Unlocking the Value of Open Data Wishlists

May all your Open Data wishes come true
One common question and topic of discussion in the Hong Kong Open Data community is what datasets do users need to get hold of. Releasing government data takes resources, and so the OGCIO (Office of the Government Chief Information Officer) has to prioritize what they are able to get access to first. While as users this feels frustrating slow at times, since the release of the updated data.gov.hk PSI portal in 2015 we’ve at least seen an increase. Prioritizing low hanging fruit and which datasets will satisfy the biggest number of users will make this process more efficient, but it has been hard to get users and the data producers in government together to address this. The “Unlocking the Value of Open Data” conference that ODHK helped organize this weekend provided a unique opportunity to do just that, targeting both civil servants and external users of data. With the aim of facilitating learning, developing understanding, and gathering analysis about Open Data in Hong Kong, roughly 1/3 of the 227 registrants came from government, and the remainder from a broad range of backgrounds interested in data such as coders, NGOs, activists, academics, students and business professionals.
What types of Open Data would you like to have?
Panel before the Open Data Wishlist sessionAfter a great keynote from Nicholas Yang, Hong Kong Secretary for Innovation and Technology, and a panel discussion on how law and regulation might facilitate Open Data in Hong Kong (pictured), the afternoon session was a less structured and more interactive affair. Splitting into two tracks for beginner and intermediate data users, the intermediate track was hosted by Scott and Bastien of ODHK, and unconference style. With assistance from ODHK original co-founder Mart van de Ven, we started this track off with a data gathering exercise entitled “What types of Open Data would you like to have?”. Getting all the attendees involved, all the participants introduced themselves and talked about the #1 dataset on their Open Data Wishlist. It was fascinating to see all the government attendees talk about the datasets on their wishlists from other government departments, and demonstrated that amongst the biggest beneficiaries of government opening up their data will likely be governments themselves. With a number of the government departments flagged in the wishlists of participants also represented in the room by some of their civil servants (particularly by helpful members of the census department and HK Observatory), it was fascinating and rewarding to help some “data matchmaking” occur. The resulting discussions from these interactions lead to insightful feedback in the session, after the session, and in the following unconference breakouts that split the room into multiple tables discussing many of the data types and topics raised.
To share the information for this prioritization exercise we thought we would share the notes and list that Mart put together at the end. As you can see the range of datasets and data types was very broad, as was the source – both government departments, quasi-government and private companies were on peoples Open Data Wishlist. With some obvious areas such as transport, lands and property data flagged the most, next time people ask what datasets are of highest demand and priority by data users in Hong Kong (both from outside and inside of government) we have the list and whiteboard image for you to share. Thanks to everyone who attended and gave your input, and especial credit needs to go to John Bacon Shone, Bastien Douglas, Just Tang and Alan Lung (through a Central Policy Unit grant) for putting the meeting together. As well as the volunteers and hosts at HKU. We hope from this data matchmaking the fruitful discussions and momentum from this meeting can continue and watch this space for any follow up meetings in the future.
Open Data Wishlist

  • Transport (8 votes)
    • bus (4 votes)
      • live bus location
      • routes
    • MTR (4 votes)
    • travel patterns
      • cross-border
        • maritime (cross-border)
  • Traffic Accidents
  • Employment
    • Job Well-being
    • Women in STEM
    • Salaries
  • Public Health (4 votes)
    • Flu
  • Crime (2 votes)
    • offence & conviction rate
    • geo-coded
  • Lands
  • Expenditure (2 votes)
    • presentation
    • vs budget
  • Construction
    • materials, delays, budgets, and costs
  • Opinion Polls
    • Civil liberties relation to information
  • 1823 Complaints
  • Macro Economic
    • Forecasting and planning
  • Biodiversity
    • Soil type
  • Property Data (3 votes)
    • Features which determine a price
    • Rental rates
  • Power Consumption
  • Company Registry (2 votes)
    • historical directorship
    • reverse look-up
  • HKIA Vending Machines
  • Weather – more detailed
  • Supply Chain Data – how does Amazon plan delivery success
  • Financing of Mortgages
  • Wider LegCo info (Hansard+)

META WISHLIST (technically not datasets – but bigger picture stuff people would like from OGCIO/data.gov.hk)

  • Data Security
  • Web Analytics (and how it’s predictive of behaviour)
  • HKO API Design
  • OD Data Usage – incl. from a privacy perspective
  • Traffic Accident App
  • Census Ordinance Review (keep the raw responses)

Open Data Wishlist - where this started

ODHK lobbying open data policy via the UN UPR

DaY5rPjU0AAaIG-.jpg largeHong Kong governance and transparency is under the spotlight in a landmark submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on China. It has been presented to the UNHRC for a review that will take place in November. Open Data Hong Kong is among 45 civil society organisations contributing feedback to the Hong Kong UPR Coalition, representing the collaborative efforts of civil society to hold the Hong Kong SAR government accountable to its human rights commitments. Today a press conference (pictured) presented the submission and introduced the many signatories who were involved in the process.

