Celebrating the Success of Hong Kong’s Citizen Scientists

Open Data Versus The Dengue
With at least 23 locally transmitted cases of Dengue in Hong Kong this year – this is the cases reported since records began in 1994. This summer has also seen a sharp spike in the mosquito carried West Nile virus infections in Europe, following soaring temperatures. At least 400 cases of the disease have been recorded, with 22 deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The increase in these mosquito carried disease is thought to be linked to global warming, with an extremely hot and wet summer in Hong Kong, and record heatwaves in Europe.

Hong Kong's Citizen ScientistsThe rapid and deadly spread of these diseases requires an equally rapid response, and intelligent data driven approaches in tackling them could give us a key advantage in this fight. Singapore provides excellent KML mosquito breeding site data, but unfortunately in Hong Kong the authorities limited Oviposition Trap detection system only covers <2% of our territory, and other than very archaic PDF forms. Unable to understand the benefits of open data that Singapore is seeing, the FEHD will not share the supporting data (see our attempts at making FOI requests), with their representative stating on the Pearl Report that “The more information, the more unnecessary misunderstandings”.

School Children 1: Professionals 0

Hong Kong's Citizen ScientistsWe’ve previously written about Hong Kong’s participation in the “Global Mosquito Alert” alliance of citizen-science organisations bringing together thousands of volunteers from around the world to track and control mosquito borne viruses. These efforts also lead to kick-off of a network of its own: CitizenScience.Asia – bringing together Citizen Science projects and practitioners in Hong Kong and across Asia. Coming out of an ODHK-co-promoted “Zika-hackathon” a Cantonese version of the Mosquito Alert app was developed and promoted. Working with schools, the Chinese Foundation Secondary School did an amazing job testing the app with their students, presenting their efforts at the HK SciFest 2017 at the Hong Kong Science Museum. These efforts have now paid off, with the Hong Kong (mostly school children collected) datapoints being ingested alongside another 4,000 observations into the GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. This is an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world’s governments, and is the main home for open access to data about all types of life on Earth. Zooming into East Asia you can see a small but prominent cluster of observations in Hong Kong. Proof that even school children can contribute to the global sum of research knowledge.

This is even more impressive as the Hong Kong research community is particularly conservative, with very few researchers depositing their data in global databases such as GBIF. Despite being a global norm and mandated by a growing number of research funders in Europe, North America and Australasia, and with even the Ministry of Science Technology in Mainland China announcing new policies ‘promoting open access to, and sharing of, science data’. Hong Kong in contrast has no policies, and the chair of the main research funded has publicly stated that he believes sharing data would reduce Hong Kong’s competitiveness. It is heartening that at least our school children are putting their elders to shame in contributing to the global sum of knowledge, and Hong Kong’s Citizen Scientists will not make the same mistakes the supposed “Professional” scientists will.

This is one of many examples of the potential of Citizen Science to capture the interest of the Hong Kong public, and be a leader and hub for these activities in the region. Another being in the recent City Nature Challenge, where utilizing the iNaturalist App Hong Kong ranked 8th in “most observations” (20,268), 4th in “most species” (2,934), and 7th in “most observers” (755) among 68 cities in the world. As a first time participant Hong Kong really put itself on the map, contributing the most new species: 57 out of 124 global new species (46.0%) in the iNaturalist database. The consequences of this are starting to be felt, with the Tai Tam Tuk Foundation organised Hong Kong Inter School City Nature Challenge kicking off this November, and visitors coming to see how we did so well.

Next week Professor Hiromi Kobori from Tokyo City University is coming to Hong Kong to fact find with the Tai Tam Tuk Foundation on City Nature Challenge and Citizen Science opportunities across the region. Prof Kobori has been a citizen science advocate in Japan for a long time, and is also the main organizer of the Tokyo City Nature Challenge. Our colleagues at CitizenScience.Asia and DIYBIO Hong Kong have organized a meetup and talk from Prof Kibori on the “Characteristics and Challenges of Citizen Science in Japan”. On Thursday 13th September head out the all new MakerBay in Tsuen Wan from 7pm, and there are plans to live-stream and film the talk, so sign up on Facebook and watch out on social media for links for that.

Meet.36: Legco visit

Tuesday, November, 22 at 1:45pm.
Add this event to your Google Calendar.
See this event on Facebook

Wanted a chance to visit Legco but never had the chance or didn’t know when’s the best time to go? Here’s your chance!
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) is Hong Kong’s center seat for political debate and law-making. To stay informed about what is happening, we refer to the information Legco can provide to us. Increasingly, we rely on the data, to know what happened, what’s going on, and what’s coming up, because we want to review the votes of lawmakers, keep up with the current debate, and analyse upcoming legislation.

