A Meet to Remember: ODHK Tackles "Right to be Forgotten"

Presentation content

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Internet
The Michel Gondry film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, a Sci-Fi Romantic Comedy tackling the unpredictable consequences of erasing all memories of a love affair, is quite a good primer on the potential side-effects of the “Right to be Forgotten” (RTBF) policies, where online search engines can be compelled to “forget” information that is deemed outdated. As the internet is increasing becoming the host of our collective memories, moves to delete specific parts of our digital histories are likely to have equally painful and unintended outcomes. Our colleagues at Open Knowledge are clear that these moves pose a threat to transparency and open data, setting up a Personal Data and Privacy Working Group to discuss the matter. Currently a hot issue in Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner Allan Chiang Yam Wang recently expressing strong support for the controversial policy (including on his blog), yesterday ODHK decided to delve further into the issue by hearing some local perspectives on the matter. After a bit of a break, the ODHK meets were back with a jam packed bill including presentations on RTBF by Frankie Chu of InMedia and economic governance activist David Webb.
Hong Kong InMedia is a citizen journalism advocacy organisation, and Frankie Chu started proceedings pointing out that for countries with poor access to information legislation such as those in Asia, any moves to alter search engine results will disproportionally effect citizens ability to access to information freely. Lacking archiving ordinance also makes Hong Kong particularly vulnerable, something which the Hong Kong Archives Action group has highlighted. In-Media has covered the topic regularly, and have put together a fantastic animation that gives a great overview of the potential risks of RTBF legislation, particularly from a Hong Kong perspective. Writing an open letter, In-Media and the Hong Kong Civil Liberties Union are also collecting signatures to let the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner know public opinion is against these moves.

David Webb gave a presentation based on a recent talk he gave at the Christmas AGM of the Hong Kong Library Association covering a lot of similar ground, but going into more detail the test cases that have brought us to where we are today. Highlighting that Hong Kong media organisations such as the HK Standard are already reducing their archives, the most chilling consequences would be the growing political leverage that search engines like google, or J. Edgar Hoover types in security services and governments would have by becoming gatekeepers of information. David’s slides are available from his Webb-site here.
The Meet ended with a Q&A from Frankie and David, and updates and news from some of the ODHK working groups such as Guy Freeman and the OpenGov.HK access to information portal, and Scott Edmunds and the Open Science Working Group. Bastien plugged the ODHK and Code4HK “Hack the Hong Kong Budget” make on the 28th February, and the next ODHK meet will be on the 9th March, so watch this space for further news and updates. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Meet.25: Open Data & Legislation

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  • Date: Monday, February 16, 7pm
  • Location: Delaney’s Wan Chai, 2/F, One Capital Place, 18 Luard Road, Wan Chai

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ODHK meets are back. At our first event of 2015 we look at the “Right to be Forgotten” legislation and other legislation and policies as they relate to Hong Kong. If you’re into politics, or you’re a policy wonk, or an engaged citizen interested in improving access to information, come out to Meet.25.
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The “Right to Be Forgotten” policy is under review by various governments around the world, and has been adopted broadly by the European Union, Argentina, and the United States. Recently Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner has recommended adopting the legislation for Hong Kong, and there’s been push back. Frankie Chu of InMedia will discuss how this legislation has implications for how information is managed online, as well as for open data and transparency.
We will also have a short discussion about other legislation that would help bolster open data in Hong Kong: Archive Law, Access to Information, and an Open Data Policy.


  • 7:00 Networking
  • 7:15 Opening up – what is Open Data, about ODHK (Bastien)
  • 7:30 “Right to be Forgotten legislation” – Frankie Chu (30 mins.)
    • About the legislation;
    • Relevance to HK
    • Q & A or moderated discussion
  • 8:00 Discussion: Open Data policies (Bastien)
    • Archive Law
    • Access to Information
    • Open Data Policy
  • Open Data News Roundup, Announcements & short demos of anything
  • Networking, mingling.

Whether you’re already familiar with Open Data or just want to find out what it is, come to our regular meetup. No technical skills required. Come out and meet fellow Hong Kong Open Data enthusiasts.


Monday, February 16, 7pm
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Delaney’s Wan Chai, 2/F, One Capital Place, 18 Luard Road, Wan Chai
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Make.05: HK Budget Hackathon

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  • 10:30 Registration
  • 11:00-11:30 Overview/ Ideas quick pitches
    Choose if you will form a team or lend your much-needed skills to various teams as a “floater”
  • 11:30-12:00 Form into Groups and just get started!
  • 12:00-6:00 Hacking, Hacking, Hacking


  • 10:00 Open
  • 10:00-17:00 Hacking, Hacking, Hacking
  • 17:00-18:00 Present & Closing

If you are late in, we open for short pitches in between the day which you can share your ideas and ask people to join.
Ideas/Summary at pre-hackathon meet up: bit.ly/code4hk-budget

Event description

This year, more than ever before in HK, the government budget will be easier to break down, analyse, visualize, and hack. So let’s hack it together. Let’s find trends, gaps, compare to other cities and countries, and even create new scenarios. Let’s do this the weekend of Feb 28 & March 1.