The submission details 109 recommendations, and Open Data Hong Kong has specifically provided feedback on its data and archiving policy. The lack of an archives law or robust and binding access to information legislation is one of the many barriers that has held back open data in the Hong Kong SAR. The specific sections relating to Freedom of Information and Archives law are recommendations 26 and 27.
Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 14.23.44While a subcommittee of the government has been working on this issue for over half a decade, and mentions of the issue were included in Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s election manifesto, we applaud efforts to keep the topic on the agenda and (unlike our archives) not gather further dust. More specific data related feedback on top of the points listed above that we would also promote is the need for all public/statutory bodies to included in the ordinance, as they such a huge and ever growing part of Hong Kong governance and are not subject to even the weak access to information code we have. As well as removal of the fuzzy and non-interoperable (non-creative commons) licensing restrictions of the data we currently have in Hong Kong.

Simon Henderson, the spokesperson for the Coalition and Senior Policy Advisor at Justice Centre Hong Kong says of why this coalition was put together: “The submission provides a roadmap of specific, measurable and achievable recommendations for Hong Kong to abide by its human rights commitments and restore its international standing. Our submission reflects the aspirations of the Hong Kong people who want to build a fairer and more equal society for all. Importantly, it also echoes Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s vision of making Hong Kong a more inclusive city.”

Engagement with civil society is crucial to the UPR process. Unfortunately, quite often, civil society is on the sidelines when it comes to major legal and policy developments, in contrast to the Chief Executive’s pledge to “connect”. “Having meaningful consultations, meeting regularly and promptly responding to correspondence will go a long way in engaging civil society. The UPR is a test for the government to show that it is truly committed to protecting Hong Kong’s core values. We look forward to working with the government to implement these recommendations,” he concluded.
This makes Open Data an important part of this submission, as it should help provide more scrutiny and connectedness, facilitating meaningful consultation and data driven decision making in Hong Kong, and is great to see these issues taken to the UN. We’ve previously hosted meetups covering open data for political advocacy and legislation, and this takes discussion to a global level. The upcoming UPR on China, including Hong Kong and Macau, will take place in Geneva in early November 2018. The UPR Working Group, which consists of the 47 member states of the UNHRC, will conduct the review.
The submission is available online at: www.justicecentre.org.hk/policy-advocacy/universal-periodic-review/

Beyond Open: Find out about FAIR Data

Hong Kong’s eight research universities are producing world-class research, however, as with our government data, the data supporting our publicly funded research is not easily accessible. Considering this comes from Hong Kong taxpayers, how can we make better use of this to maximise the bang for our research funding buck?
Susanna_GSCIn the rest of the world, the global science community is looking beyond just opening up research data, and are looking to make it FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable. With FAIR data being embraced by the EU open science programs, the GO-FAIR initiative and the US NIH Big Data 2 Knowledge program – what does Hong Kong need to do to keep up with these global policy movements? As Hong Kong is still talking about “public sector information” rather than open data, with even the G20 stating they ‘support appropriate efforts to promote open science and facilitate appropriate access to publicly funded research results on findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) principles.‘ are we getting further and further behind here in Hong Kong, and what can we do to catch up? As a participant of many of these EU and US programs, Prof. Susanna Assunta Sansone, the Associate Director of FAIR Data Science at Oxford University is passing through Hong Kong (see her previous related trip here) and will give hands on experience of these, and hopefully demonstrate the potential of FAIR research data for innovation. Sign up for this policy driven workshop that Open Data Hong Kong is co-organising with Knowledge Dialogues. Places are limited so please sign up here as soon as you can:
Places are free, but donations are welcome, and if you can’t make it please cancel the tickets so others can make in your place.
Monday 20 November 2017
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM HKT
Hong Kong Innocentre
72 Tat Chee Avenue
Hong Kong, Kowloon
Hong Kong

