21 September 2017



Opening Up Data in Closed Societies


You're invited to join us for a one-day conference bringing together the open data community at Friends House in London on 21st September 2017 from 9AM to 5PM

Space for participants is limited and we anticipate lots of interest! So, if you're interested in coming, please register by 14 September 2017.


Who are we?

Small Media is an organisation working to support freedom of information and freedom of expression in closed societies and restrictive environments. We created the Iran Open Data portal for Iran, and are engaged in a host of other data-driven work to support human rights across the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In order for the open data community to succeed in these challenging contexts, it's essential for open data experts, practitioners, and civil society organisations to come together to share their knowledge, discuss their experiences, and shape new ideas.

We need to tackle questions such as:


How do you open up data in places without transparent governments and freedom of information laws?

What are the ethical issues faced in working with data in closed societies?

In what ways can open data practitioners work collaboratively across borders?

How can the technologies used by the open data community be adapted and localised effectively?

How do you measure the impact created by open data in closed societies?


That's why we are organising the Open & Shut conference, to bring together global experts and practitioners with first-hand experience working on open data projects in closed societies.





Mor Rubenstein

Mor is the Data Labs and Learning manager at 360Giving, a UK initiative that supports organisations to publish their grants data in an open, standardised way. She's also the founder of Open Heroines, a group for women who work in open data, civic tech and open gov.


Nick Doiron

Nick is a web developer and mapmaker who has worked with One Laptop per Child, Code for America, and the Museum of Modern Art. Working with Myanmar's Union Election Commission on the MaePaySoh API and hackathon challenge, he helped publish thousands of candidate profiles as open data.


Harsha Devulapalli

Harsha is from India and has been working at the intersection of data and cities. He has worked with the Hyderabad Urban Lab and is now associated with Columbia University’s Urban Design Lab. He loves making maps of his hometown Hyderabad (which you can explore here). 



Hazwany Jamaluddin

Hazwany is from Malaysia and has been working on data visualisation for social audits, undertaking policy research, and network building. She was a project consultant for the Sinar Project. Currently, she is an Open Data Officer for Small Media, a fellow at the Asia-Pacific Internet Governance Academy, a Research Associate for DataViz My, and a co-founder-cum-facilitator for Youth For Rights.

bronwen pic.jpg

Bronwen Robertson

Bronwen is the Director of Research and Innovation at Small Media. She works alongside a team of researchers, designers and developers to create interactive data-driven projects and is passionate about innovative research methods. Bronwen has published a book about illegal rock music in Iran, and speaks fluent Persian.

Yan Naung Oak

Yan started OpenDevelopmentMyanmar.net while he was working with Phandeeyar, an Innovation Hub based in Myanmar. In 2017, he joined the School of Data Fellowship and is working to open up data about the extractives industry in Myanmar with the Natural Resource Governance Institute.


Sam Leon

Sam leads Global Witness’s work on data-driven investigative journalism and digital storytelling. He is currently working with data scientists, academics and investigative journalists to build analytical models and tools that help anti-corruption campaigners understand and identify corporate networks used for corrupt practices.


Tom Walker

Tom is Research Lead at The Engine Room, coordinating projects designed to help activists and social change organisations use data and technology in their work more effectively. He has a background in journalism and political analysis, and is interested in making issues around technology and data easier to understand for everyone. 


and more!



Registration and Networking (9:00 - 9:30AM)

Introduction (9:30 - 10:0AM)

Morning Panel (10:00 - 11:00AM)

Topic: Opening Up Data in Closed Societies

Panelists will share their experiences in opening up available to the public in closed societies, from negotiating with governments in places without Freedom of Information Laws, to building communities of civic hackers to build localised tools to open up data.

Speakers and Topics:

  • Anonymous: Iran Open Data

  • Nick Doiron: Digitising election candidate data in Myanmar

  • Hazwany Jamaluddin: Adapting civic tech and open data tools across borders

  • Harsha Devulapalli: Crowdsourcing and campaigning using data for urban development in India

Morning Break (11:00 - 11:30AM)

Lightning Talks (11:30AM - 1:00PM)

Speakers will share case studies in collecting and using open data, tools such as CKAN that are bedrock of open data, and research on the impact of open data.

Speakers and Topics:

  • Nick Doiron: Localising open data tools across different languages - case study of Arabic for Open Street Maps

  • Tom Walker: Measuring the impact of data driven campaigns

  • Jeff Allen: Crowdsourced election monitoring via SMS in West Africa

  • Bronwen Robertson: Data driven advocacy campaigns to promote transparency in Iran

  • Katelyn Rogers: Promoting data literacy around the world through the School of Data fellowship

  • Simon Johnson: Developing tools for working with data during humanitarian crises

  • Marianne Bouchart: A sensor journalism toolkit for African newsrooms

  • Jo Barratt: An introduction to CKAN, the most widely used open data portal software

Lunch Break (1:00 - 2:00PM)

Afternoon Panel (2:00 - 3:00PM)

Topic: Creating Impact with Open Data in Closed Societies

Opening up the data is just the first step, we need to find ways to use it to create impact. The panelists will share their experiences in using open data to empower data driven advocacy campaigns and data journalism in closed societies. We will also discuss the broader question of how can the impact of open data be measured in closed societies.

Speakers and Topics:

  • Marianne Bouchart: Award winning data journalism from closed societies

  • Yan Naung Oak: Building an open data community in Myanmar - successes and challenges

  • Sam Leon: Uncovering corruption with data driven advocacy campaigns

  • Mor Rubenstein: The state of open data - a look back at what has been achieved and what's next.

Afternoon Break (3:00 - 3:30PM)

Breakout Group Discussions (3:30 - 4:45PM)

We will round out the day with breakout groups to discuss issues such as:

  • Ethics of open data in closed societies

  • Building open data communities

  • Adapting open data technologies for closed societies

  • Assessing the impact of open data

  • Collecting data: strategies, tools, workflows

Conclusion (4:45 - 5:00PM)




With Support from




Friends House

Hilda Clarke Suite,

173 -177 Euston Road,

London NW1 2BJ.


Getting There

Friends House is located in the heart of Euston, directly opposite Euston Station, and a stone throw away from King's Cross and St Pancras International Stations.

The nearest tube stations are Euston and Euston Square, which are on the Northern, Victoria, Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City lines and overground.

You can find more details on getting to the venue at this page


General Inquiries


Space for participants is limited and we anticipate lots of interest! So, if you're interested in coming, please register by 14 September 2017. Click below to register:



Spread the Word

Tell your friends and family about this conference. There's no better way to make an impact than to become an active advocate yourself. Register now and make an impact!