Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

YDS Report Summary

Project ID: 645886
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - YDS (Your Data Stories)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2016-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The revolution in information technology over the last years has proven its ability to process huge amounts of data and made evident that big data can change the world. Open Government Data (OGD), from being an obscure possibility just recently, is spreading across the globe at a phenomenal rate, delivering the promise to spur innovation, to deliver better services for less money, to improve planning, to increase transparency, and to reduce corruption. In this context, YourDataStories (YDS) envisions to bring this promise closer to reality, through a highly customizable online platform for data exploitation focused in the financial flows that are critical for transparency, collaboration and participation. Users, ranging from governmental bodies to journalists and to citizens, will be facilitated by powerful and established tools, not only to discover relevant information but also to remix it with diverse and dynamic data sources: YDS acts like an interactive canvas to enable data citizens to (re)write their own data history. In addition, YDS aims to bring open data in social computing, by adding a third social dimension to the data, by making semantically linked open data visible and usable in popular social media platforms, where the data can been seen, used, linked, and augmented by millions of users in order to become part of their user stories.

Both the platform and the applications that will be built in the context of YDS will concentrate on covering real user needs, focusing on the needs of governmental bodies such as ministries and information communicators, such as journalists. In addition, YDS applications and pilots aim specific challenges on the corruption-fighting agenda, focusing in preventing corruption on construction works through following public money with many ways. Our starting point is what is already available, ready to be used and exploitable: a) A large number of economic-related datasets of open governmental data, b) ways to encode and describe these data in a way that increases their machine-processability, i.e. through semantic frameworks like RDF or OWL ontologies, and c) ways to combine semantically annotated data, describe and re-use the combined outcome.

In YourDataStories direct data consumption can be through customizable visualizations and statistics, personalized service provision and third-party applications, represented by the “Visual Analytics and Statistics”, “Personalised Application Module”, “Service Market Place”, and “Users Feedback Mechanisms” components. The “Access Control & Identity Management System” component concludes the platform, by providing the needed software stack for performing user control and conditional access to the provided data and services.

The advantages of the YourDataStories platform and applications lie along three main axes: transparency, collaboration, and participation. Transparency is related to users, who can now access data more easily, in a structured way and through a single end-point, or enhance their awareness for public spending through the advanced visual analytics and monitoring tools that will be offered by YourDataStories. Collaboration enables users to exploit the platform, the insights, the provided data, and the community support in order to build their own application, re-purpose and re-connect the data in new ways that tell their “story”, and why not, market these applications if the told story is interesting for other users. Finally, YourDataStories aims to foster participation, by enabling users to state their needs, pose their questions and queries, in order to receive personalised services that provide answers retrieved from open data. YourDataStories aims to support sustainable services, supported by a marketing ecosystem of applications offering cross-border services of public finance flows across Europe.

The YDS will be piloted and validated in three different usage scenarios:

Follow Public Money: The first pilot aims to advance fiscal transparency and participation through the intelligent and personalized re-purposing from citizens and businesses of large volumes of publicly available data. Our effort builds on the multi-fold open dataset provided from the Greek Transparency Program Initiative (GTPI) and other public data sources such as the portal of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF). The objective of Pilot 1 is to help mainly the public, but also journalists and other stakeholders, to see what is happening with public money. The Pilot is aiming at helping find necessary data and make sense of it, so as to hold governments responsible for the money they earn and spend in the name of the public. The focus will be on money spent on public infrastructure (i.e. big contraction projects in Greece).

Tracking Development Aid in the Netherlands: The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting many development projects across a broad range of countries, but has recently announced that it will cut Dutch Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 50% from 2015. The Ministry also decided that at the same time it would be keen to support new projects that provide a RΟΙ for the Dutch economy and work with particularly innovative methods. Accordingly, Dutch as well as local development NGOs are protesting. They argue that crucial humanitarian projects will come to a premature end, thus invalidating experiences and efforts built up over long time periods. This debate has attracted the attention of a team of Dutch journalists. Aim of the use case is to increase the transparency of public spending through data-driven journalism.

Cross-Europe Financial Comparability: This pilot will focus on the comparability of financial data across EU member-states, specifically looking at Ireland and Greece. Financial data from the Greek ‘Follow Public Money’ pilot will be compared with budget and spending data from the Irish national and local government, with a particular focus on construction and road infrastructure projects. Issues reported by the public via FixMyStreet.ie will also be incorporated into the data stream.

Contractors involved

1 Athens Technology Center SA (ATC), GR
2 National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos” (NCSR-D), GR
3 TENFORCE BVBA (TF), BE
4 Deutsche Welle (DW), GE
5 National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), IR
6 Stichting European Journalism Centre (EJC), NL
7 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (D/PER), IR
8 Hellenic Ministry of Administrative Reform and E-governance (MAREG), GR
9 Greek Free / Open Source Software Society (GFOSS, GR

Coordinator contact Details

Company name: Athens Technology Center S.A. (ATC)
Address: Rizariou 10, Halandri 15233 Greece
Tel: +30 210 6874300, Fax: +30 210 6855564

Coordinator name: Ms. Anna Triantafillou (e-mail: a.triantafillou@atc.gr)

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The YDS project officially started on 1st February 2015. The first reporting period covers the period from 1st February 2015 and ends at 31st January 2015. These dates in project months correspond to M1 to M12 inclusive, respectively. This first reporting period has crystallised the project approach and has demonstrated the initial value of the YDS approach by setting a first version of the YDS platform and tools. Overall and as contractually foreseen in the first reporting period, the project managed to:

• Gather contributions from actual users during the requirements elicitation phase. Engaged all potential user groups (public bodies officers, representatives of NGOs, auditing bodies, businesses and institutions focusing on the contractions and energy business domains, representatives from Government, civil society and journalists as well as developers) in the user requirements survey in order to disclose various opinions and views on YDS. As such, a unified approach in the collection of the stakeholders’ opinions has been followed, using a mix of various tools in order to collect data from various target groups with different backgrounds and from different localities.

• Complete the requirements elicitation phase utilising a range of instruments to gather data from the potential end users. Overall, nine (9) focus groups have been organised with the participation of more than 110 people that provided feedback (through open discussion sessions, definition of use case scenarios and completion of questionnaires) as well as several interviews with selected stakeholders have been contacted. For the identification of user needs, the user perspectives have been taken into account and result in: 1) User requirements (the point of view of end users), Functional requirements (what the users want the system to do), 3) Non-functional requirements (restrictions on the types of solutions to meet the functional requirements)

• Define the technical specs and system architecture based on the user requirements that have been translated into technical specifications for the YDS system and related components. Also the architectural and implementation aspects for the delivery of the YDS platform have been defined taking into account the full range of requirements for such service.

• Produce a Data Management Plan (DMP), which outlines the handling of the data sources at the different project stages based on H2020 guidelines. The DMP covers how data will be handled within a project frame, during the research and development phase but also details the intentions for the archiving and availability of the data once the project has been completed.

• Define a framework to address the Legal and Ethical aspects of the project; the study analyses the relevant legal framework on open data applications, as well as highlights the applying opportunities and constraints in order to transform the YDS platform into a normative space of information justice in a relevant and responsible manner.

• Develop a semantic data model & data source assessment methodology putting the basis for choosing viable data sources and building sustainable data harvesting, alignment and validation pipelines for public projects in Greece, official development assistance of the Dutch government throughout the world, and public procurement information in Ireland.

• Successfully preview an initial version of the platform prototype in January 2016 and collect user comments; producing iterative versions until the launch of the beta version due end of this year.

• Define the methodological framework to be put in place regarding the pilots operation, the project evaluation and the success indicators to be used to validate project results.

• Conduct several dissemination activities to create awareness about YDS.

• Conduct a competitive market analysis of already existing concepts, systems and components relevant to YDS and identified market gaps and the YDS Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

More specifically, a brief progress overview per work-package of the first reporting period is presented below:

WP1 Project Coordination: The management tasks were focused in the smooth operation of the consortium for bringing about the project's objectives. This included effort put on the smooth collaboration and communication of partners as well as the drafting and execution of alternative plans in cases where the unexpected difficulties were presented and for which the risk mitigation plans did not suffice. The main achievements include: i) the successful completion the project’s first year and achievement of all relevant project milestones; ii) the continuous monitoring and adaptation of the plan for eventually implementing the objectives, iii) the generation and delivery of all project deliverables in time, iv) the maintenance of good collaboration between project partners through the establishment of continuous communication links and the completion of a number of project meetings. vi) the tackling of problems that threaten the success of the project.

WP2 Conceptual Architecture, User Needs Analysis & Design: User characteristics and usage scenarios have been identified through targeted feedback exchange with diverse user groups ranging from public institutions, auditors and civil society members to suppliers, journalists and web developers. User propositions have been transformed to requirements and architectural design specifications for a coarse-grained collection of technical components. Legal and ethical issues address the close relationship between FOIAs and PSI/OD policies as a legal continuum in the digital realm, and highlight the main limitations into the YDS subject matter. The outcome is total of eight (8) deliverables: User Characteristics & Usage Scenarios (D2.1, D2.2), User Requirements (D2.3, D2.4), Technical Specifications and Architecture (D2.5, D2.6), Data Management Plan (D2.7), Legal requirements and ethical issues (D2.9).

WP3 Data Layer: The primary focus of WP3 is the gathering of data, their management, their storage, and their availability to other components of YDS through suitable programming interfaces and services. In year one, WP3 has followed the user needs and requirements defined for the three pilot scenarios to ensure a sound and complete data model and an information rich, accessible, and reliable data layer. The outcome is a total of four (4) deliverables: i) Data Source Assessment Methodology v1.0 (D3.1), ii) Data Model v1.0 (D3.3), iii) Data Harvesters v1.0 (D3.6), iv) Open Data Repository v1.0 (D3.9).
The developed semantic data model, the data source assessment methodology and the WP2 data management plans served as a basis for choosing viable data sources and building sustainable data harvesting, alignment and validation pipelines for public projects in Greece, official development assistance of the Dutch government throughout the world, and public procurement information in Ireland. The data selected and collected through each of the pilots helped us gain better insight into the domain of economic data and extend the YDS model further. Moreover, the data was stored and made available to external users and internal components via the Open Data Repository, providing data access through two separate channels, SPARQL and a standardized, JSON API compliant REST interface, for experienced linked data users and non-experts, respectively. The user-facing micro-service architecture of the repository was built with extensibility in mind, allowing us to easily enrich it with additional services and features in the future.

WP4 Customisation of Platform Modules: During the first year work in WP4 concentrated on three axes: a) study the state-of-art to identify existing technologies and best practices, b) design and development of the first version of platform components, and c) design and development of the first version of applications that support a large percentage of the user requirements, as they have been identified during the first year of YDS. The main results achieved include a state-of-the art analysis (D4.1, D4.2), the first version of components (D4.3), and the first version of applications (D4.6), both essential elements of the 1st integrated prototype delivered by WP5.

WP5 YDS Platform Integration: This WP officially started in M7 and runs until the end of the project. The main activities performed include the collection and the analysis of the technical information of the modules that will be integrated into the YDS platform and the production of an internal deployment integration plan (D5.1). Also a first version of the YDS platform has been implemented (D5.2). The platform integrates the initial version of the modules and content delivered from the other technical WPs. Finally, the methods and measures that will be used for the platform testing have been defined (D5.5).

WP6 Pilots Deployment and Evaluation initiated end-user relations right from the start of the YDS project. In the process, WP6 collected user requirements in a number of focus groups and interviews with members of the YDS target group, provided input to various deliverables, and drew on end-user representatives to generate early feedback during the early development of the user interface. In parallel, the methodology for user evaluations was developed and the deployment of the prototypes to the pilot user groups was prepared and planned.

For WP7 Dissemination and Exploitation the following work has been done during the first period:

• An engagement and communication strategy has been developed and fine-tuned for the project, covering all important aspects from defining suitable target audiences to how to best address these audiences via online and offline communication. It also sets standards for dissemination activities and materials in form of a slim design guide. The strategy has initially been described in the deliverable D7.1 (and fine-tuned in D7.3) and has found its realization in several dissemination items and activities. Creating the communication strategy was accompanied by a thorough market research and analysis (D7.2) covering the possible market value that will allow the YDS platform to position itself in the spectrum of current technologies.

• In particular a project blog has been set up (www.yourdatastories.eu), covering project news and general topics around the project’s work. This has been accompanied by a dissemination infrastructure consisting of several social media channels, ranging from a YDS-Twitter account to a LinkedIn-Page, a YouTube-Channel as well as some IFTTT, Gmail/GDrive- workflows. This all served to grow an audience interested in YourDataStories’ work and results. Furthermore a set of offline dissemination materials has been created – a project poster as well as handout flyers – usable for offline dissemination events.

• Dissemination activities have been carried out throughout the first year, including a handful of real-world representations of YDS in Greece, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Germany as well as continuous online representation of the project through the aforementioned channels.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

YourDataStories brings an innovative solution whose innovation potential spreads across many directions, from leveraging best practices and proven technologies across Europe, to exploiting the social Web for accessing citizens, and to supporting sustainable public services across borders.

a) Connecting Linked Data to Web UIs and Web Analytics
While there are several existing solutions and infrastructure for data analytics, mainly oriented towards the analysis of tabular data (such as spreadsheet or CSV files), the integration of analytics solutions with linked data is still a challenging task. There are several reasons for this lack of interoperability between linked data and existing analytics solutions, including representation issues and inability to exploit the full potential of linked data. Regarding representation, we think that there is a gap between linked data (where graph representations like RDF are dominant) and Web-based analytics platforms (where hierarchies of “nested objects” in JSON are dominant), which is also evident by the absence of middleware infrastructures that bridge these two “worlds”. YDS has the opportunity to develop such a middleware infrastructure, with. The potential impact of such an effort depending on many factors, including its adaptability and applicability to data models beyond the YDS model. During the second year of the project, an additional interface will be provided to the YDS data through a recent W3C standard, JSON-LD, which is an alternative lightweight linked data format, aiming to exploit the suitability of JSON-LD as a mean to bridge the gap between linked data and Web applications that consume data in JSON. Beyond representation, existing Analytics solutions do not seem to exploit the enriched contextual information offered by linked data and their highly structured provided information, since existing solutions target mostly datasets in isolation (not linked). In YDS we will explore this dimension, by trying to incorporate the contextual information that is available in linked data through the Analytics support that will be offered by the YDS components and platform.

b) Transferring good practices and existing expertise across Europe
In 2010, the Hellenic Ministry of Administrative Reform and E-governance (MAREG) initiated the Greek Transparency Program Initiative (GTPI) and developed in-house the Transparency portal as a low budget project. From its inception its principles were based on the hypothesis that the provision of open data by default that are timely, comprehensive, accurate and useable by all will promote transparency, improved governance and innovation. It is exactly the same approach and ambition that it is embraced nowadays by most cities and countries around the world (see for instance G8’s Policy Paper) [1]. GTPI has transformed the provision of public services in Greece and redefined the state-citizen relationship by providing an intermediate objective layer of information. The almost 30.000 public servants that operate GTPI everyday are the strongest driver of change in the Greek public sector, since they do not only apply open government in action, but they diffuse their open-(data) minded and citizen-centric expertise across the whole spectrum helping their country to overcome the crisis. On the other hand, because of the fact that GTPI is growing so fast in unprecedented grounds in technological and organizational terms, it is suffering of problems that originate from the complexity and the vast quantity of the uploaded information. This is the point where civic society and the research community (mainly the Public Spending project) contributed substantially in the transformation of GTPI into a more structured and interactive system. In June 2014, MAREG launched the updated Transparency Portal, which is a common effort and addresses the propositions of the Public Spending community. In this context, YourDataStories can be viewed as a way to transfer the existing expertise from GTPI to European level and to orchestrate it with the rest of the relevant initiatives (e.g. EU Data Portal, EU Core vocabularies etc.) in order to transform governments and governance in Europe.

c) Benefiting from the Social Web: A bidirectional channel between Social and Semantic Web
YDS aims to exploit and embed in this effort the benefits of the social Web. The Semantic to Social interplay is achieved by remixing auto-generated or/and semantically structured content to the social media. Posted content (data streams) can be tracked (e.g. number of re-tweets, sentiment analysis) and evaluated in order to provide feedback to the original semantic content. The Social to Semantic interaction aspect refers in enriching social media content with semantic elements and interlinking to relevant information in order to provide feedback to the user. For instance, a user uploads a photo to report a problem in a public work and YourDataStories, based on geo-location, identifies the relevant economic information. The uploaded photo and comments are interconnected to the original information (e.g. the contracting authority of the work) and can be further re-mixed according to the Semantic to Social approach. The overall concept and approach is elastic and scalable to other domains apart from economic data. For instance, it can be augmented to include open data from Europeana, EUR-Lex etc. YDS aims to provide an easy way for every citizen to create or/and follow the thread of its own data stories in economy-related issues.

d) Sustainable services for the public
As governments and cities struggle to meet the demand for improvement in the delivery of public services, while facing the prospect of ever-diminishing resources, the concept of collaboration and co-creation offers a potential solution towards delivering sustainable long-term benefits for citizens and service users. Because the public sector is highly complex and dominated by numerous actors and interests, it makes sense for these stakeholders to develop solutions together. While projects such as FP7's Cockpit (Citizens Collaboration & Co-creation in Public Service Delivery) makes inroads into this domain by using web 2.0 to data mine citizen opinions, YourDataStories goes one step further by fully unlocking the innovative potential of service developers & businesses by equipping them with enhanced open data and tools they need to generate their own public services.

e) Public services across borders
Further to the above, YDS understands a key to strengthening a European innovation economy is to create an effective channel for the discovery and use of services across national borders. YDS will implement pilot scenarios enabling cross-border services aiming to help advance transparency and participation in the Public Sector through the deployment of open public finance flows across Europe. The cross-border services are a key priority of the flagship Digital agenda for Europe [2]. To date, however, current efforts have failed to provide a solution for cross-border services that are specifically powered by open data and social media data with main focus in economy - related activities. YDS aims to make a step further by creating an international network that provides service developers & businesses (SMEs) with instant access to a pan-European marketplace for their products and services.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/open-data-charter/g8-open-data-charter-and-technical-annex
[2] http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/simple-procedures-online-cross-border-services-%E2%80%93-digital-barriers-taken-down-0

Related information

Record Number: 186660 / Last updated on: 2016-07-14
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