Open Data Initiative
Unleashing the Potential of Government Open Data in Lebanon
Rationale and Benefits
Open data is Government Data that is made available for others to use. Because most of that government data is public data by law, many governments around the world have been publishing their data on specialized websites free of charge. There are already examples of how it has been used by individuals and organizations in innovative and useful ways, creating value for society and government themselves.
It is already possible to point to a large number of areas where open government data is creating value. The most relevant area for Lebanon is transparency and accountability.
Other Open Data of relevance in Lebanon:
Cultural: Data about cultural heritage generally collected and held by libraries, archives, and museums. Health: Data about mortality causes, food safety violations, hospitalizations, etc.
Finance: Data such as government accounts and payments made by government institutions
Environment: Data about the presence and level of pollutants and the quality of water in rivers and the sea.
Transport: Data such as timetables, routes, traffic status, etc.
The nature of innovation is that developments often come from unlikely places, and it is impossible to predict precisely how and where the value will be created in the future.
How Does Open Data Work?
Governments release periodically open data sets. The personal data is removed from the data sets then published in an open machine readable format (TXT, RTF, CSV, WMS).The benefits in publishing data in an open format are to make it easier and cheaper for someone else to use the data. The added value of open data comes from the ability to analyze, manipulate and link the data alongside other data sets in new and innovative ways.
The Lebanese Open Data Initiative
The Internet Society Lebanon Chapter (ISOC-LB) is since 2014 a staunch advocate of open data and realized the following activities so far:
Held an open data workshop on May 23, 2014, in partnership with the Faculté de sciences économiques at USJ at École supérieure des Affaires (ESA) in Clemenceau. The workshop was attended by 39 participants, mainly representing governmental organizations and the Beirut Bar Association.
The participants agreed on a pragmatic set of recommendation and a draft action plan aiming at the development of a pilot open data portal to be hosted by ISOC-LB on the cloud and to identify open data champions within the governmental organization and assist them in the transformation and publishing of their datasets of open data on the portal (http://www.isoc.org.lb/events/esa-opendata-may2014).
Held two follow up workshops in partnership with the Prime Minister ICT Office and Microsoft Corporation in order to guide government agencies in classifying the data in their possession to the public, restricted, and secret.
Offered two graduate project seminars at University Saint Joseph as part of the Web Science master program. The first seminar course was offered in Fall 2014 and attended by 7 graduate students and the second in Fall 2015 and attended by 6 graduate students.
Developed Lebanon Open Data portal http://opendatalebanon.com via a generous donation in kind from Microsoft and RE-AKTIV DOO (www.reaktiv.com.mk).
Established a three years implementation plan developed around phased modules that are self-contained and complementary but each with specific prerequisites and a specific outcome. The modules can be executed in parallel and/or in series, to cover more stakeholders and/or more datasets. So, the implementation project can be replicated to cover multiple ministries, agencies, research centers, municipalities and/or multiple data-sets within one entity.
Developed a three years budget (See table 1)
ISOC-LB applied for grants and sponsorship with the objective of identifying 2 (or more) strategic partners who will donate $30K per year over three years each to support the Lebanese Open Data initiative.
In March 2016, ISOC-LB secured a $30K donation from ISOC to kick start the open data implementation process and create some momentum around open data in Lebanon.
The project's deliverables are:
Hosting Lebanon open data portal: A web platform accessible to all to post and download over the Internet data sets in open data formats.
Publishing linked data sets: Between 10 and 20 datasets from different ministries will be published by the end of 2016.
Organizing workshops and training sessions for governmental agencies: 5 to 10 government agencies will be trained to publish their datasets by the end of 2016.
Creation of the Lebanon OD Node within the ODI network.
Advocating Open Data: Round-table discussions will be planned, one every three months, to relay the progress to the technical community and share the lessons learned and technical know-how on best practice in identifying the data sets, data transformation and anonymization scenarios and technical options, development of APIs and publication of datasets in machine readable format.
Organizing an open data apps development Hackathon in Beirut to build the developers community
Identified and retain the services of a project coordinator to manage the portal and provide guidance and support to the various government agencies and assist them in the identification, transformation, and publication of their datasets on the portal.
Identified and signed an MOU with a technical company experienced data manipulation and application development to assist in the technical aspects whenever the need arises.
Identified two champion data providers, the Ministries of Health and the Ministry of Environment and started working with them on the assessment of their datasets.
While our team starts populating the open data Lebanon portal, ISOC-LB will be busy developing a larger proposal to raise more funds to facilitate the following activities:
Table 1: The estimated budget for our activities for the next 3 years is estimated at $240,000 and structured as follows:
Budget Year 1
Budget Year 2
Budget Year 3
1 FT Technical staff (Computer Science or engineering) to assist in the development of the IDE interfaces, data conversion, etc...
1 FT Business staff (Business or Political Sciences) to identify datasets & work with the government entities on the publication of the sets under the open data initiative
Hosting the Open Data Lebanon Portal
Workshops & Networking Events