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[Spotlight] Bridging knowledge with practice

Building a global community of data practitioners

by Flor Serale, Implementation Working Group co-chair

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Hola, we are back! We have been busy planning our 2022 and searching for a new government co-chair to join us. This blog summarized two inspiring sessions and presents our Action Plan and Agenda for this year.

Our plans for 2022

In the past years, we made great efforts towards strengthening our community of open data practitioners and securing a “safe space” to share our challenges and learn from each other. We hosted panels in Spanish across different time zones and invited insightful speakers and learned from innovative projects from the global data ecosystem.

As we did in 2021, we drafted our Action Plan for 2022 with your help, via a survey and also during one meeting in February (see Jamboard). The ODC Implementation Working Group (IWG) is committed to continue working towards advancing the open data agenda by achieving the following goals:

  1. Host a diverse, inclusive and equitable IWG.
  2. Secure participation by ODC adopters.
  3. Bridge knowledge with practice.
  4. Connect adopters with the global open data ecosystem.

You can learn more about our Action Plan and Agenda for 2022 at this link. We would love your feedback and suggestions of speakers and inspiring projects to showcase!

Equity and community building at the core of the IWG

In case you missed it, we’ve put our goals and commitments into action and hosted two inspiring sessions in January and March. Our January session was called “Equity: Placing vulnerable populations at the center of data-driven crisis response” and we learned from two data collectives working on data, civic tech and equity. In addition, our March’s session was about “Open Justice and how open data can secure an equitable access to justice”.

Placing vulnerable populations at the center of data-driven crisis response

Firslty, we learned from Pollicy, a feminist collective of technologists, data scientists, creatives and academics working at the intersection of data, design and technology to craft better life experiences by harnessing improved data.

Navina Mutabazi, Pollicy’s Program Coordinator for the Feminist Movement Building Programs, introduced some of projects they are currently implementing to build safer digital spaces and visibilise current challenges of technologies and platforms. Examples include a study in Uganda to understand violence against women in leadership and politics, a reserch to understand online experiences of African women living across five countries in the region (Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda) and a study to understand ICT accessibility challenges for people with disabilities.

When it comes to building equitable digital spaces and defining data-driven solutions that address persisting digital gaps (in terms of gender, urban-rural, education, among others), Pollicy has delivered many inspiring resources and engaging media (including games, infographics, explainers, videos) to speak out about online abuse, accessibility and digital rights and build a safer and inclusive internet for women.

Our second speaker was Tracy Kadessa, Community Coordinator of Open Heroines (OH), an international online community of over 700 members, who work to amplify the voices of women and non-binary people working in the fields of open government, open data, and civic tech.

Through their values of inclusion, diversity, collaboration and accountability, the OH community promotes openness through partnerships, support and collaborations. They hosted international events, provided grants to increase women’s participation in conferences and implemented a community fund to support local events in Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Cambodia. OH has also developed guidelines on how to get away with Manels and is now partnering with ILDA to provide scholarships for women attending their Femicides workshop.

Open and equitable access to justice

Open Justice was highly prioritized in our Action Plan, so in March’s session we hosted a panel to learn from projects and initiatives that are making justice more transparent, equitable and accountable by standardizing data, defining strategies and increasing data use. We would like to thank our three panelists for sharing their insights: (1) Diane Robinson, Senior Court Research Associate at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) of the United States; (2) Álvaro Herrero, Director of Research and Institutional Relations in the Council of Magistrates of the city of Buenos Aires; and (3) Elizabeth Moses, Associate Researcher in the Rights and Environmental Justice programme of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Diane Robinson shared her experience and challenges at the NCSC for standardizing open data across courts and defining a data governance framework for increasing transparency and accountability in court processes. Why are data standards important? The NCSC is currently addressing the challenge of making data comparable across state courts that have their own rules, terminology and definitions. This lack of standardization is generating misuse of court data and when it comes to working with courts, Diane perfectly summarised the common response to standards: “Standards are a great idea. Here use mine.” Data standardization still has a long way to go. The NCSC through consultation with technical experts and data users, defined the National Open Court Data Standards, a set of voluntary, aspirational and separable rules to describe and record data. The main outcome of this process is the Court Statistics Project that publishes comparable case-level data to enable data-informed policies.

Alvaro’s presentation focused on the need to drive political reforms and policies to open up data in the judiciary branch. Working at the Council of Magistrates of the city of Buenos Aires, Alvaro supported the design of an open data strategy to move the open data agenda forward and achieve concrete reforms. He shared with the group some lessons learned from this process which include: (1) divide this strategy into phases to achieve quick wins that can create trust with internal actors; (2) leadership and political will is crucial; (3) having a bottom up strategy is also important to keep courts engaged; (4) having internal support from data champions across courts and within the justice system; and (5) investing in cultural change and peer-to-peer knowledge transfer, for example, disseminating the advantages of open government reforms and use of data.

Finally, Elizabeth introduced WRI’s Strengthening the Right to Information for People and the Environment (STRIPE) project to support and empower local communities to exercise their right to access information. One of the initiatives of this project focused on assessing how the access to information laws were put in practice in Mongolia, Thailand and Indonesia. They also looked at how water pollution data was published and the barriers that communities faced to access and use this information. Their study found that, despite these countries passing strong laws and implementing data portals, there is a gap between policy and practice that continues to place poor communities at risk. There are also structural barriers faced by communities to request public information and effectively use the data, and a lack of capacities in local governments to collect data. To strengthen capacities and support local communities, WRI has released a toolkit for using environmental rights to fight pollution. As Elizabeth said: “Data does not magically translate into action, you need to identify where the barriers are and where the support is needed”. Partnerships with communities, understanding gaps and building local capacities are key to achieve meaningful outcomes.

Flor Serale is a Digital Innovation Advisor for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and is a consultant for the Open Data Institute. She is also the co-chair of ODC’s Implementation Working Group.

If you are interested in joining our Implementation Working Group calls and are not yet part of the mailing list, please send an email to info@opendatacharter.org so we can add you. We would love for you to be a part of the next one on Tuesday, 26 April 2022 at 7pm London time.

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