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The Europe Roundup: On Opening Data, "Dataviz" and Public Transportation

BY Antonella Napolitano | Tuesday, December 20 2011

Mediarena, the winner of a Google-sponsored data competition
  • Bulgaria | Opening Government Data
    When the Bulgarian Parliament released information on bills and lawmakers in machine-readable formats earlier this year, blogger and open data activist Boran Yurukov found bugs and problems — then decided to show Bulgaria how to do the job right.

    On the Open Knowledge Foundation blog, Yurukov explains how he worked to scrape the Bulgarian Parliament's site, clean up the data, and release much more than what the legislative body was already putting out in formats like XML or CSV through a project of its own.

    Yurukov says that all data he's been working on are in raw XML files, but also that he's building a platform for analysis and visualization of the datasets. The platform, mostly aimed at data journalists,  will be sponsored by the Institute for Public Environment Development.

    Earlier this year Yurukov also founded, the first Bulgarian Ushaidi-based website, the aim of which is to collect reports on crime through the website, Twitter and Facebook. He also supported the creation of For Fair Elections, the first platform to monitor elections in Bulgaria, which happened last October.

  • France | Googleviz Competition: Winners and More...
    Back in October I wrote about a competition launched by Google, YouTube and Twitter to create the best data visualisations - "dataviz" in French - to follow the French presidential campaign (elections are due in spring 2012).
    Participants could use as many data sources as they want, whether built on top of an API or a fixed database, and the only requirement was to include at least one Google or Twitter dataset.

    In their weekly roundup on open data,'s Paule D'Atha tells more about the winner:

    The winning entry was Mediarena, designed and developed by Nils Grünwald, Stéphane Raux, Alexis Jacomy and Ronan Quidu. Everything is there at first glance: the angle is clear – how the mainstream online media cover the French presidential campaign – while the interaction is more than intuitive. With a few clicks, the user can play around with the data and scroll through the list of headlines. Beyond the simplicity and readability, Mediarena gives the user access to a huge amount of data that provides context and depth to their chosen angle.

    Other interesting projects included a structure tag cloud giving an overview of the main topics covered by the media and politicians and an analysis of the candidates' Twitter profile through a fun visualisations of the candidates being parachuted towards the presidential palace.

  • EU | European Parliament Adopts Proposals to Improve EU Transparency Rules
    On December 15th the European Parliament voted to adopt proposals to improve the EU's rules governing public access to documents.
    Access Info, an organization that works on defending the right to know in Europe and globally, highlighted what it says are positives in the Parliament's new position. A first important step is the improvement of the definition of a document: this now covers electronic system, including databases stored on "off-site" servers.
    Proposals would also ensure a rapid appeal process for members of the public that are denied information and establish Information Officers to improve efficiency in responding to requests from the public.

    Back in October Access Info launched an initiative called, aimed at spreading the word on the right to ask EU institutions for information and helping citizens in the process.
    The right to access EU documents is guaranteed by Regulation 1049/2001.

  • France | A Debate on Public Transportation of... Data
    The SNCF, the National Corporation of French Railways, has launched a debate about whether to open up data on transportation.
    In a country struggling to involve the transport industry in the open data movement, this initiative is most welcome, explain Pieter Colpaert from iRail npo and Pierre Chrzanowski on the OKFN blog:

    The lack till today of open transport data in France led independent initiatives to extract the data without authorisation, placing them in legal insecurity. A change by SNCF is therefore really welcome.
    Although SNCF seems to be ready for open data, other public transport operators in France are still reluctant. RATP, the state-owned subway operator for Paris area, recently refused to let other app developers use its map for free. This inspired CheckMyMetro, a startup which was forced to remove the RATP map from its smartphone application, to organize a subway map design contest.

    Given the reluctance of many operators, the process seems rather complex, but - according to the writers - the release of the national open data portal could stimulate developments in this direction.
    The French government has created its own license for the national open data portal that was launched earlier this month.

Apps4Italy: the deadline is February 10th, 2012

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO