Latvian Open Data Hackathon for pupils 2022 – winners are announced!

During the last month, I have been a mentor of the Latvian Open Data Hackathon and an idea generator for pupils, organized by the Latvian Open Technologies Association with the support of DATI Group  , E-Klase, Latvijas Kultūras akadēmija / Latvian Academy of Culture, Vides aizsardzības un reģionālās attīstības ministrija (VARAM)/ Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Republic of Latvia and others.

This year the main topic of the hackathon was cultural heritage! Within a month, 36 teams from 126 participants from all over Latvia developed their ideas and prototypes, 10 teams reached the final after a round of semi-final presentations of their solutions to us – the mentor team (of course, we worked with the assigned teams in previous weeks as well).  Here, we not only evaluated these ideas, but also provided them with yet another portion of feedback and suggestions for improving the idea or prototype for its further presentation in the final, where the jury will finally decide who the winner is.

Here I should note that as usually (I am a permament mentor of this hackathon) the participants surprised me very much both with the diversity of ideas and in very many times with their technical knowledge and skills (AI, crowdsourcing, gamification to name just a few) – just wow!

And last week it happened – we finally found out who are the winners – Kultūrkults as the best idea in the respective category (idea generator), and 417 Expectations Failed as the hackathon winner!

Congratulations to everyone on the successful efforts to promote the cultural and historical heritage! Also, congrats the whole society on having such a responsible and passionate youth to their culture and history!

Repeating what I already at the closing ceremony, I really want to believe that all the teams that participated in the hackathon will develop and implement their ideas regardless of the outcome of the hackathon – you are all winners for us! Keep going towards your goal!

ICEGOV2022: 4 insightful days and four roles – participant / attendee, author / presenter, workshop chair and Best Paper Awards nominee (part 2)

In previous post I already shared my impressions with ICEGOV ICEGOV2022 conference – 15th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, which took place in a very specific place – Guimarães that is considered the birthplace of Portugal, providing some general insight on how it was, elaborated a bit on paper I presented there and the fact that it was nominated to the Best Paper Awards. Thus, this post I dedicate to one particular role I played, i.e. workshop chair.

If you actively follow me, you probably remember that some time ago I already posted that our workshop titled “Identification of high-value dataset determinants: is there a silver bullet?” organized by me, Charalampos Alexopoulos, Nina Rizun and Magdalena Ciesielska was accepted for ICEGOV2022. So now we finally brought it alive! Our workshop was among 7 accepted workshops, organized by such prominent organizations as UNDESA – United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, European Commission, UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and several more, which is just “wow”!

It took some time since as you might remember, the very first steps in this topic I took a year ago, i.e. this workshop is a continuation of the paper I presented at ICEGOV2021 – Towards enrichment of the open government data: a stakeholder-centered determination of High-Value Data sets for Latvia, which, in turn, was something what I did as a response to the request I received from my government, which was curious about this topic in the light of Open Data Directive (previously Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive). It was a simple one study, which was based on a survey of individual users and SME of Latvia aimed at clarifying their level of awareness about the existence of the OGD, their usage habits, as well as the overall level of satisfaction with the value of the OGD and their potential. Now the topic became even more topical, considering that even European Open Data Maturity Report is updating its methodology, as one of the new aspects including HVD. This, in turn, led to the fact that our workshop was even included in the list of upcoming events they suggest to consider and attend (see screenshots of schedule :)).

To say in a few words, in this workshop we initiated a discussion about the value of open data, and, more precisely, the concept of high value data(sets) and determinants / indicators that could allow not only identify them among existing data, but rather to identify, i.e., even if they are not previously published.

Together with our participants, we spoke about:
💡How can the “value” of open data be defined?
💡What are the current indicators for determining the value of data? Can they be used to identify valuable datasets to be opened? What are the country-specific high-value determinants (aspects)?
💡How high-value datasets can be identified? What mechanisms and/ or methods should be put in place to allow their determination?
💡Could it be there an automated way to gather information for HVD?
💡Can they be identified by third parties, e.g. researchers, enthusiasts AND potential data publishers, i.e. data owners?
💡What should be the scope of the framework?

