This month ODHK participated in the 2017 International Open Data Day hackathon organised at CityU. Some of the ODHK team pitched a project looking at refugee crime data (see the hackpad and our slides), which is being used as political football at the moment, despite there being a big data vacuum in this area. With no relevant data available from data.gov.hk, we’ve been forced to try to gather disparate data from FOI requests and other sources, so this project attempted to fill some of the gaps and visualise this data. Here we have a guest post here on the outcomes from one of the participants, Robert Porsch. Robert is a PhD student studying statistical genetics at HKU, and has a general interest in all kinds of data analysis. He put together this post in markdown, and we are posting it here courtesy of his great work.
Arrests of Refugees in Hong Kong. Is there the “surge” the media are portraying?
Like many societies, Hong Kong is having a heated discussion about immigration. Especially in regards to refugees. A common believe here is that refugees commit more crime than the general population and that most criminals are of South East Asian ethnicity. Further some have suggested the increase in refugees has let to a general increase in crime within Hong Kong. This has let to strong comments by some politicians (e.g. Dominic Lee in Sham Shui Po calling for internment camps). However, there is surprisingly little public data available to base these on.
Therefore, Open Data Hong Kong has attempted to acquire some data on the topic, especially Scott Edmunds who has spend a lot of time collecting the data by contacting individual police districts and police regions in Hong Kong through accessinfo requests. So here I will take a look at the data and see if I can find some answers.
First I should mention something about refugees in Hong Kong in general. I was unable to find some accurate numbers on the total numbers of asylum seekers in Hong Kong. According to the immigration department there were around 9 618 people claiming asylum in HK in 2014, 10,922 in 2015, and 9,981 in 2016.
HK never joined the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, and asylum seekers can only apply under the UN Convention Against Torture. Or at least cite as a reason for protection. Furthermore, the recognition rate is very low. About 0.16% of applicants are accepted (the global average is 27%). The application process is quite slow as well. This results that many applicants stay in the city for years and many asylum seeker whose application have been rejected cannot be deported due to a lack of extradition agreement with the corresponding home countries. During their stay applicants, as well as those who are rejected, are not allowed to work, but the government provides some minimal rental, food and medical subsidy (HK allocated HK$450 Million in the budget of 2013/2014). Some have suggested that these subsidies are too low to maintain a living in HK and provide incentives to be involved with criminal activities. The majority of claimants are from South and South East Asia.
To asses crimes committed by refugees in HK I took a look at the data provided by Open Data Hong Kong, as well as publicly available census data and crime statistics. Unfortunately, not all police districts in HK were able to provide the criminal statistics of refugees. In fact only West Kowloon region was able to provide a complete picture across their district. Furthermore, these numbers are arrest statistics and not convictions (ODHK has collected data showing roughly 50% of arrests result in convictions). So any conclusions should be viewed with care.
Is there an increase in arrests?
This question is relatively easy to answer and I have plotted the overall number of arrests for each region by year below.
As you can see there seems to be no overall dramatic increase in arrests for all of the regions. However, there is a slight increase in crime Kowloon East and West, but in general the trend points downwards. This would suggest crime in HK is not increasing.
Arrests of refugees
Since I only have limited data available about refugees in HK I was only able to look at Kowloon West. Hence I compared the number of arrests of refugees with the total number of arrests within this region.
Let me explain this plot in bit more detail. I used data available for 2014 and 2015. Since Hong Kong does not use the phrase refugee as Hong Kong does not recognise the UN Refugee Convention, so the exact legal classifications are a bit vague. Nevertheless, some police stations have called refugees “Form 8” (F8) holders, so I will use this phrase here as well. Thus the plot above shows the number of arrests made in Kowloon West by F8 holders and all arrests between 2014 and 2015.
So comparable those arrests rate look quite small. Indeed in 2014 and 2015 the proportion of arrests of F8 holders was 4% and 5% respectively. So these numbers seem rather stable and would suggest no major change between 2014 and 2015, despite a slight increase in the number of refugees.
