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Open Knowledge Foundation: Assessing the State of Infrastructural Development  in FCT: The Mixed Lessons

planet code4lib - Tue, 2017-04-04 12:35

Open Knowledge International is a member of OD4D, a global network of leaders in the open data community, working together to develop open data solutions around the world. Here, the Women Environmental Programme (WEP) of Nigeria talks about their work on assessing the state of infrastructural development in three Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria. 

This blog has been reposted from

We might not have had the opportunity to learn what we learnt, or visit some of the communities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria that we visited. We may not have had the opportunity to listen to the communities, neither would the communities had the opportunity to tell us their stories concerning their development needs with confidence that we can solve them or help amplify their voices. We may not have had this wonderful opportunity if it was not provided by Open Knowledge International (OKI)  through the Africa Open Data Collaboration Fund which was aimed at building the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) for Africa’s emerging data revolution. This opportunity would not have come at a better time than when the Women Environmental Programme (WEP) was preparing to launch herself into the data revolution declared by the United Nations for improved data for achieving and monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals.

Although WEP already had experience from undertaking several research works, our encounter with, OKI opened our eyes to three important elements that had been missing in our works – technology, openness, and speed.

We recall our first Skype call with Katelyn Rogers and David Opoku of OKI before the commencement of the project, when David enquired on how WEP wanted to go about collecting data on the status of basic amenities and participation of citizens in budgeting processes in the three target Area Councils of FCT namely Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Gwagwalada and Kuje Area Councils. Our response to him was simple: “We are going to develop a structured questionnaire, print them in several copies for data collectors to take to the field and administer to the respondents. When the completed questionnaires are returned, we shall manually input them into the computer for analysis.” David waited patiently for our answer, after which he asked, “have you heard of Open Data Kit (ODK)? Or Kobo Toolbox?” Of course, our answer was a resounding ‘No’ as we had not used any of these tools, neither did we know how they work. “Alright, I will send you some links to these data collection tools to check them out and see if they may be useful to what you want to do,”  David said.

It took about two weeks of intensive reading and learning for WEP’s team when the links to the mobile data collection tools were shared. It was fulfilling to know that the Kobo Toolbox was going to save us the trouble of using paper questionnaire. By using Kobo Toolbox which collects and records data in real-time, the data collected in the field using mobile phones is sent immediately to the database.

Armed with this new tool and with technical guidance from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) who offered assistance on the design of the survey, and assistance from  Williams Ngwakwe of Shacks and Slum Dwellers Association of Nigeria who facilitated entry into communities, we were ready to invite data collectors for a 2-day training on the use of kobo toolbox and other basic research issues. Our work would have been incomplete if not for the support of NBS. The Statistician General Dr. Yemi Kale, assigned a dedicated team of staff to assist the project with the much needed technical expertise. The NBS team refined not only the survey instruments but the research methodology to meet globally accepted survey standards.  They also advised that we properly define what we meant by “communities” in the context of our survey which made us to base our choice of communities on the 2015 Revised Directory of Polling Units for FCT by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).  

L-R: John Baaki of WEP, Williams Ngwakwe of Shacks and Slum Dwellers Association of Nigeria; Dr. Yemi Kale, Statistician General of the Federation, Evelyn Ugbe of WEP, and Florenece Oloeyede of NBS, pose for a photograph when WEP paid a courtesy visit on the Statistician General of the Federation at NBS headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

The training of data collectors was held from 28-29 July, 2016 where  David of OKI provided training on the use of Kobo toolbox. Surprisingly, none of the data collectors had used this tool before the training as admitted by Ms Ogechi Amaram, one of the data collectors. Getting to know about the Kobo toolbox for the first time was an exciting experience by all the data collectors. It was however more exciting getting to know that the paper questionnaires that were shared during the training to the data collectors will be converted to a mobile form and that was what was to be used to collect data from the field.

Group picture on final day of data collection training with WEP and OKI trainers

Fully armed with the knowledge of Kobo Toolbox and in anticipation that accessing communities in the Federal Capital Territory will be easy, our pessimism was dampened when most communities were extremely difficult to access, as there were neither good access roads nor bridges to cross over streams and rivers to some of the communities. WEP staff and data collectors had a share experience of the challenges communities faced from lack of infrastructure. There were big rivers to be crossed, mountains to be ascended and descended before some communities could be accessed.

