Commons Treasures: Egyptian grains

Rayna Stamboliyska - March 24, 2015 in Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a unique place on the web: it is like Ali Baba’s cave but it has the major advantage of being open to anyone to explore. More specifically, Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository hosting public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips). These are available to everyone, in their own language, and for free. This means that everyone is allowed to freely copy, (re)use and modify any files provided they credit the source and the author(s) appropriately and release copies and derived works under the same freedom to others.

There is much more to it though, and it pertains to the word ‘commons’. The commons is (no grammar issues here) “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.” We recommend you have a look at David Bollier’s explanations:

… the commons is not so much a fixed, universal thing as a general concept describing durable, dynamic sets of social relationships for managing resources — all sorts of resources:  digital, urban, natural, indigenous, rural, cultural, scientific, to use some crude categories.

Each commons has its own distinctive character because each is shaped by its particular location, history, culture and social practices.  So it can be hard for the newcomer to see the patterns of “commoning.” The term commoning means to suggest that the commons is really more of a verb than a noun.  It is a set of ongoing practices, not an inert physical resource. There is no commons without commoning. This helps explain why the commons is different from a “public good”; the commons is not just an economistic category floating in the air without actual people. There are no commons without commoners.

This is why promoting the commons is crucial. And how do you do it well? (Other than through cats, that is.) By going on a treasure hunt. And here is to a lovely series of pictures from the Middle East and North Africa. Every Tuesday, come back for a new treasure.

The image below is from Egypt, and was a second prize winner of the 2014 edition of WikiLoves Africa (WLAf). WLAf is “an annual contest that invites people from across Africa (and beyond) to contribute media on a specific theme. All photos are posted to Wikimedia Commons, where they can be freely used on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.” 2014’s theme for was Cuisine.

 Some Egyptian Grains, in sequence: 1.lentil, 2.bean, 3.lentil, 4.maize, 5.wheat. Image under CC-by-SA 4.0 International on Wikimedia Commons, by Dina Said

Some Egyptian Grains, in sequence: 1. lentil, 2. bean, 3. lentil, 4. maize, 5. wheat. Image under CC-by-SA 4.0 on Wikimedia Commons, by Dina Said

(source)

Commons Treasures: Pottery wares from Sidi Bou Said

Rayna Stamboliyska - March 17, 2015 in Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a unique place on the web: it is like Ali Baba’s cave but it has the major advantage of being open to anyone to explore. More specifically, Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository hosting public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips). These are available to everyone, in their own language, and for free. This means that everyone is allowed to freely copy, (re)use and modify any files provided they credit the source and the author(s) appropriately and release copies and derived works under the same freedom to others.

There is much more to it though, and it pertains to the word ‘commons’. The commons is (no grammar issues here) “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.” We recommend you have a look at David Bollier’s explanations:

… the commons is not so much a fixed, universal thing as a general concept describing durable, dynamic sets of social relationships for managing resources — all sorts of resources:  digital, urban, natural, indigenous, rural, cultural, scientific, to use some crude categories.

Each commons has its own distinctive character because each is shaped by its particular location, history, culture and social practices.  So it can be hard for the newcomer to see the patterns of “commoning.” The term commoning means to suggest that the commons is really more of a verb than a noun.  It is a set of ongoing practices, not an inert physical resource. There is no commons without commoning. This helps explain why the commons is different from a “public good”; the commons is not just an economistic category floating in the air without actual people. There are no commons without commoners.

This is why promoting the commons is crucial. And how do you do it well? (Other than through cats, that is.) By going on a treasure hunt. And here is to a lovely series of pictures from the Middle East and North Africa. Every Tuesday, come back for a new treasure.

Our inaugural post is from Tunisia, courtesy of a special person whom we are humbled to have met and worked with: Emna Mizouni.

Pottery wares at Sidi Bou Said, CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikimedia Commons, Emna Mizouni

Pottery wares at Sidi Bou Said, CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikimedia Commons, Emna Mizouni

(source)

Learning in The Open: To Open Education Week and Beyond!

Rayna Stamboliyska - March 16, 2015 in Open Education

Open Education Week banner

Open Education Week is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide.

