This month ODHK participated in the 2017 International Open Data Day hackathon organised at CityU. Some of the ODHK team pitched a project looking at refugee crime data (see the hackpad and our slides), which is being used as political football at the moment, despite there being a big data vacuum in this area. With no relevant data available from data.gov.hk, we’ve been forced to try to gather disparate data from FOI requests and other sources, so this project attempted to fill some of the gaps and visualise this data. Here we have a guest post here on the outcomes from one of the participants, Robert Porsch. Robert is a PhD student studying statistical genetics at HKU, and has a general interest in all kinds of data analysis. He put together this post in markdown, and we are posting it here courtesy of his great work.
Arrests of Refugees in Hong Kong. Is there the “surge” the media are portraying?
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.
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.
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:
Tuesday, February 16th 2016, 6:00pm Add to: Location:
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.
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
10:00-17:00 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
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 $30).
The Government budget office and media has been invited to review the projects.
See this event on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/422371031254255
ODHK is partnering up to bring Hacking Health to Hong Kong! Hacking Health is a hackathon series designed to improve healthcare by inviting technology creators and healthcare professionals to collaborate on realistic, human-centric solutions to front-line problems.
This weekend long event will follow the familiar Make format where any of the participants are free to pitch their ideas on Friday night, and when there’s enough support from the audience, teams will form around the idea and hack on a prototype over the weekend. For a full run-down of the event, please see hh.opendatahk.com
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner provided! The winning teams will be awarded a chance to pitch their idea to investors from AXA in Hong Kong.
Can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Register through Eventbrite and get the ticket (HK$ 80) which best fits your skillset. Sign Up
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org !
Please share with medical professionals/patients/designers/hackers you think might be interested 🙂
Open data is great, but it isn’t the end goal. Data can and should serve a larger purpose – to solve problems, tell stories, surface hidden truths. How could you use data to prevent human trafficking, to redistribute unwanted food, or understand what happens in LegCo? These, and many more projects are participating in the upcoming Make.03 hackathon. You can join one, or contribute your own idea on the sparkboard project tracker. (more…)