Dumb Versus Smart Cities
It seemed appropriate in the same week that Hong Kong was hosting a smart city summit to host a meetup getting valuable insight into how a true smart city – Taipei – works. Taipei Mayoral Advisor TH Schee was in town and gave us a “fireside chat” insight into the secrets of Taiwan’s success here, and inspire us with ideas on how to set up an open data policy for Hong Kong. Despite styling itself as Asia’s World City, and “smart city” being the buzzword in Government circles that everybody is targeting to get funding for, Hong Kong has a long way to prove itself in this area. A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple data sources to manage a city’s asset . Without open data to drive them, smart cities are doomed to failure, and Hong Kong’s poor digital policies means it will continue to be overtaken by its neighbours in innovation and technology. This means it is particularly timely and topical to ask policy lessons we can learn from our most successful neighbour in this field, Taiwan.
Hong Kong has dropped out of the top 10 of the WIPO global innovation index in recent years, and is currently ranked 37th in the Open Knowledge Open Data Index. And due to a misreading of the HK Government data licensing policy (which are not open or interoperable by any definition) without this overly generous scoring would mean we would likely rank 20-30 places lower. Contrast this with Taiwan, which in the last Index overtook the UK to be the highest ranked place in the world for Open Data. From the outside it seems a data-driven utopia, with a new “Minister for Data” moving from g0v.tw citizen-run open data groups such as ours to now being in the heart of Government.
TH Schee has been at the front line of this Taiwanese Open Data revolution, and has written interesting blogs on the topic, but it was great having him come and talk us through the backstory and potential policy lessons in person. With extra juice stories of the unsung heroes behind the scenes to be told. Meet.33 was our first gathering in a while, and it was great to see such a huge turnout. Thanks to Justice Centre Hong Kong for giving us the space in Sai Ying Pun at such short notice, and to Adam Severson for giving us an intro on the great work they do single handedly supporting refugee legal services in Hong Kong. Adam also give us a quick intro on the difficulties they as a NGO face decision making in an information vacuum where the government politicizes immigration and crime data but refuses to share any of it.
Open Data versus Natural Disasters
Getting a government sceptical of transparency to share data is a challenge, but one that Taiwan seems to have managed admirably. The process of trust building and collaboration between civic hackers and government in Taiwan had an unlikely ally: mother nature. Or more specifically, natural disasters such as the many earthquakes and typhoons that pound Taiwan with unfortunate regularity. The disastrous typhoon Morakot in 2009 was the turning point in how Taiwan dealt with data. Official government communication early in the crisis failed, causing people to turn to websites run NGOs and the civic hacker community. Web users began reporting the real-time situation on the bulletin board forum PTT and on early social media platforms like plunk. At the height of the crisis an unofficial Morakot Online Disaster Report Center was established by a group of internet users from the Association of Digital Culture. The government quickly realized that this information was saving lives, and this website was then integrated into local governments’ communication systems and updated from the official disaster response center. From the trust and experience gathered in the front line of “internet rescue management” the people involved help seed the initial environment that has allowed this open data driven society to bloom (see this published case study for more). TH presented a very detailed timeline of this covering the founding of communities such as g0v.tw and opendata.tw, data journalism and open data social enterprises spin offs, and how many the people involved in these citizen organization then made their way into the heart of government. Initially from the Mayors of Taipei and Taichung running on open data policy driven platforms, culminating in Audrey Tang becoming minister without portfolio in the new national government.
How we can take policy lessons from this in soft , natural-disaster-free Hong Kong is another matter, but it shows we need to be prepared, and we need to build similar networks of organisations leading by example. One advantage Taiwan has had is a strong open source and open access community in academia (particularly Academia Sinica) that has always been a safe haven and place of continuous support for these efforts. We don’t yet have an equivalent in Hong Kong, but some members of ODHK have just put together an overview and survey on research data policy (see the pre-print), a nascent Asian open access network is forming, and this years Open Access Week looks to be the biggest in Hong Kong so far, with 3 events organised already. We recorded TH’s talk on periscope so you can see the archive there, as well as inspect his incredibly detailed slides. A one hour discussion really wasn’t enough, and we hope we can tempt TH back another time to give us more insight. We have more regular meetups in the pipeline, and our next one is on the Wednesday 12th October on open data tools at Campfire in Kennedy Town. We hope to see many of you there, and continue to build these communities that will hopefully let Hong Kong follow a similar trajectory to Taiwan.
