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Open Economics: the story so far…

Velichka Dimitrova - August 30, 2013 in Advisory Panel, Announcements, Events, Featured, Open Data, Open Economics, Projects

A year and a half ago we embarked on the Open Economics project with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and we would like a to share a short recap of what we have been up to.

Our goal was to define what open data means for the economics profession and to become a central point of reference for those who wanted to learn what it means to have openness, transparency and open access to data in economics.

Advisory Panel of the Open Economics Working Group:
openeconomics.net/advisory-panel/

Advisory Panel

We brought together an Advisory Panel of twenty senior academics who advised us and provided input on people and projects we needed to contact and issues we needed to tackle. The progress of the project has depended on the valuable support of the Advisory Panel.

1st Open Economics Workshop, Dec 17-18 ’12, Cambridge, UK:
openeconomics.net/workshop-dec-2012/

2nd Open Economics Workshop, 11-12 June ’13, Cambridge, MA:
openeconomics.net/workshop-june-2013

International Workshops

We also organised two international workshops, first one held in Cambridge, UK on 17-18 December 2012 and second one in Cambridge U.S. on 11-12 June 2013, convening academics, funders, data publishers, information professionals and students to share ideas and build an understanding about the value of open data, the still persisting barriers to opening up information, as well as the incentives and structures which our community should encourage.

Open Economics Principles

While defining open data for economics, we also saw the need to issue a statement on the openness of data and code – the Open Economics Principles – to emphasise that data, program code, metadata and instructions, which are necessary to replicate economics research should be open by default. Having been launched in August, this statement is now being widely endorsed by the economics community and most recently by the World Bank’s Data Development Group.

Projects

The Open Economics Working Group and several more involved members have worked on smaller projects to showcase how data can be made available and what tools can be built to encourage discussions and participation as well as wider understanding about economics. We built the award-winning app Yourtopia Italy – http://italia.yourtopia.net/ for a user-defined multidimensional index of social progress, which won a special prize in the Apps4Italy competition.




Yourtopia Italy: application of a user-defined multidimensional index of social progress: italia.yourtopia.net

We created the Failed Bank Tracker, a list and a timeline visualisation of the banks in Europe which failed during the last financial crisis and released the Automated Game Play Datasets, the data and code of papers from the Small Artificial Agents for Virtual Economies research project, implemented by Professor David Levine and Professor Yixin Chen at the Washington University of St. Louis. More recently we launched the Metametrik prototype of a platform for the storage and search of regression results in the economics.


MetaMetrik: a prototype for the storage and search of econometric results: metametrik.openeconomics.net

We also organised several events in London and a topic stream about open knowledge and sustainability at the OKFestival with a panel bringing together a diverse range of panelists from academia, policy and the open data community to discuss how open data and technology can help improve the measurement of social progress.

Blog and Knowledge Base

We blogged about issues like the benefits of open data from the perspective of economics research, the EDaWaX survey of the data availability of economics journals, pre-registration of in the social sciences, crowd-funding as well as open access. We also presented projects like the Statistical Memory of Brazil, Quandl, the AEA randomized controlled trials registry.

Some of the issues we raised had a wider resonance, e.g. when Thomas Herndon found significant errors in trying to replicate the results of Harvard economists Reinhart and Rogoff, we emphasised that while such errors may happen, it is a greater crime not to make the data available with published research in order to allow for replication.

Some outcomes and expectations

We found that opening up data in economics may be a difficult matter, as many economists utilise data which cannot be open because of privacy, confidentiality or because they don’t own that data. Sometimes there are insufficient incentives to disclose data and code. Many economists spend a lot of resources in order to build their datasets and obtain an advantage over other researchers by making use of information rents.

Some journals have been leading the way in putting in place data availability requirements and funders have been demanding data management and sharing plans, yet more general implementation and enforcement is still lacking. There are now, however, more tools and platforms available where researchers can store and share their research content, including data and code.

There are also great benefits in sharing economics data: it enables the scrutiny of research findings and gives a possibility to replicate research, it enhances the visibility of research and promotes new uses of the data, avoids unnecessary costs for data collection, etc.

In the future we hope to concentrate on projects which would involve graduate students and early career professionals, a generation of economics researchers for whom sharing data and code may become more natural.

Keep in touch

Follow us on Twitter @okfnecon, sign up to the Open Economics mailing list and browse our projects and resources at openeconomics.net.

