Open Data for Development Works to Identify Open Data needs and Challenges
By: Alex Howard.
The more the world around opening data changes, the more issues with open data stay the same.
On September 24, the Open Data for Development (OD4D) Network Summit convened its members from around the world to share the challenges that they’ve encountered in opening up data in their regions, to identify the most pressing new problems, and to explore how and where collaboration will make a difference.
In the afternoon, the summit broke out into five groups that each focused on a different set of issues and then shared a summary of their insights. An edited version of those readouts follows:
Involving the private sector
- Members need to engage businesses to help prioritize data useful to the private sector. Focusing on data purchased through access to information requests is one approach.
- Businesses can help fill gaps in government data collection. For example, a telecommunications company collecting weather data might supplement official capacity.
- Organizations can help governments to make data useful to government itself through cleaning or analysis.
- Tap into a desire for shared knowledge about how a given society is changing.
- Members need to continue to raise awareness. While “open data” has become common parlance in many countries, clear objectives and share goals are still needed.
- Members need to work more closely with media advisors and nodes in networks to ensure lessons are widely transmitted.
- Members need to find more ways to share resources, potentially including new platforms.
- Members need to continue to invest in mentoring and coaching.
Making open data “sexy” again
- After a decade, many members have hit their stride, but open data isn’t new anymore. Now what?
- Key concern: many members of the public still don’t understand data, what it is — or if they have access to it, don’t know how to apply it.
- There is still a primary focus on the supply side, as opposed to demand
- Developing more delightful uses of data; good outcome.
- Major risks to public trust include data breaches and weaponized transparency, where corrupt officials engage in selective disclosure targeting marginalized populations or political opponents.
- Continue to focus on implementation, but members need to clearly articulate values — and these differ between countries and can change.
- Members need to explain their end goals for opening data. What is the world they are trying to build? What is it they are trying to do?
Sustainable Development Goals
- How can OD4D leverage the resources, attention, and official statistics devoted to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
- There’s a clear need to be more visible. The official statistics community is overburdened, which means there need to be investments to engage institutions with limited capacity in open data.
- Members need to show local impact.
- What is the role of opening data in “Leave no one behind” agenda?
- There are some conflicting agenda, between the SDGs, 2063, and national plans, but within this work, the SDGs remain the entrance point.
- There needs to be more support for national reporting platforms so that they incorporate open data principles.
- OD4D could act as a partner and connector between different actors relevant to opening or using public data.
- More research on “wicked problems” in this space.
- There’s a continued need to raise awareness about the role data plays in governance: Decisions are made using data that isn’t transparent, including inside of government. Incentives persist for governments to hoard data (power!), which means there’s a role for policy to ensure sharing occurs.
- Skills! Governments need people who can make data releases effective and sustainable.
- There’s continues to be a lack of public awareness regarding the social impact of open data.
- Members need success stories, given their power.
- Empowering people with basic skills to explore local issues and document them works, as shown in Mapping Kibera.
- Members need to engage people where they are, online or offline.
- Members need to ensure publishers provide not only data but the methodologies used to create or clean it, empowering others to produce similar data.
Opening data for development is likely to remain a key element of the strategies for countries, states, and institutions of all sizes in the years ahead. Whether it’s a top priority for states will depend upon action through this network and the many other stakeholders involved with open data, incorporating and applying the insights from the decade past. In an era when rising populism, misinformation and polarization is challenging the ability of democracies to rely upon shared facts, the stakes may never have been higher for success.