The main point to be said on the mode of this workshop that it was a community-based, participatory, interactive workshop. Although it is clear that on the last day of the conference (the day after the official closing ceremony) all those registered for this workshop could not gather, it was still a valuable experience and we managed to have a nice event full of discussions with the participants, who got actively involved, which is especially pleasant, i.e. we managed to avoid sit-and-listen mode!!!

All in all, we had a nice event, where at least the first step in the direction we selected, were taken and some initial feedback was gathered.

Again, thank you, of Guimarães, Portugal, and, of course, organizers of ICEGOV2022 – University of Minho (Universidade do Minho) and UNU-eGOV – United Nations University!

ICEGOV2022: 4 insightful days and four roles – participant / attendee, author / presenter, workshop chair and Best Paper Awards nominee (part 1)

This October (2022) I had a pleasure and honor to spend four absolutely insightful days at ICEGOV2022 conference – 15th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, which took place in a very specific place – Guimarães that is considered the birthplace of Portugal. The conference took place under the “Digital Governance for Social, Economic, and Environmental Prosperity” moto and was organized by organized by the University of Minho (Universidade do Minho) and UNU-eGOV – United Nations University.

Just to start, the conference was indeed something very special starting with the very first seconds since the conference was opened by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. 6 exceptional keynote talks were delivered during 3 days of the conference, while the last day was fully dedicated to workshops, which were 7 – one of them organized by me and my colleagues, triggered by the study I presented at ICEGOV in 2021 (although only in a virtual / online mode).

All in all, this made it exceptionally honorable to play not one, not two or even three, but four roles. In other words, I was not only a regular participant / attendee or even just an author presenting the paper, but also a workshop chair and even a Best Paper Awards nominee.

Let me start with the reflection on the paper I presented here, since it is also very special for me, considering how it was developed. In other words, it was a joint paper we wrote together with my colleague Anneke Zuiderwijk as part of my 6-months long research visit to the University of Delft, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management. Even more, it was the topic we discussed with many colleagues from TU Delft, when I was kindly invited to participate in an ICT colloquium, where we had an opportunity to talk about it (among other things such as my general research interests). Moreover, we got this paper accepted exactly at time, when my role of visiting researcher at Delft University of Technology was close to the end.

And before I will briefly elaborate on it, just to make you curious about it, let me mention that it was recognized as one of the best papers, which was nominated to ICEGOV2022 Best Paper Awards in its category. More precisely, it was in top-3 best papers among 61 papers! And although another paper got this award, we still consider it as a small victory! And citing the awards committee “the goal of ICEGOV Best Paper Awards is to acknowledge excellent research” isn’t that a win? ✌️✌️✌️

So… let me now provide a brief insight on the paper (finally). The paper itself is a reflection on the current ongoing research and is titled “Barriers to openly sharing government data: towards an open data-adapted innovation resistance theory”.

To say in a few words, the study itself aims to develop an Open Government Data-adapted Innovation Resistance Theory model to empirically identify predictors affecting public agencies’ resistance to openly sharing government data. Here we want to understand:
💡what are functional and behavioural factors that facilitate or hamper opening government data by public organizations?
💡does IRT provide a new and more complete insight compared to more traditional UTAUT and TAM? – IRT has not been applied in this domain, yet, so we are checking whether it should be considered, or rather those models we are familiar so much are the best ones?
💡and additionally – does the COVID-19 pandemic had an [obvious/significant] effect on the public agencies in terms of their readiness or resistance to openly share government data?
Based on a review of the literature on both IRT research and barriers associated with open data sharing by public agencies, we developed an initial version of the model, which was presented here at ICEGOV2022. Here I should immediately express my huge gratitude to the audience and very positive feedback I received after the session. At the same time, considering that many of these compliments came from people representing , TU Delft, I feel even more belongness to it, despite even have not been there physically during the above-mentioned stay (thanks to pandemic).

Taking a step back to the research – now, we plan to conduct exploratory interviews in multiple countries, preferably of different maturity levels (Estonia, Latvia, Netherlands, Italy (?), Belgium (?) – who else?), to refine the model. And once the model is refined, we will validate it to study the resistance of public authorities to openly sharing government data in a quantitative study.

📢📢📢 By the way, in case you are interested in this research and would like to get involved, we are now seeking for people who could conduct exploratory interviews in their countries, so in case you are such person, let us know even if your country is listed above – the interview protocol is already ready and we are about to start these interviews. The more countries will be involved, the more “universal” model we will be able to bring to this world!