Metametrik first sprint

Velichka Dimitrova - May 31, 2013 in Featured, Metametrik

This blog post is written by Martin Keegan and Velichka Dimitrova.

On Saturday, May 25, a team of economists and programming experts gathered to plan a format for the saving of regression results in economics. The project would allow for the building of a database of empirical results, where queries would be made, allowing to answer questions like: do authors tend to get more significant results when using World Bank data instead of Penn World Table data and how conclusions about the relationships of variables have evolved over time.

Based on some ideas outlined by the Working Group last year, we worked on a post-publication version of a small system where an informed researcher would be able to enter regression results, which would be saved in a database and then these results would be queried by a researcher who wants to analyse the empirical literature.

We took an approach which turned out to be fairly similar to Guo’s recommendation: create a JSON schema capturing the basics of a regression result (the dependent variable, the goodness of fit, the sample size, standard errors and effect sizes of results), and then make tools which produce and consume data in this format.

So far, we have a tool which generates Metametrik format data, and a tool which reads this into a database. What’s needed next is web UIs that produce this data (for articles already published) and allow you to search it.

Get updates on Metametrik by signing to the mailing list, follow Open Economics and Martin Keegan on Twitter. To comment on the relationship diagramme see schema.

Metametrik Sprint in London, May 25

Velichka Dimitrova - May 2, 2013 in Announcements, Call for participation, Events, Featured, Metametrik, Sprint

The Open Economics Working Group is inviting to a one-day sprint to create a machine-readable format for the reporting of regression results.

  • When: May 25, Saturday, 10:00-16:00
  • Where: Centre for Creative Collaboration (tbc), 16 Acton Street, London, WC1X 9NG
  • How to participate: please, write to economics [at] okfn.org

The event is meant for graduate students in economics and quantitative social science as well as other scientists and researchers who are working with quantitative data analysis and regressions. We would also welcome developers with some knowledge in XML and other mark-up programming and others interested to contribute to this project.

About Metametrik

Metametrik, as a machine readable format and platform to store econometric results, will offer a universal form for presenting empirical results. Furthermore, the resulting database would present new opportunities for data visualisation and “meta-regressions”, i.e. statistical analysis of all empirical contributions in a certain area.

During the sprint we will create a prototype of a format for saving regression results of empirical economics papers, which would be the basis of meta analysis of relationships in economics. The Metametrik format would include:

  • XML (or another markup language) derived format to describe regression output, capturing what dependent and independent variables were used, type of dataset (e.g. time series, panel), sign and magnitude of the relationship (coefficient and t-statistic), data sources, type of regression (e.g. OLS, 2SLS, structural equations), etc.
  • a database to store the results (possible integration with CKAN) – a user interface to allow for entry of results to be translated and saved in the Metametrik format. Results could be also imported directly from statistical packages
  • Visualisation of results and GUI – enabling queries from the database and displaying basic statistics about the relationships.

Background

Since computing power and data storage have become cheaper and more easily available, the number of empirical papers in economics has increased dramatically. Despite the large numbers of empirical papers, however, there is still no unified and machine readable standard for saving regression results. Researchers are often faced with a large volume of empirical papers, which describe regression results in similar yet differentiated ways.

Like bibliographic machine readable formats (e.g. bibtex), the new standard would facilitate the dissemination and organization of existing results. Ideally, this project would offer an open storage where researchers can submit their regression results (for example in an XML type format). The standard could also be implemented in a wide range of open source econometric packages and projects like R or RePec.

From a practical perspective, this project would greatly help to organize the large pile of existing regressions and facilitate literature reviews: If someone is interested in the relationship between democracy and economic development, for example, s/he need not go through the large pile of current papers but can simply look up the relationship on the open storage: The storage will then produce a list of existing results, along with intuitive visualizations (what % of results are positive/negative, how do the results evolve over time/i.e. is there a convergence in results). From an academic perspective, the project would also facilitate the compilation of meta-regressions that have become increasingly popular. Metametrik will be released under an open license.

If you have further questions, please contact us at economics [at] okfn.org

Timeline of Failed European Banks

Anders Pedersen - January 7, 2013 in Crowd-sourcing, Failed Banks, Featured, Public Finance and Government Data


A few months back Open Economics launched a project to list the European banks which have failed recently. After a successful online data sprint and follow up research, we have now collected data on 122 bank failures and bailouts since 1997.

