Author: Nikesh Balami

Open Data

Summer update of Open Knowledge Nepal

The last couple of months has been quite busy for the team of Open Knowledge Nepal with lots of projects, workshops and events. In this blog, we try to summarize all the activities which were conducted in the past couple of months as part of our quarterly update.

Empowering women

With the aim of strengthening and empowering women towards the Open Data Movement, In April we announced the 10 awesome Open Data Women Fellows. The women fellows have completed their training and one month’s placement at the respective host organization. They did lots of awesome works during the time of placement, and to inspire other women leaders we have started to publish the blog post covering their journey and experience. You can read the blog post written by the fellow from here.

Marking the presences

Our CEO, Nikesh Balami represented Open Knowledge Nepal at two different international events. He joined FOSSASIA Summit 2019, Singapore and 2019 Creative Commons Global Summit, Portugal to give a presentation on “Grassroot awareness and Impact of Civic Tech in Nepal“, where he highlighted how Open Knowledge Nepal conceptualizes the open data awareness campaign to reach diverse people all around Nepal. He also briefed shared about how the different kinds of civic tech project of Open Knowledge Nepal, like Open Data Nepal, Local Boundaries, AskNepal and more, have impacted the lives of many.

Enhancing capacity

On the occasion of the International Open Data Day 2019, we organized a day-long ‘Open Data Expedition in Dang’. The expedition has helped to empower the local youths of Dang district and many participants shared that this event was the first of its kind and these types of events are barely organized in their city. OKN was supported by the Data for Development in Nepal small grants program to mark open data day 2019.

As part of the follow up training of Open Data workshop organized by Data for Development program and facilitated by the representative of Open Data Institute (ODI), Shubham Ghimire and Sagar Ghimire of Open Knowledge Nepal hosted two half-day open data training program at Pokhara and Kathmandu to implement and share their learning with a broader audience. 

Exploring collaboration

To support the growing momentum of data, we recently committed to voluntarily contribute to the Nepal Data Literacy portal, developed by World Bank Nepal with support from DFID, to increase production and usage of data and statistics in Nepal. The portal consists of all the course materials, student workbooks and instruction notes used during the Nepal Data Literacy Program, which is designed to catalyze stronger data-driven decision-making by government and non-government actors (mass media, civil society, and academia) through targeted Data Literacy Workshop to help Nepal achieve its development goals. 

To know more about Open Knowledge Nepal and its activities, please visit their website.

Life

Self-satisfaction and happiness: 2018 journey

Growing older isn’t that pleasant feeling especially when you can see the transformation from “Nikesh – Brother – Dai – Sir” by your naked eyes. But unfortunately, nobody in this world is gifted with the power to control time. The years/time passes – waiting for none and here we stand, buckling up to welcome yet another new year. I have been setting the yearly resolution since 2017 to keep myself focused. Some years has been disappointing, and some were full of hopes and enthusiasm.

The holiday’s mood is already ON, with “ZERO” email and no deadline works, which gave me enough time and opportunity to reflect 2018 – a year of self-satisfaction and happiness.

  1. The success of Open Knowledge Nepal – small steps but huge impact. 2018 has been a productive year with lots of different activities which kept us busy throughout the year. Kudos to the hard working team (especially Sagar and Shubham) and volunteers for keeping the enthusiasm alive. Open Data Nepal is going to be the next big thing for Nepal in 2019.
  2. Goodbye volunteering, hello to new roles – In 2018, I dropped 90% of my volunteering works. Many suggested that it was the right decision taken in right age. I also joined Artificial Intelligence for Development (AID) as co-founder and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Nepal community as an executive member.
  3. Reaching Far-West and others parts of the country – Many thanks to the project “PAHICHAN” and “Digitizing Janakpur Workshop”, I got an opportunity to visit Province 2, 3, 5 & 7 to train youths. The hospitality, environment, and foods outside Kathmandu Valley is awesome.
  4. Synchronizing online:offline education – I happily invested quite some time to complete “Principles of Economics” online course provided by Stanford University and attended quite few semester exams of my undergraduate degree. The education part was pretty much disappointing in 2018 and I hope to improve it in 2019.
  5. My first international trip – Representing Open Knowledge Nepal, I got an opportunity to attend UN World Data Forum 2018 at Dubai, which I will remember for a long time as my first international trip because nobody counts reaching Darjeeling and Banbasa as a foreign land. The 3 days experience of learning, networking and exploring was awesome.
  6. Your Government Your Responsibility – The civic engagement project of US Embassy Youth Council “I Know My Government” was another impactful project, which I was lucky and grateful to lead. We developed lots of educational resources and interacted with many school students.
  7. Books – I made a huge investment in buying lots of fiction books. Looking back, I realize that this year I was pretty much lost in the fiction world – where the love and corruption of Chetan Bhagat’s “Revolution 2020” distracted me,  Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” added the power of perspective and Subin Bhattarai “Saya” made me emotional with sisters love.
  8. Health first – One of the very important steps, Started from November last week – I have started the morning exercise schedule to keep myself fit. Daily, I run 3 KM  – 5 KM and do around 100 Set-Up. A plan is to get a six pack before summer.