Apart from some communities in the City Center and Garki wards of AMAC which were easily accessed by vehicles, other communities were only accessed by means of motorcycles or ‘Okada’ as they are popularly called. Even with the Okada, there was no  guarantee that data collectors would ride to their destinations without having to come down from time to time and  assist push up the motorcycle over some rocks or through streams or rivers. Some data collectors who narrated their ordeal in the field described the pitiable situation of basic amenities in most communities they visited:

According to Ronald Icheen, who worked in AMAC, “I was surprised that we have communities existing like this under FCT. These communities really need help. I was so touched when I saw the situation people were living and wished I had the opportunity to do something.”

David Bangura told John Baaki, his supervisor on the second day of their field work in Kuje when he (the supervisor) saw him buying loaves of bread and asked what that was for, “I can’t stand the malnourished look of the children, I have to give them something.” According to Danjuma Mohammed, “in Rubochi and Gwargwada wards of Kuje Area Councils, apart from Rubochi and Gwargwada communities, no other community has a road.” Fidelyia Iwyenge who also worked in Kuje Area Council said that “in most of the communities we visited in Kuje, Chibiri, Kwaku, Kabi, Yenche, Gwargwada and Gudun Karya wards, there was no good road, no electricity, no potable water, no good schools, no standard primary health care facilities, and these were the things that the communities told us were there priority needs. In fact it was almost needless asking them questions about basic amenities in their communities as we could see the situation of things for ourselves.”

For Ogechi Amaram, “Shishida community in Tungan Maje ward of Gwagwalada Area Council was one of the marginalized communities we visited. It has no good access road, no electricity, no water, no school, no primary healthcare facility. ” For Kwalita community in Dobi ward, she said “although the community has a public primary school, it has no good access road, no electricity, and no primary healthcare facility.”

The analyzed result of the data gathered from the field has corroborated the experiences shared by the data collectors. The result shows that about 71% of communities surveyed had non-graded roads, 37% were not connected to the national grid, 73% were not served by public water supply, 33% had no health care facilities, 7% had no any educational institution, 75% had no waste management systems while 58% had no markets.

At this point we stopped to ask ourselves “is the country’s budget benefiting the rural communities in Nigeria? The question was informed by the fact that despite the enormous amounts of material and human resources available to the government, the majority of Nigerian population are still trapped in poverty.

We therefore sought to know the participation of communities in the budgeting process, as this ought to be the major process through which development comes to the communities, and we got the following responses: 17% of the respondents said the communities were involved in the Area Councils budgeting process while 39% of the respondents said their communities do not participate in the Area Council’s budgeting process. 44% of the respondents however did not know if their communities were involved in the Area Council’s budgeting process or not. We also sought to know if there has been any consultation with the communities by the Area Councils in connection with communities’ development as it relates to budgeting process of the Area Councils. 56% told our data collectors that there has never been any consultation of such in their communities. 27% of the respondents did not even know whether such consultations take place or not. Only 17% of the respondents said there has been a consultation between their communities and the Area councils in relation to the budgeting process.

This survey has offered a huge learning experience not only for staff of WEP but also for the data collectors. WEP has since adopted the use of Kobo toolbox as an organizational data collection tool and has applied this to one of our research works.

We hope that the result of this survey will inform development decisions by the Area Councils Executives and other relevant authorities towards improving living conditions in these communities. The result and the raw data which will be made open and accessible online as required by OKI to the general public can be used to carry out more analysis by concerned individuals and organizations to draw more insights into the situation of the communities.

Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Data Day Vientiane

planet code4lib - Tue, 2017-04-04 08:05

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2017. On Saturday 4 March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 44 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of Hivos, Article 19, Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This event was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Environment theme.

Upon realising the need for open data outreach and promotion within Laos, the East-West Management Institute’s Open Development Initiative (EWMI-ODI) collaborated with the Faculty of Forestry Science, National University of Laos to host a workshop on ‘open data for research’on Open Data Day 2017, as part of a process to build a community of open data enthusiasts among students, researchers, professors, and civil society professionals. Read more on how it all begun in Laos, the current nature of open data in the country and how EWMI-ODI spearheaded the 2017 open data celebration.

Some Background Information

In December 2007, a group of communication specialists working in the fields of agriculture and natural resource management convened a workshop to share experiences and craft a declaration called the Dongdok Statement on Access to Information for Development (Dongdok SAID). Some of the key areas of the statement focused on a commitment to sharing resources, information and promoting open access and open source systems. This marked the first time that individuals and organisations committed themselves to sharing resources openly and in an informal manner.