To visualize the data collected on bank failures I created this timeline.

The data collection was initiated as neither the EU Commission, Eurostat nor EBA were able to provide any specific data. We decided to include a broad range of bank crisis measures beyond bankruptcy filing such as bank nationalisations and government bailouts. We also added some bank mergers,and finally we have added several cases where banks entered temporary closure (ie. “extraordinary administration” under Italian law). For each failed bank we have attempted to gather basic details such as the date of collapse, a news source and a news clip explaining the circumstances of the collapse.

We need your help to improve the failed bank tracker? Here’s how you can help.

  • Bank failures are still missing from the list. So if you know of any failures missing from the list, please go ahead and add the information directly in the sheet. If you have corrections to any of the bank appearing, please add them with an attached source and information. If news clips are not available in English, add information in the original language.
  • Descriptions and sources for several of the banks on the list are still missing – in particular on Italian and Portuguese.
  • Additional info. We hope to add more data to each bank failure, in particular a) The total assets prior to collapse and b) The auditor who signed off on the latest annual report. Let us know if you wish to help digging up any of this information.
  • We are eager to hear your view on the approach or any of the listed bank failures. Join the discussion on our mailing-list.

 

OKFestival Sustainability Stream Recap

Velichka Dimitrova - October 6, 2012 in Cleanweb, Environment, Energy and Sustainability, Events, Festival, Hackathon, Topics, Yourtopia


The open knowledge community came together in Helsinki for the one of the biggest events of the year: the Open Knowledge Festival, gathering for a week more than a thousand people from civil society, international institutions, government and businesses. The event run with parallel streams showing that open knowledge and open data are transforming government transparency and accountability, democracy, cities and transport, businesses, cultural heritage, research and education and other areas of the society and the economy.

Open Knowledge and Sustainability Stream examined the value of open knowledge, open data and open source for the sustainability context. The Open Economics Working Group (Velichka Dimitrova, Guo Xu, Dirk Heine), the Centre for Sustainable Communications at KTH (Jorge Zapico, Hannes Ebner) and Cleanweb UK (James Smith, Chris Adams) and Jack Townsend from Southampton University put together a programme showcasing why openness is an important value in a sustainable future, how open data and technology can help improve the measurement of social progress and the role of open data for more efficient energy consumption. The programme also included a Green Hackathon and two sessions about the community-engaged sustainability mapping initiative Green Maps.

Jack and Chris presented the results from the Sustainability stream on the last day: slides from summary session.

James Cameron: “Open data systems: a collective response to a collective problem”

In his keynote speech, James Cameron, founder and non-executive chairman of Climate Change Capital shared his vision about a complete open knowledge system, where decision-makers are able to view geophysical, climate and economic data on a single screen and are able to analyse the information, react in appropriate manner and realise a two-directional information flow. While a lot of the relevant data and elements of such a system exists, they are not joined up, as datasets in some institutions don’t talk to datasets in other institution. We still lack the right delivery mechanisms to make use of the potential that exists in open data and open knowledge.

CO2 emissions are a very good proxy for measuring and monitoring the performance of powerful actors in respect to the climate change issue. Initiative like the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has gone on to cover water and supply chain issues and government procurement – there is tremendous data in that space, but there is clearly much more that can be done with it in the next iterations of such projects. (Video link).

Hans Rosling: Liberate the CO2 data

Data visualisation and global development guru Hans Rosling provided some inspiring and sobering insights into the scale and immediacy of the environmental challenge. The ice is melting fast but Hans can get by without the polar bears – he’s most very keen to avoid a world that’s hungry or at war because of climate change. He railed against the lack of timely and accurate emissions data. He went on to challenge many of the misconceptions about global development – focussing on the arrogance of the global north for imagining the global south as it was thirty years ago, ignoring the human progress that has been made. With an ultra-low-tech toilet-paper-roll demonstration he showed how, even with birth rates now stabilising, we are still on course to reach around 10 billion people on the planet (Video link).

Open Knowledge and Energy Data

The Open Knowledge and Energy Data session gathered different perspectives related to energy data and openness: how sharing energy use information on the community level can help reduce energy consumption, how one can better manage and understand one’s personal energy data and the importance of linked open data in the energy context (Video link).

Karthikeya Acharya from Aalto University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture shared some theoretical concepts on how opening up energy use data at the end user level can make one reflect on one’s acquired personal energy habits and how this is relevant for energy conservation and the transitioning to a less-intensive energy future [Slides].