Tentative agenda
  • 2pm: Meet with OGCIO data.gov.hk team
  • 3:30pm: Tour of Legco
  • 4:30 Meet with Legco IT
  • 6:00 Meet with Charles Mok, Legco councillor for the IT functional constituency

Some engaged citizens have built tools to better analyse legco proceedings, to better keep track of law-makers’ votes, chart the debate, and follow the legislative agenda. Cutting through the information and data isn’t easy, and providing this data is no easy task. Join this event to know better how Legco works, to connect with Legco’s technical staff, to understand their challenges, share your interests, and share some expertise. Confirm your seat early!
You will need to bring your HKID for sign-in, and I will need the name on your HKID in advance. Please email this to me at bastien@opendatahk.com.

(This event may expand to include meetings with other government departments)

Meet.35: Data Data Data

Wednesday, November 2 at 7pm at Campfire CoWorking Space in Kennedy Town
4/F Cheung Hing Industrial Building, 12P Smithfield, Kennedy Town

We’re going to work with data, and start building a repository for common public data. Data about land, public transportation, public safety, political districts, weather, pollution, shark fins, the ivory trade, anything. Even “better data” – the data we want to see on data.gov.hk and don’t see it. We’ll bring it all together, and make it shareable. We’ll discuss what we want to access, how we can get it, and liberate it for all to access and use.

You do NOT need to be technical to join this! Bring your minds and curiosity. Ask your questions, and start on a journey of getting the information you want.
We anticipate getting our hands dirty with data, so please bring your laptop if you can.

Add this event to your Google Calendar

NOTE: Do not follow Google Maps! Only 5 minutes from Kennedy Town MTR exit A, go UPHILL
Google Maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/3sYaHVScPNG2

Thank you to Campfire Collaborative Space for hosting us.

Meet.34: Open Data Tools


Let’s showcase some tools we are working on to support open data in Hong Kong:

  • A data warehouse for open data for the public;
  • A projects database listing of open data projects;
  • A(nother) Legco watch site, and more.

If you also have a project, come show it to us.
If you want to learn more and be part of the action, come out and get involved.
Confirm attendance on Facebook.
NOTE: Do not follow Google Maps! Only 3 minutes from Kennedy Town MTR’s only exit A, go UPHILL.
Google Maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/3sYaHVScPNG2
Thank you to Campfire Collaborative Space for hosting us.

Date: Tomorrow, Wednesday October 12, 2016, 7pm

Location: Campfire Collaborative Space, 4/F, Cheung Hing Industrial Building, 12P Smithfield.
Directions: Only 3 minutes from Kennedy Town MTR’s only exit A, go UPHILL.
Google Map link


ODHK.meet.33: Crafting an Open Data Policy

It’s time to craft an open data policy for Hong Kong. To do this, we can learn a lot from Taiwan, who are ranked #1 on the Global Open Data Index, due in no small part to the work of TH Schee, mayoral advisor to the Taipei City Government.
We’ll talk with TH Schee to know more about the wonderful things open data is doing for Taipei and Taiwan, about the open data policies in place, how it’s working in government, and know some strategies for communicating with government and stakeholders to get support for open data. We’ll also discuss how citizens, private sector and NGOs can make informed decisions with better access to data.


Justice Centre Hong Kong, 18th Floor, 202-204 Des Voeux Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Map location
MTR: Sai Ying Pun, head west from Exit A2
Thank you to the Justice Centre Hong Kong for hosting us.

More about T.h. Schee:

Since 2002, TH Schee has pioneered several web projects that spawned several local NGOs and start-ups. In 2006, he co-founded Association of Digital Cultures Taiwan, and was the local Taipei Wikimania host in 2007. In 2009, the Association became the first group in Asia to manage mobilized digital communities for crowdsourcing government data in response to a national crisis situation. Other endeavors include Puncar, the largest digital inclusion project at the local level. Schee was later awarded an Honorary Mention in Digital Communities from Prix Arts Electronica. Existing social ventures include Open Knowledge Taiwan, the Data Science Program, and various partnership initiatives that span across healthcare, urban development, and public service innovation. He has been an invited specialist on the UN-GGIM and serves at International Committee on Prix Ars Electronica. He is also mayoral advisor to the Taipei City Government.
See TH Schee’s TEDx talk (Chinese)
Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 7pm.

See this event and sign up on Facebook