From this meeting a number of initiatives have evolved, most notably the Coalition for Lao Information Communication and Knowledge (CLICK), LaosFAB, Lao 44, and The Rights-LINK program (managed by Village Focus International). In addition, a number of initiatives that were just emerging at that time have become full-time services, including the LaosLink discussion group and the Lao Agriculture Database (LAD).

In 2009, the Lao DECIDE info platform was established as a data sharing platform of the Government of the Laos PDR to facilitate informed planning and decision-making by making key information from social, economic, environmental and agricultural sectors accessible . The initiative was a collaboration between the Governments of the Laos PDR and Switzerland. The platform was implemented with technical support from the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern, Switzerland, in partnership with participating institutions, and receives financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). This platform is accessible to registered users who are granted different levels of access and use permissions.

Many of these platforms are having an impact on national development by improving the capability of people working for donor agencies, research institutes and NGOs who have access to the platform. However, many of these data and resource repositories remain closed, if measured by the Open Definition. Although a majority of them are hosting public domain resources, they do not currently employ a structured archive to comply with international standard nor do they openly license their content. These make ingestion of these data and resources for publication on open data portals technically and legally challenging.

Open Data in Laos

Open Knowledge’s Global Open Data Index has not been able to rate Laos in their surveys due to the lack of ‘data availability online and in open format’. Similarly, the Open Data Barometer has not been able to rank Laos on the global map.

In 2016, the Open Data Inventory (ODIN), a rating that assesses the coverage and openness of official statistics, ranked Laos 141 out of 173 (with an overall score of 26%, 25% for coverage and 27% for openness). This reflects an improvement from 2015 (overall score of 21%, 34% for coverage and 8% for openness).

The country currently does not have Right to Information Law and has not signed on to be a member of the Open Government Partnership.

Fostering sustainable development with open data

The East-West Management Institute (EWMI) is rolling out a pioneering project, Open Development Initiative (ODI), an innovative online platform aggregating and sharing data to shed light on development trends in the Lower Mekong countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. It consists of a single unified open-source database supporting six websites, for each of the five Lower Mekong countries, and a regional site – Open Development Mekong (OD Mekong). This regional effort was built upon the flagship site of the Open Development Cambodia (ODC) initiative, which was launched in 2011 and has since been relied on by tens of thousands for objective and compelling data visualisations that illuminate the development and environmental challenges in Cambodia.

The Information and Library Division of the Faculty of Forestry Science, National University of Laos.

As part of the ODI’s expansion throughout the Mekong region, EWMI-ODI seek national and international partners to contribute to building a data and information ecosystem to support transparent sharing of development data and informed decisions on sustainable development in Laos. In sync with a partnership building effort, the project hosts outreach events in the different Lower Mekong countries to promote the platform and the benefits of objective cross-sectoral open data approach for sustainable development.

Realizing the need for open data outreach and promotions within Laos, in coordination with the International Open Data Day and in collaboration with the Faculty of Forestry Science, National University of Laos, EWMI-ODI hosted a workshop on ‘open data for research’ as part of a process to build a community of open data enthusiasts among students, researchers, professors, and civil society professionals. The workshop was attended by 17 participants including research division director of the faculty, professors, graduate students, members of civil society organisations working on information sharing, media, and data officers from private sector companies.

EWMI-ODI Laos Research Fellow Lamphay Inthakoun facilitating discussion in Lao language

When asked to identify challenges related to finding and using public data and information for research and planning, participants who consider themselves data users emphasised the following:

  • Data quality and differentiation between quality within government ministries and non-governmental institutions
  • Availability and accessibility of development data and information in Laos language also remain a challenge. Note that there are over 80 donor agencies and international non-governmental organisations working in Laos, but most of their materials and reports are in English and not available on their websites. As a result, people have a hard time accessing development-related information.
  • The supply of data does not meet the needs
  • If available, data is not in reusable formats, which requires resources for conversion
  • Limited data and published research in the Lao language  
  • Access to data is limited and the process for requesting permission to use government data can take a long time to get approved
  • Limited usability of data both from technical and legal perspectives

When asked to identify challenges related to opening up data, participants who consider themselves data providers raised the following questions:

  • Responsible data and the ethics related to releasing data: what data to open and for whom it should be open? 
  • Licensing issues: how to identify which data to use and evaluate the appropriateness of using open licensing?
  • How should the data be opened: should cloud applications be used or in-house servers maintained?

