Local Insights for Global Action: Barcelona

Highlights from the city’s COVID-19 Data Meet-up Report

Open Data Charter
Dec 1, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by Andrey Grinkevich on Unsplash

The Government of Catalonia’s Directorate General for Transparency and Open Data (DTDO) wanted to open up their data to more sectors in order to help overcome the health-related, employment-related and economic crises that have been caused by COVID-19. In order to achieve this recovery, they realised that they needed reliable, disaggregated, complete data that will enable them to determine what resources the government has and how to tackle the public health crisis. With this aim in mind, the Government of Catalonia, together with the ODC, organised their first COVID-19 Data Meet-Up in September 2020.

The Meetup aimed to define which datasets needed to be published in order to provide a holistic view of the impacts of COVID-19 and to best tackle the economic, social and public health crisis. They also aimed to define the criteria for standardising the collection, publication and analysis of COVID-19 data as well as drawing up of user guides and recommendations for comparing and cross-referencing data at the international level; to identify successful examples of the use of open data in relation to COVID-19; and finally, to propose a taxonomy of the metadata that is required in order to construct a useful, operational dataset designed to serve citizens’ needs.

The meetup was divided into three breakout groups: COVID-19 data’s impact on 1) the economy, 2) society and its vulnerable groups, and 3) gender.

1. ‘More data’ does not mean ‘better’ data.
The group recognised that it was important to remember that simply having a large amount of data does not equate to better information. They recognised that the data needs to be organised and converted into useful information. In other words, data must be published with purpose, which has been key to our 2020–2021 strategy.

2. Privacy matters, but who is responsible?
It was agreed that privacy mattered and the participants in the working group seemed to understand that there are mechanisms to anonymise the data. However, it was pointed out that if the data was collected by a private company, that it would be difficult to trace or track what could be done with the data, which left a gap in the accountability for negative outcomes.

3. Vulnerable groups and data gaps.
When discussing social impacts of COVID-19 data in vulnerable groups, the working group recognised that just because there was no data about a certain group of people, that those groups did not exist. The challenge was in the collection of such data and who was responsible for the collection. The working group also recognised that Catalonia lacks data from a gender perspective in any format, along with a lack of open data from a gender perspective both in general and with specific regard to COVID-19. However, having a breakout session focusing specifically on gender showed their commitment to remedy this gap.

Participants and facilitators alike found the COVID-19 Data Meet-Up to be of great interest, given the importance of improving the data collection process in order to enable the analysis of said data and to aid the identification of problems and solutions.

The groups highlighted the value of bringing together professionals from different disciplines and knowledge areas to discuss the urgent need to improve the open data ecosystem. An overview of the needs and demands of different sectors was achieved (as demonstrated by the summaries provided by each working group), however, many recommended to increase the length of the discussion, so that a deep-dive into each of the areas in question was possible. It was also suggested that the organisers considered a longer follow-up session in order to continue with the input that have been summarised in a report (available in English and in Catalan).

In a collaboration on high-value open data in a pandemic, the Open Data Charter and the OECD made a call to action for governments around the world to connect with their communities and find out the needs they have for data during this time of pandemic. We published guidance to help with organising open data meetups along with a framework to guide small breakout group discussions to capture people’s insights and needs.

Other cities have hosted their own meetups and insights from these have all been published on our blog.We have since expanded our COVID-related work, covering policy recommendations as well as a new data taxonomy, which you can read more about here.


Towards a culture of open and responsible data use by governments and citizens.

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