Ken Dooley, Sustainability Group Manager of Granlund, spoke about how the availability of personal energy consumption data can promote positive behaviour change by providing a consumption comparison with peers. He showed how such comparisons can give some people the ability to prove that they are living a low energy lifestyle and will motivate others to reduce their consumption [Slides].

William Heath, entrepreneur and co-founder of Mydex Community Interest Company talked about personal data with relation to energy use and personal energy profiles and will explain why we need to revolutionize the ways we understand and manage our personal data [Slides].

Denise Recheis from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and Thomas Thurner from the Semantic Web Company looked at Linked Open Data and its applications in real world examples and give an overview of the clean energy portal reegle.info and how they integrated the Linked Open Data principles in the project. They tried to get across the importance of readily available energy and emissions data on a regional and national levels [Slides].

Green Maps

For Green Map System, taking part in the Open Knowledge Festival was eagerly anticipated. Together with Helsinki Green Map, we provided sessions that highlighted both the locally relevant and globally linked aspects of our community-engaged sustainability mapping initiative.


As the founding director of the New York-based nonprofit that has worked with over 800 diverse project leaders in 65 countries, I found the OK Festival to be a powerful springboard as we consider the importance of maintaining trust, reliability and communication with the diverse municipalities, universities, nonprofits, enterprises, grassroots and youth groups who create Green Maps. Our process of going open made significant progress, and we’re now creating milestones to guide our trajectory. Watch our blog for news as we adopt increasingly open approaches to sharing knowledge, and let us know how you can help this effort.

Cindy Kohtala of Helsinki Green Map joined me in leading our sustainability stream sessions. On Tuesday, we focused on the evolution of the living lexicon of Green Map Icons (slides here). Used by all Green Mapmakers, these globally designed universal icons identify, promote and link thousands of natural, cultural, activism and green living resources on printed and interactive Green Maps. What new symbols are needed to highlight the fab labs, hacker spaces and co-ops show where open knowledge is taking root in communities? How do we select an open license that offers new capabilities yet prevents misuse by green-washers? How can our policies, tools and infrastructure make it easier for (often non-technical) Mapmaker communities around the world to operate according to their own unique preferences and conditions? We announced that soon, our social mapping platform will offer each Mapmaker the option to open their data to the public. The ensuing discussion was quite valuable (make open the default going forward, license choices, etc.) and it continued outdoors as we saw some of the nearby sites on the Helsinki Green Map (Video link).


Friday’s interoperability and inclusion session featured Philip Todres and Arne Purves from South Africa and Ciprian Samoila from Romania, who joined us via Skype. The Cape Town Green Map was initiated by the City to give community stakeholders a voice in the greening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Games. This ongoing project is also an instrumental part of the municipality’s successful bid for the crown of World Design Capital 2014. Arne and Philip detailed their approach and with an interactive Open Green Map and beautiful printed editions, this project successfully communicates good works and eco-assets to a local audience and at the same time, supports responsible tourism. It’s also inspired Green Mapmaking across South Africa (Video link).

Bucharest, Bacau, Cluj-Napoca and Bistrita Green Maps have been organized by Asociatia Harta Verde Romania. Its director, Ciprian described his involvement in ‘4BsHive’, a Grundtvig-funded transnational Green Map project between four river cities: Bristol (UK), Berlin (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) and Bistrita that resulted in knowledge exchange, a video and guide book. Ciprian has especially been involved with Green Map at the global level, including our transition to open. Green Map System’s first phase of interoperability will be in place this fall, and with it, new terms of service that address open licensing and support a wider diversity of partnerships and applications. These sessions along with the many insightful conversations that took place throughout the festival generated a fresh sense of how open can make significantly more of the good we have already created in support of sustainable, engaged community development.

Future, Openness and Sustainability


The session on Future, Openness and Sustainability explored the question of how openness as a value can be important for a sustainable future and how. The session was hosted by Jorge Zapico, a researcher on ICT and sustainability at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The format was a panel, where first five participants shared their perspective:

First Chris Adams, product manager at AMEE, spoke about the intersection between open source and sustainability, and recounted AMEE’s own experiences acting as a company built around using open source technology, and open data to help companies and governments understand their environmental impact and and why the hacker mindset was so relevant in bulding an open, sustainable future. He also announced the opening up of AMEE’s environmental datasets.

