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[Spotlight] A global effort to track data for public good

Insights from the Global Data Barometer

Photo by Ryoji Iwata

By Flor Serale & Paul Stone, Open Data Charter’s Implementation Working Group

“Data is a source of power. It can be exploited for private gain, and used to limit freedom, or it can be deployed as a public good: a resource for tackling social challenges, enabling collaboration, driving innovation and improving accountability.” – GDB Research Framework, 2020.

ODC’s 2020–2021 strategy reflected on how data and tech are a source of power, and how policies and regulations must ensure digital rights and societal benefits. For the July Implementation Working Group (IWG) session we invited Tim Davies from the Global Data Barometer (GDB) to explore how we can measure the access and use of data for social good.

The GDB is currently in its development phase and is expected to be released in 2021, with bi-annual releases. The main scope of the barometer is to assess the overall data governance environment, data policies and use cases of a country combining independent researchers and voluntary government input with peer-reviewed country-level expert analysis.

Tim shared with the group the previous measuring efforts to assess the data initiatives and policies, starting from 2012 with the Web Index and four editions of the Open Data Barometer (ODB) later, and finally, the ODB leaders edition in 2017. Since then, the ODB has been seen as a tool for informing policy, strengthening advocacy and design strategies. The GDB builds on these indexes, but stresses the need to assess data in a holistic way, considering openness, sharing and privacy aspects. It also deepens sectoral analysis to understand how data is being used in areas such as health, gender, justice, land and tourism, among others.

A global effort of this scope needs a global partnership to be sustainable: the GDB is allowing donors, thematic organisations, governments and private enterprises to contribute and participate. The Barometer is intended to enable conversations around data use and impact for social good, and deeper conversation around themes and governance models. In this sense, data is seen as a public good that can be used to drive innovation, hold governments accountable and balance power.

Although the methodology is under development, Tim shared with the IWG the preliminary structure of the barometer. The GDB will have five overarching themes: (1) sustainable development; (2) data for development; (3) openness; (4) inclusion, gender and diversity and (5) emerging AI practices, and four pillars: (1) governance; (2) capability; (3) availability; and (4) use & impact.

Taken from Tim’s slides, which can be found here.

After Tim’s presentation, the group had the opportunity to exchange insights, provide feedback to the methodology and identify implementation challenges. Some of the key points raised in the discussion included: how to measure data availability that was of high value locally, the main contributions of this barometer to the existing indices and how to measure sectoral data in emerging issues (e.g. the blue economy) beyond the prioritized thematic modules.

The GDB team is expected to be in the field in early 2021 through the regional hubs.

We are glad to be part of the GDB Advisory Group, so if you’re interested in collaborating with the research or have further comments, do reach out to us at info@opendatacharter.org and we would be happy to provide support. Our thanks to Tim and his team for participating in this session and wish them luck on this tremendous effort.

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Learn how we are working towards a culture of open and responsible data use by governments and its citizens.

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