Do refugees commit more crime than others?
This question turned out to be much more difficult to answer than I thought. One problem is that I do not know how many refugees live in Kowloon West, further police districts are not the same as council districts. This makes it difficult to get an population estimate since the census data from 2011 only looked at council districts. Thus I am unable to answer this question with the current data. Only the availability of the exact arrest numbers of refugees for the whole of Hong Kong or the exact numbers of refugees living in Kowloon would help to answer this question.
There is no evidence of an increase in crime in Hong Kong (at least from the data available), also there seems to be a slight increase from 2014 to 2015 (looks more like random noise to me however). Arrests of F8 holders was relatively stable between 2014 and 2015. Intuitively I think the proportions of arrests of F8 holders are higher than one would expect given a small population of around 10,000, but one needs to keep in mind that arrests are not convictions. In general the data is not really sufficient to make a conclusive statement. Except that HK is incredibly safe compared to other major cities (0.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2016; one of the lowest in the world).
Thankfully no longer clashing with Chinese New Year after some previous lobbying, the 2017 edition of International Open Data Day is Saturday 4th of March. You can see a post on last years edition here. Just to share what Hong Kong is up to for this year, Open Source Hong Kong have done a great job setting up a hackathon at City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong from 10am-6pm. This includes a likely fascinating roundtable at with three data-savvy legislators from LegCo – Charles Mok, Edward Yiu, Chung-Tai Cheng, and Dr Ray Cheung (CityU App Lab), moderated by Dr Haggen So (HKCOTA).
Registration is free but is limited to 60 participants, so sign up while there are still places.
10:00 Reception and Networking
10:15 Introduction and Team Forming
11:00 Start of team works / discussions
16:00 Open Data Roundtable with Guests
17:00 Team Presentation
Guests at Roundtable (4-5pm) – Discussion of Open Data (Venue: Classroom P4704):
– Hon. Charles Mok 莫乃光 立法會議員 (資訊科技界)
– Hon. 姚松炎 Edward Yiu 立法會議員 (建築、測量、都市規劃及園境界)
– Hon. Chung-Tai Cheng 鄭松泰 立法會議員 (新界西選區)
– Dr. Ray Cheung, Cityu Apps Lab.
(Modarator: Dr. Haggen So, Hong Kong Creative Open Technology Association)
Dumb Versus Smart Cities It seemed appropriate in the same week that Hong Kong was hosting a smart city summit to host a meetup getting valuable insight into how a true smart city – Taipei – works. Taipei Mayoral Advisor TH Schee was in town and gave us a “fireside chat” insight into the secrets of Taiwan’s success here, and inspire us with ideas on how to set up an open data policy for Hong Kong. Despite styling itself as Asia’s World City, and “smart city” being the buzzword in Government circles that everybody is targeting to get funding for, Hong Kong has a long way to prove itself in this area. A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple data sources to manage a city’s asset . Without open data to drive them, smart cities are doomed to failure, and Hong Kong’s poor digital policies means it will continue to be overtaken by its neighbours in innovation and technology. This means it is particularly timely and topical to ask policy lessons we can learn from our most successful neighbour in this field, Taiwan.
Hong Kong has dropped out of the top 10 of the WIPO global innovation index in recent years, and is currently ranked 37th in the Open Knowledge Open Data Index. And due to a misreading of the HK Government data licensing policy (which are not open or interoperable by any definition) without this overly generous scoring would mean we would likely rank 20-30 places lower. Contrast this with Taiwan, which in the last Index overtook the UK to be the highest ranked place in the world for Open Data. From the outside it seems a data-driven utopia, with a new “Minister for Data” moving from g0v.tw citizen-run open data groups such as ours to now being in the heart of Government.