Hong Kong joins the Global Mosquito Alert fight using Open Data

17807393_10158392226650858_8278625931195430467_oOpen Science is a key part of Open Data ecosystem, listed by Open Knowledge as one of its eight different types of Open Data. Citizen Science is one of the beneficial side-effects of this open and collaborative ways of doing research. Crowdsourcing amateur scientists to carry out science, harnessing untapped resources to tackle problems in new and innovative ways. ODHK members have been involved in a number of such projects, such as BauhiniaGenome, Human Genome Hackathons, and last years ZikaHack. This final project has now been recognised internationally, with members of the team getting invited to UN Environment meeting in Geneva last month.
From this meeting new “Global Mosquito Alert” alliance of citizen-science organisations and UN Environment is being launched, in an effort to escalate the global fight against mosquito-borne diseases, responsible for killing close to 2.7 million people annually. Off the back of this, the team in Hong Kong is also launching a network of its own: CitizenScience.Asia – bringing together Citizen Science projects and practitioners in Hong Kong and across Asia. The goal of the community is to promote the concept of citizen science and to facilitate dialogues between researchers, citizens and communicators across different projects in the region.


School children test out the Mosquito Alert app in HK. Source and thanks to CFSS.

Hong Kong has been a perfect testbed for these citizen-driven efforts against mosquito borne diseases, with some of the highest smartphone usage and coverage in the world, and with increasing incidence of dengue. With the last year seeing local transmission of dengue in the mid-levels and recent imported cases of Zika. Less than 2% of the territory is covered by FEHD mosquito screening programs, making harnessing citizen power a particularly attractive weapon against the disease. Coming out of our Zika-hackathon a Cantonese version of the Mosquito Alert app was developed and promoted, getting us interviewed on the TVB Pearl Report. Working with schools, the Chinese Foundation Secondary School has done an amazing job testing the app with their students, presenting their efforts at the HK SciFest 2017 at the Hong Kong Science Museum.
The new global initiative, launched under the name ‘Global Mosquito Alert’, brings together thousands of volunteers from around the world to track and control mosquito borne viruses, including Zika, yellow fever, chikungunya, dengue, malaria and the West Nile virus. All diseases that threaten Hong Kong as mosquito species that can carry many of them are being increasingly detected. It is the first global platform dedicated to citizen science techniques to tackle the monitoring of mosquito populations.
Agreement to launch the initiative was reached at a two-day workshop that took place in Geneva last month, organized by UN Environment, the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP), and the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), as well as our developing citizen science community in Hong Kong, who were the only Asian representatives.
Director of Science at UN Environment, Jacqueline McGlade, said, “The Global Mosquito Alert will offer for the first time a shared platform to leverage citizen science for the global surveillance and control of disease-carrying mosquitoes. It is a unique infrastructure that is open for all to use and may be augmented with modular components and implemented on a range of scales to meet local and global research and management needs.”
She added, “The programme will offer the benefit of the millions spent in developing existing mosquito monitoring projects to local citizen science groups around the world.  Opportunities to keep these citizen-led initiatives at the cutting edge of science will now depend on securing major funding to support the ongoing programme development and its promotion to millions of people world-wide.”
UNLIvehome_pageThe Global Mosquito Alert will be supported by a consortium of data and information providers, coordinated through Environment Live, the dynamic UN knowledge platform, designed to collect, process and share the world’s best environmental science and research. Built and maintained by UN Environment, the platform provides real-time open data access to policy makers and the general public, using distributed networks, cloud computing, big data and improved search functions.
The consortium includes: Mosquito Alert, Spain and Hong Kong; MosquitoWEB Portugal; Zanzamapp in Italy; Muggenradar in the Netherlands; the Globe Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, USA/International and the Invasive Mosquito Project USA.
The information displayed on Environment Live will allow managers to mitigate risk and reduce health threats while opening up an opportunity for concerned citizens to contribute their mosquito observations and possible solutions.  Citizen data will augment information already available from Government public health sources. Of which in Hong Kong there is very little.
The new consortium has agreed to share current approaches to monitor the spread of key mosquito species and their breeding sites, and to measure the nuisance value of the citizen mosquito experience to support health risk management.
Follow Global Mosquito Alert from the ECSA website, and CitizenScience.Asia from its facebook page. Participating projects from in this new network include DIYbio Hong Kong and their Hong Kong Barcode project, the crowdfunded BauhiniaGenome project, and the continuing efforts of Mosquito Alert in Hong Kong. There will be a meetup next week (17th May) on where these Global Mosquito Alert and CitizenScience.Asia efforts are going next. See more in the MakerBay blog and the Facebook event.

