Artificial Intelligence, Thinking Machines and the Future of Humanity (Gerd Leonhard)

Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.

Since I have come back to the UK I have started studying Stanford University’s Machine Learning course on Coursera, presented by Andrew Ng. I’m currently three weeks in to the eleven week course. It is well presented, with some good materials and the coursework is challenging me intellectually.

Apart from the above, there are a number of other reasons for me doing this:Continue reading

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I previously wrote up my experiences when attending the AbreLatam and ConDatos conferences in San Juan, Costa Rica in August. One of the sessions I attended was the Open Contracting Partnership workshop, which was moderated by Juan Pane from Paraguay.

At the start of 2017, while I was travelling, I did a piece of work with the Open Contracting Partnership and so I have an interest in their current work in Latin America.

I recall it being an interesting discussion, with many issues, opportunities and projects that people raised and were involved in. At the end of the session I took the following photo of the worksheet that was produced, my apologies to the scribe as I don’t recall their name. Underneath the photo I have translated the text, as best I can. I’m happy to take suggestions for improvements in my translation.

There is also a write up of another OCP session at ConDatos on their blog

Open Contracting Partnership workshop at Abre Latam 2017

Open Contracting Partnership workshop at Abre Latam 2017

English Translation

Name of the session

Open ContractingContinue reading

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On Saturday I went to Cardiff with Dan Slee for Gov Camp Cymru, an unconference for government types in Wales.

On Friday night I looked up the different options for getting to New Street train station in Birmingham city centre. City Mapper gave me the expected times and calories burned for walking, cycling and driving. It also showed me a range of options for taking the bus.

Opendata

I had a few things to do on the way back in the evening and so I decided to take the car. I took a look on Parkopedia for the best car parks and on street parking close to the city centre. I ended up parking on the street in Digbeth and walking to New Street.

I met Dan at the station. He had checked the price of tickets using one of the many Split Ticketing sites that offer to find you cheaper fares than those that are on standard sites such as National Rail or The Trainline.Continue reading

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Last week I attended the AbreLatam and ConDatos events in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was the fifth edition of this regional conference on open data for Latin America and was held over three days at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in central San Jose. What follows is a round up of the the days along with some of my impressions.

Day One – Abre Latam Unconference

The first day was an unconference event, with the agenda being decided by the participants at the start of the day. There was a sizeable proportion of attendees who were at their first unconference. The format went down well, with a number of people saying how much they enjoyed the more collaborative style both during the day and at the end of the event.

One difference to other unconferences I’ve attended was that, instead of asking people to come up and pitch their ideas for sessions at the front, we were all given three Post-It notes. We wrote down three topics, ideas or thoughts and stuck them on the giant blank agenda.

Collaborative Agenda at AbreLatam 2017

Collaborative Agenda at AbreLatam 2017

One of the topics of conversation that came up both on this day and subsequent ones was the need to pursue and prosecute laws where they already exist. For instance, in the first session I attended on privacy, a number of attendees said that their country had strong privacy laws but that they were often ignored with impunity by the authorities.

There was also a conference on human rights in San Jose last week and a lawyer attending that told me something similar, that in many cases in Latin America it is not that the law does not confer human rights, but that people’s access to exercising those rights are unequal.
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This summer Young Rewired State are bringing their hugely successful Festival Of Code back to Birmingham.

Young Rewired State | Festival of Code 2015

Young Rewired State | Festival of Code 2015

 

Happening over the week of 27th July to 2nd August, The Festival of Code brings together young developers, all of them under the age of 18. During the week they attend centres around the country and build web and mobile applications that attempt to solve real world problems, with each project using at least one piece of open government data.

Then, over the weekend, up to 2000 young people will descend upon Birmingham to present their projects and get feedback on how to take them further.Continue reading

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This Saturday is Open Data Day.

A photograph of Chris Morris on the set of the Day today

The Day Today BBC ? 2014

Data describe the places where we live, work and play and it helps us to understand the world around us. You could be interested in local transport, health or education, our public services create data about all of them. Data can help you hold politicians to account, or it can tell you where the nearest public loo is.

In Birmingham we are holding an event at Birmingham City University where we are going to set up a West Midlands “Open DataStore In A Day”. The idea is quite simple. Over the day we will set up a website that can hold open datasets and publish what we can find to it.?You don’t have to be a technical whizz to take part. Enthusiasm and curiosity are enough to make it worth your while coming along.