So, what next? – this was all about past. What are the plans for 2019?

Truth to be told, I am completely blank with no plans and vision. Maybe I will focus more on Data Science rather than Open Data, Maybe I will prefer completing undergraduate degree rather than focusing on online courses, Maybe I will gather more money to travel other countries rather than wasting it in Mo:Mo and tea.

2019 is going to be a year with no resolution and plans – you probably may see me suffering, exploring, confused, lost, happy, smiling and ………

Open Data

Transforming into Digital Governance: Nepal IGF 2018

Nepal Internet Governance Forum (Nepal IGF) 2018 was recently organized in Hotel Himalaya, Kathmandu from 2 – 3 November, with the theme of “Making Internet accessible, affordable and safe”. The event was hosted by Internet Society Nepal and co-hosted by Internet Governance Institute. The wide range of national and international organization supported the event.

The panel discussion and presentation on various topics related to the accessible, affordable and safe Internet were conducted. The sub-theme of the workshop at Nepal IGF 2018 were:

  1. Multi-Stakeholder Model and Governance
  2. Inclusion and Human Rights
  3. Emerging Technologies
  4. Access, Infrastructure, and Affordability
  5. Security, Trust ‎, and Privacy
  6. Media and Local Content
  7. Law and Policy
  8. Others

Our CEO, Nikesh Balami participated in the event as a panelist for “Smart Palika: Transforming into Digital Governance” session alongside Bishal Dahal and Shreedeep Rayamajhi, both working to reduce the gap in-between citizens and government by using technology. The session was moderated by Manoj Bhattarai, Initiator of Smart Palika – an integrated software system backed by Smart City Researchers, Local Governance Experts, Development Experts, and Data Technology Experts.

The discussion session was focused on how technology can transform local government into digital governance. Where Nikesh shared about the ongoing open government and open data effort of Open Knowledge Nepal. He shared how open and transparent government can be the key in the federal context of Nepal and the role of open data for the evidence-based planning and policy making.

We will like to thank the team of Smart Palika and Nepal IGF 2018 for inviting us to be the part of the event.

Life

Philosophy is great but “Activism” doesn’t feed you enough

[October 13, 2018] As one of the key festivals of all Nepalese approached, I am already in a holiday mood since a week. Cutting off 75% of regular work and spending a huge amount of time with family making plans of visit, foods and cleaning my room. Which has also gave me enough time to join the informal hangout, sometimes over a bottle of beer and sometimes over a strong coffee.

And summing up all those chit-chats with new peoples, this recently made me realize that the interest of people over the activism is gradually decreasing, which I found very nice and interesting. Maybe because of the sustainability hardship or maybe Activism got a new name in the form of Entrepreneurship. Going back to the past, I used to see lots of faces who used to run campaigns, raise their voice, build products and project voluntary but today’s scenario is changing. Every project now has a Business Model Canvas or Open Canvas as a proof of sustainability. Maybe that our learning, the people don’t mind localizing or modifying the philosophy according to the context.

Yesterday at our Open Knowledge Network hangout while discussing the International Open Data Conference (IODC) 2018, this topic was relatively raised. More people are supporting, exploring and working on open data philosophy because it’s the part of their job. Hardly few are motivated by philosophy and are activist, cuz we all know “Activism” doesn’t pay or feed you enough. So, updating ourselves according to the situation and modifying the philosophy is always a good idea.