Hannes Ebner, a researcher at KTH in Stockholm, shared his experience on using open linked data for educational resources on organic agriculture in the Organic Edunet european project, and argued why open education is important for creating change and spreading and improving knowledge.


Jack Townsend, a web and sustainability researcher at the University of Southampton in the UK, talked about four primary ways in which open knowledge can help with creating a sustainable open society. Firstly, transparency to make actors accountable for their environmental impact. Secondly, better informing the citizens to whom institutions are accountable, building well-founding trust in relevant science and policies. Thirdly, to get more human value out of the global economy with less environmental input, through coordination, optimisation, and rethinking what we want out. And finally by innovating to find earth-friendly technology and to provide freedoms in a resource-constrained world.

James Smith of Cleanweb UK described how transparency and accountability in government and the scientific process could be enabled by Open Data, and would be essential for the public to support a large-scale transition to a sustainable society. It would also enable innovation and the discovery of new systems-level efficiencies.

The final discussion included the present public and discussed the synthesis of the different panelist. The main topic was on how the the hacker mindset was relevant in building an open, sustainable future. Two main points were discussed: first transparency, second creativity (Video link).

The Green Hackathon

The Green Hackathon at the OKFestival was a two days event part of a series of events organized around Europe. The concept at the OKFestival was to bring together developers, data experts and organizations to do hands-on work on existing projects and data and to have focus sessions discussing different projects and synergies between the participants. Some of the results and activities include:

Helsinki CO2 Visualization

A visualization of the CO2 emissions data for the city of Helsinki from Siemens and Aalto. It allows to change different variables to explore how different possible future scenarios: http://helsinkiCO2.com

Future weather and the World Bank Climate Change Portal

App uses World Bank data on current and projected weather to put climate change in a context: You choose the country you are interested in and the app tells you which country today has a climate comparable to the future climate of your country. Calculation is done by creating similarity indices using Euclidean distances for each country and picking out the best fit. You can choose between a conservative projection (optimistic) and a doomsday projection (pessimistic): http://www.guoxu.org/weather

Tim Herzog from the World Bank Open Data team gave a tour of the World Bank Climate Change Portal. Whilst we can always use more and better data, the immediate challenge for climate is understanding and translating what we already have. Non-experts need tools to understand why climate change is important, and how it will impact them now and in the future. Experts need better analysis tools for making decisions and planning. To this end, the World Bank had the Apps for Climate competition, with Jack Townsend demoing one of the winners, Globe-Town. Tim discussed ideas for new visualisations including the the Future Weather app (above), and one to visualise different emissions reductions scenarios to reflect the great lack of progress since they were last were developed a decade or more ago.

Mashing up the Carbon Map with data from the International Land Coalition

The team of the International Land Coalition (ILC) demoed the Land Matrix Portal and invited a discussion about what could be done with the data. The ILC is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building. After a serendipitous conversation between ILC and Robin Houston of Carbonmap, he created a new visualisation using the same technology powering Carbonmap, to show these changes in land ownership over the last 10 years, on a global scale.

The map shows the effect of the land deals in the Land Matrix database. The “before” map simply shows the true land area of each country. The “after” map is an exaggerated rendition of the changes due to land deals, where a company based in one country buys a tract of land in another. For each land deal where the purchasing company is associated with a particular country, the size of the purchasing country is increased and the size of the country where the land was bought is reduced correspondingly. The true size of the affected land area is multiplied by 100 to make a visible difference on the map: see the Land Matrix map.

Energy Pulse and Big Oil Facts

Thomas Thurner and Denise Recheis presented two challenges relating to energy data: Energy Pulse and Big Oil Facts/Truth. Energy pulse focusses on varying production and consumption patterns of electricity around the globe, to visualise how they can be held in balance as demand increases and more time-varying supplies of renewable energy are introduced. Big Oil Facts is about visualising the subsidies given to fossil fuel production companies and how this underpins their profits – a reality often overlooked in criticisms of renewable energy subsidy.

Open Data for Measuring Social Progress

The session “Open Data for Measurement of Social Progress” brought a diverse range of panelists from academia, policy and the open data community together to discuss how open data and technology can help improve the measurement of social progress.

Guo Xu, PhD student at the London School of Economics, gave a brief introduction to the historical and existing efforts in measuring social progress. Defining progress, he argued, is power and the aim of the session is to explore how both definition and discourse can be “opened up” to the public [Slides].

