[23.6] Opendata.ch/2020

Join the Opendata.ch/2020 Forum on June 23 for exciting keynotes by Ruth Meier (EDI), Hannes Gassert (Opendata.ch), Nikolai Thelitz (NZZ) and Muriel Staub (Wikimedia) and collaborate with us on this participatory adventure into the future.

I’ll be taking notes and sharing impressions with the world here on Tuesday!

Follow and share your impressions at #opendata2020. My notes of the conference are shared in real time in our community chat.

For the sake of searchability, and because it’s really spot on, I’m mirroring the keynote of Hannes Gassert here:


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here at Opendata.ch, we are fighting for a fair, free and open future.

In that fight, in many aspects, it was a bad year.

Worldwide, freedoms have been trampled on, fairness was at most an afterthought — and digital tools, the web, once created to foster open knowledge and exchange, in many places became a swamp of fake news, polarization, and surveillance capitalism.

We are fighting for a fair, free and open future — and we certainly do have to.

In that fight though, we are making progress.

  • We made progress thanks to the ongoing strong demand for our hackathons, which helped us to broaden our reach and grow our team.
  • We made progress, with our new strategic initiatives. With the Data Café, we went out, became a little coffee shop — and asked if people wanted to pay their coffee with cash … or … with their data?! We triggered discussions with kids and with grandparents, with people from all walks of life, asking the questions that, in our day and age, we all must: what is our data worth? Whom do we trust? And how should tomorrow’s digital world look like? One that is more fair, more free, and more open?
  • We made progress with our largest project so far: the Prototype Fund. The Prototype Fund invests in projects that strengthen our direct democracy, that strengthen participation with digital means. The investment that we are able to make, with our partner Mercator, of up to hundred thousand Swiss francs per project, allows teams to investigate one specific approach in the large, wide open field of digital democracy and civic technology. Diving deep into a subject for half a year — and build and learn, and test, and fail, and build some more and try again. That’s how progress is made.
  • We made progress, progress in diversity. We feel very much feel the difference, the impact that our strong, currently all-female team with Nikki Böhler, Vera Eichenauer, Valerie Hashimoto, Maud Chatelet and Andrea Allemann is having every single day. We made progress, also when it comes to the corona virus.
  • We helped organize the VersusVirus hackathon, in which over four thousand people come together online to … at least do something, even though we all know that web design won’t beat the virus. But still, it mattered.
  • We did not remain silent when it became clear that Switzerland’s data gathering of COVID-19 cases was inadequate. That it was paper-based, sent over fax, and that our federal government had to look up the current data on Wikipedia, and on the Canton of Zurich’s open Git repository. That’s what worked. Wikipedia and open data. And we all know: clear and current data is crucial for decision making in a crisis. We must have good, open data, not as a nice-to-have, but to keep our core ability to act. We must have real-time information, available to anyone. Not last year’s statistics. We must work on that even more now, to not only make open data the default, but to make real-time open data on the truly hot topics an undebatable prerequisite.
  • And we had a strong role in helping to shape the law governing Switzerland’s proximity tracing app, preparing policy proposals, arguing the case for decentralized data handling, for transparency, and for non-discrimination. Working together closely with the scientists at EPFL, with the app developers all on our Slack channel, and with policy makers from all sides. And tomorrow, we will launch a campaign, together with a large and growing alliance of Switzerland’s digital civil society, to make sure that people understand the digital ramifications of Swisscovid, the proximity tracing app. Not a campaign for the app or against the app, but a campaign to help understand, and to help ask the right questions. Please do help us spread the word, starting tomorrow.

So: It was a bad year. But we made progress.

I wish you a wonderful day! And, to you all, a fair, free and open future.

Some additional impressions from yesterday’s online Forum:

„Citizen Generated Data would need to be used to grasp the new normal.“ – presiding the association and bringing together a lot of loose threads, Andreas Kellerhals opens the Forum with a forward looking speech. This excerpt reflecting the interest in CDG outlined in an earlier proposal.