This this is more important when it comes to the developing country like Nepal, where the history of “Activist” is worst. We frequently hear the news of money misused by different NGO, sometimes my mind says the Activists people are the most corrupt than others, although I don’t have any pieces of evidence to back it up. While bringing the topics towards Open Philosophy, yes we still meet some people who pass the comment and criticize our work saying we are hurting the core philosophy. In fact, I used to be one of them but I believe it’s a time of us modify our thinking locally and globally because to move forward we need flexibility so that we can empower others to join, collaborate to make an impact.

So, let’s move forward, don’t be scared to modify and crunch the core philosophy and go beyond activism to make business & money. If someone comes to you lecturing about it, don’t hesitate to ask them “Does this lecture feed you?” in his/her face.

Life

Being down to the earth is the key: Respect…

Life is the journey full of ups and downs, sometimes we make a big decision easily without any hesitation but sometimes we failed in making a small decision. Since we are on a journey (not a race), we need to keep moving just to prove our existence. Some may disagree and the question may arise, whom to prove? The answer is very simple and straightforward, to everyone because the society loves us.

In the journey, sometimes we may feel like being on the top of Mount Everest because of the success and sometimes that feeling of drowning in Bagmati river cuz of the failure. How to act during a failure? The formula which I follow is straightforward – keep enthusiasm, mediate and brainstorm. But how to act during the success is key here, although the term success is hard to define and measure.

Everyone knows and recommend it, “Being Down To The Earth” but hardly few follows. Yes, that’s the key because success always comes for short periods. Respect the past struggle and people who helped you during the difficult situation and more importantly salute the history. Every success stories have some sweet and bitter history, which one will definitely love to include in their TED Talks to inspire and empower others.

So don’t forget to thanks yesterday for a better tomorrow. Here I would like to take some moments to thanks my parents, colleagues, friends, mentors, enemy, in-fact everyone for being part of my life.

Life

Same path but a different mindset

Probably 5 years ago, I don’t have that much good memory power but I started this journey of volunteering by launching the open source college community at Acme Engineering College, where I was pursuing my diploma degree in Computer Engineering. I still remember those faces of enthusiastic us, who actually used to fight with college departments to run all kinds of small and big events in the college premises. Truth to be told, actually I miss them 🙁

Today [April 21, 2018] sitting at my study table, I decided to look back my volunteering journey. Acme Open Source Community (AOSC) the first name from where it all started, a bunch of engineering guys who decided to run in the ground with the vision of Openness. Then the addiction and horizon started to grow because “OPENNESS” is the place where you will get an opportunities to see the compassion and connection of people. From AOSC to FOSS Nepal Community, Mozilla Nepal, Open Knowledge Nepal, OSM Nepal, Nepali Wikipedia – it just took me a couple of months. I will always remember my journey with Mozilla Nepal and Open Knowledge Nepal entire life, the source of my inspiration and I would always be grateful to Prakash Neupane, who guided me all the ways till now.

Another lovely thing about volunteering – meeting new people and attending the interdisciplinary event. I remember attending public speaking, entrepreneurship, technology, and many others different kinds of the workshop. Maybe because of this, I am more Project Manager type of guys although my academic background says that I am wannabe Computer Engineer. Till today I occupy different roles in different organization officially – CEO at Open Knowledge Nepal, Executive Member at FOSS Nepal Community, Council Member at U.S Embassy Youth Council, Project Manager at Code for Nepal and Co-founder & Contributors of some more – all voluntarily, I never charged them for the services and time.

One question which I used to receive frequently, “How did you manage your time?” and my answers were always simple “I don’t allocate time, I just do it cuz I love it”. But on my 24th Birthday [April 18, 2018] I make a harsh decision of quitting 90% of my voluntary work, which changed the whole scenario. The reason is very simple, I want to follow the revenue generating model to secure the future of my colleagues and family. I believe this will improve the quality of our day to day work. My ongoing vision is also quite straightforward, I will harness the business opportunities in the field of Technology and Data so, if you are someone working in this fields, I would definitely love to discuss a possible business partnership.

