Open Data Day 2014: promise and hope for Nepal's open movement



Bhibusan Bista, CEO Young Innovations

International Open Data Day 2014 (ODD14) was celebrated in Kathmandu this year on 22 February 2014 at the Local Development Training Academy, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. Nepal’s contribution to the global events of ODD14 brought together techies, journalists and civil society organisation representatives under one roof, to inform and engage Nepalis about the open movement, and get into some open data with interactive workshops.

The event was convened by Open Nepal, a partnership comprising Young Innovations, Freedom ForumNGO Federation of Nepal and Development Initiatives. Other great Nepali organisations supported the event by showcasing their open data projects and ideas.

You can see my video rundown of the event below, and below are my key takeaways from the day.

Support for open data from the Nepali government – and Nepali people

Visitors hear about Open Nepal from Coordinator Pavitra Rana

Almost 200 people attended, some who already knew about open data, with more than 100 people just coming to observe and learn. The Open Data Showcasing Pavilion usefully introduced seven different initiatives related to open data and accountability. We were all very encouraged by the visitors’ support and enthusiasm as they interacted with the displays from Galli Galli, Kathmandu Living Labs and Accountability Lab; student open data projects through Flipkarma; Open Nepal and Aidstream (an IATI publishing tool).

The show-stopper for me was a motivating, inspirational and engaging talk from Mr Gagan Thapa, Member of Parliament. He explained how the government of Nepal can reap the benefits of open data, as an impetus to promoting active citizen engagement. He shared his excitement in seeing the vibrancy of the Open Nepal community, and even invited us to work with him in opening up government, starting from his constituency. This is perhaps the biggest recognition that Nepal’s open data community has ever received.

From left – MP Gagan Thapa speaks to Krishna Sapkota (Freedom Forum) and Bigyan Sharma (NGO Federation of Nepal)

Understanding and getting into open data: the sessions

During the day, a group of around 30 people worked on six different applications related to open data as part of the hackathon. These apps ranged from district wise visualisations of different types of energy consumption to visualisations of human rights conditions in Nepal. (Read more about the hackathon teams and products). This session was merged with the Data Liberation Scrapathon, as most teams were involved in scraping data for their respective projects as well.

Mapathon organised by Kathmandu Living Labs

In a separate room, a community of mappers was busy with Mapathon – a dedicated activity aimed at exploring, learning and mapping points of interest with OSM Nepal. This session, facilitated by Kathmandu Living Labs, even saw mappers going out in the field and mapping real points of interest.

Open Data Talks brought together participants from different walks of life in informal discussions.  I opened the session with a talk on how the open data movement has been shaping up internationally and the relevance of open data in Nepal. Dr. Nama Budathoki from KLL shared how mappers within Nepal have been using Open Street Map to open up critical data on points of interest schools and hospitals.

Also speaking were: Mr Bigyan from NFN sharing his perspective on Open Data and civil society; Mr Anirudhra from Freedom Forum talking about Right to Information and Open Data; Mr Anjesh from Young Innovations explaining how IATI is opening up foreign aid data in an open format; and Mr Gyanu and Ms Kate, who spoke about the value of open data from a journalist’s perspective. Ms Pavitra Rana, the coordinator of Open Nepal contributed with her explanation of Open Nepal activities and its aspirations (for more on this, read her latest blog for Development Initiatives).

My Open Data talk

We as organisers are pretty satisfied with the way Open Data Day 2014 was celebrated in Nepal. It is now time to build on the momentum that has been generated, and work on showing the impact of open data for real. Together we can make a difference!

Read more about Nepal’s Open Data Day and the wider work of Open Nepal at the Open Nepal website.