Here I am; excited to take up the challenge at Open Knowledge Belgium

Yihaa, I’m very happy to have recently joined Open Knowledge Belgium as its new project coordinator. Being the successor of driving force Pieter-Jan won’t be an easy job, but I am looking forward to working together with the Open Knowledge community and its partners on bringing Open Knowledge and Open Data in Belgium, as part of the international movement, to new heights.

As Pieter-Jan and I aren’t identical twin brothers, some things are going to slightly change as a result of my appointment. Hence, a quick update with my intentions as well as some expected changes in the coming months.

My belief: Open Knowledge and Open Data for a better and more sustainable future

With previous experiences in data modelling, civic engagement and crowdsourcing, I have developed a keen interest in open innovation and the power of many intrinsically motivated individuals contributing to projects with social and societal impact, serving the interests of the many rather than the happy few. However I do have plenty of room to learn, especially on the more technical side (currently taking a MOOC on Linked Data Engineering), I’m more than ready to take up the challenge and start working on projects, which are often, at the crossroads of public interest and private initiative.

My curious mind, some may even call it childish curiosity, makes me interested in many different things, but my main interest goes nowadays to ways open knowledge and open data can contribute to smart mobility solutions; more specifically, urban cycling; as part of the strong tendency towards more liveable cities. In the last few months I have been on a bike tour through Northern and Eastern Europe and had the opportunity to meet civic innovators working on, mostly community-driven, solutions to tackle local challenges. As I’m inspired by this rise of urban cycling movements all over the world and bike data projects like the one in the city of Riga, I’d like to further explore bike data and ultimately provide cities with smart cycling insights on safety, infrastructure and accessibility.

I have made a non-exhaustive list of existing initiatives to encourage urban cycling; please feel free to add other initiatives you know.

Another aspiration of mine is to help build, in preferably multiple Belgian cities, a civic hacking culture. A logical first step would be to gather passionate urban innovators (all backgrounds welcome) and work on a regular basis together on open source civic tech projects, get feedback from tech and government experts and learn about civic innovation and related concepts like open data, smart cities and open government.

The biweekly OK Labs in Stuttgart and weekly civic hack nights in San Francisco might be good starting points; let me know if you know other examples.

Other project coordinator, same open events

To put things clearly: all support to all Belgian Open Knowledge working groups as well as both events Open Belgium and open Summer of code can go on without any interruption.

In fact, even more correctly, we are even more ambitious than ever before and aim at gathering 300 attendees at our yearly community-driven Open Belgium conference, on the 6th of March 2017 in Brussels, in order to discuss open knowledge and open data efforts in Belgium. Last week we launched our open call for speakers — all proposals are welcome.

Office in Brussels

As it’s Open Knowledge Belgium’s clear objective to unify efforts all over the country, we will move our office from Ghent to Brussels. Don’t get me wrong: Ghent is and will always be an important place for our community, but we hope to expand our community and create new opportunities by moving to the center of the country. Hence, we’re currently looking for a new office space in Brussels, preferably near a railway station to make it as easy as possible for our community to gather. If you have any suggestions in mind, let us know.

Belgium as part of the international movement

Open Knowledge Belgium is, as a local chapter part of Open Knowledge International, part of a global movement to create open knowledge. Therefore, I also consider it as one of my priorities to connect with other country representatives, learn from their best practices and failures and let them hear about what we’re doing.

And yes, we can still learn from other countries: although Belgium has been moving up the ladder in the last few years, it was ranked at #35 in the 2015 Open Data Index with a score of 43% (39% the previous year) and considered as a follower by the European Data Portal.

Let me hear from you

As project & community coordinator, I’m there to assist the Belgian Open Knowledge community and its different working groups and partners. If you have any questions, proposals or whatever you want to talk about, please get in touch with me via dries@openknowledge.be or ping me on Twitter @DVRansbeeck or @OpenKnowledgeBE.

Please mark Friday the 25th of November in your agenda. Then we’ll have a farewell drink for Pieter-Jan as our fulltime community coordinator and a welcome drink for me as the new one. A perfect opportunity to get to know each other — see you there? And, oh yeah, drinks are on us! Simply register via https://opendrinks.eventbrite.nl/.