My mindset from today is to grow Open Knowledge Nepal as a pioneer and leading organization.

See you all on the other side of the journey!

Open Data Nepal

Making Nepal’s Data Accessible Online Perpetually through Crowdsourcing

Open Knowledge Nepal recently launched the beta version of Open Data Nepal – a crowdsourced open data portal with comprehensive features to make data related to Nepal accessible online perpetually in a central hub. The main objective is to make data available in machine-readable formats with open licenses so that anyone can use, reuse and redistribute these data following the open data philosophy.

Data nowadays is a very important factor in major decisions making process and the openness of data is one of the key characteristics to make government transparent, accountable and responsible. As the demand side of the data is increasing constantly but lack of a central data catalog makes the task of searching and using data more difficult. After working in Nepal for all these years, we realized that the main hindrance for the people willing to use data is that all the government data are shared in unstructured formats like PDFs, scanned images without any accessing information and are hard to find on the internet. On many occasions, we have frequently asked journalists, researchers, developers, entrepreneurs, and students the problems they are facing while accessing and using the data of Nepal. Most of the points they have highlighted are similar as these data are scattered around the websites, shared in unstructured and non-machine readable formats, licensing condition are not included and the main thing is those data are not permanently available.

As one of the open data pioneers in Nepal, we wanted to address the problems efficiently by building a centralized platform where all the government data are available in machine-readable formats with open licenses and metadata. So, we launched the Open Data Nepal as a solution which can be used by researchers, data activists, students, developers and common citizens can benefit from it. They can use the portal to search, use, publish and analyze data without any restrictions.

It will encourage people to make innovative products and services by using these data and the chances of arising new data-driven entrepreneurial business and startups with innovative services will increases which will improve the welfare of individual consumers and citizens. These days government are seeking opportunities to engage with private sectors, civil societies and citizens for effective planning, decision making to achieve sustainable development through the use of data. The Open Data Nepal will be a great chance for collaboration as it complies with all the significant situation. Opening up a huge amount of data will help to improve transparency and accountability in government. Another benefit of crowdsourcing and openness is many minded principles as fixing is faster with open data. Many eyes make all bugs shallow, your data may be used and analyzed by someone else and if there are any mistakes it can be fixed faster.

The Open Data Nepal have a different kind of comprehensive features like:

Explore: Searching and finding dataset will be easy as there are many filtering techniques like categories, organizations, tags, formats, licenses.

Download: Datasets can be downloaded in machine-readable formats like CSV, TSV, JSON, XML.

Visualization: You can generate visualizations like a bar chart, line chart of every dataset so that the finding facts in the data will be easier. You can embed these visualizations on your websites.

Metadata: Metadata, meta description and data dictionary will help for a better understanding of the data.

Publish: You can publish your dataset easily by providing information and suitable open license.

Data API: Automatically generated APIs to allow for more sophisticated online querying and interaction with datasets.

 

As Martin Luther King said “I have a dream”, we also have a dream to see Nepal achieving sustainable development through the use of open data.

Open Knowledge Nepal is a non-profit civic tech organization working on the field of open data since 2013. For any kinds of suggestion, contribution and feedback please contact us at data@oknp.org or visit www.opendatanepal.com

Open Data Nepal

Beta version of Open Data Nepal – a portal…

As the demand side of the data is increasing constantly but lack of a central data catalog makes the task of searching and using data more difficult. Also, the structured and usable data are hard to find online. So, Open Knowledge Nepal launches the beta version of the Open Data Nepal on the occasion of the International Open Data Day 2018.

3rd March 2018, Kathmandu, Nepal

Public agencies and local government generate and publish an abundance of data publicly. But the main hindrance is that these data are not readily available and are in non-machine-readable formats like PDFs, images etc, scattered into the websites of different public agencies.