Following this discussion was a presentation of open data principles and use cases from notable open data initiatives in the region, highlighting how they have created positive development impacts through open data. Using open data principle and open licensing guideline, this presentation demonstrated how participants may find, assess usability, and contribute to existing data and information resources on the various platform. Discussion continued to answer the question of how open data can advance higher education research.

EWMI-ODI looks forward to collaborating with the international open data community to help guide discussion around responsible data sharing and best practices for opening up public data for development in the region. As a continuing effort to establish a local platform for Laos as part of the Open Development Mekong platform, we will be coordinating a series of meetings to open up discussions on how we can build effective data sharing partnerships with various stakeholders and offer some technical support for the use of this facility.

DuraSpace News: Balancing Community, Commitment, and Innovation–The 2017 DuraSpace Membership Campaign

planet code4lib - Tue, 2017-04-04 00:00

Austin, TX  The 2017 DuraSpace Membership Campaign gets underway this week. The campaign raises funds to support the continued advancement of DSpace, Fedora and VIVO open source software projects. DuraSpace proudly provides these applications for free for anyone to use.

District Dispatch: Reminder: next CopyTalk this Thursday

planet code4lib - Mon, 2017-04-03 20:48

Don’t forget to join us this Thursday, April 6th, for a CopyTalk webinar with Kyle K. Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University. Kyle will be discussing his innovative copyright service model starting at 2 p.m Eastern.

From Lotus Head

Kyle Courtney of Harvard University’s Office for Scholarly Communication describes how library patrons, faculty, students and staff need more guidance than ever on copyright matters on issues such as fair use, open access, MOOCs, repositories and digitization. These questions are arriving at the library with greater frequency and Kyle believes a modern, 21st century library should be equipped to answer such questions.

The Copyright First Responders (CFR) program has developed the first decentralized model of copyright expertise in an academic setting, relying on a hub-and-spoke model to answer questions from the communities associated with certain libraries. The librarians — each with their own focus, specialty, degrees and training — are in the best position to be trained to answer copyright questions from their respective communities. Therefore, copyright training should be layered on top of that subject expertise and result in a systemic shift in copyright knowledge thought the academic setting – the library becomes the focus of copyright inquiry and policy. The presentation will reveal the examine the types of copyright questions received, note the thematic uniformity of large copyright questions, present success metrics on questions answered, lessons learned, and share best practices in creating a CFR program.

Day: Join us Thursday, April 6, for an hour-long free webinar
Time: 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific
Link: Go to and sign in as a guest. You’re in!

This program is brought to you by OITP’s copyright education subcommittee. An archive of previous webinars is available.

The post Reminder: next CopyTalk this Thursday appeared first on District Dispatch.

Eric Hellman: Copyrighted Clickstream Poetry to Stop ISP Click-Selling

planet code4lib - Mon, 2017-04-03 16:54
Congress won't let the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protect users from Internet Service Provider (ISP) snooping-for-cash. My ISP could decide to sell a list of all the websites I visit to advertisers, and the FCC can't stop them. I wondered if there was some way I could use copyright law to prevent my ISP from selling copies of my clickstream.

So I invented "clickstream poetry". Here is my first clickstream poem, entitled My clicks are mine:
    "copyright": "2017 Eric Hellman",
    "license": "",
    "title": "My clicks are mine"
I wrote a python script that "performs" the poem for the benefit of anyone listening to my clickstream. The script requests the websites in the poem in a random order; the listener will see the website names requested, and this dataset comprises the "poem". I used a Creative Commons license that doesn't let anyone distribute copies of my poem for commercial purposes. If my ISP tries to sell a copy of my clickstream, they would be violating the license, and thus infringing my copyright to the poem. If you run the script to perform the poem (for non-commercial purposes, of course), your ISP would similarly be infringing my copyright if they try to sell your clickstream.

If I tried to sue an ISP for copyright infringement, they would likely argue that though my creation is original and used in its entirety, selling my clickstream is a "fair use". They would assert that advertising optimization (or whatever) is a "transformative use" and that it didn't affect the market for my poem. Who would pay anything for a stupid clickstream poem? How would a non-existent, hypothetical market for clickstream poetry be harmed by use in their big data algorithms?

That's why I'm offering commercial licenses to the clickstream poem My clicks are mine. This will demonstrate that a commercial market for clickstream poetry licenses exists. For only $10, you can use a copy of my poem for any purpose whatsoever, for a period of 24 hours. If an ad network wants to use my clickstream to optimize the ads they show me, more power to them, as long as they pay for a license. I imagine that, over the lifetime of my poem's copyright protection (into the 22nd century), clickstream poetry will become increasingly valuable because of uses that haven't been invented yet.

