The Cape Town Open Data Portal is now live.
There are currently already 29 datasets online, ranging from the approved budgets for the past two years to the locations of district and community parks. This is a great development, and this repository will hopefully grow over time with many more interesting and valuable datasets. Eventually, we should also see apps and websites built based on these datasets, as well as APIs through which the data can be more dynamically queried.
However: We just checked a number of the datasets, and most of them are in the Microsoft Excel XLSX format.
This is doubly unfortunate for an open data site, also since the OpenDocument Format (ODF) is a completely open standard with multiple good implementations (software systems) available for free on multiple different computing platforms. Furthermore, OpenDocument was adopted as as national South African standard, and was also adopted by the South African government as their default document standard in 2007. Strictly speaking, all South African government documents should be in the OpenDocument format.
While it is true that Microsoft managed to push their office formats through the standardisation process (after the initial failed attempts), their formats fail to satisfy a number of the important requirements for open standards as defined in section 2.3 on page 10 of the government’s Mininimum Interoperability Standards for Information Systems in government (MIOS). Furthermore, the OpenDocument format is completely free and open, has a number of freely available first-class implementations on all computing platforms, and is not controlled by any one company. It is the more reasonable office format choice for open data that has to be accessible to as many as possible of South Africa’s citizens for as long as possible.
If you agree that OpenDocument and other really open standards would be better on the way forward, please leave your comments using the feedback page of the Cape Town Open Data Portal, citing this post if you like.
Summary: OSSSA (Open Source Software for South Africa) seeks to become the authoritative portal for all Free Software/Open Source Software (OSS) activity in South Africa. If you provide OSS-related services, make an OSS product or otherwise use OSS in interesting ways, please email info AT osssa.org.za with information about you or your organization. This info will be added to the OSSSA website. See below for more detail, and the required format.
For OSSSA, two important components of promoting OSS uptake in South Africa are:
- Becoming a valuable and central source of information on all open source software entities / experiences / implementations as well as benefits / costs to organizations and individuals and
- Building a visible and active community of OSS-supporting organizations and individuals.
OSSSA seeks to organise the free software community in order to make the case for greater adoption of open source in South African business, NGOs and government. We will do this by collating and organising as much as possible open source software activity/information in South Africa. By providing a central portal that organises the community we can make the case for greater OSS adoption.
The community should include as much as possible of the entire ecosystem, from the casual user to the superusers and sysadmins of large corporate South Africa, to the developers/programmers, trainers and supporters of free software in SA.
OSSSA should become a go-to resource for anyone needing to find open source/free software supporting entities, whilst contributing to the growing OSSSA community in SA.
Request 1 – RESPOND – Please send an email to info AT osssa.org.za with as many of the following items of information as possible:
- Name of organization or individual
- Logo / graphic
- Contact address
- What OSS-related activities is your organisation involved in? What capabilities does it have / services does it offer (if any)?
- Category Keywords, e.g. training, support, programming, education, business etc (use as many as you want; we can use this to tag the various pages on the site)
We will organize all the submitted information, and publish it on the OSSSA website.
Request 2 – SHARE this call with as many potentially OSS entities as you can!
Remember to use our social media handles: @oss4sa on Twitter, +osssa on Google+ (pending), osssa on facebook (pending)
Dear TechCentral readers, welcome to Open Source Software for South Africa!
Regardt van der Berg has written a great summary of OSSSA and its goals over at TechCentral: New platform for open source in SA.
- If you agree that promoting open source use in South African government and industry would empower South Africans, you can join OSSSA by following @oss4sa on Twitter, and/or subscribing to this blog using the form at the top of the right sidebar.
- Read more about OSSSA on the about page, and more about our near-term plans in this recent blog post.
- If you would like to take part in the OSSSA forums, or have any suggestions, please send mail to info AT osssa.org.za
The initial response to this effort has been super encouraging, thank you very much all for subscribing, following and for advertising!
In this short post, I wanted to sketch out our concrete plans for the coming weeks:
- Grow the OSSSA network as much as possible. There are at least two reasons for this: 1) The more individuals and organizations we have in our network, the greater our chances are of knowing someone who knows someone, if you know what I mean. Already the first people who are connected to government have started coming forward. 2) When we start contacting the mainstream media and government, the size of this organization will make a positive difference. Growing the network means getting people to follow @oss4sa, or to subscribe to the blog (see top-right) and to take part in the forums.
- Flesh out this site with useful resources: This means case studies, areas where OSS solutions are not up to standard (yet) and information about local companies that work and can help with OSS.
- Make plans for the subsequent letter writing and lobbying phase. Unless somebody else comes up with a better plan, I’m going to draft letters to our representatives in government, and also seek out other influencers to contact.
If you’re interested, you could do the following:
- Send a mail to info AT osssa.org.za with your preferred username to get an account on the forums. Discuss away, suggestions for concrete activities welcome!
- Send a mail to that same address if you would like to write a page about what your company does and could do with OSS. I’m still debating (internally) on whether we should publish company pages as blog posts or just normal pages.
I’ve just installed the bbPress WordPress plugin. This means we now have public discussion forums that can be reached by clicking on the “Forums” item in the menu up above.
To post on the forum, you will need an account on this blog (you can use it both for forum and blog participation). Please send your preferred username to info AT osssa.org.za and you should receive your login details in very short order.
(I have deliberately chosen a self-hosted solution, because some people don’t like the Google+ silo, and other people don’t like the Facebook silo. This way, we keep our own data.)