The Open Data Nepal aims to make Nepal’s data accessible online perpetually in a central hub. The data available in the portal is harvested and crowdsourced from different public agencies and international organizations who work under the government of Nepal. One of the main features includes converting these data into a machine-readable format like CSV, JSON, TSV etc along with metadata and meta description. The portal can be used by researchers, journalists, private agencies, students, developers and Nepali citizens to meet their data needs. The harvested data will be shared online which can be used, reused and redistributed by anyone from any corner of the world to build innovative products, without any technical restriction. It invites users to download, upload and browse required data using different filtering mechanisms like search by categories, meta tags, formats etc. The user can also generate visualizations of every dataset for a better understanding of data by providing suitable parameters.

Data nowadays is a very important factor in major decisions making process and the openness of data is one of the key characteristics to make government transparent, accountable and responsible. These days government are seeking opportunities to engage with private sectors, civil societies and citizens for effective planning, decision making to achieve sustainable development through the use of data. The Open Data Nepal will be a great chance for collaboration as it complies with all the significant situation. The portal is the initiative of Open Knowledge Nepal – a nonprofit organization comprised of openness aficionadas, mainly self-motivated youths, who believes that openness of data is powerful in order to have a participatory government with civil society, eventually leading to sustainable development.

Open Data Nepal will help everyone who is looking and searching data to build the innovative solution, research, journalism and various other reasons. For example, journalists who want to investigate the pattern of government spending on the field of education over the years or the entrepreneur who wants to make traffic system of Kathmandu valley easier by using a mobile app. It also makes government sectors transparent, accountable and responsible more than ever. By bringing all kinds of government data to a centralized hub, we can easily fulfill the increasing public demand of data.

To know more about the Open Data Nepal, please contact Open Knowledge Nepal at data@oknp.org or visit the website opendatanp.org for more information.

Open Data

New survey reveals the importance of developing Nepal’s open…

On 30 November 2017, Open Knowledge Nepal completed a month long Open Data Awareness Program, including an Open Data Hackathon, which brought students and youths from different backgrounds under the same roof to work collaboratively on different aspects of open data. The awareness program sensitized more the 335+ youths and students from different colleges and youth organizations. It covered elleven colleges, one school and two youth organizations from seven different districts of Nepal. Most of the participants who joined the workshop were from diverse backgrounds like computer science, engineering,  management, arts, journalism, social work, and more. The participants were raised as digitals natives and could understand technology better than many current leaders, and are undoubtedly the future leaders and members of Nepal’s government, industry and civil society. The awareness program was based on the Open Data Curriculum and Open Data Manual, which was developed as a reference and best practice guide for anybody who wants to work and contribute to the open data sector.

During the workshop, Open Knowledge Nepal conducted a Pre and Post Data Literacy Survey to gather participants’ views regarding open data. The survey output clearly highlighted  the need for more local level awareness programs to promote open data at the grassroots level in Nepal. 76.1% of participants who attended the workshop and filled our the survey said that they haven’t heard of the term ‘open data’, although most of the students had studied data analysis, statistics, and database management systems in their college courses.

Do you know about Open Data?

Image: Participants understanding of open data according to our pre-survey.

According to the Open Data Handbook, open data should have three major components:

  1. Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
  2. Re-use and Redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.
  3. Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute – there should be no discrimination against any fields of endeavour or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (for example, only in education), are not allowed.

Not just falling short in understanding, many respondents also lack the technical skills  which are required to work with data effencily. These include data extraction, analysis, and visualization. While most respondents know how to download data and information from the Internet, many were unaware about the process of reusing it.

Please rate how well you can perform the following acts?

(1 = not aware, 5 = fully aware)

Image: Participants’ expertise on Data Downloading, Extraction, Analysis and Visualization.

This is a significant barrier, because sharing data isn’t everything. We need to focus on the other aspects of data like reuse, so that people can build innovative products and collaborate on projects that leverage available data to solve pressing issues faced by Nepali citizens.

The findings of our survey also indicated that most of the participants know how to use Microsoft Excel and Google spreadsheets for basic data editing and analysis. But only few know about advanced scraping and analysis tools like Tabula and OpenRefine, which highlights that there is a lack of practical knowledge of data among youths and students.

Call to action

There is a huge opportunity in Nepal for open data advocacy to raise awareness and develop solutions for particular problems. The increasing number of civil society and government organizations working and supporting open data have already created a good momentum. Despite at times leisurely service delivery, the adoption of technology by government bodies might help generate digital reports and data and increase the availability of shareable information to public.