To acquire a commercial license to my poem, support my work at the Free Ebook Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation, by making a donation. Or don't. I have no idea if a court would take my side against a big company (and against Congress). I'm told that judges are generally skeptical of clever "legal hacks" unless they are crafted by lawyers instead of engineers.

ISPs would probably figure out a legal or technical subterfuge around the copyright of my clickstream poem; but if they have to worry even a little, this effort will have been worth my time.

Update: I have now paid $35 to register my copyright to My clicks are mine.

Access Conference: Call for proposals *extended* to Apr 12

planet code4lib - Mon, 2017-04-03 15:00

The CFP for Access 2017 has been extended for an extra week – you have until April 12th to submit your proposal.

We are looking for ideas for:

  • 20 min presentations (15 min presentation, ~5 min questions)
    • These could be demos, theory or practice, case studies, original research, etc.
    • These submissions will be double blind peer-reviewed
  • 30 min panel sessions
  • 5 min lightning talks

Questions? Contact us at

Open Knowledge Foundation: Hacker Bus on tour for Open Data Day 2017

planet code4lib - Mon, 2017-04-03 14:46

This blog is part of the event report series on International Open Data Day 2017. On Saturday 4 March, groups from around the world organised over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. 44 events received additional support through the Open Knowledge International mini-grants scheme, funded by SPARC, the Open Contracting Program of Hivos, Article 19, Hewlett Foundation and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This event was supported through the mini-grants scheme under the Open contracting and tracking public money flows theme.

This blog was first published on LabHacker’s Facebook page

The Open Data Day, also known as the International Open Data Day, took place on the first Saturday of March, the 4th. This date was chosen to celebrate initiatives that use open data generated by public bodies, helping to build services and solutions so the society can function in a more integrated and inclusive way.

Many are the benefits and beneficiaries of a more transparent government that provide its data objectively. Even the government itself is a beneficiary when it allows for a more efficient and democratic operation. The open sharing of data is an incentive for the emergence of the innovation potential through analysis and combination of data from different sources, with new interpretations and applications.

Data are open when they are published in a simple way and accessible under an open license, for any end. The access to such information, even though it is public, is not always possible or sometimes works through complicated ways. With the passing of the Freedom of Information Law in 2011, the Government made an important step towards resolving technical and infrastructural difficulties with presenting the data, and also advanced in the strengthening of the public integrity.

For the seventh year, groups of different countries were invited to do activities using open data with their communities; the Hacker Bus was one of them. It left the LabHacker (in São Paulo) and travelled to Guarulhos (a nearby city, ~50 km from SP), setting up its tent on the Maia Square (Guarulho’s largest public park, with 170,000 km2) and realised many activities. It was a full day filled with workshops like Electronics for the little, Makey Makey, Little Bits, Be the Mayor, How to build a homemade composter, Electronic percussion and, last but not least, the Game of Politics app, which aims not only to awake little hackers, but teaches people about using open data and understanding its importance.

The Game of Politics is an immersion into the complexities of politics and is divided in three plays (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary). The game focuses on teaching young people starting from high school and puts them in a protagonist role, letting them decide. During Open Data Day, through the Executive game, the residents thought about how the public budget works using open data, reflected on where and how they believe their money was applied in their city based on their daily experiences, and on how they wished it was applied. In the end, they compared their budget with the real budget available on the city council’s website at From the game, it is possible to understand how the city’s budget works, which are its main investments and how much is spend in each area.

The development of this game is made possible by the accessibility of data in the transparency portals of the city, states and federal government and from the audit offices. The availability of information encourages the participation of citizens in the government’s management and allows citizens to follow the impact of the public politics.

Apart from the workshops, demonstrations and a lot of music, the Hacker Bus also received a new graffiti, and became even prettier!


Library of Congress: The Signal: Software Carpentry at the Library of Congress

planet code4lib - Mon, 2017-04-03 14:40

In February, we hosted 40 librarians, archivists and data wranglers at the Library of Congress to learn advanced skills in managing digital collections.

National Digital Initiatives (NDI/NP/NIO) hosted a Software Carpentry workshop, inviting staff from the Library, the DC Public Library and federal libraries for hands-on learning in the programming language Python, the version-control software Git, and the command-line interface Bash.