In the meantime, find the paper (and cite as) -> Nikiforova A., Zuiderwijk A. (2022) Barriers to openly sharing government data: towards an open data-adapted innovation resistance theory, In 15th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV 2022). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 215–220, https://doi.org/10.1145/3560107.3560143

And just to close this post, and considering very positive impressions I had on them, let me at least list keynotes we had, since the organizers paid a very special attention to them, same as later – we as participants to their actual talks. All in all, ICEGOV2022 invited 6 keynotes we truly enjoyed – starting with the opening keynote delivered by Portuguese Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Administrative Modernisation Mário Campolargo, continuing with the following keynotes, which in many cases were later complemented with plenaries. These keynotes were very diverse in nature, more precisely – “Harnessing multilateralism for digital governance development?” by Cristina Duarte (Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General), Digital transformation across countries and continents by Tony Shannon (Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, Dublin, Ireland), “AI+X: building a transformation agenda” by Theresa A. Pardo (University at Albany (SUNY)), “What is digital humanism?” by Walter Gehr (Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs), and “Reinforcing Interoperability Policy in the EU: Interoperable Europe” by Veronica Gaffey (European Commission (DG DIGIT)). Truly massive set of high-quality keynotes!

Thank you, of Guimarães, Portugal, and, of course, organizers of ICEGOV2022 – University of Minho (Universidade do Minho) and UNU-eGOV – United Nations University!

P.S. do not forget to read another post on the workshop I had at ICEGOV2022!

AI for Open Data or Open Data for AI? An invited talk for BBDU Development Program «Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development»🎤

Recently I was honored to contribute to Babu Banarasi Das University (BBDU, Department of Computer Science and Engineering) Development Program «Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development» with the talk entitled “Artificial Intelligence for Open Data or Open Data for Artificial Intelligence?”. More precisely, this series of workshops is organized for the industry, i.e. representatives of industry, who want to get an insight on the current advances in various topic-related areas (AI in the sustainability context) from people representing research and academia, which is organized by AI Research Centre, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Babu Banarasi Das University (India), ShodhGuru Research Labs, Soft Computing Research Society, IEEE UP Section, Computational Intelligence Society Chapter. My session, for instance, was attended by more than 130 attendees, which I consider to be a very good rate!


Regarding my talk, I was delighted to deliver in the last day of this event, being also a guest of honor for this event, when we speak about “Artificial Intelligence for Open Data or Open Data for Artificial Intelligence?” – in short, not OR but rather AND. In other words, AI for Open Data and Open Data for AI, where open data serves as a valuable asset for AI (of course, if a list of prerequisites is fulfilled), while AI defines new prerequisites for open data we should think of.

At the same time, although their combination is considered to play a transformational role in human society, and especially in prominent areas, as we discussed today, this “magic duo” is not always about “unicorns and ice creams“, where the current state-of-the-art suggests that open data my pose also certain risks.

Probably the most expressive example of such, I referred to, is an example, when based on easily obtainable open data on toxic molecules collected over the years, AI has managed to create 40,000 molecular associations potentially usable as biochemical weapons in just 6 hours. And while not all of them are actually usable, and the need to synthesize them still remains, some associations correspond to known chemical weapons with one even more toxic than the VX nerve gas, identified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

So here comes a very interesting dilemma between openness as a philosophy and making data open, and threats it may pose, if used by a malevolent actor.

We also briefly touched a topic of risks associated with AI (although both perspectives of so-called cyber-pessimists and cyber-optimists in this regard were considered), open data, and their combination, along with the long list of benefits they can bring, including their contribution to the sustainability being in line with the general idea of this event.
And, of course, we could not ignore the topic of green AI and a strong need to consider FATE principles (Fairness, Accountability, Transparency & Explainability).

All in all, it was a very nice experience and the audience so curious and passionate of topics elaborated on within this 6-days long event with speakers from both continents Asia, Africa, America and Europe (represented by me! 🤓🤓🤓). Exceptional audience with so relevant questions leading to a lively and fruitful discussion being of interest for both participants and speakers. Glad to be part of it and get this experience!

This is just in a few words, although at some point I plan to extend this post with more details and thoughts.