But, as our survey has shown, the weak demand side for technical skills has been a major drawback for Nepal’s open data ecosystem. To improve, both the supply and demand side need to expand concurrently, which is difficult with Nepal already lacking the human manpower and technical resources.

The Government of Nepal is slowly becoming decentralized following the new constitution, so it’s a prime time for Nepal’s civil society working in open data to decentralize themselves and reach out to the local people. For this, institutions, civil society and government need to shake hands and collaborate. If they can do so, it will be possible to increase the public’s consciousness about open data at the periphery level, which will hopefully lead to a greater number of local level awareness programs and projects beyond the developed cities. Civil society and institutions need to work together to generate more resources and help the public understand the value of open data in the context of Nepal.

Explore the full report, open data curriculum and open data manual from here.

Open Data

The ‘Tomorrow of Open Data’ in federal Nepal

Hundred years ago Nepal first started collecting data of population census – the time when data and information used to be hardly shared with the public by authorities. However, the movement of open data after one century became significant in terms of opening up government to some extent that makes data and information open in Nepal. In recent years, base on the philosophy ‘certain data should make freely available to citizens’ emerged in parallel lobbying of Right-to-Information (RTI) – one of the key reasons to realize open and transparent governance for public administrators.

According to its theme ‘, we open governments’, WikiLeaks, an international organization that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media suggests that open data is a necessary element of “transparent and accountable government.” As an impact, the uses of ‘Open Data’ in western countries have helped improve the efficiency of public administrations and services as well as the economic growth in the private sector over the past decades. Similarly, there are examples of data-driven watchdog journalism (based on open data) helping reduce corruption in some Latin and African nations in spite of having repressive governments there. To achieve the same, however, Nepal needs to go a long way; where open government bodies from national to periphery levels can share a spectrum of public records to its people as ‘free-to-use information’.

In this connection, Open Knowledge Nepal, an organization led by young people, focusing on ‘knowledge should be liberated for opportunity and prosperity, has recently completed a month-long ‘Open Data Awareness ‘ accompanied by Open Data Hackathon – a collaborative engagement of youths in computer programming.

Organized in seven different districts of Nepal, nearly 400 youths including students were sensitized – those came from a dozen of colleges, school and youth organizations. In a hope to see Nepal’s ‘digital tech-friendly’ future leaders who can better understand the essence of data, participants from a range of backgrounds like computer science, engineering,  management, arts, journalism, social workers were taught digital tools. The awareness program was based on the Open Data Curriculum and Open Data Manual which was developed as a reference and recommended a guide for the people who wants to work and contribute to open data sector.

Though being familiar working with statistics, however, ‘Open Data’ is still a new and unheard term for most of the attendees. It has urged the need of more local level awareness programs to promote open data in grassroots level of Nepal.

Making the data open means it should be accessible in a convenient and modifiable form, reusable and redistributable by anyone without any discrimination or restriction under certain standards.

Do you know about Open Data?

Fig: Participants understanding on open data according to pre-survey

The survey conducted among the participants suggested that sharing of the data isn’t everything. Focusing on other aspects is obligatory that enables people to build innovative products in order to solve the current issues or crisis faced by Nepalese citizens.

Please rate how well you can perform the following acts?

(1 = not aware, 5 = fully aware)

Fig: Participants’ expertise on Data Downloading, Extraction, Analysis and Visualization

Another pure downside, they lack the technical set of skills needed to work with data efficiently like data extraction, analysis, and visualization though they are quite acquainted with downloading data and information from the web.

Call to action

Without any delay, Nepal needs to take open data advocacy in local level at times when notable activities and interest already exhibited by civil society and public agencies, are creating a conducive atmosphere to go further. Despite the leisurely delivery to its citizens, government bodies deciding to use computer technology might help generate digital reports and data – technically shareable information to the public.

Having poor technical skills among citizens to access and use data is making the demand side feeble, one of the major challenges for open data actors and advocates. For this, infrastructures with sufficient technical human resources should be built concurrently that can play the role to manage supply and demand side of data.

Also, if to comply with a federal model of the political system; civil society, open data activists and local government should work together – to spark the consciousness of open data in periphery level.