An open letter to IODC 2016

The International Open Data Conference (IODC) is not only a celebration of open data, but also a place to share experiences, network, and discuss the most crucial issues to our movement. I believe those discussions are important, and they will lead the Open Data movement forward. This is why IODC 16 is so important. It is our place for growth.

There are two weeks left for the call for proposals. Last year, as an action anchor in the track of measurements, I noticed a couple of things that were bugging me. I decided, therefore, to share these with others and to call the IODC steering committee to notice these guidelines for the future sessions.

  1. Let’s try and be gender balanced — Last year only 34% of the speakers at the conference were women. In a movement that calls for social justice, these numbers are just painful to the eye. If we want to promote such causes, we have to start and look at ourselves first. There are many talented women in Open Data that work in many positions. From researchers to government officials, from anti-corruption to Entrepreneurs. Let’s aspire (and commit) to have 50% women speakers this round. It’s 2016; there are no excuses (and here is Tin Geber explaining how it can be solved).
From IODC 2015 in numbers.

2. Let’s try and be more inclusive — This year, the IODC website mentioned that the working language of the conference is English. Last year, when the conference was held in Ottawa, the whole web site infrastructure was in French and English. Even more so, the IODC 15 final report states the follows:

“While English is still the predominant language in open data discourses and in datasets, there are growing Spanish and Francophone communities, which were strongly represented at IODC.”

Therefore, I found it puzzling that English as the only official language (even though the website is in Spanish). I believe that accepting proposals only in English we are blocking the way to very interesting stories that language is a major barrier for them. I am aware that conferences are held on very tight budgets and therefore, we need to make some sacrifices, for example cutting off time for translations. However, what are these sacrifices? IODC should add a second language to the conference, and by that to enable more to join the Open Data discussion.

3. Let’s be bold and stop saying the word impact — I think that for many of us, the IODC is an excellent opportunity to come to the table and learn about one another. The way to move forward, in my opinion, is to get a bit out of our comfort zone and speak about the topics that sometimes are hard to us discuss. Why for example, are we looking more at impact and not on our failures? They are so many questions that are bothering us that we need to address such as: Are we empowering the public or giving more power to the powerful? Impact is important, but we are still a young movement that is growing around the world. Let’s celebrate our youth and not chase after the impact that nails down to the same stories.

The HULK always know what are the tough questions that we are not raising.

4. Let’s have new speakers — During the last year I have attended many conferences on open data, and in many of them the speakers repeated themselves (myself included!). Let’s try and aim to have at least 30% new speakers who did not speak in the last IODC. Let’s hear new voices and encourage are peers to share their knowledge. If you are someone (like me) who speaks at a lot of events, maybe this year, reach out to people who don’t often speak but you know have the same expertise and encourage them, even mentor them, to submit a proposal this year.

5. Let’s follow up — Last year the IODC created a great roadmap of actions to lead us to Madrid. As a topical anchor, I was excited about the steps we came up with. We even had the chance to follow up on them in OGP summit in October 2015. However, since then, no one contacted me, guided me or updated me about these milestones. If we want to move forward on these roadmaps, we need to create a mechanism and dedicate resources for them. And if something did happen to them, there should be a suitable communication channel to report about it. Let’s create a real follow-up process that will make a difference and allocate resource for it in advance.

I see the open data community as an analytic, reflective and growing community; this is why I love being a part of it! I give this feedback not because I think IODC is a bad place, on the contrary, it is an incredible opportunity to us all, and I want to make it even better. I am sure you do too. The road to Madrid is still long, let’s shape it together.

My thanks for Katelyn Rogers for adding more ideas to my draft