TH Schee has been at the front line of this Taiwanese Open Data revolution, and has written interesting blogs on the topic, but it was great having him come and talk us through the backstory and potential policy lessons in person. With extra juice stories of the unsung heroes behind the scenes to be told. Meet.33 was our first gathering in a while, and it was great to see such a huge turnout. Thanks to Justice Centre Hong Kong for giving us the space in Sai Ying Pun at such short notice, and to Adam Severson for giving us an intro on the great work they do single handedly supporting refugee legal services in Hong Kong. Adam also give us a quick intro on the difficulties they as a NGO face decision making in an information vacuum where the government politicizes immigration and crime data but refuses to share any of it.
Open Data versus Natural Disasters Getting a government sceptical of transparency to share data is a challenge, but one that Taiwan seems to have managed admirably. The process of trust building and collaboration between civic hackers and government in Taiwan had an unlikely ally: mother nature. Or more specifically, natural disasters such as the many earthquakes and typhoons that pound Taiwan with unfortunate regularity. The disastrous typhoon Morakot in 2009 was the turning point in how Taiwan dealt with data. Official government communication early in the crisis failed, causing people to turn to websites run NGOs and the civic hacker community. Web users began reporting the real-time situation on the bulletin board forum PTT and on early social media platforms like plunk. At the height of the crisis an unofficial Morakot Online Disaster Report Center was established by a group of internet users from the Association of Digital Culture. The government quickly realized that this information was saving lives, and this website was then integrated into local governments’ communication systems and updated from the official disaster response center. From the trust and experience gathered in the front line of “internet rescue management” the people involved help seed the initial environment that has allowed this open data driven society to bloom (see this published case study for more). TH presented a very detailed timeline of this covering the founding of communities such as g0v.tw and opendata.tw, data journalism and open data social enterprises spin offs, and how many the people involved in these citizen organization then made their way into the heart of government. Initially from the Mayors of Taipei and Taichung running on open data policy driven platforms, culminating in Audrey Tang becoming minister without portfolio in the new national government. How we can take policy lessons from this in soft , natural-disaster-free Hong Kong is another matter, but it shows we need to be prepared, and we need to build similar networks of organisations leading by example. One advantage Taiwan has had is a strong open source and open access community in academia (particularly Academia Sinica) that has always been a safe haven and place of continuous support for these efforts. We don’t yet have an equivalent in Hong Kong, but some members of ODHK have just put together an overview and survey on research data policy (see the pre-print), a nascent Asian open access network is forming, and this years Open Access Week looks to be the biggest in Hong Kong so far, with 3 events organised already. We recorded TH’s talk on periscope so you can see the archive there, as well as inspect his incredibly detailed slides. A one hour discussion really wasn’t enough, and we hope we can tempt TH back another time to give us more insight. We have more regular meetups in the pipeline, and our next one is on the Wednesday 12th October on open data tools at Campfire in Kennedy Town. We hope to see many of you there, and continue to build these communities that will hopefully let Hong Kong follow a similar trajectory to Taiwan.
The concurrent rise of Internet-connected smart phones, access to global navigation satellite systems, and social media networks have created a geospatial data revolution in cities aroundthe world. The smartphone’s ability to capture, compute and communicate data in collaboration with platforms such as OpenStreetMap, and the power afforded to organize mass participation by social media, have imploded traditional data vacuums and access protocols in cities around the world. It has now been proven that when it is shared in an open manner, crowd-sourced geospatial media collected by residents can be used to solve real-world engineering challenges. Furthermore, the instantaneous nature of data sharing between mobile devices enabled by social media networks means that cities can harness this information to respond to critical events in real-time.
This public lecture explores the design, creation and deployment of the world’s first real-time megacity flood map PetaJakarta.org in Jakarta, Indonesia. Using a geosocial intelligence approach to megacity flooding, the project engages social media, citizen journalism, digital sensors and government alerts to plot locations of flooding in real-time on a free and open map. By connecting both informal and formal data sources, the map acts as a cartographic interface for civic co-management, enabling individuals, communities, government agencies and NGOs to respond more effectively to flood events caused by the annual monsoon rains. PetaJakarta.org is now used operationally by the Jakarta Emergency Management Agency to collect and communicate locations of flooding with residents. In conclusion, the presentation will examine how these methodologies and techniques can be applied to different application domains and geographic regions, as a platform for information gathering and sharing in cities around the world.