Last week was Open Education Week. In its third edition, the global celebration of open and free learning resources and practices has attracted considerable attention — aaaaand open education and open educational resources (OERs) in the Arab World were also discussed in a dedicated hangout thanks to our friends at Creative Commons Arab World.

If you have missed last week’s events, here is a carefully curated catch-up:

And do not hesitate to share your views on open education with us, on Twitter and Facebook!

Image and quote from the Open Education Week website, CC-by 4.0 International

Creative Commons Arab World Hangout on Open Education Week

riyadh - March 14, 2015 in Open Education

March 9-13 is Open Education Week (also referenced on social networks under the hashtag ‪#‎OpenEducationWk‬). Riyadh Al-Balushi, contributor to both Creative Commons Arab World and Open MENA, hosted a Google Hangout discussing open education and open educational resources (OER) in the Arab World.

The two speakers on the session were Dr Fawzi Baroud, the Assistant Vice President for Information Technology at Notre Dame University Louaize in Lebanon and Naeema Zarif, the Regional Coordinator for the Arab World at Creative Commons.

The recording of the Arabic language Hangout can be seen below:

The talk discussed what open education means for the Arab World and the opportunities in creates in providing free, high-quality resources for academic institutions and students. Furthermore, we addressed the concept of open education highlighting that Open Education is not just a set of tools and resources, but can also constitute a set of wide-reaching policies for governments as well as academic institutions.

One of the highlights of the session was learning from Dr Fawzi about the OER initiative that NDU Louaize is currently working on. This initiative involves creating a pilot English language course that uses open educational resources that will run side by side along a traditional English language course to test the efficiency and viability of open education at the university.

We learnt from Naeema about some of the OER projects in the Arab world such as UNESCO’s project with Bahrain and Oman to develop national level open education policies as well as the work of the QScience (a project of the Qatar Foundation) in publishing open access academic research.

During the Hangout, we also mentioned the need to create Arabic open educational materials, and discussed the incentives for universities and teachers to open up their teaching materials. Last but not least, we highlighted the need to attend university even if all the materials are available free of charge on the internet.


Read about the previous Creative Commons Hangout on Open Data here.

Creative Commons Arab World Hangout at Open Data Day 2015

Rayna Stamboliyska - February 25, 2015 in Open Data

[This is a guest post by Sadeek Hasna]

On February 22, the Creative Commons Arab World community organised Google Hangout session about Open Data in the Arab World. The online event was on the occasion of the Open Data Day 2015. The Hangout was moderated by Sadeek Hasna (Syria), and Riyadh Al-Balushi (Oman), Faiza Souici and Abdelhak Fareh (Algeria), and Naeema Zarif (Lebanon, Arab World regional coordinator at Creative Commons) attended. You can watch the recorded discussion here (in Arabic):

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Oman Needs Open Data

Rayna Stamboliyska - February 24, 2015 in Open Data, Stories

Open Data can provide great opportunities to Oman. The government has massive amounts of data about all aspects of life in the country that remain stored without ever getting used or, at best, remain constantly under-utilised.

Oman, Matrah Corniche (Muscat). Image by Andrew Moore on Flickr, CC-by-SA 2.0

Oman, Matrah Corniche (Muscat). Image by Andrew Moore on Flickr, CC-by-SA 2.0

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Open Data Index Stories from Egypt and Oman

Rayna Stamboliyska - December 9, 2014 in Open Data

The Open Data Index team invited the community to send in their 2014 open data stories. Open knowledge enthusiasts from Egypt and Oman, among others, contributed:
Egypt ranked #79 in the 2014 Open Data Index

Last year I contributed to parts of the Index, but the majority of the work was done by Rayna. This year it was a much easier task, since there weren’t many changes to the status of open data in Egypt. Nevertheless, I hope to see progress in the upcoming years as no progress is sometimes considered as regress when other countries are adopting openness more and more. In addition to checking whether last year’s datasets were still up, I also had to check whether they improved or newer datasets were added.

Read the full Egypt and the Open Data Index story.

Oman ranked #93 in the 2014 Open Data Index

Oman has made significant accomplishments in releasing government data to the public, but a lot of effort still needs to be made to make Omani government data open and accessible in the technical and legal sense.

Information collected and created by the Omani government covers all aspects of life, from topography and weather information to population and health statistics. The government uses this information to conduct its business, but afterwards it locks it up in boxfiles and hard drives that nobody has access to. This information can be of great benefit to businesses, academics, and society at large, but only if this information is open to the public technically and legally.