Software Carpentry trainer Mark Laufersweiler conducts programming and coding workshop at the Library of Congress, February 16, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Software Carpentry is a volunteer, non-profit organization that provides short, intensive workshops to help researchers automate tasks and manage information. It started with scholars in the physical sciences who found that traditional graduate programs were not preparing them for the challenges of working with data for their research products. Software Carpentry workshops have lately been adapted for social sciences, the humanities, and libraries.

“Librarians and archivists are already using these tools to accession and manage digital collections,” said Jaime Mears, who helped organize the event. “They are mostly self-taught, looking to get a job done. I am constantly inspired by the resourcefulness and ingenuity of my colleagues. NDI wants to help give the profession a boost when it comes to learning, and we think Software Carpentry is a good model for that.”

The goal of the workshop isn’t to teach librarians to become application developers but to give them greater fluency with or new uses for tools they are usually already using.

Julia Kim, Digital Assets Specialist for the American Folklife Center searches for a string of characters in the command line, February 16, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

“I can see an opportunity to use scripts to improve researchers’ experience in the reading room,” said Kathleen O’Neill, a senior archives specialist in the Manuscript Division. “For those researchers with limited experience with digital collection material, we could provide a library of simple scripts to search, analyze and report on the born-digital collection material.”

The workshop was taught by Mark Laufersweiler and Mark Stacy of the University of Oklahoma Libraries. Also on hand for the day were professional coders who could help students as they got stuck. Mostly from the Repository Development Group and Web Services in OCIO, these staff members have worked closely with the curatorial divisions and have seen their challenges firsthand.

“Joining the workshop as helpers encouraged the mutual understanding between my staff and the curatorial staff – probably the most valuable part of the experience for us,” said David Brunton, Supervisory IT Specialist.

The organizers were pleased to see such a range of experience and perspectives among the attendees, which included librarians from NIST and the Peace Corps and executive management at the Library.

NDI, which hosted the event as part of its mission to provide digital leadership for libraries and archives throughout the country, is considering hosting more Software Carpentry events in the future. The staff of the division can be contacted at

FOSS4Lib Recent Releases: Zebra - 2.1.0

planet code4lib - Mon, 2017-04-03 12:25

Last updated April 3, 2017. Created by Peter Murray on April 3, 2017.
Log in to edit this page.

Package: ZebraRelease Date: Monday, April 3, 2017

District Dispatch: Decision makers: libraries are ready to code

planet code4lib - Sun, 2017-04-02 20:27

Released today, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy latest brief explores how libraries are increasingly offer programs in coding and computational thinking and are poised to do much more.

Computing jobs represent the largest source of new jobs and are among the highest paying, yet hundreds of thousands of openings go unfilled. And such employment needs are projected to continue growing in the coming years. Libraries are part of the solution in preparing more of America’s youth for these jobs

Libraries are ideal venues to provide career opportunities for youth in the digital age, explains a newly-released brief from the American Library Association (ALA). In “Careers for America’s Youth in the Digital Age: <libraries / ready to code>,” libraries are found to increasingly offer programs in coding and computational thinking—the broader intellectual skills behind coding—and are poised to do much more.

The brief is being released at the #HouseOfCode demo, panel and reception event on Capitol Hill on April 3-4. Nearly 100 students from over 50 Congressional districts will participate to demo their winning apps from the 2016 Congressional App Challenge. ALA is a sponsor of this event and we will have an exhibitor table and strong representation including our coding policy extraordinaire Marijke Visser as well as Shawnda Hines and Emily Wagner of the ALA Washington Office.

“Careers for America’s Youth in the Digital Age: <libraries / ready to code>,” discusses how libraries stimulate youth awareness in coding, serve as innovation labs to develop coding skills and leverage their national reach to encourage youth engagement from groups under-represented in tech careers. Perspectives from industry leaders such as Michael Petricone of the Consumer Technology Association (and a member of ALA’s Public Policy Advisory Council) and Mo-Yun Lei Fong of Google are included in the brief.

This brief is the sixth one in a new series targeted to national decision makers and influencers. ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy gratefully acknowledges the guidance and financial support of ALA President Julie Todaro for the establishment of this series. The previously published briefs are:

Libraries Help and Honor Our Veterans: Employment, Education and Community Connection
One Small Business at a Time: Building Entrepreneurial Opportunity in America’s Communities
The Manufacturing Sector & The Knowledge Economy: Expanding Opportunity through Libraries
Digital Empowerment and America’s Libraries
From Baby’s First Words: Libraries Promote Early Learning.