Dumb Versus Smart Cities
Crowdsourcing the Smart City –
New Methodologies for Participatory Mapping & Civic Co-Management of Urban Environments
Public lecture by Dr. Tomas Holderness
Tuesday, 26 April, 2016
V302, 3/F, Jockey Club Innovation Tower
School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
The concurrent rise of Internet-connected smart phones, access to global navigation satellite systems, and social media networks have created a geospatial data revolution in cities aroundthe world. The smartphone’s ability to capture, compute and communicate data in collaboration with platforms such as OpenStreetMap, and the power afforded to organize mass participation by social media, have imploded traditional data vacuums and access protocols in cities around the world. It has now been proven that when it is shared in an open manner, crowd-sourced geospatial media collected by residents can be used to solve real-world engineering challenges. Furthermore, the instantaneous nature of data sharing between mobile devices enabled by social media networks means that cities can harness this information to respond to critical events in real-time.
This public lecture explores the design, creation and deployment of the world’s first real-time megacity flood map PetaJakarta.org in Jakarta, Indonesia. Using a geosocial intelligence approach to megacity flooding, the project engages social media, citizen journalism, digital sensors and government alerts to plot locations of flooding in real-time on a free and open map. By connecting both informal and formal data sources, the map acts as a cartographic interface for civic co-management, enabling individuals, communities, government agencies and NGOs to respond more effectively to flood events caused by the annual monsoon rains. PetaJakarta.org is now used operationally by the Jakarta Emergency Management Agency to collect and communicate locations of flooding with residents. In conclusion, the presentation will examine how these methodologies and techniques can be applied to different application domains and geographic regions, as a platform for information gathering and sharing in cities around the world.
Dr. Tomas Holderness is a Geomatics Specialist and Chartered Geographer at the SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong where he leads the Open Source Geospatial Lab and co-directs the PetaJakarta.org project with Dr. Etienne Turpin. His research focuses on understanding the response of megacities to extreme weather events, through the development of new geographical information systems. His research into the use of social media to crowdsource real-time flood information in Jakarta has been featured in the World Disasters Report, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and National Geographic.
This lecture is jointly organized by Melissa Cate Christ (School of Design, PolyU), Dr. Daisy Tam (Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, HKBU) and Open Data Hong Kong and supported by the General Research Fund HKBU12609215 and HKBU Faculty Research Grant
Open Data versus the Mosquito
The current global panic about zika can be boiled down a “data gap” issue. Gaps in understanding of why it has started spreading so rapidly now, a gulf in fathoming its effects on pregnant women (evidence linking zika and microcephaly is still only spatio-temporal rather than causational), and gaps in sharing the research data and clinical specimens that will enable the global research community to keep one step ahead of the virus spread. As with Ebola, there has been much frustration of many key players not sharing these materials. Despite the fact that in a life-and-death situation wild speculation and panic fills the vacuum, and closed data risks lives.
All this makes the zika crisis a perfect opportunity to harness the benefits and showcase the utility of open approaches. In particularly open and collaborative efforts using Open Data and Open Source hardware. An international group of makers / hackers / scientists / citizen scientists trying to develop innovative measures against zika, and Open Data Hong Kong have teamed up with MakerBay to join these efforts. Join us at the zika hackathon on the 16th February at MakerBay in Yau Tong (see their event page here). We’ll be linking up with the global google hangout with other zika hackathon participants in Brazil, Australia, Singapore, and beyond. Then discussing and pitching projects where we can contribute from here in Hong Kong. From both of our data hacking and hardware hacking perspectives, and where these different stands of “open” can be combined to produce crowdsourced data collection tools and apps to see if citizens can do better than the supposed experts in filling in these data gaps.
