Opendata.ch is the Swiss chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. In September they will be co-hosting OKCon 2013 in Geneva. Hannes Gassert, vicepresident of Opendata.ch, has agreed to introduce the Swiss Open Data community and what they have been doing so far
Switzerland is a place known for secrecy, not for openness. Our banks are discreet, privacy is paramount, and the recipes for our cheese we’ll never tell. On the other hand, there’s our cherished direct democracy, our most participatory political culture. And both ideas have roots going back centuries.
Our challenge today: how do we translate our system for a networked world, where transparency is so powerful and where mechanisms of participation are accelerated many fold. That’s where OKF Switzerland comes in.
Founded as Opendata.ch in 2011, a group of experienced activists started out on a journey that is about to bring them to the center of the OKF network this fall: bringing the global Open Knowledge Conference to Geneva in September will be a major milestone for all of us.
Looking back, what the group has achieved so far was pretty Swiss indeed: five two-day hackathons, each taking place in one German- and one French-speaking city, each attracting 100+ developers, designers, policy makers and subject matter experts. And, as the Swiss love innovative graphic design, the design schools ZHdK and HEAD were more than happy to host them, as were the EPF Lausanne or the University of Berne. Each of those make.opendata.ch events had a specific topic: from transportation to health to finance and so on.
They freed the real-time railways API. They ventured into budget visualizations, comparative analysis of hospitals, built an Arduino signal light to tell you when to run for the bus, 3d-printed statistics into earrings and started international collaborations all the way to San Francisco. Participation was amazing, and it was a success – people loved it, the press loved it, and there will be more.
In parallel politics had to be dealt with: classic campaigning and lobbying in the Federal Palace, one-to-one discussions with lawmakers, parliamentary enquiries and alliances in administration had to be conducted in order to achieve a broad support throughout the political spectrum, from left-wing ministers to corporate think-tanks. Laws got changed, rules got adapted and Switzerland itself started to change.
Both in 2011 and 2012 Opendata.ch held conferences with over 200 participants, bringing together the community and also creating links to the global Open Knowledge Foundation: Rufus Pollock and Nigel Shadbolt spoke at the event, and a multitude of academics, civil servants, hackers and makers joined in. During the Opendata.ch Conference in 2012, they signed the agreement to officially join the OKF – and at the very same table the idea to bring the world of Open Knowledge to a special place where world leaders gather was born. Geneva, home of the United Nations, the Red Cross and CERN, where the World Wide Web was invented.
That event is coming closer and closer now – OKCon will take place in Geneva on 16th – 18th September, at Geneva’s International Conference Center. Now that might sound rather “Swiss” – as in expensive and a tad formal, but rest assured: this is going to be an event to remember, a global one that also shows a different kind of Swiss: great fun, truly participatory – and very open indeed.
André and Hannes, Beatrice and Sylvie, Magaly, Antoine, Giorgio, Matthias, Barnaby, Christian, Oleg, Andreas and Jan all are so, so excited to have all of you over and to meet you in person – see you in Geneva!