DownScale 2014 was the third edition of our international workshop on Downscaling the Semantic Web. We, Anna Bon, Victor de Boer and myself, sat together with Ben Webb, Tim Davies, Sally Deffor, Michael Gurstein and Jaap van Till to speak about data sharing in low-resources contexts. Everyone updated each other on ongoing activities we discussed three topics:
- ICT4D 3.0 : current ICT4D practices could be improved by looking into the work done on complex adaptive systems and user-centric services. There is also some more work needed to account for different backgrounds. We figured out that this is actually getting close to community informatics, a research community most of us had not yet been in touch with.
- Decentralised local/global knowledge spaces : whereas some knowledge spaces can be managed from a centralised knowledge base (e.g. aid money flows) some other can not fit any known approach because of their scale (e.g. all the contracts made by all institutions of every countries). Such overly huge data has to be managed on a local basis while still being accessible globally in order to get insights and infer policies. There is a first challenge in connecting these two views of local and global data our work on ERS could contribute to tackle. The second challenge is the definition of unique identifiers that span over all the decentralised hubs, being unique re-used and authority-free. None of us where aware of any ready-to-use solution for this.
- Data privacy : talking about voice interfaces to data Sally noted that voice input does not work for medical data because this is a sensitive topic. People just do not want to talk about this on the phone. She also said that the US are working on a legislation to prevent looking into the logs of laptops kids get home. This could have an impact on how logs analysis from laptops running Sugar is currently performed and will yield a need for an alternative approach. Generally, we must help people to make informed choices about their privacy of data sharing. A multi-layered approach could be useful there, letting them disclose some information to their peer and then a bit less information to other peers and then even less to another group more remote etc.
It was a pleasure to have such rich and constructive discussions which will certainly lead to more work all together and 2015 edition of DownScale 😉 The day(s) after, most of us were attending the big Open Development Camp event in “De Balie” in Amsterdam. Here are some highlights of these two days:
- A general strong reminder that data enthusiasts have to be really careful about the data they gather and the risks this could represent for the population the data is sourced from. This message was repeated several time across different talks. Examples were given of anonymised meta-data that has been abused for individual age and gender prediction with 70% accuracy, and of an operation for gathering education indicators that resulted in reporting about corporal punishments hard to deal with politically. We were also reminded of the importance of a feedback loop between the users data is collected about and the dataset produced. In other words, we are all to be careful what we wish for when starting to gather data and be sure this data does not get disconnected from its source. Sometimes it may also be best not to gather data at all…
- Another strong reminder was that open data is not an end in itself. A message the Open Knowledge Foundation also strongly pushes across all its events. Illustrating this, the 84 Million records in Open Corporates are not an end but a way to let people make informed decision when picking up a company.
- The term “Responsible data” was coined out as a way to speak about data that is respectful of the individuals behind it. The announce of the book “Shooting your hard drive into space and other ways to practise responsible development data” wrote in a week by the Responsible Data Forum.
- Victor got interviewed and did a presentation about our work on ICT4D. 🙂
And these are only four highlights out of many things that happened there! I’m much looking forward to attending Open Development Camp 2015.