We’ll spend the day finding and collecting the data that people are interested in and we’ll put it all together in one place online, in the West Midlands Open Datastore. Once we’ve done that, it makes it all a lot easier to do something useful with.

If somebody can’t find the data that they are interested in then we will help them to write a Freedom Of Information request to ask for it. When those are answered we will add them to the Open Datastore.

I’m really pleased that Data Unlocked, the co-operative venture that I’ve recently helped to co-found, are providing the website for people to work on during the day, and that we will continue supporting it afterwards. We’ve helped to organise the day along with Open Mercia and RnROrganisation.

In?Emer Coleman’s recent post about the City as a Platform?she says that she has seen quotes of up to ?200,000 for Data Platforms. We think that we can do a lot with some free open source software and the goodwill of people volunteering their time and skills.

We are using?Ckan?to host the West Midlands Open Datastore and are thankful to the Open Knowledge Foundation for providing this free, open source software for us to use.?Thanks also to Birmingham City University, who are providing us with a room in their sparky new offices at Parkside.

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This Wednesday Nesta are hosting the Pitch and Celebration Event for the Open Data Institute’s first challenge series, which focused on Crime and Justice. I’ll be going down to see which of the three finalists have won the grand prize of ?40,000 and to hear a little more about the next two challenge areas: Education and Energy & The Environment.

Open Data Institute - Challenge Series - Crime and Justice

Open Data Institute – Challenge Series – Crime and Justice

I had a really enjoyable time working as Series Lead on the Crime and Justice series and am really thankful for the opportunity to work with both Nesta and the Open Data Institute. I think we did a good job of attracting a range of entries and the shortlisting, although difficult, resulted in the strongest projects going forward to the final.Continue reading

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Techkoji image from article on personal privacy

Techkoji image from article on personal privacy

I made a couple of Freedom Of Information requests towards the end of last year, using What Do They Know.

My first request asked?Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust for

any reports you have created or commissioned?measuring the effectiveness of programmes you support to reduce?re-offending

They very helpfully responded by placing a number of reports on their website and sending me the link to the page. There are some useful and intriguing reports on there. The reoffending analysis on the Anawin Project, who support “vulnerable women” ?in Balsall Heath is particularly impressive, showing a statistically significant impact on reducing re-offending rates.

However, my second request for individual organisations’ data behind Arts Council England‘s

Regularly Funded Organisations: key data from the 2011/12?annual submission report

has been refused. This data provides information on the benefits brought through millions of pounds of funding to arts and cultural organisations around the country. It’s money that is derived through taxation and so I was a bit surprised when my request was refused, although?Arts Council England were able to provide me with a list of the organisations that either didn’t complete their return, or sent it in late.

I asked for an internal review and although the reasoning was amended, the original refusal has been upheld.

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The West Midlands Open Data Forum is an idea that has been initiated by Digital Birmingham. It has a mission

“To promote the release, re-use and integration of open data to benefit communities, businesses and public services in the West Midlands area.”

I was asked to join its steering group a few months ago and have attended three of its meetings so far. Here we have mostly been discussing the Terms of Reference for the group, commenting upon proposals for a Birmingham Open Data Platform and planning how the current steering group will support the new forum to host quarterly events that “bring together developer, activist, public authority, university, third sector and business communities over open data”

openDataWordlePhoto Credit: suzannelong via Compfight cc

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Myself and Mike Cummins have been doing some work looking at the Birmingham School Admissions procedure. Over the past year we’ve developed a tool that helps people find out more about the local authority’s schools, including showing the annual cut off distances.

Currently, these school cut off distances are typically provided by local authorities in paper documents or on the web in text formats such as pdf. This doesn’t make it easy for parents to get an overall view of the preferences they might choose. We hope our school finder tool, which allows you to put in a postcode and shows you the schools around you, is a step in the right direction.

Birmingham wide school catchment areas

Birmingham wide school cut off areas

With the applications for Birmingham Secondary Schools due in at the end of the month we think that now is the ideal time to make an alpha version of the tool available, which we’ve done today. This is a work in progress and the usual caveats apply. Please don’t use it as the only thing you base your decisions on, if you’re looking for a school place for your child.

There’s a feedback forum on UserEcho that we’ve set up for people to comment on the tool and suggest how we might develop it further.

We’re indebted to Caroline Beavon who worked very hard with us at the start of the project, had many of the good ideas and did a lot of the early data work.

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