Dr. Tomas Holderness is a Geomatics Specialist and Chartered Geographer at the SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong where he leads the Open Source Geospatial Lab and co-directs the PetaJakarta.org project with Dr. Etienne Turpin. His research focuses on understanding the response of megacities to extreme weather events, through the development of new geographical information systems. His research into the use of social media to crowdsource real-time flood information in Jakarta has been featured in the World Disasters Report, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and National Geographic.
Open Data versus the Mosquito The current global panic about zika can be boiled down a “data gap” issue. Gaps in understanding of why it has started spreading so rapidly now, a gulf in fathoming its effects on pregnant women (evidence linking zika and microcephaly is still only spatio-temporal rather than causational), and gaps in sharing the research data and clinical specimens that will enable the global research community to keep one step ahead of the virus spread. As with Ebola, there has been much frustration of many key players not sharing these materials. Despite the fact that in a life-and-death situation wild speculation and panic fills the vacuum, and closed data risks lives.
All this makes the zika crisis a perfect opportunity to harness the benefits and showcase the utility of open approaches. In particularly open and collaborative efforts using Open Data and Open Source hardware. An international group of makers / hackers / scientists / citizen scientists trying to develop innovative measures against zika, and Open Data Hong Kong have teamed up with MakerBay to join these efforts. Join us at the zika hackathon on the 16th February at MakerBay in Yau Tong (see their event page here). We’ll be linking up with the global google hangout with other zika hackathon participants in Brazil, Australia, Singapore, and beyond. Then discussing and pitching projects where we can contribute from here in Hong Kong. From both of our data hacking and hardware hacking perspectives, and where these different stands of “open” can be combined to produce crowdsourced data collection tools and apps to see if citizens can do better than the supposed experts in filling in these data gaps.
The “Asian tiger mosquito” Aedes Albopictus, which is among 60 types of mosquito that can carry the virus if it bites an infected person, is endemic to Hong Kong. The warmer year-round weather and more extreme rainfall patterns we are currently seeing will make the city even more favourable for mosquitoes from the Aedes genus, sparking warnings from local health officials to eliminate breeding areas. On top of the threats of zika, we already have sporadic dengue outbreaks from these vectors, and the Hong Kong government currently has an Oviposition Trap (Ovitrap) screening program to detect the presence of adult mosquitoes. With only 52 locations across Hong Kong selected for the vector surveillance, and the mosquitoes having a roughly 200m range, more than 98% of Hong Kong is currently not covered and there is a need for much more data collection and presentation (the FEHD presenting not very helpful PDFs). Contrasting this with the more dynamic data driven approaches of dengue reporting Singapore uses, Kaggle competitions for West Nile Virus modelling, and Spanish efforts at crowdsourcing tiger mosquito spotting (with no Hong Kong data collected to date) show a few approaches we could follow here.
Are you interested in getting involved and use your creativity to develop innovative technologies and contribute to understand and prevent zika from spreading? Let’s meet up! The event will be co-hosted by Scott from ODHK and Ajoy, Jacky and Nicolas from MakerBay, and efforts will be longitudinal following the ongoing international hackathon efforts. For more see:
Tuesday, February 16th 2016, 6:00pm Add to: Location:
Location: MakerBay, 16 Sze Shan Street, C1 Yau Tong Industrial Building Block 2, Yau Tong, Kowloon
See this on Google maps.
See this event on Facebook.
UPDATE 23/2/16: MakerBay have a write-up of this event now posted, and you can see the archived livestream below. Thanks to everyone who attended, and keep following to see how the pitched projects develop.