In de (goede en nuttige!) sessie van de VNG over de WOO op Overheid360 eerder deze maand, werden de aanwezigen meerdere vragen gesteld. De laatste, wanneer je denkt dat de implementatie van de WOO afgerond zal zijn, leverde bovenstaande foto op.

Ik kan er nog steeds niet helemaal over uit. Het probleem van de WOO is overduidelijk dat het daarin genoemde ‘op orde krijgen van de informatiehuishouding’ tot meer werk leidt dan een overheidsorganisatie zegt aan te kunnen en budget voor te hebben (of bereid is prioriteit aan te geven).

Iedereen in de zaal zei, volgens deze foto, niet aan de wet te gaan of kunnen voldoen. Niemand zei over 5 jaren de boel op orde te hebben, de termijn die in de wet genoemd is. Twee van de 34 (6%) dachten het over 8 jaar voor elkaar te hebben, en die werden als enorme optimisten betiteld. De anderen dachten dat het tot 2030 (56%) zou duren, of nooit afkomt (38%).

De WOO krijgt het verwijt extra werk te veroorzaken. Je informatiehuishouding op orde hebben, wie eist dat nou, zo lijkt de gedachte. De WOO in huidige vorm is echter al een compromis. De eerste versie werd als onhaalbaar afgedaan, en in de nieuwe versie geeft de wetgever overheidsinstellingen vijf jaar de tijd, en de verplichting te laten zien dat je ook je best doet om in die vijf jaar een inhaalslag te maken. De 2e WOO is al een herkansing. En niet eens een tweede kans, maar de derde.

Veertig jaar geleden, 1980, werd de WOB van kracht, die openbaarheid regelt. Sinds die tijd is er vrijwel niets gedaan om openbaarheid als grondbeginsel in de informatiehuishouding op te nemen. Nog altijd wordt een WOB verzoek als lastig ervaren, want dan moet je zo zoeken waar je je spullen hebt. Omdat je je informatiehuishouding nooit hebt aangepast om openbaarheidsverzoeken snel te kunnen afhandelen. In Noorwegen krijg je per kerende post je gevraagde informatie, maar hier is een WOB verzoek (en elk verzoek om documenten, in welke vorm dan ook, is een WOB verzoek, ook dat besef is er na 40 jaren nog altijd niet) altijd extra werk, naast je gewone taken. Alsof openbaarmaking niet een wettelijke taak is. Dat heeft altijd al tot gekrakeel geleid, en de wetgever heeft de overheidsinstellingen voor die krampscheuten uitsluitend beloond (zoals het verwijderen van dwangmiddelen, anders dan de rechtsgang).

Nu verplichte actieve openbaarmaking dichterbij komt wordt nog veel zichtbaarder dat de informatiehuishouding daar niet op ingericht is. Dat was deze namelijk voor de passieve openbaarmaking van de WOB al niet. Enige tijd geleden kwam ik nog een hoofd bedrijfsinformatie bij een overheidsinstelling tegen die me vroeg “dus jij zegt dat openbaarheid wettelijk is omschreven?”. Ja dat zei ik. En wel al veel langer dan iedereen in die sessie waar ik bovenstaande foto maakte bij de overheid werkt.

Er zijn diverse zaken die al lang verplicht zijn om actief openbaar te maken (denk aan besluiten, vergunningen etc.), en dat lukt. Er is dus niet echt reden aan te nemen dat het voor een lijst van anderen zaken, zoals de WOO opnoemt, in vijf jaren niet ook zou kunnen.

Uit de slide bovenaan blijkt dat men al heeft opgegeven voordat de WOO er nog maar is.
Het is kennelijk een erg radicaal idee om een algemene openbaarheids- en data/informatie-strategie op te stellen die ook belooft de implementatie van de WOO netjes op tijd af te ronden. Een aanpak waarbij je actieve openbaarmaking als kans ziet. Als een instrument waarmee je het gedrag van allerlei externe betrokkenen kunt beïnvloeden. Zoals je nu financiering (subsidies) en regelgeving inzet om gedrag te beïnvloeden, is openbaarmaking een derde beleidsinstrument. En wel de goedkoopste van de drie.