„Our vision is that Wikimedia will provide essential infrastructure for free knowledge“ … „If we better want to understand our impact, we need to better understand how data is used and misused … including the potential [of scams, fake news, etc.] for harm.“ In a superb keynote, the recently instantiated president of Wikimedia Switzerland Muriel Staub summarizes the new vision of Wikimedia - see https://2030.wikimedia.org

„We are fighting for a fair, free and open future - and in that fight, we are making progress.“ – Hannes Gassert’s full speech was shared previously on this thread and in his blog.

„Let’s go for a critical and constructive elaboration of the kind of data society we want to live in“ – Maud Châtelet, who has been running Hackdays and developing projects in the association, kicked off the interactive part of the event with an overview of how the Data Visions workshops will run. Based in part on themes of last year’s unconference and crowdsourced submissions, in this „collaborative decision framework“ we sought to connect diverse responses to key questions with action points for the community.

Here are the 7 sessions that took place, with their facilitators:

Title Summary
Filling Female Data Gaps
Nikki Böhler
A world where data is available without gender bias and gaps
Research Data Connectome
Sebastian Sigloch
To connect and organize (meta)data for research sustainably across disciplines, in order to make it widely accessible, interoperable and valuable.
Serving, not Spying
Maud Châtelet
In ten years from now, I don’t feel observed and manipulated through the Data being collected about me but i can rely on being served by data for better services, better policies and a better environment.
Better use of data in Switzerland
André Golliez
Public and private sector data is open, shared, and used for public and private good within a trustworthy data ecosystem ("Swiss / European DataSpace“).
Better use of data in Switzerland
Florian Wieser
Public and private sector data is open, shared, and used for public and private good within a trustworthy data ecosystem ("Swiss / European DataSpace“).
Solid basis for committed debate and innovation
Andreas Kellerhals
Data create a critically discussable basis for political analysis and joint shaping of our future just as they enable innovations in everyday life - free access and responsible use are indispensable for an enlightened information society.
Open decentralized data storage
Lukas Hess
Data is a new form of currency: It is too powerful to be controlled by centralized private entities - let’s build a decentralized system to store, share and use data.
Shared ecosystem of energy data in Switzerland
Emilie Boillat
Data about energy production and consumption is shared openly by Swiss utility companies, promoting open innovation and helping to reach the „Agenda 2030“ climate goals.

I’ll update this once the summaries or outputs become available. Here is a glimpse of how those workshops ran, with a shared document in which we collaborated on compiling futuristic outlooks, situational analysis, and pragmatic recommendations:

In the afternoon keynote, we heard an update from Ruth Meier from the Federal Statistical Office about Switzerland’s current Open Government Strategy. These were stories from the front lines of data publication, the stunned silence after the rapid sharing of information followed by a peppering of questions from our audience. I thought this was the highlight of the conference.


But then I was blown away, again, by the :trophy: Open Data Student Award nominees. One after another, the projects and presentations were an array of inspiring results. I’ve already reviewed them several times with delight, and look forward to putting up a proper showcase.

Our sincere congratulations to Ueli, Anian, Janik, and Severin, students at the ETH and winners of the 2020 Student Award with their visualization of @vbz_zueri_linie public transport flows via @OpenDataZurich.

Closing thoughts and the gritty challenges ahead were offered by data journalist Nikolai Thelitz, who spoke of the monumental efforts that have gone into aggregating usable Covid-19 Case Data, though the larger issues and learnings from this still-evolving crisis will probably be only visible clearly at Opendata.ch/2021.

Thank you all :heart_eyes: and in particular, the production team at our association and all the attendees making this year’s event a milestone occasion, in the middle of a difficult, testing, seminal year. The complete outputs, results of our Action Points voting, award nominees, etc., will be available soon. We made progress. :balloon: Onwards and upwards!