You do NOT need to be a coder or a developer to participate! ALL skill sets welcome. Curiosity and thirst to learn required. Interest in civic engagement a plus.

The budget was published on Feb. 25. This year, John Tsang, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury has committed to releasing the budget in machine-readable CSV format, meaning it will be easier to crunch budget numbers and reduces risk of error, possible when first scraping it from Excel (or worse, PDFs and Word files). Though data people have no problems scraping this data, having the budget in machine-readable format means even more people can directly jump into budget data for better analysis, develop infographics, and run scenarios, realising the benefits of open data and setting a good example for the rest of the HK government.
There are some great examples of what’s possible when we scrape the data and visualize it. Let’s show what more is possible at this Budget Hackathon.
Entrance fee: Pay what you can (suggested $30).
The Government budget office and media has been invited to review the projects.
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Unlocking a Digital Treasure Chest: How to Embrace Open Data and Advance Hong Kong’s Competitiveness

This post first appeared in Cantonese in the HK Economic Journal on 30 January.
A level-five typhoon hellScreen shot 2015-02-05 at 3.18.11 PM-bent on wreaking havoc unexpectedly changes direction. Instead of moving towards Japan, as predicted, it’s now heading straight for Hong Kong. As soon as the typhoon’s new course has been noted by local meteorologists, your trusted Hong Kong Observatory app has bombarded your smartphone with alerts, warning you to take note that the level has been raised to nine – indicating black rain. You now know to take your laptop home and prepare to stay indoors the following day, as work is officially canceled. This, and many other innovations we take for granted, is made possible thanks to open data.
Open data is a relatively new concept in Asia and most governments in the region are wrestling with how to best include it in their national economic and technological strategies. With the exception of a few countries, most of the data Asian governments hold is closed, meaning users are limited in the reuse or analysis of valuable public information. In some cases, you might even be breaking the law by hosting government statistics on a site. When data becomes open, all this changes. Coined ‘a new goldmine’ by The Economist for its usefulness, open data has an estimated annual economic impact globally of at least USD $3 trillion.
Open data has the potential to unlock a bounty for Hong Kong that can be applied in a plethora of highly constructive ways, in addition to a significant economic impact. The socioeconomic benefits from liberating public data alone are substantial; the free flow of information and data reduces the friction that slows down development in both emerging and advanced internet economies like Hong Kong’s. More specifically, a country that fully embraces open data will see tangible gains in its creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative output – aspects crucial to sustaining Hong Kong’s long term prosperity.
According to the World Bank, Hong Kong currently ranks fourth in East Asia and Pacific and 18th in the world for its Knowledge Economy Index, ahead of Japan, Singapore, and Korea. This shows that the city is doing a commendable job to ensure its Internet environment is conducive for knowledge to be used effectively for economic development.  Yet, quantitative rankings alone are not enough to fully portray a country’s open data preparedness and many facets of Hong Kong’s ICT sector requires attention to ensure users are well-equipped to convert data to gold.
Hong Kong has made tremendous progress in embracing open data and connecting hungry coders with a feast of public sector data sets. For example, the establishment of a Public Sector Information portal, Data.one, and in 2011 the Hong Kong government released selected data sets to the public provided by government departments. In addition, in 2011 and 2013, the government launched app competitions with the ICT community to encourage software developers and IT students to develop ideas and solutions based on the published data sets. The most recent competition yielded 100 contributions, of which 22% of the submissions were based on traffic, 16% on weather, and 12% on air pollution data sets.
While app competitions are a good way to encourage user participation with public data sets, Hong Kong is not actively engaging the community through a dynamic exchange between stakeholders from the supply and demand side. Creating a dynamic community for developers and end users to collaborate is essential for the sustainable development of a market’s Internet economy. Taiwan, for example, is one of the few countries in the Asia Pacific region to have successfully combined information push and pull elements in the open data environment, thus enabling a dynamic market for data. They have achieved this through aggressive community engagement and collaborations between the government and wider business and civil society, in addition to partnering with the UK open data Institute to bring about more liquid Internet economies.
On the regulatory side, Hong Kong faces some challenges. The city currently lacks comprehensive access to information laws as well as copyright regulations that would provide users a sound basis for business built on public data. Recognizing the need for a stronger regulatory environment to protect intellectual property and encourage innovation, the Law Reform Commission is currently reviewing a revision to the city’s information laws and the government recently proposed a series of initiatives under the theme of “Smarter Hong Kong, Smarter Living” in an update to the Digital 21 Strategy. As part of the new Digital 21 Strategy, the city will make, “all government information released for public consumption in machine-readable digital formats from next year onwards to provide more opportunities for the business sector.”
While these initiatives are progressive actions, the recent call from the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner to extend the ‘right to be forgotten’ to Hong Kong and Asia threatens to reverse all our nascent progress on open data in Hong Kong. The right to be forgotten will open up holes on the internet and search engines in particular, hurting businesses’ access to this “marketplace of ideas” for data-driven innovation, and users’ access to information as well as right to know. This takes us in the wrong direction of progress; the destruction of information has an adverse affect on the betterment of our economy and overall society.
Open data is empowerment. The more access people have to public data sets, the more new ideas and innovative solutions tailored to the needs of society are developed, effectively unleashing a significant business impact while simultaneously elevating Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness. The wider business, ICT and academic communities are just starting to get involved in Hong Kong’s open data development, now is the time to galvanize an unobstructed flow of information for all.
Waltraut Ritter is a member of Open Data Hong Kong, a managing partner and research director of Knowledge Dialogues, which she founded in Hong Kong in 1997, and a member of the government’s Digital 21 strategy advisory committee.

