[Spotlight] Looking Back to Move Forward:

Expanding the open data discourse and a call for a new IWG co-chair

Open Data Charter
6 min readJan 11, 2024


By Wilfreda Edward-Dolcy, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

In last month’s final ODC IWG session of 2023, the closing slide of a presentation by Co-founder and Program Director at Icebreaker One, Gea Mikic, read “CONNECT DON’T COLLECT”. In this session dedicated to open data from non-government partners, these words were a nod to the organization’s philosophy that the key to true data interoperability “across sectors and borders” is collaboration. After three years of immersion in the open data space and having spent the last of those years as Government Co-chair to the Open Data Charter Implementation Working Group, I’ve learned how true this statement is and how great its potential is for impact. As I step down from this role, it reminds me of why I accepted it and why I continue to believe that the ODC IWG community plays a unique role in fostering that collaborative spirit in alignment with Gea & Icebreaker One’s vision — across sectors and across borders.

About the IWG

The Open Data Charter (ODC)advocates for a world in which “*governments collect, share, and use well-governed data [by default], to respond effectively to our most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges*”. The Implementation Working Group (IWG) is a monthly virtual meeting hosted by the Open Data Charter Team and chaired by a Government and Civil Society Co-chair, around specific topics related to open data. Each session kicks off with an introduction to the topic and panelists, followed by presentations, discussions, and knowledge-sharing — giving everyone an opportunity to network and showcase their exciting work. The agenda is co-designed by IWG members at an annual action plan session, where topics are defined for the year. The 2023 Action Plan is a great example of the range of topics this group covers.

The ODC operates out of Buenos Aires, Argentina and attracts a large Spanish audience, alongside practitioners, experts, and policymakers from around the world. To support and encourage attendance across language barriers, the sessions also include live Spanish interpretation. Every session is recorded and posted to the ODC YouTube Channel, where they can be watched if missed or revisited for refreshed insight. Participants are made up of IWG members, who join us because they work with and/or are passionate about the principles of open data. These members are a great mix of ODC government adopters from national and local governments around the world, academics, researchers, and champions from civil society organizations. They are real-world trailblazers defending the open data agenda in their everyday work.

Tapping into an expansive network that spans this global open data ecosystem, the meetings themselves are co-organized with a Civil Society Co-chair. In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of initially chairing alongside, Florencia Serale, a champion for Digital Rights, who set an impeccable example for me to follow and brought a wealth of knowledge on digital innovation and open data from her experience at UN-Habitat. As she moved on to bigger and brighter things, her successor and current Civil Society co-chair Larissa Magalhães, Ph.D. research associate at the United Nations University, joined our fold. In the relatively short time we’ve worked together, it’s clear to me that Larissa is a rising star in her own right, and I look forward to her blossoming as co-chair, as she helps to advance the open data agenda. Supported by the incomparable ODC Team made up of Executive Director Nati Carfi; Projects Manager, Mecedes de los Santos; and Research Manager Renato Berrino Malaccorto; this group curates compelling content each month that challenges the status quo, while reminding us why this work is critical — not just to reinforce democracy and build public trust, but also to spur innovation and ultimately improve community outcomes. Nati, Mechi, Cat and Rena welcomed me with open arms, and each month they help create a safe space for members to share their challenges and brave the open data landscape to drive the change we all avidly seek. Thanks to their patience, passion, and professionalism, I’ve learned so much about my own capabilities as a facilitator and as an open data advocate.

Looking back to move forward

When I was offered the role of Government Co-chair I did so with little knowledge of what the group was about and with very few contacts I felt I could leverage to support the sessions. I was apprehensive about the value I could bring and how I could make a difference in such a well-established forum. When I shared these concerns with the ODC team, I was met with complete understanding and sincere encouragement that I would be well supported and given the room to offer and learn what I could at a comfortable pace.

A year later, I can honestly say they were true to those words, and as I look back, I can certainly see where we’ve expanded the discourse around key open data issues, while reinforcing fundamental principles. This year alone, we started off with a solid conversation around the interconnectedness of data partnerships and good data governance. Datamorfosis and Open North reminded us that mutually beneficial partnerships combined with good governance, enable data providers to easily open, share, and/or close data, in a highly trusted way, for the most relevant people.

Spring was packed with more fascinating content, starting with a series of open houses as part of #OpenDataDay2023. Through four distinct sessions, the ODC featured highly relevant, regionally contextualized topics across Latin America, Europe & Africa, Asia & Oceania, and North America, where I was honoured to speak about how open data activities are evolving in Canada. Later on, the IWG zeroed in on the ever-buzzing debates around open data and AI, where interesting questions arose around whether open data lends to or helps alleviate AI-associated risks. By the summer, we moved on to Smart Cities as a model for improving urban infrastructure using data; followed by discussions around Open Data and Privacy, and how to effectively balance rights and regulations. To close off the year, the Fall brought an interesting intersection between Climate Action and Gender, to understand ways in which open data is being leveraged to enable sustainability and address the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women vs men.

In each of these sessions, a diverse panel with expertise ranging in areas like open contracting, air quality, digital governance, law and public policy; joined from an array of countries including Brazil, India, Portugal, the UK, Columbia, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Canada, all actively demonstrate how as a global community, we can connect our collective knowledge to inspire the initiatives that meet the call of the ODC and respond effectively to our most pressing societal challenges. Every month, I got to see how collaboration across sectors and borders is not only possible, but that we are all connected by similar challenges, shared motivations, and common goals.

I feel proud of the events and ideas we’ve put forward this year and as I move on to expand the scope of my work from open data specialist to a broader policy advisor on data and digital governance, I will always be grateful for the brilliant thought-leadership and genuine relationships I was fortunate enough to be a part of with the IWG. I’m excited to attend future sessions as a member and to see what’s in store for our community.

At the helm of this Community

Do you:

  • Believe in community and collaboration to multiply the value and impact of open data and open government initiatives for all?
  • Work in a public sector organization as a data steward in the fields of open data, open government, data governance and/or digital rights?
  • Want to dedicate a few hours a month to planning, moderating meetings, and writing the occasional blog?
  • If your answers are yes, then we want you as our next IWG Government Co-chair!

To apply, please send a cover letter/CV to recruitment@opendatacharter.org, outlining why we should choose you, and an ODC member will contact you. You can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to book a quick chat!

Watch last year’s Implementation Working Group sessions here.

Wilfreda Edward-Dolcy is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada. She focuses on data and digital policy and assurance & risk. She served as the government co-chair of our Implementation Working Group for one year and remains a member of our community.



Open Data Charter

Collaborating with governments and organisations to open up data for pay parity, climate action and combatting corruption.