  • Time: May 17th, 19:00 – 21:00
  • Location: MakerBay Yau Tong or Central – TBC
  • Facebook event: Link
  • Price: Free, BYOB

Guest Post: A Data Driven Look At Refugee Crime

Like many societies, Hong Kong is having a heated discussion about immigration. Especially in regards to refugees. A common believe here is that refugees commit more crime than the general population and that most criminals are of South East Asian ethnicity. Further some have suggested the increase in refugees has let to a general increase in crime within Hong Kong. This has let to strong comments by some politicians (e.g. Dominic Lee in Sham Shui Po calling for internment camps). However, there is surprisingly little public data available to base these on.
Therefore, Open Data Hong Kong has attempted to acquire some data on the topic, especially Scott Edmunds who has spend a lot of time collecting the data by contacting individual police districts and police regions in Hong Kong through accessinfo requests. So here I will take a look at the data and see if I can find some answers.

The data

First I should mention something about refugees in Hong Kong in general. I was unable to find some accurate numbers on the total numbers of asylum seekers in Hong Kong. According to the immigration department there were around 9 618 people claiming asylum in HK in 2014, 10,922 in 2015, and 9,981 in 2016.

HK never joined the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, and asylum seekers can only apply under the UN Convention Against Torture. Or at least cite as a reason for protection. Furthermore, the recognition rate is very low. About 0.16% of applicants are accepted (the global average is 27%). The application process is quite slow as well. This results that many applicants stay in the city for years and many asylum seeker whose application have been rejected cannot be deported due to a lack of extradition agreement with the corresponding home countries. During their stay applicants, as well as those who are rejected, are not allowed to work, but the government provides some minimal rental, food and medical subsidy (HK allocated HK$450 Million in the budget of 2013/2014). Some have suggested that these subsidies are too low to maintain a living in HK and provide incentives to be involved with criminal activities. The majority of claimants are from South and South East Asia.

To asses crimes committed by refugees in HK I took a look at the data provided by Open Data Hong Kong, as well as publicly available census data and crime statistics. Unfortunately, not all police districts in HK were able to provide the criminal statistics of refugees. In fact only West Kowloon region was able to provide a complete picture across their district. Furthermore, these numbers are arrest statistics and not convictions (ODHK has collected data showing roughly 50% of arrests result in convictions). So any conclusions should be viewed with care.

Is there an increase in arrests?

This question is relatively easy to answer and I have plotted the overall number of arrests for each region by year below.

As you can see there seems to be no overall dramatic increase in arrests for all of the regions. However, there is a slight increase in crime Kowloon East and West, but in general the trend points downwards. This would suggest crime in HK is not increasing.

Arrests of refugees

Since I only have limited data available about refugees in HK I was only able to look at Kowloon West. Hence I compared the number of arrests of refugees with the total number of arrests within this region.

Let me explain this plot in bit more detail. I used data available for 2014 and 2015. Since Hong Kong does not use the phrase refugee as Hong Kong does not recognise the UN Refugee Convention, so the exact legal classifications are a bit vague. Nevertheless, some police stations have called refugees “Form 8” (F8) holders, so I will use this phrase here as well. Thus the plot above shows the number of arrests made in Kowloon West by F8 holders and all arrests between 2014 and 2015.
So comparable those arrests rate look quite small. Indeed in 2014 and 2015 the proportion of arrests of F8 holders was 4% and 5% respectively. So these numbers seem rather stable and would suggest no major change between 2014 and 2015, despite a slight increase in the number of refugees.

Do refugees commit more crime than others?

This question turned out to be much more difficult to answer than I thought. One problem is that I do not know how many refugees live in Kowloon West, further police districts are not the same as council districts. This makes it difficult to get an population estimate since the census data from 2011 only looked at council districts. Thus I am unable to answer this question with the current data. Only the availability of the exact arrest numbers of refugees for the whole of Hong Kong or the exact numbers of refugees living in Kowloon would help to answer this question.


There is no evidence of an increase in crime in Hong Kong (at least from the data available), also there seems to be a slight increase from 2014 to 2015 (looks more like random noise to me however). Arrests of F8 holders was relatively stable between 2014 and 2015. Intuitively I think the proportions of arrests of F8 holders are higher than one would expect given a small population of around 10,000, but one needs to keep in mind that arrests are not convictions. In general the data is not really sufficient to make a conclusive statement. Except that HK is incredibly safe compared to other major cities (0.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2016; one of the lowest in the world).
Thanks for Open Source HK for putting together the ODD event this year. See the interesting round table discussion with three LegCo members on our periscope stream. For more on this particular project, interact with this data via some Shiny visualisations and the raw data being collected at ODHK’s CKAN installation.