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Interview

Günther Tschabuschnig
Federal Chancellery, Federal ICT strategy

From a Wiki Loves Monuments Jury member to a provider of ideas for the Open Data Portal Austria: the collaboration with the Federal Chancellery brought us in 2014 to the introduction of the Open Data Portal for Austria, a central platform for non-government data. This is a cooperation between public administration and open culture communities which is considered exemplary throughout the world. A few years ago nobody would however dared to dream of this - that is except for one person. Günther Tschabuschnig who is involved in the shaping of the federal ICT strategy.

Günther, does one need to be a good dreamer in order to be involved in the development of future strategies for Austria’s digital future?

I can answer this with a quotation that my boss gave me in the course of my professional development: "People with a new idea are considered to be crackpots until the idea has succeeded (Mark Twain)". In this respect one must really think outside of the box to a considerable extent if one wants to push ahead with innovation. I'm not sure whether this means dreaming, because at the end of the day we try to live in the real world, even when we think outside of the box.

What roles to the "openness" of data and information and "freedom" of knowledge play in your dreams?

My personal dream is assuredly a society that is open in every condition of life. Without borders and without barriers. The basis of this is information which is, in turn, based on data. And I am able to implement this dream in the real world; the open and barrier-free presentation of society's data and the witnessing of the magnificent projects the community makes out of it and how creativity can be harnessed - therefore I love my work.

To what extent was your role as a jury member for Wiki Loves Monuments a catalyst for the Open Data Portal?

An essential part of my work is the networking of the various stakeholders in an around Austria. Wiki Loves Monuments offers an outstanding platform to make contact with people with regard to the topic of "free knowledge". Apart from the networking component however, the WLM project served to demonstrate the extent to which a community can work together homogenously and enthusiastically. Each jury sitting motivated me to go deeper into the topic of "free knowledge".

What makes Wikimedia a good partner for the journey into Austria's digital future?

For us Wikimedia is the ideal intermediary between a broad community, a highly professional environment and the administration. A digital community needs new forms of cooperation between the administrations and the community, in which shared concerns can be agreed upon and jointly defined and rapid results thus generated in one process and on an equal footing.

What was your personal highlight in the collaboration to date?

After every presentation, when positive feedback comes from the audience due to the efforts made by the team working on the Open Data Portal is, for me, an affirmation that we are on the right path. With the right partners and a strong community. Every time a new data set is published and NGOs, NPOs and also companies share a part of our journey, represents for me a success. This and the really excellent collaboration with our partners and every project meeting are regular highlights of our collaboration!

Many Wikipedia readers are not aware that there is a community of authors, photographers and coders behind the website, or Wikimedia organizations which support them in their work. How would you describe in few words these people in the community and the collaboration with it?

A digital world needs answers to the challenges of the future - because of steadily shrinking resources, however, this will only be possible through constructive cooperation comprising a broad portfolio of digital natives, artists, doers, implementers and keepers. Thank you Wikimedia for the outstanding collaboration and joint shaping of Austria's digital future!