Mij doet het allemaal denken aan het onderstaande plaatje dat in al mijn vroegere kennismanagement- en veranderprojecten wel van toepassing was. “We hebben geen tijd voor fundamentele aanpassingen, want we zijn al zo druk met ons normale werk en brandjes blussen”.

Too Busy To Improve - Performance Management - Square Wheels
Alan O’Rourke, license CC-BY

Elizabeth Renieris and Dazza Greenwood give different words to my previously expressed concerns about the narrative frame of personal ownership of data and selling it as a tool to counteract the data krakens like Facebook. The key difference is in tying it to different regulatory frameworks, and when each of those comes into play. Property law versus human rights law.

I feel the human rights angle also will serve us better in coming to terms with the geopolitical character of data (and one that the EU is baking into its geopolitical proposition concerning data). In the final paragraph they point to the ‘basic social compact’ that needs explicit support. That I connect to my notion of how so much personal data is also more like communal data, not immediately created or left by me as an individual, but the traces I leave acting in public. At Techfestival Aza Raskin pointed to fiduciary roles for those holding data on those publicly left personal data traces, and Martin von Haller mentioned how those personal data traces also can serve communal purposes and create communal value, placing it in yet another legal setting (that of weighing privacy versus public interest)

Read Do we really want to “sell” ourselves? The risks of a property law paradigm for personal data ownership. (Medium)

….viewing this data as property that is capable of being bought, sold, and owned by others is in large part how we ended up with a broken internet funded by advertising — or the “ad tech model” of the Internet. A property law-based, ownership model of our data risks extending this broken ad tech model of the Internet to all other facets of our digital identity and digital lives expressed through data. While new technology solutions are emerging to address the use of our data online, the threat is not solved with technology alone. Rather, it is time for our attitudes and legal frameworks to catch up. The basic social compact should be explicitly supported and reflected by our business models, legal frameworks and technology architectures, not silently eroded and replaced by them.

Last week I attended Techfestival in Copenhagen. I participated in a day long Public Data Summit. This posting are thoughts and notes based on some of what was discussed during that Public Data Summit.

Techfestival.co Public Data SummitGroup work at the Public Data Summit

Martin von Haller Groenbaek (we go back in open data a long time) provided an interesting lightning talk at the start of the Public Data Summit. He posited that in order to realise the full potential of open (government) data, we probably need to be more relaxed in sharing personal data as well.

There is a case to be made, I agree. In energy transition for instance your (real time) personal electricity use is likely key information. The aggregated yearly usage of you and at least 10 neighbours e.g. the Dutch electricity networks make available is not useless by far, but lacks the granularity, the direct connection to real people’s daily lives to be truly valuable for anything of practical use.

I agree with the notion that more person related data needs to come into play. Martin talked about it in terms of balancing priority, if you want to fix climate change, or another key societal issue, personal data protection can’t be absolute.

Now this sounds a bit like “we need your personal data to fight terrorism” which then gets translated “give me your fingerprints or your safety and security is compromised”, yet that is both an edge case and an example of the types of discussions needed to find the balancing point, to avoid false dilemma’s or better yet prevent reductionism towards ineffective simplicity (such as is the case with terrorism, where all sense of proportionality is abandoned). The balancing point is where the sweet spot of addressing the right level of complexity is. In the case of terrorism the personal data sharing discussion is framed as “you’re either with us, or with the terrorists” to quote Bush jr., a framing in absolutes and inviting a cascade of scope creep.

To me this is a valuable discussion to be had, to determine when and where sharing your personal data is a useful contribution to the common good or even should be part of a public good. Currently that ‘for the common good’ part is not in play mostly. We’re leaking personal data all over the tech platforms we use, without much awareness of its extend or how it is being used. We do know these data are not being used for the common good as it’s in no-one’s business model. This public good / common good thinking was central to our group work in the Public Data Summit during the rest of the day too.

Martin mentioned the GDPR as a good thing, certainly for his business as a lawyer, but also as a problematic one. Specifically he criticised the notion of owning personal data, and being able to trade it as a commodity based on that ownership. I agree, for multiple reasons. One being that a huge amount of our personal data is not directly created or held by me, as it is data about behavioural patterns, like where my phone has been, where I used my debit card, the things I click, the time I spent on pages, the thumbprint of my specific browser and plugins setup etc. The footsteps we leave on a trail in the forest aren’t personal data, but our digital footsteps are, because the traces can, due to the persistence of those tracks, more easily than in the woods be followed back to their source as well as can get compared to other tracks you leave behind.