Greater China Open Data Meet.01

A Google Hangout webconference call with Open Data / Taiwan’s T.h. Schee is on Monday Feb 9 at 5:30pm to share our insights and practices across Greater China. Join the call! One key topic is finding out how the heck they got the Taiwan Government to endorse Open Data!
See our agenda of topic discussions and sign up to stay informed here at this link. We intend to make this a regular discussion maybe every 3 weeks for at least the first 3 calls.
  • Aim: To share updates, insights, practices and foster collaborations among Open Data groups across Greater China.
  • Date: Feb 9, 5:30pm HKT (UTC +8)
  • Link: Google Hangouts

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A Better Environment for (and with) Open Data

seminarThis month government, academics, and citizens (and Open Data Hong Kong!) joined the HK Government Efficiency Unit to share insights on the potential of better reporting and sharing of Air Quality monitoring data. Entitled “Open Data and Citizen Science Reporting Potential for Air Quality Monitoring”, the seminar was an exploratory event to see what could happens if we share what people are doing with air quality data, the challenges we face, and the potential ahead for pilot projects and more. Weather and pollution data are no brainer areas to open up to an Open Data approach, as they are topics of interest for concerned and engaged citizens, and the Hong Kong Observatory already makes much of this data available to the public through the AQHI (Air Quality Health Index) website. Connecting the producers of this data with downstream users, from government, academic and non-academic backgrounds, should help maximize the value of this precious data. Open Data Hong Kong are experienced and well placed to advocate as a collective voice for more data sets and better quality data on the environment and air quality, and we’d like to thank Kim Salkeld, the head of the efficiency unit, for inviting us.
Mart has already posted his quite detailed notes on the talks, but to summarize, the first part of the afternoon featured representatives from many of the relevant government departments like the Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, the HK Observatory, and the Efficiency Unit “1823” enquiries and complaints hotline. Ivy So from the BioDiversity Division of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department presented on some of the interesting apps they’ve developed like “tree walks”, but most interesting from a citizen science perspective has been moves to allow the public to post pictures and register animal sitting on their HK biodiversity database and Eco map portal. They’ve also promised to release much of this data as XLS files, so watch this space to see the result. It would be great to have hackathons, visualisations and apps built using this data, and there is a shortage of useful biodiversity data in the global biodiversity GBIF databases, so anything to boost this is much needed. John Chan from the HK Observatory also covered some of the Citizen Science side, presenting on their engagement with schools and interested individuals through their Community Weather Observing Scheme.
bastienThe second part of the afternoon presented to point of view of the public. This is where Open Data Hong Kong stepped in, Bastien from ODHK setting the scene with a short overview on the benefits of openness and transparency, and showing a few case studies on how open pollution data has been successful in countries such as the UK (see his slides here). Representing Code4HK Vincent Lau and Harry Ng gave civic hacker perspective, showing examples of what they and others are doing with this data (e.g. their real time visualizations of the AQHI data thrown together in one hour), and highlighting the shortcomings and difficulties working with the data in its current form. Andrew Leyden was the last speaker in the ODHK section, and also highlighted the potential and problems experienced by hands on users of HK Observatory data when building the “Hong Kong Air Pollution” App.
What was clear from this section reiterates the main issue with publicly accessible datasets in Hong Kong. They have great potential, but are presented wrongly, and under unhelpful restrictive licenses, so much time and effort is spent unnecessarily scraping, cleaning and processing this data, these datasets are legally and not practically interoperable with others, all of which reasons put off many potential users. Bastien showed Hong Kong’s ranking in the global open data index, where we are placed 13th in the world for open emissions data, and the main thing preventing our (70%) score from topping the table was the lack of true open licensing. This would be a very easy issue to fix, costing nothing, and massively increasing the potential utility and reuse of our data.
Screen shot 2014-12-24 at 5.37.56 PM
The final section of the workshop brought on some of the formal experts from the Environmental Protection Department and local academics working on this area. Zhi Ning from CityU and Alexis Lau from HKUST both presented data from mobile pollution detectors, CityU doing more grass roots and medium scale sensing work using open hardware arduinos and working with local schools. HKUST have been working with larger scale detection units built into trams, and they in particular have huge amounts of air quality and modelling data collected around the pearl river delta and beyond that would be fascinating to open up and let others work with. Currently hosting 400TB of data that is available for academic if not other purposes, it would be great to liberate and see what could be done with this data if it was made more widely available from public repositories.
There are plans to meet again, so watch this space. With the Efficiency Unit’s support, they can rally government departments around the table, and it would be great to set up a working group at ODHK to continue this work. Any interested individuals should contact us if they were interested in participating and helping us to advocate for open data to help understand and improve the local air quality.