The “Asian tiger mosquito” Aedes Albopictus, which is among 60 types of mosquito that can carry the virus if it bites an infected person, is endemic to Hong Kong. The warmer year-round weather and more extreme rainfall patterns we are currently seeing will make the city even more favourable for mosquitoes from the Aedes genus, sparking warnings from local health officials to eliminate breeding areas. On top of the threats of zika, we already have sporadic dengue outbreaks from these vectors, and the Hong Kong government currently has an Oviposition Trap (Ovitrap) screening program to detect the presence of adult mosquitoes. With only 52 locations across Hong Kong selected for the vector surveillance, and the mosquitoes having a roughly 200m range, more than 98% of Hong Kong is currently not covered and there is a need for much more data collection and presentation (the FEHD presenting not very helpful PDFs). Contrasting this with the more dynamic data driven approaches of dengue reporting Singapore uses, Kaggle competitions for West Nile Virus modelling, and Spanish efforts at crowdsourcing tiger mosquito spotting (with no Hong Kong data collected to date) show a few approaches we could follow here.
Are you interested in getting involved and use your creativity to develop innovative technologies and contribute to understand and prevent zika from spreading? Let’s meet up! The event will be co-hosted by Scott from ODHK and Ajoy, Jacky and Nicolas from MakerBay, and efforts will be longitudinal following the ongoing international hackathon efforts. For more see:
- Zika International Hackathon Facebook group : https://www.facebook.com/groups/zikahack/
- First Hackathon meetup / Google hangout : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXb_44R_tNA (embedded below)
- Notes from the meeting : https://docs.google.com/document/d/1f0g1kWn8HMlU0hmpl1QMy0uUAs02QYP3b5ru1T1xZhc/edit?pref=2&pli=1#heading=h.p73jtyc2cxn
Tuesday, February 16th 2016, 6:00pm
Location: MakerBay, 16 Sze Shan Street, C1 Yau Tong Industrial Building Block 2, Yau Tong, Kowloon
See this on Google maps.
See this event on Facebook.
UPDATE 23/2/16: MakerBay have a write-up of this event now posted, and you can see the archived livestream below. Thanks to everyone who attended, and keep following to see how the pitched projects develop.
Last week the Open Science Working Group of ODHK had an Oped in South China Morning Post (SCMP) discussing issue of fighting academic fraud through use of Open Data. This is a particularly topical issue at the moment with recent scandals implicating many academics in Mainland China with large-scale peer-review fraud covered in the Washington Post. With kind permission of SCMP we are posting an updated and extended version of the piece here, and being good Open Data purists include links to much of the source material discussed.
The scandal of scientific impact
The idealized view of science as the curiosity driven pursuit of knowledge to understand and improve the world around us, has been tarnished by recent news of systematic fraud and mass retraction of research papers from the Chinese academic system, and allegations of attempts to game the peer-review system on an industrial scale. With much of our R&D funded through government, we all hope our tax dollars are spent as wisely as possible, and around the world research funders have developed methods of assessing the quality of their funded researchers work. One of the most widely used metrics to assess researchers is the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), a (proprietary, closed access) service run by Thomson-Reuters, that ranks the academic journals that scientists publish to get credit in. While many countries have tried to broaden their assessment system to take account a more balanced view of a researchers impact, in China the numbers of publications in JIF ranked journals is currently the only activity that researchers are judged by, and huge amounts of money are changing hands (often hundreds of thousands of RMB payment for a single publication in the top ranked journals) through this system.
