First Five with Nikesh Balami, co-founder of Open Knowledge Nepal
We ask each of Open Data Charter’s newly appointed Board Members five questions in this special series:
1. How did you discover open data and/or the work of the Open Data Charter?
I was introduced to open data by my mentor Prakash Neupane back in 2013. It was a year, when the momentum of openness was at a high peak in Nepal, with lots of activities happening in the spheres of open sources software, OpenStreetMap, open data, and more. It was also the year, when Open Knowledge Nepal (OKN), the organization which I currently led started as a local chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. OKN now works in the interdisciplinary field of knowledge and has played a pioneering role in creating and driving forward open data and open knowledge in Nepal.
And I came to know about the Open Data Charter (ODC) in 2016 while doing online research to work on the localization of Open Definition in the Nepali language. Since then I have been closely following the ODC work online as I closely relate to the importance of ODC’s principles and visions.
2. What do you hope to bring to the current wave of open data discussions as a Board Member?
The global world is diverse with unequal distribution of power and resources. There is a gap that needs to be filled and the governments around the world have yet to learn how they can respond to the pressing problems and shape the ecosystem around them using the open data. As an advocate of open data, with the ODC, I aim to fill that gap by developing new open data technologies, building relations to increase the adoption of ODC principles, helping create a network of like-minded individuals and organizations to share best practices, and more; especially putting more focus on South Asia region.
3. Are you working on an open data project currently?
Most of my work is around the open data project and communities. Therefore, the list of open data project on my pipeline is huge and scattered, but these days my focus and commitments on two projects is more compared to other; 1) Integrated Data Management System (IDMS), where I am leading the study and technical development of the IDMS for the local and national government of Nepal so that we can decrease the silos between different existing Management Information System, bring the data in a central hub, and make data easily accessible for the general public by following the proper open data standard. Prototyping of IDMS in one local government is already done and has been proven very effective, and this year we are expanding it to additional local and national governments. 2) Open Data Day (ODD), where I am managing its operation and restructuring with the aim of making the ODD truly sustainable and a global event led by open data communities around the globe. Currently, I am helping with the small grant and events, and in the coming days, I will be working on the rethink structure of the ODD project.
4. Do you have a favorite open data project or initiative or one that you encountered recently that left an impression on you?
I already lost count of my favorite open data project and initiative because there are so many. But to list two, which have impressed me recently; 1) Frictionless Data, I have heard about the project since its ideation but recently I have been putting some time to explore it and I must say I am super impressed by its list of data software and standards. Frictionless is an open-source toolkit that brings simplicity to the data experience and the project aims to make data work easies by reducing common data workflow issues. 2) Global Data Barometer, I very much like this pilot edition of Barometer that assessed the state of data for the public good in 109 countries, especially because of its in-depth thematic module looking into the Climate Action, Land, Political Integrity, COVID-19, and more. I got an opportunity to be the country researcher for Nepal and must say the experience was very different from my past involvement with the Global Open Data Index and Open Data Barometer.
5. Share your vision: What does the world’s future look like with open data fully implemented and integrated?
“The future is open by default”, I see a decentralized world where open knowledge creates power for the many, not the few. A world where information helps deliver a balance of power; where we are free to make our own choices, with key information and insights available to all leading towards sustainable development.
And I aim to continuously work for an open future.
Nikesh Balami works for Open Knowledge Nepal, a civic tech organisation working in the field of open data — focused on developing quality data sources and solutions for civic tech projects. His work includes using open data standards while creating digital solutions, engaging local communities for using open data to make data driven decisions & working with authoritative bodies to build capacity on local levels. He also manages the international open data network at Open Knowledge Foundation.