Civic activists and local authorities collaborate on open data in Kherson

Kherson, 26 August 2015 - Civic activists from around Ukraine gathered at the First Kherson Region Open Data Forum to present and discuss the modern ways of making information and computer technologies beneficial for cities on the example of Kherson, in particular possibilities that open data brings to communities.

ODF-Kherson-33The Forum was held by Kherson Region Charitable Foundation "Obiednannya" the leader of which – Yuriy Antoshchuk - was a participant of the innovative UNDP school OpenIdeas4UA in 2012. Yuriy told that Kherson uses digital technology actively enough for visualization of open data. "It all started in late 2013, when the member of the City Council Ihor Kozakov and I launched the map of Kherson region, where we were marking the cost of repairing for gutters, roofs, elevators, etc. during several years. First supporting the map by our own efforts, we were able to attract attention of Google to start Digital Transformation Program for Kherson oblast in order to increase its investment attractiveness. Open governance is its important component."

Opening the Forum, the Mayor of Kherson Volodymyr Mykolaienko indicated the effectiveness of the Open Budget project which had been initially supported by UNDP's Democratization and Human Rights Programme in Ukraine (DHRP) and was implemented by the Centre of Political Studies and Analysis. "The most of our attention during the Forum would go to the open budget issue," told Mr. Mykolayenko. "It is important for all the participants and the city in general, and must bring definite benefits for the citizens of Kherson."
20150827In his turn, Deputy Mayor Viktor Ivanushkin when presenting the open budget of Kherson pointed out: "By getting information of the city's expenses and incomes, citizens will be able to perform oversight and control, and influence the decision-making by the means of modern technologies." The City Council official told the participants of the Forum where to find and how to process the data available in the public domain. For the moment, it is possible to obtain information on the expenditure of budgetary funds, land issues, adoption of certain regulations. Other on-line services based on google maps help citizens get information on the property and local parliament's representatives within the city. They were developed based on the data provided by the Kherson city authorities.

To put Ukrainian case in the broader international context, DHRP expert on Good Governance and Civil Society Diana Zubko presented the latest legal changes in Ukraine in line with the best world practices. "The major owners and managers of open data in different countries are their authorities, including local authorities. They are increasingly coming to the conclusion that it is necessary to provide access to data for the citizens in different countries around the globe, and finally in Ukraine," mentioned Ms. Zubko in her presentation, highlighting that open data make democracy stronger, improve transparency, and boost innovations, when citizens and officials unite their actions.

ODF-Kherson-4While the disclosure of public information in open data formats is going to become obligatory for governmental authorities, according to a number of Laws of Ukraine dated 2015, local authorities often decide on their current level of engagement due to the public request. Being one of the most active NGOs in Kherson oblast, CF "Objednannya" has been raising awareness of both the supply and demand sides of open data in Kherson, namely that of Kherson City Council and of civil society activists. What remained clear after questions and answers sessions and even after the Forum's conclusion was the need to conduct both conceptual and practical workshop on open data, personal privacy, and their application on the local level.
"We see that people have little understanding about open data, and so we decided to organize the First Regional Open Data Forum, in which experts in the field can share their experience and show what has been done in Ukraine so far," said Yuriy Antoshchuk. "The next step would be to conduct a series of master-classes on how map-making and data visualization could be used to control our cities."