Additional briefs will be released in the coming months.

As always, we look forward to feedback. In particular, we seek to learn about compelling library programs on these topics or ideas on new topics for which briefs should be produced. Though motivated for use at the national level, much of the content and argument is applicable at the state and local levels and so we are interested in any such adaptations of this material. Let us know!

The post Decision makers: libraries are ready to code appeared first on District Dispatch.

Andrew Pace: Fake News Forever!

planet code4lib - Sat, 2017-04-01 11:32

Librarians were among the first to join the call to arms and combat the onslaught of fake news that has permeated our political discussions for the last several months. Frankly, it seems hard for anyone to be on the other side of this issue. But is it?

Librarians wish they had collected this fake news from 1949.

Not long after the effort to stop fake news in its tracks, a group of librarians began to consider the long-term implications of eradicating an entire body of content from history. Thus began a concerted effort to preserve all the fake news that a vigilant group of librarians could gather up. Building on other open source applications to store and preserve data, software and uploading code for a DisInformation Repository is well underway. Mendacity 1.0 should be available on Github later this month. My attempts to download and use the beta version only redirected me to the Bing search engine homepage.

It’s also rumored that an ALA Round Table might also be in the works. Proponents of the FNRT want to make sure that the effort not only focuses on completely eliminating the dissemination of Fake News but also on preserving the content that slips through the cracks.

“Freedom to read means protecting even the most obvious fallacies,” said Martin Garnar, President of the Freedom to Read Foundation. “In a post-truth society,” continued Garnar, librarians have to stay vigilant in preserving the anti-intellectual content that got us to this point.”

“It’s got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” said Yonkers librarian, Christian Zabriskie. “Librarians have done some pretty awesome and crazy things in the past, but this one has to take the cake. I could not take part in it.”

So while many front-line librarians will continue the fight against the proliferation of internet falsehoods, now there’s a new library collections front to consider. It will be interesting to watch the untruth unfold.

Information Technology and Libraries: President's Message: For The Record

planet code4lib - Fri, 2017-03-31 21:55
President's Message: For The Record

Information Technology and Libraries: Editorial Board Thoughts: Arts into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – STEAM, Creative Abrasion, and the Opportunity in Libraries Today

planet code4lib - Fri, 2017-03-31 21:55
By actively seeking out opportunities to bring art into traditionally STEM-focused activity, and vice-versa, we are deliberately increasing the diversity of the environment. Makerspace services and activities, to the extent they are open and visibly accessible to all, are a natural for the spontaneous development of trans-disciplinary collaboration. Within the spaces of the library, opportunities to connect individuals around shared avocational interest might range from music and spontaneous performance areas to spaces salted with LEGO bricks and jigsaw puzzles; the potential connections between our resources and the members of our communities are as diverse as their interests. Indeed, when a practitioner from one discipline can interact and engage with others from across the STEAM spectrum, the world becomes a richer place – and maybe, just maybe, we can fan the flames of curiosity along the way.

Information Technology and Libraries: TV Whites Spaces in Public Libraries: A Primer

planet code4lib - Fri, 2017-03-31 21:55

TV Whitespace (TVWS) represents one new wireless communication technology that has the potential to improve internet access and inclusion. This primer describes TVWS technology as a viable, long-term access solution for the benefit of public libraries and their communities, especially for underserved populations.  Discussion focuses first on providing a brief overview of the digital divide and the emerging role of public libraries as internet access providers.  Next, a basic description of TVWS and its features is provided, focusing on key aspects of the technology relevant to libraries as community anchor institutions. Several TVWS implementations are described with discussion of TVWS implementations in several public libraries.  Finally, consideration is given to first steps that library organizations must take when contemplating new TVWS implementations supportive of Wi-Fi applications and crisis response planning.

Information Technology and Libraries: Reference Rot in the Repository: A Case Study of Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) in an Academic Library

planet code4lib - Fri, 2017-03-31 21:55

This study examines ETDs deposited during the period 2011-2015 in an institutional repository, to determine the degree to which the documents suffer from reference rot, that is, linkrot plus content drift. The authors converted and examined 664 doctoral dissertations in total, extracting 11,437 links, finding overall that 77% of links were active, and 23% exhibited linkrot.  A stratified random sample of 49 ETDs was performed which produced 990 active links, which were then checked for content drift based on mementos found in the Wayback Machine.  Mementos were found for 77% of links, and approximately half of these, 492 of 990, exhibited content drift. The results serve to emphasize not only the necessity of broader awareness of this problem, but also to stimulate action on the preservation front.   