Read the full Oman and the Open Data Index story.

2014 Open Data Index: Slow Progress by MENA Governments in Opening up Key Data

Rayna Stamboliyska - December 9, 2014 in Open Data

Government data still not open enough – 2014 evaluation highlights little change in favour of Mid-Eastern openness

Open Knowledge has published its 2014 Open Data Index which shows that whilst there has been some progress, most governments are still not providing key information in an accessible form to their citizens and businesses. With recent estimates from McKinsey and others putting the potential benefits of open data at over $1 trillion, slow progress risks the loss of a major opportunity.
Rufus Pollock, Founder and President of Open Knowledge, says,

Opening up government data drives democracy, accountability and innovation. It enables citizens to know and exercise their rights, and it brings benefits across society: from transport, to education and health. There has been a welcome increase in support for open data from governments in the last few years, but this year’s Index shows that real progress on the ground is too often lagging behind the rhetoric.

The UK topped the 2014 Index retaining its pole position with an overall score of 96%, closely followed by Denmark and then France at number 3 up from 12th last year. Finland comes in 4th while Australia and New Zealand share the 5th place. Impressive results were seen from India at #10 (up from #27) and Latin American countries like Colombia and Uruguay who came in joint 12th. Sierra Leone, Mali, Haiti and Guinea ranked lowest of the countries assessed, but there are many countries where the governments are less open but that were not assessed because of lack of openness or a sufficiently engaged civil society.

Open Government Data initiatives have a critical impact on countries’ future development, especially in countries having long sufferred repressive regimes and inadequate economic development strategies. Open Data initiatives should focus on enabling access to information that helps improving peoples’ lives and the society at large. Citizens in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have demanded more open and inclusive governments as well as increased transparency and public engagement, pre-requierements for government accountability.

The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas, including government spending, election results, transport timetables, and pollution levels, and reveals that whilst some good progress is being made, much remains to be done. Overall, whilst there was meaningful improvement in the number of open datasets (from 87 to 104), the percentage of open datasets across all the surveyed countries remained low at only 11%.

According to the World Bank, access to information and public engagement mechanisms in MENA are among the weakest in the world. This year’s Open Data Index follows up from 2013 and indicates openness of fundamental government data in the region is still far from satisfactory. The 2014 Index includes full scorecards for seven countries (Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman). Updates for Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan could not be submitted in due time, therefore respective scorecards were for now removed.

Both the 2013 and the 2014 editions include Israel, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It is noteworthy that each of these countries has shown little progress and has actually gone down in the ranking. Morocco enters 79th, Lebanon — 85th, and Oman nears the lowest-ranking countries at the 93th position. Regardless of their position in the Index, the percentage of open datasets across these countries is less than 50%.

The seven countries from the Middle East and North Africa, featured in the Index, globally show very low openness. Israel ranks close to the average-open countries. The remaining six countries are among the least open, with Oman being within the 10 least open countries worldwide showcasing perfect enclosure of fundamental government data. Tunisia, having recently joined the Open Government Partnership, shows a disappointing commitment towards Open Data, having lost more than 10 ranks compared to 2013. Jordan, the other Mid-Eastern country participating to the Open Government Partnership, is unfortunately absent from the Index but preliminary observations indicate it would not perform better than its MENA neighbours.

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Open Government in Tunisia: “Support us to be supportive and annoying”

Rayna Stamboliyska - June 16, 2014 in Open Government

The regional Open Government Partnership (OGP) Regional Summit took place in Dublin beginning of May 2014. Originally adressing Europe and the Old Continent’s OGP progress, the Summit featured a MENA-related keynote: Selima Abbou, president of Tunisia-based NGO Touensa spoke at the opening. Since its foundation in 2011, Touensa has been particularly active in the fields of transitional justice, citizen oversight of institutional reforms and access to information.

Tunisia has joined the OGP earlier this year. The country is also undergoing a lively transition after former strongman Ben Ali fled the country back in 2011. Selima’s speech kicked off highlighting the key position openness holds for Tunisia, its present and its future: “openness represents the only path that can lead the Tunisian people to recover their dignity and guarantees to their children justice and rule of law.” To achieve this, collaboration between the government and the civil society is crucial. Thus — “support us to be supportive and support us to be annoying.”

