Local insights for global action: Slovenia

Highlights from their latest COVID-19 data meetup

Open Data Charter
Mar 30 · 4 min read
Photo by Marco Secchi on Unsplash

In February, Slovenia organized their COVID-19 data meetup with almost 50 participants from the different ministries in charge of collecting or releasing pandemic data, as well as journalists and activists interested in the topic.The meeting began with opening remarks from the Open Data Charter (Natalia Carfi) and the OECD (Barbara Ubaldi). It was then followed by representatives from the governments of Catalonia, New Zealand and Mexico, as well as from Open North (Canada), who shared about their experiences organizing their own meetups in 2020. Following this, the Covid-19 Sledilnik project by Maja Založnik and Corona Virus Watch project by Marko Grobelnik were shared, as examples of what can be done when using Covid-19 data for the public good. The session was organized in two breakout rooms where participants joined either theTracking spread of disease and health sector capacity or Identifying and understanding impacts on our communities group. A brief summary of the discussion, together with the main challenges addressed and key data types identified can be found as follows:

This is a common argument for restricting the release of open data due to concerns over poor data quality, and Slovenia was not an exception. With this statement, participants discussed how some data stewards argue that they cannot share up-to-date epidemiological data when they are received and collected, at times incomplete and without any standardization. This delays people from knowing about the current situation in their cities.

Recommendations were then focused on trying to change how data is collected, since there is still a lot of data that is manually managed and shared. Improving the data frameworks and flow will help release valuable information in real-time and in open formats.

Specific key data types identified for tracking the disease spread include: the location of hospitals and medical services; testing, virus sequences and serological data; side effects of vaccination; disaggregation of hospitalizations by age groups; and improving health data quality by anonymizing potential re-identifiable data.

As for tracking the pandemic’s impact, the following data needs were highlighted: demographic, socioeconomic and mental health data to assess the impact of lockdowns and economic contraction; telecommunications information to assess connectivity issues and the disproportionate impact in vulnerable populations; and tourism data to understand the sector’s reduction.

Considering the ultimate purpose of the data and its potential use, is a key element for data release. It is only when you know the aim and context in which the data was collected and how it can improve analysis and policies, that it can actually make the difference.

Low-quality data and insufficient data infrastructure are the biggest hindrances to open data and strategic use of government data during crises. The National Statistics Office stressed the importance of a common methodology for data collection and standards for data release, so data can be comparable over time and data types used across areas for an effective response to pandemic demands. It was agreed that data infrastructures should be improved in order to release better, useful and up-to-date pandemic information.

Interoperability among different levels of government was also highlighted as a common challenge. The need of disaggregated data to coordinate and track the preparedness and response capacity of local governments is crucial, although not yet achieved.

Throughout the meetups held in different cities and countries, some common challenges remain the same: the need of disaggregated data to track the disease spread, monitor response capacity and coordinate among different levels of governments; work towards a purpose-driven data release, and having common standards in place and improving data quality.

This new space of exchange shows the need to talk to data users, identify priorities for each context, and work together towards common goals.

We are eager to see how these challenges are addressed by our partners, at the time in which we continue to collaborate and build useful resources to improve data governance frameworks that tackle global challenges.

***

A recording of the first part of the event can be viewed here.

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.

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

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