Information Technology and Libraries: Facilitating Research Consultations Using Cloud Services: Experiences, Preferences, and Best Practices

planet code4lib - Fri, 2017-03-31 21:55
The increasing complexity of the information ecosystem means that research consultations are increasingly important to meeting library users' needs. Yet librarians struggle to balance escalating demands on their time. How can we embrace this expanded role and maintain accessibility to users while balancing competing demands on our time? One tool that allows us to better navigate this shifting landscape is Google Appointment Calendar, part of Google Apps for Education. It makes it easier than ever for students to book a consultation with a librarian, while at the same time allowing the librarian to better control their schedule. Our research suggests that both students and librarians felt it was a useful, efficient system.

District Dispatch: How libraries can respond to the repeal of the FCC privacy rules

planet code4lib - Fri, 2017-03-31 20:16

This blog is cross-posted from the Intellectual Freedom Blog, written by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

This week Congress, voting along party lines, passed a resolution that repealed the groundbreaking privacy rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last October under the Obama administration. The new rules would have required ISPs to adopt fair information privacy practices in regards to their customers’ data, including a requirement that the ISP obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from their customers before using, sharing or selling sensitive information, including geo-location information, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications. In addition, the rules would have imposed data breach notification requirements and required ISPs to adopt reasonable data security measures.

If the privacy rules had been left alone, they would have gone into effect at the end of this year. But because of the way the new resolution was written, the FCC will likely be barred from writing any similar rules in the future. And the Federal Trade Commission, which otherwise has broad authority to regulate unfair and deceptive business practices like inadequate privacy protections or deceptive privacy policies, is likely barred from regulating ISPs, which are classified as telecommunication common carriers only subject to FCC regulation. Thus, those Congressional representatives voting to roll back the FCC privacy rules have likely skewed the privacy playing field in favor of the ISPs for a long time to come.

This means service providers like Verizon are free to install apps like AppFlash, a new Android app launcher and search tool designed to collect information like a user’s mobile number, device identifier, device type and operating system, location information, installed apps, and contacts and share that information with advertisers without the customer’s consent.

How can libraries respond to the rollback of the FCC privacy rules? Start with the Library Privacy Guidelines and the accompanying Library Privacy Checklists, which outline the steps libraries should take to protect users’ data and provide a secure online experience in the library.

More specific steps libraries can take to protect themselves and help users protect themselves from data collection by ISPs include:

  • Participating in the movement to encrypt all web traffic by moving library websites and services to HTTPS, a protocol which prevents intermediaries like ISPs from eavesdropping. ALA is a sponsor of the Let’s Encrypt initiative which provides free and easy to install certificates for HTTPS websites.
  • Negotiating contracts with ISPs that forbid the collection of browser history and other activity data of Internet users in the library.
  • Providing anonymous Internet access in library using the Tor browser or similar technologies.
  • Teaching users to protect themselves from online surveillance by using technologies such as public proxies, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) services, and anonymity networks such as Tor, as well as educating and encouraging patrons to exercise their ability to opt-out of behavioral tracking, adopt do-not-track tools, and employ encryption technologies. San Jose Public Library’s Virtual Privacy Lab provides one model for providing patrons with the information they need to protect their privacy.

For those who are interested in learning more about these tools and tactics, the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the IFC Privacy Subcommittee are sponsoring a webinar on Practical Privacy Practices for Choose Privacy Week on Thursday, April 13 at 2:00 PM Eastern/1:00 PM Central/12 Noon Mountain/11:00 AM Pacific. The webinar will provide information on how to configure and manage your integrated library system to preserve patron privacy, how to install free HTTPS certificates on your websites using the Let’s Encrypt services, and how to provide anonymous web browsing using TOR and other tools.

Finally, advocacy on behalf of data privacy, transparency, and customer choice is always an option. Minnesota and Illinois have already introduced legislation that would require ISPs providing services in those states to abide by a set of rules comparable to the FCC privacy rules repealed by Congress. While the FCC may be barred from adopting new privacy rules, Congress itself can propose and adopt a privacy regime that will protect individuals’ data. Librarians and patrons alike can let their elected officials know that they support laws that protect individuals’ online privacy.

The post How libraries can respond to the repeal of the FCC privacy rules appeared first on District Dispatch.


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