Dr. Ulla Rosenstroem, Senior Specialist at the Prime Minister’s Office, presented the Findicator, a website aimed presenting Finnish statistical data in a more appealing way. In particular, she stressed the importance of indicators in summarizing and communicating socio-economic trends to policy makers and citizens alike [Slides].

Vincent Finat-Duclos, Statistical Editor at the OECD, introduced the OECD Better Life Index and showed how gamification and good visualization can help educate the broader public about the functioning and use of composite indices. Finally, he sketched the next steps of the Better Life Index: Improving robustness, extending the sample and improving the usability [Slides].

Dr. Robin Houston, Developer of Guardian’s Rio+20 Better or Worse app, showed how eliciting user’s rating on the current developmental progress can help generate useful data for statistical analysis: Among survey participants, women were on average more pessimistic than men, participants from Africa were the most optimistic and (taken with a grain of salt) iPad users were the most optimistic [Slides].

Dirk Heine, Member of the OKFN Economics Working Group, presented Yourtopia and Yourtopia Italy – two applications that allow users to define which dimensions matter most for development. Harnessing the feedback provided by the users, the app then calculates an “consensus” measure of social progress [Slides].

In overall, panelists agreed that there was a lack of high frequency indicators that span longer time horizons to allow a more nuanced analysis of trends. While diverse in backgrounds, the session illustrated how collaboration between policy, academia and the open data community may help generate innovative and exciting ideas (Video link).

Any comments for the whole team? Contact: sustainability [at] okfestival.org

Launching YourTopia Italia: Progress in Italy, defined by You

Velichka Dimitrova - May 10, 2012 in Announcements, Open Economics, Yourtopia

YourTopia logo How do we measure social progress? Academics and international institutions have struggled with employing measures of human development which go beyond GDP per capita: education, health the the economy, but then what values do we attach to these?

In countries like Italy stark regional differences have dominated over time. Particularly in times of fiscal austerity when the country attempts to recover from an economic crisis with major social consequences, seeing how and why the South and the North differ is an important step in a consensus-building process to find solutions and realise collaboration with the citizens.

Sliders

The Open Economics Working Group of the Open Knowledge Foundation released YourTopia Italia – an application which gives the users a chance to input their priorities in eight categories of socio-economic progress:

  • Labour Market
  • Education
  • Health
  • Environment and Energy
  • Science and Research
  • Household Income and Inequality
  • Public Safety
  • Social Life

Each category is comprised of sub-indicators e.g. Neighbourhood Safety, Income Inequality, Problems with Air Quality or Friends Networks. While the Northern regions fare rather well in most indicators, which are highly correlated with income per capita, Social Life seems to be better in the Italian South, where more people get married, fewer people separate and more people meet friends in their free time.

Maps-YourTopia

YourTopia Italia gives a chance to the user to adjust weights of their personal priorities and see how the map changes when some indicators are excluded altogether. A timeline visualisation also gives the perspective of how Italian regions have developed over time.

Timeline

All YourTopias can be saved and shared through social media.

So, join our efforts: go to italia.yourtopia.net and define the YourTopia that reflects your vision of social progress!

The application was created with a dataset assembled from istat, and the source code of the application is released under an open license. This project is a result of a team work effort and follows up on ideas initiated during the Open Economics Hackday in January this year.

Analyzing the Yourtopia Dataset

Guo Xu - February 7, 2012 in Crowd-sourcing, Yourtopia

The following post is from Dirk Heine and Guo Xu, members of the Yourtopia project team. 

Last year, the Open Economics Working Group submitted Yourtopia, a crowd-sourced indicator of social progress, to the World Bank Apps4Development competition and has been awarded the third prize. Yourtopia allows users to assign weights on different dimensions of development (e.g. economy, health and education). Based on the weights submitted by all users, we constructed a robust aggregate weighting, reflecting a global “consensus weighting”, which can used as a consensus measure of development. One year later and after more than 4,000 submitted weightings, where do we stand? And perhaps most importantly, how does our “consensus weight” compare to conventional indices, such as the Human Development Index (HDI)?

The results are quite remarkable: Compared to the default weights of the HDI where economy, health and education receive equal weights (33% each), our consensus weight assigns 30% to economy, 34% to health and 36% to education. Two things are worthwhile pointing out:

1) The HDI weights, even though ad-hoc and arbitrary, are nearly identical to the weights obtained by crowd-sourcing. Taking measurement errors into account, we cannot reject that our consensus weights are equal to the HDI weights. Despite the criticism, the HDI appears to be quite robust.