Currently those footsteps in the digital woods are contractualised away into the possession of private owners of the woods we walk in, i.e. the tech platforms. But there’s a strong communal aspect to your and my digital footsteps as personal data. We need to determine how we can use that collectively, and how to govern that use. Talking about the ownership of data, especially the data we create by being out in the (semi) public sphere (e.g. tech platforms) and the ability to trade for it (like Solid suggests), has 2 effects: it bakes in the acceptance that me allowing FB to work with my data is a contract between equal parties (GDPR rightly tries to address this assymmetry). Aza Raskin in his keynote mentioned this too, saying tech platforms should be more seen and regulated as fiduciaries, to acknowledge the power asymmetry. And it takes the communal part of what we might do with data completely out of the equation. I can easily imagine when and where I’d be ok with my neighbours, my local government, a local NGO, or specific topical/sectoral communities etc. having access to using data about me. Where that same use by FB et al would not be ok at all under any circumstance.

In the intro’s to the public data summit civil society however was very much absent, there was talk about government and their data, and how it needed the private sector to do something valuable with it. Where to me open (e-)government, and opening data is very much about allowing the emergence and co-creation of novel public services by government/governance working together with citizens. Things we maybe not now regard as part of public institutions, structures or the role of government, but that in our digitised world very well could, or even should, be.

Amexus is organising a conference on digitisation in the energy sector, and more specifically in the energy transition. Earlier this week I was interviewed at home about the role of open data in energy transition and my work with Dutch provinces on this topic.

The video, in German, has already been made available.

Today my old friend Max interviewed me in our garden. We discussed the role of digitisation in general, and of open data in particular, for the energy transition. This in preparation for the energie.digital conference I will be speaking at in Germany next month. It was a good rehearsal as well, as I will be speaking in German, and I need to work on my German language jargon 🙂

Heute hat mein alter Freund Max in unserem Garten ein Video-Interview mit mir gemacht. Im September werde ich auf der von seiner Firma organisierten Konferenz energie.digital sprechen über Open Data, und wie offene Daten eine Rolle spielen in der Energiewende.

20190806_152457 20190806_151816
Max setting up his equipment, and borrowing some more equipment from Elmine, my in house video professional

The Austrian Open Knowledge Chapter is dissolving itself (link in German), a decision already made at a general assembly in December 2018. Judging by the website activities had petered out in recent years, the blog falling silent at the end of 2017.

Austria over the years has been an active country concerning open government data and open knowledge in general. Specifically I see the Austrian open data community as a globally relevant good practice example, one that I still regularly refer to. Already in 2010, when I spoke at an open data meet-up in Graz, and in subsequent years presenting at OGD Austria conferences and various other events, what stood out to me was the broad scope the Austrian open data community had. Academia, activists, the federal chancellery, state governments, city governments, start-ups, technologists and traditional re-users were all around the same table. Informal get-togethers and resulting relations formed a basis on which more formal structures and cooperative initiatives could grow. I think such a solid community fundament is the key reason Austria was able to achieve a lot on open data in the absence of any legal framework to actively stimulate it, moreover with a constitution that enshrines civil service secrecy.

For a few years I was quite well informed about the Austrian efforts, through regular visits, and regular calls between German speaking community leaders from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and me as the odd one out. Over time my connection grew more distant however.

With Open Knowledge Austria ceasing to exist, a chapter ends. I suspect the community substrate on which it could exist will endure, even if events, individual members lives and contexts are always in flux around us. It is laudable that OK Austria is actively deciding to dissolve. Organisations all too easily stumble into the pitfall that continued existence becomes the organisation’s primary goal. By dissolving, as Stefan Kasberger, OK Austria’s chair, wrote, one releases its hold on specific topics and niches in an ecosystem, and it becomes possible for new things to emerge over time.

Linz, OGD Austria
At the 2012 OGD Austria conference in Linz, a wall at the venue carried the text, near the floor obviously, “Above starts down below”. It seemed a good description of how the Austrian open data efforts were based on solid bottom-up community building to me at the time.