Bringing power into the open

Our 2019 Strategy

Photo by Martin Sattler on Unsplash

by Ania Calderon

Data is a key part of the fabric of today’s societies and economies. How we access, use and regulate it matters more than ever. Used effectively, open and accountable data makes governments more efficient and transparent, and empowers citizens to hold them to account. It opens up development to innovation and helps tackle critical problems like climate change and corruption. It helps children get better books and equipment at school, hospitals acquire more beds and better medicines, and the police solve cases more effectively and accountably.

But data is not neutral and can do great damage if used irresponsibly. As has been argued, data reflects how power is distributed. Micro-targeting of voters during elections have revealed how personal information can be gathered and used in secretive, highly controversial ways. Artificial intelligence algorithms often deliver biased and unjust results, creating further suspicion and unease. These are serious, credible challenges to the idea that openness will advance social progress, especially in an increasingly volatile global political environment.

We must work to prove open data can deliver on its potential and to mitigate the risks we see. We must instil a culture of openness and accountability in how data is collected, shared and used within governments and society more broadly before a crucial window of opportunity closes.

2019 will be a critical year. The Open Data Charter’s targeted advocacy will work to cement political consensus around the idea that just and equitable societies will be built on data that is ‘open by default’, coupled with efforts to safeguard privacy and security.

We are building on solid foundations and most recently have had considerable success in engaging governments and partner organisations with the idea that publishing with purpose can help them become open by default. More than 100 governments and organisations have now committed to opening up data based on our set of global principles. The political will is building — now we must operationalise it.

Alongside our efforts to shape norms and standards to inform good data governance, we will take steps to show how our principles work in practice. Focusing on targeted actions to close the gender pay gap, tackle corruption and mitigate climate change, we can demonstrate that when officials open up data we can trust to accelerate urgent reform efforts, it helps them govern better.

To this end, our goals for 2019 are:

  1. Showcase principles in practice. Show how those adopting the Charter can improve the governance of data
  2. Publishing with purpose. Gather evidence of the positive impact of implementing the Charter Principles in key sectors
  3. Striking the right(s) balance. Engage with leading transparency, privacy and ethics organisations in order to help government officials navigate conflicting data rights

We know that we cannot accomplish this alone, which is why collaboration is central to our work. We look forward to partnering with open data experts, local partners and sector organisations to support governments to implement our principles, and deliver systemic change at scale.

Read more about our lessons, goals and activities here, or reach out to info@opendatacharter.org to learn how you can get involved.