2) Looking at the point estimates only, the consensus weights also suggest that education is the most important dimension of development, followed by health. This is not surprising as human capital plays a crucial role in fostering economic growth. The economy is merely a means towards expanding capabilities.

Finally, we were also able to explore cross-country variation: By matching the IP addresses of the users against their country of residence, we were able to merge individual weights to country-level means. Correlating the country-level averages against other socio-economic variables enables us to address interesting questions: For example, are weightings associated with country-level variables? Are people from richer countries more likely to assign higher weights to economy, or vice versa?

The figure below plots a country’s GDP per capita level against the average country-level consensus weight for “economy”. A high value for the weight indicates that more importance is given to the economy as an indicator of development. The plot suggests a significant negative relationship: People in rich countries tend to assign less importance to the “economy” dimension, while people in poor countries perceive the economy to be more important. If this is indeed the case, we have another reason to re-consider GDP per capita as a measure of social progress.

Of course, the results should be taken with a grain of salt: The submitted weights are obviously subject to selection bias, which can be substantial in developing countries as access to internet is relatively limited. In addition, measurement errors are likely to confound the results as users were allowed to submit several times. While the large sample size can help alleviate some of these concerns, the results should be seen as tentative.

Are you interested in our project?

Help us analyze the Yourtopia dataset! We have released the dataset and are looking forward to more sophisticated analyses!
We are also currently working on Yourtopia 2. If you would like to join the project or come along for a hackday, please contact us at economics [at] okfn.org.

 

DataParty – Measures of Social Progress in Italy

Velichka Dimitrova - January 17, 2012 in Data Party, Yourtopia

Data parties are becoming a tradition in our activities: there are so far 30 datasets in our Economics Data Group on the DataHub and we would like to see this number grow with your help. If you have a dataset lying around, which you would like to share, please come to a data party and we can show you how to put it in the Datahub – it’s easy and fast and this way you could support the work of fellow researchers and students around the world.

The next data party will take place this Wednesday, January 18 at 5-6pm GMT / 6-7pm CET / 12-1pm EST. On the data party etherpad, add your skype id and I will be able to add you to the conference. All the data we can gather in the Google Spreadsheet.

This week’s topic is “Measures of social progress in Italy”, which is a preliminary meeting for our January 27-28 Apps4Italy Hackathon. Italy as one of the countries hit hardest by the 2008 economic crisis, has one of the highest levels of public debt – 118% of GDP. But how does Italy compare with the rest of Europe on income, social inclusion and living conditions? How do people value social progress and what are its dimensions?

Help us gather disaggregated data on these measures this Wednesday during our data party and learn more about Italy.

Ci vediamo!

Next DataHub Data Party – January 18, 2012

Velichka Dimitrova - January 10, 2012 in Data Party, Events, Yourtopia

You are welcome to join our next DataHub data party on January 18 at 5-6pm GMT / 6-7pm CET / 12-1pm EST. On our regular data parties we would like to assemble more datasets to add to our economics datahub database.

For the next data party however, we have a particular objective, related to our work on the Apps4Italy submission. The topic will be gathering data about Italy – different measures of progress, at higher frequency and at more disaggregated levels. We will work together on the following spreadsheet.

If you would like to participate, please enter your name and skype-id on the Etherpad:
Looking forward to gathering Italian data together!

Please Help Assemble Data for Hackday

Dirk Heine - January 9, 2012 in Data Party, Hackathon, Projects, Yourtopia

Dear Open Economics participants,

In preparation of the upcoming hackday, we are currently searching for the data on which we will base our measurement of progress in Italy. Could you kindly help finding data series? If so, please contribute to filling this spreadsheet.

You will find there data that Italy, jointly with its European partners, has identified as key to social progress (the EU2020 targets). Most of this data is available at Eurostat but only in annual frequency and with great statistical delays. We hence need to look for sources directly in Italy, where we hope to locate it in higher frequency and with shorter delays. Could you search with us on Italian/international sources and add them to the spreadsheet?

In case we cannot locate some of these official progess indicators, we are also looking for alternative, high-frequency data series that are generally accepted as key to social progress. If you have data/suggestions for such alternatives, please add them to the spreadsheet as well.

Please let us all check this out, so that we can soon start drawing up data series for our app.