Less buzzword, more engagement: Event report from School of Data and UP Politica

October 9, 2015 in Event report, Fellowship

On September 28, 2015, School of Data, in partnership with the University of the Philippines People-Oriented Leadership for the Interest of Community Awareness (UP POLITICA), organized a Forum with the theme “Open Data, Open Government and Freedom of Information: Effects on the Political Landscape of the Philippines” at the CM Recto Hall, UP Diliman, Philippines.


Legally open + technically open = open data

The first speaker was Mr. Gabriel Baleos, Program Manager and Policy Head of Open Data Philippines Task Force. In his discussion, he explained the dilemmas in getting data from various government agencies and having them in machine-readable formats e.g. xls., .csv, .json and ¬†which can easily be re-used by the citizens. Gabe characterized Open Data as being legally open – placed in public domain or under liberal terms of use – and technically open – data published in electronic formats. The Philippines has a Cabinet Cluster on Good Governance and Anti-Corruption, and part of this cluster’s initiatives is the Open Data Task Force, which is in charge of the Open Data portal.

Ms. Happy Feraren, 2014 School of Data fellow and CEO of Bantay.ph gave her insights on the role of civil society organizations in promoting Open Data and Freedom of Information. Happy shared the undertakings of Bantay.ph in engaging with ordinary citizens, students, journalists and local government staff through their Local Government Scorecard – a survey done by students across different Metro Manila local government offices to score their processes related to starting a business. She also posed the challenge that citizens should be proactive in using data being opened up by the government for access and use, otherwise, the Open Data is useless if no one is analyzing the data.

Forum speakers Gabe Baleos of Open Data Task Force, Sheena Opulencia-Calub or School of Data and Happy Feraren of Bantay.ph.

Forum speakers Gabe Baleos of Open Data Task Force, Sheena Opulencia-Calub or School of Data and Happy Feraren of Bantay.ph.

Freedom to know as the new buzzword

In my discussion about Open Data and Freedom of Information, I reinforced that Freedom of Information is not something new, that for the Philippines, the freedom to know is already in our constitution as early as 1973. It has become a new buzzword because of the Freedom of Information Act that has not been passed by our lawmakers. While most people think that Open Data is an alternative to Freedom of Information, I have stressed that we still need a law that will support the advocacy of making government agencies share their data and information for public use.

During the open forum, there was a good discussion on how to build government staff skills relevant to open data and freedom of information. All speakers agreed that there must be cooperation among civil society organizations, the academic community and the government in organizing learning activities for government staff who are producing and using the data. There was also a good discussion on how Open Data can be used to ensure provision of basic services to the people.#


UP POLITICA with Happy Feraren (first row, 1st to the left), Gabe Baleos (first row, 2nd to the left) and Sheena Opulencia-Calub.


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