closing day of the Automne Numérique culminated unveiling the hackathon winners and an announcement of new initiatives the MCC has engaged into in favour of Open Culture.

Learn more about the events on the Ministry’s C/Blog (in French).

Open Data Index 2013: Fundamental Public Sector Data Still Anavailable in MENA

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Rayna Stamboliyska, the founder of RS Strategy and Open MENA, served as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Editor for the Open Data Index.

The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas, including government spending, election results, transport timetables, and pollution levels, and reveals that whilst some good progress is being made, much remains to be done.

The Open Data Index 2013 is the first assessment of openness of fundamental government data in the Middle East and North Africa, including full scorecards for six countries (Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen). The six countries from the Middle East, featured in the Index, globally show very low openness.

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Big Data, Bad Data: my keynote at the Open World Forum 2013

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I was honored to be giving the closing keynote at the Open World Forum 2013 in Paris on 4 October 2013, where I shared the stage with Rand Hindi of :SNIPS and Romain Lacombe of French Prime Minister’s Commission Etalab. We spoke about what big data can bring to the society, and I focused on critically discussing common misconceptions in both Big Data meaning and analysis.

RS Strategy at the Open World Forum

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RS Strategy actively contributed to this year’s edition of the Open World Forum. As previously mentioned, I curated the programme for and organised the Open Data track. Experts from Morocco, the French national railway company SNCF, and the French Prime Minister’s Open Data Taskforce Etalab shared views on opening governance and public sector data.

I also gave two talks:

“Open Data in Science and Research” (track ‘Public Policies’), introducing the audience to the vital importance of opening up scientific research:

(also view directly on Slideshare)

“Big Data, Bad Data” (closing keynote, with Romain Lacombe from French Prime Minister’s Taskforce Etalab and Rand Hindi from :SNIPS), a critical look at the misconceptions ‘big data’ can endorse — and how to account for them:

(also view directly on Slideshare)

[Announcement] OKCon Open & Citizen Science hackday: submissions

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I’ve already announced the OKCon ‘Open & Citizen Science satellite event’. As you may remember, we launched idea submissions several days ago. The detailed descriptions are below. You can vote for your favourite one and join us geeking out next Thursday, Sept 19. Don’t hesitate to get back to us either via Twitter (@MaliciaRogue, @stefankasberger) or via mail.

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[Announcement] Open and Citizen Science in the heart of Europe

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Stefan Kasberger from OKFn Austria and myself are organizing this one-day workshop as an OKCon satellite event. Join us!

Thursday 19 September, 10:00 – 17:00 @ Centre Universitaire d’Informatique Université de Genève, Auditorium, Ground Floor

Coordinators: Stefan Kasberger (Open Knowledge Foundation Austria) and Rayna Stamboliyska (Open Knowledge Foundation France), in collaboration with Daniel Lombraña González (Citizen Cyberscience Center / Citizen CyberlabFrançois Grey (Citizen Cyberscience Center / University of Geneva), Margaret Gold/ Brian Fuchs (Citizen Cyberlab The Mobile Collective)

Hacking science makes us happy. If it makes you happy, too, then, this year’s Open Knowledge Conference is the place to be!

Indeed, OKCon 2013 is where an amazing bouquet of insights from Open and Citizen science will converge. But if you thought there would be only food for the brain, you were wrong. A satellite event will take place on 19 September aiming at giving space for everyone to actually get great things done.

With our friends Daniel Lombraña González (Citizen Cyberscience Center / Citizen Cyberlab) François Grey (Citizen Cyberscience Center / University of Geneva), Margaret Gold/ Brian Fuchs (Citizen Cyberlab The Mobile Collective), we have come up with a way allowing everyone to take part to this exciting day.

I have an idea!

We know you do. Hence, we have a dedicated form ready for you to submit a short description of what you are keen to work on. You can also indicate what additional competences you need in order to get your project done.

Idea submission will be running from today until 10 September. Every week, we will be updating everyone (through the Open Science mailing list) telling you about the new ideas submitted. In addition, a community call will be scheduled to discuss and narrow down these ideas so that they actually become feasible within one-day long hands-on sprint.

Working together

The idea of the satellite event is to geek out together. On 11 September, we will be publishing a poll with all ideas so that you can be able to vote for the project you want to work on on Day D. Voting will run until 18 September.

Do not forget to bring your favourite geeking gear (laptop, some flavour of mobile device or a fancy notebook in the perfect 1.0 fashion). We will have WiFi, cookies and fun!

The workshop space can accommodate up to 45 people. To sign-up, express your interest in the topic and get in touch with the coordinators please write to openandcitizenscience@okcon.org.