Active since 2012, Open Knowledge Greece, or OK Greece, became the official chapter of Open Knowledge International (OKI) in 2013. Led by Dr. Charalampos Bratsas, OK Greece is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that pursues openness and freedom of public information through activities promoting participation and transparency. Some of its past and current projects include the Greek Open Data Hub, the first Greek Linked Open Data cloud – created mostly from government data nodes – and participative initiatives such as the apps4Greece competition. OK Greece is a key player in promoting public sector transparency and the reuse of data.
As part of a global organisation, OK Greece gets much of its inspiration for activities and services from other nodes of the OKI network. OK Greece has exactly the same visions as OKI, and implements these locally. OK Greece promotes open data, open access, transparency and participation in Greece. The expected benefits of its projects are to improve:
Governance, as open data can promote transparency and engagement.
Culture, where openness can lead to greater access to cultural resources, allowing everyone can share in activities and knowledge related to culture.
Scientific research, as open access to knowledge is required for efficient research. Open access to research results is also necessary to allow users to reap the benefits of research.
The economy, as data reuse and open data are key to the development of innovative tools and services.
As well as participating in OKI projects, OK Greece also contributes, along with OKI, to initiatives that take place on both local and international levels. The latter include the Foster School of Data, Open Data Index, and OpenSpending.
In terms of freedom of information, the activities of OK Greece target Directive 2013/37/EU, amending Directive 2003/98/EC, on the reuse of public sector information. On a related note, OK Greece helped to formulate Greece’s Policy for Open Government for OGP2014.
OK Greece is also an active player in transparency matters; for instance, the organisation has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Greek Ministry of Finance to provide consulting services to the General Secretary’s Office of Public Revenue. The same MoU also determined the role of OK Greece in developing applications for linked government open data services. Some other policies are explained below.
According to official sources, OK Greece is supported mainly by volunteers. Its network of volunteers is supported by experienced and recognised professionals in journalism, medicine, computer science, maths and other fields. These volunteers can be reached via Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, the University of Patras, and the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center at the National Technical University of Athens.
The users of the services provided by OK Greece vary widely according to the case in hand. They include public authorities, groups of stakeholders, and of course individual citizens. For example, the apps4Greece competition started by OK Greece in Thessaloniki gathered more than 200 ideas for open data applications. The end result of this competition was 14 open source applications available for people to download and use.
Currently, the only external funds supporting the activities of OK Greece come from projects funded by the European Commission.
The goals of OK Greece are similar to those of its parent organisation OKI, and are reviewed annually through discussion sessions that are open to all members of the network. OK Greece can emphasise particular goals to suit specific national requirements. For instance, in 2016 one of the organisation’s major goals was to provide constructive feedback for Greece’s 3rd National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership.
One ongoing project is known as the School of Data. With the help of feedback from users, OK Greece has developed this concept to create individual Schools of Data for specific target groups, including journalists and women entrepreneurs.
OKI sets a number of global goals every year, and each member of the network can implement specific actions to achieve these. OK Greece is thus currently focusing on open budget services to allow public authorities to meet the goal of transparency, as also required by OpenBudgets.eu.
OK Greece works mostly with linked open data. Its members have helped the Greek DBpedia project, for instance, by working on the Internationalized Extraction Framework. This eventually led to the establishment of the DBpedia Internationalization Committee.
OK Greece also works with other sources of information, such as:
Linked open data from Diavgeia, the Transparency Program Initiative, which supports Greek Law 4120/2013.
Linked open data from the Greek police.
Linked open data from the Kallikratis Programme, which supports Greek Law 3852/2010; an ambitious reform plan to decentralise administrations.
Linked open data from the public Veria Library.
Financial indicators from local administrations, which led to the first Greek open data portal in CKAN
One of the actions promoted by OK Greece is the running of hackathons. According to the organisation’s promoters, this is an efficient way to engage a range of targets including journalists, media groups, civil society organisations and advocacy groups, public institutions, and companies in general. All these sectors provide selections of data for which the hackathons then develop visualisations. One of these hackathons was held in Thessaloniki, on June 17th and 18th last year.
Other services using the linked data available to OK Greece include a new application that allows Greek parents to find the most suitable schools for their children, and another showing a map of open data on road accidents. The accidents app was created with data provided by the Hellenic Ministry of Citizen Protection, the Hellenic Statistical Authority and the pois.gr database. All this data is collected, used and linked following the principles of the semantic web, and is available at opendatahub.gr.
The OK Greece portal uses Wordpress, an open source CMS, while the organisation’s support and management functions are centralized within Open Knowledge International. The OK Greece blog is based on Drupal, another open source CMS. For communication and community-building goals, OK Greece uses Trello, a web-based project management application. There is a GitHub section in which users can share code and co-develop projects, with repositories of past hackathons and guidelines for data journalism.
OK Greece is not a data provider, but more a facilitator of data exchange between different entities and institutions. To make this possible, the data must be transformed into linked data so it can be found and used by users in innovative applications. Consequently, promoting the use of the RDF open standard is another activity of OK Greece. Designing and implementing semantic descriptions of datasets requires people to learn and use RDF.
OK Greece has transformed the data from Diavgeia into linked data, and has proved the value of combining this with other datasets. This programme to address transparency introduced the Greek government for the first time to the requirement of online publication for all public decisions, except those containing sensitive personal data or information related to national security. In this way the administration is achieving its goals of maximum publicity and transparency. This has also meant a deep change in culture and mentality within the public administration itself.
OK Greece has also translated the Open Data Handbook, the Data Journalism Handbook and the CKAN platform into Greek. The award-winning dataset of the library of Veria has become a linked dataset, and has in turn made possible some new applications.
The hackathons co-organised with other entities have been very successful, helping to create a new conscience based around public data and reuse of information across many different user groups. All the datasets from every hackathon are publicly available.
The Greek chapter of OKI is part of the OpenBudgets.eu project, the national OpenSpending development and the Greek Open Data Hub. OK Greece is also a member of the Η2020 Open Budgets EU project, for which it has designed the data visualisations after analysing financial performance indicators.
OK Greece was one of the institutions behind an event called “Open Government: Participate, Propose and Be Heard! Conformation of the Third National Action Plan 2016–2018”. There, OK Greece assembled a successful workshop to discuss and make proposals on open government, based on the topics of integrity, accountability, and access to information. Some of the proposals from this workshop were submitted to the Ministry. OK Greece is also part of the Foster School of Data.
Up to now, OK Greece has not been able to measure feedback from users and institutions, since it works mostly as a facilitator. However, the organisation is very active on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The OK Greece website has extensive details, in both Greek and English, of current and past projects, networking guidelines, information about its various working groups, and how to get involved. The working groups lobby for transparency, open access, open design and hardware, open economics, open galleries, libraries, archives and museums, open spending, open sustainability, and protection of personal data.
Although OK Greece is not a data provider, its work in facilitating data exchange and transformation into linked data is really important. Transforming data into linked data facilitates its use in innovative applications.
Data journalists, for example, can use linked data to create articles about local government budgets and spending. Creative Commons licences are important here, so for this and other purposes OK Greece has added the Greek version of the Open Data Commons License
The applications and datasets created with the support of OK Greece demonstrate the usefulness of open data and how it can help people in their decision-making processes. It also proves to authorities the importance of more, better-quality and more diverse published data.