Right to Know

Thanks to the variety of different media available today, people can share much more data and form new relationships with information. That is the main premise of open data as a concept – making and keeping it open creates the condition in which citizens can get informed and are, therefore, engaged in the governance of their communities.

Magazyn Miasta / Cities Magazine

“Technology is not just an invention that people employ, but the means by which we reinvent our relationship with the world and thus – ourselves.”

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Article by Nadiia Babynska and Alicja Peszkowska

Data is a notoriously broad concept and its meaning is often highly ambiguous. Therefore, some clarifications are in order as they will lay the groundwork for the story that follows. A structural base for information is essentially data. As such, it is nothing but new. Its functional relationship can be described well by the DIKW pyramid, where data forms the base for information, which in turn forms the base for knowledge that leads to wisdom. Thanks to the variety of different media available today, people can share much more data and form new relationships with information. That is the main premise of open data as a concept – making and keeping it open creates the condition in which citizens can get informed and are, therefore, engaged in the governance of their communities.

The notion that public information should be easily and widely available is hardly news. Over 100 countries around the world have implemented some form of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. The right to access public information, also known as the “right to know” builds upon the principle that – at least in a democratic system – people should be able to access a wide range of information in order to effectively participate in public life as well as on matters affecting them as private citizens.

Magazyn Miasta / Cities Magazine

© Magazyn Miasta / Cities Magazine

OPEN DATA IN CEE-TIES

As many already know, we have passed the point where half of the world’s population lives in cities. There are numerous reasons for these urban migrations, but among the advantages of life in cities is their density. It helps structure and regulate the lives of large numbers of people. That itself is possible because of their ability to organize and process large amounts of data in effective ways.

When we talk about open data in the context of a city or of a country, we usually refer to the information collected by public institutions on how a place – the people who live there and the institutions that support this ecosystem – functions. According to the European Data Portal – the European Union platform which gives access to open data published by the EU institutions, agencies, and other bodies – European cities publish large amounts of data on topics such as urban planning, tourism, and – increasingly – real-time data on transport and mobility, such as datasets on available parking spots and traffic congestion. Moreover, cities also benefit from the use of open data to tackle typical urban challenges such as pollution and to improve the quality of urban public services and the interactivity between the local government and citizens.

How it will function in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is challenging to assess as what unifies CEE – a grouping of tangentially linked countries, some within the EU others not – has always been elusive, but we can look to Milan Kundera’s observance, in his famous essay The Tragedy of Central Europe, that “it would be senseless to draw the borders exactly. Central Europe is not a state, it is a culture or a fate.” Despite the differences that shape their modern history and political struggles, there are issues that Gdańsk (Poland), Lviv (Ukraine), Pristina (Kosovo) and Saint Petersburg (Russia) among others have in common.

YOU MAY READ THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW HERE (page 64-69)

Nadiia Babynska – works with open data, freedom of information as a media expert, project coordinator, and trainer. She was a project manager of the Open Data Portal of Ukrainian Parliament project (UNDP, OPORA), an expert of Apps4Cities (open city data) in Ukraine (TechSoup, OPORA), and is an expert of the open data project in TAPAS (USAID, UKAID), coordinator for the youth innovation challenge for human right and democ-racy U-inn (UNDP) and volunteers and coordinates the Technovation Challenge in Ukraine.

Alicja Peszkowska – Communications Specialist and a Socio-Cultural animator. She has been engaged with the topic of openness in the context of culture, society, and technology for the past 7 years. Alicja helped organize 3 editions of the Personal Democracy Forum CEE Conference as well as worked on the process of opening data and encouraging people to use it in the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Poland (TransparenCEE). She spoke about community building and openness at many international events including Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki and Berlin, and Creative Commons Summit in Toronto. At the moment, Alicja is working as a Network Director for Outriders, an innovative journalist project.

Adopted text from Magazyn Miasta / Cities Magazine vol. 2

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