This biased focus on one metric above all others has directly lead to large scale gaming of the system and a black market of plagiarism, invented research and fake journals. Following from previous exposé’s of an “academic bazaar” system where authorship on highly ranked papers can be bought, Scientific American in December uncovered a wider and more systematic network of Chinese “paper mills” producing ghostwritten papers and grant applications to order, linked to hacking the peer review system that is supposed to protect the quality and integrity of research. The first major fall-out from this has occurred last month, with the publisher BioMed Central (BMC) retracting 43 papers for peer review fraud, the biggest mass-retraction carried out for this reason to date, and increasing the number of papers retracted for this reason by over a quarter. Many other major publishers have been implicated, with the publisher of the worlds largest journal PLOS also issuing a statement that they are investigating linked submissions. It takes a great amount of time and effort employing Chinese speaking editorial teams to investigate and contact all of the researchers and institutions implicated, and BMC should be applauded for doing this and fixing the scientific record so quickly [COI declaration: Scott Edmunds is an ex-employee of BMC, and he and Rob Davidson are collaborating with them through GigaScience Journal].
To get an idea of the types of research uncovered and implicated, it is possible to see the papers retracted last month, and Retraction Watch has covered the story in detail. The Committee on Publication Ethics has also issued a statement. Guillaume Filion in his blog has done some sterling detective work providing insight on the types of papers written by these “paper mills” and “guaranteed publication in JIF journal” offering companies still advertising their services. The likely production-line explosion of medical meta-analysis publications coming from China has been well known for a number of years, but looking at the list of publications retracted by BMC in March shows a worrying introduction of many other research types such as network analysis.
Like in J. B.Priestley’s famous morality tale, An Inspector Calls, any evil comes from the actions or inactions of everyone. On top of the need for better policing by publishers, funders and research institutions, there needs to be fundamental changes to how we carry out research. Without a robust response and fundamental changes to their academic incentive systems there could be long term consequences for Chinese science, with danger that this loss of trust will lead to fewer opportunities to collaborate with institutions abroad, and potentially building such skepticism that people will stop using research from China.
While we are rightly proud of Hong Kong’s highly regarded and ranked universities system (with three Universities ranked in the world top 50), we are not immune to the same pressures. While funders in Europe have moved away from using citation based metrics such as JIF in their research assessments, the Hong Kong University Grants Committee states in their Research Assessment Exercise guidelines that they may informally use it. In practice some of the Universities do follow the practice of paying bonuses related to the impact factor of journals their researcher publish in, leading to the same temptations and skewed incentive systems that have led to these corrupt practices in China. From looking at the list of retracted papers fortunately on this occasion no Hong Kong based researchers were implicated. With our local institutions increasing their ties across the Pearl River through new joint research institutes and hospitals, and these scandals likely to run and run, how much longer our universities can remain unblemished will be a challenge.
Can We Fix it? Yes We Can!
If the impact factor system is so problematic, what are the alternatives? Different fields have different types of outputs, but there are factors that should obviously be taken into account like quality of teaching, and the numbers of students passing on to do bigger and better things. Impact can be about changing policy, producing open software or data that other research can build upon, or stimulating public interest and engagement through coverage in the media. Many of these measures can also be subject to gaming, but having a broader range of “alternative metrics” should be harder to manipulate. China is overtaking the US to become the biggest producer of published research, but ranks only ninth in citations, so there obviously needs to be a better focus on quality rather than quantity.
The present lack of research data sharing has led to what is being called a ‘reproducibility crisis’, partly fuelled by fraudulent activity but very often just from simple error. This has led to some people estimating that as much as 85% of research resources (funding, manhours etc) are wasted. Science is often lauded as being a worthy investment for any government because the return to the economy is more than that put in. What benefits could be gained if there was an 85% improvement on that return? How many more startups and innovative technologies could be produced if research was actually reusable?
There is growing movement from funders across the world to encourage and enforce data management and access, and we at Open Data Hong Kong are cataloguing the policies and experiences of Hong Kong’s research institutions. Sadly, at this stage we seem to be far behind other countries, currently ranking 58th in the global Open Data Index (just falling from 54th earlier in the year). One of the main benefits of open data is transparency, which would have made the current peer review scandal much harder to carry out. It is encouraging that the Hong Kong Government is already promoting release of public sector data through the newly launched Data.Gov.HK portal, but it is clear that our research data needs to be treated the same way. ODHK is the first organization in Hong Kong (and 555th overall) to sign the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment that is trying to eliminate the use of journal-based metrics. To help change the skewed incentive systems we would encourage others to join us by signing at: http://am.ascb.org/dora/
Scott Edmunds, Rob Davidson and Waltraut Ritter; Open Data Hong Kong.
