Publishing with Purpose

Introducing our 2018 strategy

By Ania Calderon

The Open Data Charter’s core principle, that governments should be “open by default” is an ambitious — and potentially revolutionary — approach to government. Open data holds the promise of helping solve tough policy problems, improving government responsiveness, and promoting more inclusive and equitable societies.

Our field has been quite successful at promoting the idea of open data as a key element of good governance. But the focus has often been on publishing as much data as possible and has not yet resulted in large-scale institutional changes in how most governments use and share data.

In my view there has been a growing recognition that opening up data in isolation is less effective than it can be if targeted at solving specific policy problems — that “publish with purpose” can deliver more than “publish and they will come”.

Over the next year, the Charter network will work with governments and experts to better understand how to move towards “open by default” as the ambition, with an approach to “publish with purpose” as a way of prioritising actions and embedding institutional change.

In 2018 the Open Data Charter will work towards making “publish with purpose” the way in which the open data movement prioritises what to open up first. We hope to encourage officials to respond to the problems they face in ways that are data driven and participatory. And that this influences how governments are building their broader data infrastructures — embedding “open by default” as a guiding norm.

Today we’re launching our strategy, “Publishing with purpose” setting out how we intend to do this.

Our goal is to embed open data as a central ingredient to achieving better solutions to the most pressing policy challenges of our time.

I believe that the best way to inspire governments to become “open by default” is to encourage small steps that yield quick wins.

Rather than advocating for governments to open up as much data as possible, as fast as possible, the Charter network will develop practical guidance for government reformers to open up datasets in ways that are most likely to yield specific and tangible benefits to citizens.

This builds on the insights we’ve gained from our successes in 2017, which include testing how open data can be used to combat corruption in Mexico, expanding our network of governments and experts, and kick-starting conversations about the future of open data. (For more on our 2017 impact, read my blog summarising our year).

In 2018 the Charter will focus on ensuring that responses to key policy problems are informed by open data.

This will be delivered through two strands of work:

  1. Shifting norms: Leading a collective process to refresh the Charter Principles to recognise that opening up data in isolation is less effective than if targeted at solving specific policy problems, and that they continue to represent the gold standard for what good open data looks like.
  2. Practical guidance: Demonstrating this approach through the development and piloting of Open Up Guides, such as work on “climate action” in Argentina.
By setting global norms which are informed through demonstration projects that showcase their local impact, global organisations can act in more nuanced ways to inspire change in government behaviour on the ground.

I’m really excited about the next stage of the Charter’s work and we’re keen to collaborate as much possible with government officials, experts and civil society. Please get in touch if you want to work with us — info@opendatacharter.org.

Read the full strategy here.