We are excited and proud to be writing to you today of the next evolution of the open data movement in Hong Kong. You may notice a new name and new look, as Open Data Hong Kong (ODHK) moves to expand its remit to tackle data driven civic engagement.
ODHK and AccessInfo.hk are joining forces to create CivicSight, with a vision to expand the civic space in Hong Kong through data and transparency. CivicSight brings together talent and tech platforms to equip the civil society with the access and tools they need to shape their future. We envision an open, free and thriving Hong Kong in which the public is empowered with knowledge, platform and information they need to be the changes they want to see.
Since 2013, ODHK has created a community of data enthusiasts. Together we have harnessed the power of open data to make Hong Kong a better place to live, work, study and do business in, one change at a time. Our outreach has engaged 1000+ data professionals and members of the public to get them excited about the power of open data. We have also worked internationally, being a local group in the Open Knowledge Foundation Network.
AccessInfo HK has been an important platform in Hong Kong’s open data movement. Since 2015, this “smart request” system has made it easy for anyone to exercise their right under the Code of Access to Information to ask for and access information held by the Hong Kong government. All past inquiries and responses are also published on AccessInfo HK.
We want to take this opportunity to thank you for changing the landscape of open data in Hong Kong. As you know, there are no legal requirements for the government in Hong Kong to preserve public data. However, together we have taken actions to break down silos that have prevented the free flow of information between the government departments and the people they serve.
How can we make data work harder for us?
Over the years our communities grew across the spectrum and the requests became more sophisticated. We realise opening up public data is only step one – it’s time to turn data into actionable insights capable of driving real changes. We believe, now more than ever, open data are essential for transparency and public accountability. Access to reliable and open data enables individuals and societies to innovate.
The bedrock of a civil society is an informed public. By joining two of the most data driven communities in Hong Kong, we want to build a platform to bridge the gap between data and actionable insight for the stakeholders of our city. Moving from our early focus on meetups, hackathons and open data outreach and education, in more recent years you may have seen our more applied and hands-on approach to drive systematic policy change. Through carrying academic research and publishing academic papers (see our paper in the Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia on research data policy and practice), publishing OpEds in the local media to inform public opinion, driving UN advocacy through civil society coalitions, gathering open data to back up NGO policy projects, and providing detailed expert input on government consultations. This new, more applied and hands-on approach to open data is now where the organisation is going, and so it was time to update the name to reflect this broader mandate.
Meeting of two minds: CivicSight
With ODHK and AccessInfo HK taking the step to merge and create CivicSight, the new combined platform endeavours to empower and inform the stakeholders of Hong Kong with the knowledge, tools and information they need in civic participation.
We believe that data, research, and policy analysis are essential for transparency and accountability.
To improve governance and support the public in shaping their future, CivicSight equips researchers, advocates, and the broader civil society with access to reliable information and data, original research, and policy analysis.
We envision a civic space that enables every stakeholder to make informed decisions based on data, lead the changes they want to see in society, and get real results with the help of technology and expertise of our diverse contributors.
In addition to our current resources in Hong Kong, CivicSight is housed by the Leitner Center within Fordham University School of Law in New York, where CivicSight is now registered as a Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.