Naubahar Sharif; HKUST.
See SCMP for the published version of the Oped here: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1758662/china-must-restructure-its-academic-incentives-curb-research
On Wednesday the Hong Kong Government’s Office of the Government Chief Information Officer unveiled their revamp of their Public Sector Information (“PSI”) portal, taking pride in still making available its 3000 datasets for the public to use for both commerical and non-commercial purposes. Hong Kong’s open data enthusiasts familiar with the old site “Data.One” will appreciate the new “Data.Gov.HK” site’s easier navigation, improved functionality and categories. With this revamp, the government is demonstrating its continued support of availability of PSI and echoing the Financial Secretary’s 2014-2015 commitment to push all government bureaux and departments to:
“[make] all government information released for public consumption machine-readable in digital formats from next year onwards to provide more opportunities for the business sector.”
The revamp is a step towards this goal, identifying what departments submit what data, and its ease of navigation encourages access and use of existing government data sets, which is good. Through there are some snags and errors in the new site, this is expected of any website update. Surely government is reviewing the problems but as the site doesn’t support a dialogue or connection with the public, that is hard to tell.
While governments around the world are realizing greater policy review through scrutiny, supporting greater civic engagement, and realizing better efficiency by supporting Open Data, the government’s revamp demonstrates that the Hong Kong government is still just catching up with past trends to publish government information data. While there is no debate that government making data available “opens up new business opportunities” as well as “bring convenience to the public and benefit society as a whole”, the site runs short in its approach that it can merely publish a number of datasets without a view of data quality or update a site and that apps and benefits will just materialize. To realize similar benefits as seen by other governments, the HK government should work with open data enthusiasts and also adopt the same open data principles and standards of the international community.
Open Data Hong Kong recommends the government adopt Open Data standards and principles, and reflect that with the Data.Gov.HK site. Namely:
Adopt an open license on the datasets
The Terms and Conditions are problematic for supporting app-building, collaboration, and analysis of government data. The following terms are examples:
- “you shall reproduce and distribute the Data accurately, fairly and sufficiently;”
Data used for apps and analysis will get reformatted. And inaccurate data will have to be corrected and modified by developers and analysts. Would this be considered breaking this condition? It is unclear, ambiguous, and thus stifling. Although the terms and conditions include a waiver of responsibility by the government, this condition is confusing at the least and overbearing at the most. OGCIO should adopt an Open License such as CCO or copy the UK Open Government License on the datasets.
Improve communication & engagement
Users of the site can’t find out which datasets are new, if there are any. As much as the site would like to see use among the 3000+ datasets (with more to be added regularly), supporting better communication and engagement among users would be useful for information to flow both ways.
It’s not enough just to have datasets available, the data has to be effective, relevant, usable. How can users provide feedback about the datasets and communicate to government about the effectiveness (or uselessness) of a dataset? Or that a dataset is missing? This is not in the functionality of the site. An example of doing this comes from the Government of Canada where they ask for users to “Suggest a data set”, as well as functionality for users to provide a rating on datasets, and the hosting of open data competitions (which are also open to people outside of Canada).
It’s about the data. Data Quality.
Users of the datasets continue to have problems with the quality of the data. This hasn’t changed with the site revamp. Users have reported unclear and inexistent schemas for datasets, inferior data types for the data, and inexistent API support for pervasive connection with data. Although data sets can be very different from one another, the right file type and data connection goes a long way to supporting app development and value for the public, and avoiding severe headaches from app developers and head-scratching from analysts. We encourage OGCIO to provide departments or provide the right expertise and support for bureaux and departments making datasets available.
Commitment to the future
The data.gov.hk update demonstrates government’s support for making data available to support the public. Open Data Hong Kong continues to reach out to OGCIO and the rest of government to improve this, while recommending full support of open data to best realize public benefit.