Make.04: Hacking Health

ODHK is partnering up to bring Hacking Health to Hong Kong! Hacking Health is a hackathon series designed to improve healthcare by inviting technology creators and healthcare professionals to collaborate on realistic, human-centric solutions to front-line problems.
This weekend long event will follow the familiar Make format where any of the participants are free to pitch their ideas on Friday night, and when there’s enough support from the audience, teams will form around the idea and hack on a prototype over the weekend. For a full run-down of the event, please see hh.opendatahk.com
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner provided! The winning teams will be awarded a chance to pitch their idea to investors from AXA in Hong Kong.
Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Signing Up

Step 1

Register through Eventbrite and get the ticket (HK$ 80) which best fits your skillset. Sign Up

Step 2

Sign up for SparkBoard, our online people and projects tracker. Make sure you add your skills to your profile so interested teams can contact you for support if you haven’t joined a team already. SparkBoard

Step 3

So you know exactly what’s wrong with medical care today, and you’ve got an idea how to solve it? Get some traction before the event, and post your idea to the Sparkboard. You can elicit feedback, attract team members and inspire others to join as well. SparkBoard
For any questions, just post here, or email us athongkong@hackinghealth.ca !
Please share with medical professionals/patients/designers/hackers you think might be interested 🙂

Meet.23: HK Gov – Open Data & Efficiency

Two staffers from the Government Chief Information Officer will discuss what the HK Government is doing with Open Data, the opportunities, the challenges, the roadmap, as well as the outcomes of the recent Data.One competition, and other topics. Staffers will outreach and discuss with ODHK members.
Edit: I regret to inform that the Deputy Government Chief Information Officer Joey Lam will not be able to make it. Two other staffers will attend in her place. 
Our second speaker Kim Salkeld and his staff from the HK Gov Efficiency Unit will briefly discuss the role of his department to modernise government services. The unit is “tasked with pursuing the Government’s commitment to transforming the management and delivery of public services so that the community’s needs are met in the most effective and efficient manner. The unit works in partnership with bureaux and departments across the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to identify opportunities for performance enhancement, design practical solutions, develop compelling business cases, and secure effective implementation.” 


  • 7:00 Networking
  • 7:15 Opening up – what is Open Data, about ODHK (Bastien)
  • Miss Joey Lam, Deputy Government Chief Information Officer (45 mins.)
    • GovHK & Open Data
    • Q & A or moderated discussion
  • Kim Salkeld, Head – Gov HK Efficiency Unit (45 mins.)
    • Role of the Efficiency Unit
    • Potential and possibilities of Open Data for public service modernisation
    • Q & A or moderated discussion
  • Open Data News Roundup, Announcements & short demos of anything
  • Networking, mingling.

Whether you’re already familiar with Open Data or just want to find out what it is, come to our regular meetup. No technical skills required. Come out and meet fellow Hong Kong Open Data enthusiasts.


Tuesday 24 June, at 7pm
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DIFFERENT Location : Good Lab @ Prince!
5th floor of Le Prabelle Hotel, literally a 2-minute walk from Exit C2 of Prince Edward MTR. LITERALLY (click here for a Google Map location).
372 Portland St, Prince Edward, Hong Kong
Thanks to The Good Lab 好單位 for sponsoring the venue at their co-working space!
Whether you’re already familiar with Open Data or just want to find out what it is, come to our regular meetup. No technical skills required. Come out and meet fellow Hong Kong Open Data enthusiasts.