Watch the whole keynote here:

Opening up governance: OpenMENA joins public consultation process in Tunisia

Rayna Stamboliyska - May 23, 2014 in Open Government Partnership, Transparency

Our friends at OpenGovTN have asked us at OpenMENA to join a forthcoming national public consultation. The latter aims to build an action plan which will bring greater openness and more collaborative governance to Tunisia. The process, referred to as OGP.Dialogue, will run starting 28 May until September 2014. And we are delighted to be part of it!

Some background, please?

As you may have heard it, Tunisia recently joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Launched back in 2011, the OGP aims “to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, OGP has grown from 8 countries to the 64 participating countries. In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms.” Prior to expressing interest in joining the OGP, a country has to fulfill several eligibility requirements in four key areas (Fiscal Transparency, Access to Information, Income and Asset Disclosures, and Citizen Engagement). Jordan was actually the first MENA country to join the Partnership.

Tunisia officially joined the OGP earlier in 2014: the country has now to present an action plan where it lists the commitments it makes in order to increase openness, transparency and accountability in the governance process. As per the OGP requirements, after joining the program, the country’s government has to work with civil society to elaborate an action plan.

Here comes OGP.Dialogue, the Tunisian national public consultation, initiated by civil society organisations and joined by the government in an effort to bolster a truly participatory process. More than 40 Tunisian NGOs has confirmed their involvement, Touensa being the initiative’s transparency watchdog and TACID Network coordinating local associations in order to include rural areas. Civil society members and government officials will thus strive to gather and narrow down a set of concrete and measurable commitments. These will be Tunisia’s action plan for the next two years: a roadmap to reforms in the areas of transparency, integrity and citizen participation.Logo_OGP.Dialogue

OGP.Dialogue: bootstrapping a participatory governance

OGP.Dialogue will be organised in an ambitious yet strategised fashion. Impulsed by OpenGovTN, an umbrella collective coordinating numerous Tunisian NGOs, the OGP.Dialogue will include a few different yet complementary approaches:

The consultation process will start on 28 May 2014 and numerous NGOs will participate, either through on-site activities in the cities where they are based in or through traveling across the country. Thus, the widest possible number of people will be able to have a say and provide valuable citizen input to the forthcoming action plan.

In parallel, an online platform will be launched. Its aim is three-fold: first, it will enable even wider participation. Second, an important part of Tunisians live abroad; thus, an online platform will allow them to contribute. Third, the platform will help structure the contributions. Indeed, most of those will happen asynchronously and will emerge from many and diverse stakeholders. It is therefore crucial to safeguard these insights all by making them available throughout the whole duration of the consultation – and beyond.

In order to assess the progress of the whole process, an event will be held in the capital city of Tunis on 20 and 21 June. It will welcome a wide number of stakeholders: NGOs, government representatives, OGP Support Unit staff, external experts. The event will be a series of public discussions on the main OGP topics where a member of the civil society meets a government representative to discuss the proposed approach. This ‘reality check’ is needed in order to harmonise the efforts: the action plan is an endeavour that the Tunisian government takes seriously and it is also working on narrowing down concrete commitments.

For the discussion between the civil society and the government representative to be as smooth and fruitful as possible, a neutral, external expert will be moderating the exchange. This expert will in addition provide feedback on the different suggestions and expertise from other countries where s/he has already worked on the topic. The two-day event will culminate with a big show-and-tell and various media points so the widest possible audience can be informed in due time about the progress of the consultation.

Original image in the public domain (via OpenClipArt)

Original image in the public domain (via OpenClipArt)

OpenMENA will be there!

OpenMENA founder, Rayna Stamboliyska, will be present for the 20-21 June OGP.Dialogue progress point. We are grateful to OpenGovTN to have invited us as being there is important: the OGP.Dialogue event is a great opportunity for the Open Knowledge values to be brought to an ever-growing number of people. Taking an active part to the building of the forthcoming OGP Tunisia action plan is a challenge OpenMENA is more than keen to address.

We are thus more than delighted to be partners and to participate to this grand endeavour of co-creating a more open and collaborative society in Tunisia.

Stay tuned: we’ll be publishing regular updates!