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[Spotlight] Promoting collaboration at the national and local level to strengthen data governance

What can we learn from the public sectors’ experiences?

by Flor Serale & Mercedes de los Santos

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Welcome back to our IWG blog series! For the past weeks we have been working on our IWG plans for 2022 and we will talk about them later in this blog. Our topic last October aligns nicely with these. This blog covered our IWG meeting in December where we learned about first-hand experiences that showcased how governments are strengthening collaboration and coordination across public entities at different administrative levels (i.e. national, subnational, metropolitan) and within sectors in order to open up impactful data.

But first — why do we need collaboration?

Promoting collaboration across government entities is at the core of the ODC principles. To create value from open data, we need to collect, share and use timely, comprehensive and interoperable data. This means that coordination within agencies and across national and local government entities needs to be ensured. Current public challenges such as transport, public service delivery and healthcare need to benefit from data from multiple sources and managed by different national, federal and local entities. During October’s IWG meeting, we learned how Canada and the City of Buenos Aires are enabling collaborations to standardise and make impactful data available to the public. Thank you Nicolas, Violeta and Javier for such inspiring presentations!

To see meeting recording please go to the following link.

Integrating geospatial data: Canada’s Federated Search project

In Canada, there are multiple open data sources to access natural resources information (federal, provincial and municipal levels), making it hard for a user to find targeted information across these portals (for example, to access data on carpooling, users need to go to 7 different portals). Nicolas Gariépy, Geomatic engineer from Canada’s Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation at Natural Resources Canada presented the national government’s efforts to collaborate with provinces and territories on data federation.

Presentation of Canada’s Federated Search project

The aim of the project is creating a one stop portal to access open data sources. The team analysed two types of solutions: (1) store this multiple sources in the national open data warehouse, facing challenges such as complexity, synchronization and ownership; or (2) increasing data discoverability from Canada’s portal. The project opted for piloting the second option, integrating metadata into the national system and connecting data sources through an API. The description and links to access data will be on the national portal, but data storage remains in the local portal.

A lot of data infrastructure considerations such as licensing (needs to be compatible with Canada’s Open Government License) across data sources, automated process to update and considerations around official languages (metadata is translated using AI to support bilingual content). The team has also developed a metadata model for ingesting geospatial and non geospatial content using data standards across different technologies (CKAN, DKAN, Socrata).

Finally, Nicolas shared some challenges the project is overcoming: integrating data models across provinces, complying with standards while enabling usage and using a unilingual model that ingests semi-bilingual metadata. Nevertheless, the project has developed some demos for specific data assets and is establishing partnerships with many provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Setting up a metropolitan open data portal in Buenos Aires

Secondly, Javier Irigaray (General Director of Institutional Capacity and Open Government) and Violeta Belver (Open Government Operational Manager) from the City of Buenos Aires presented the metropolitan open data portal AMBA data, a data collaboration project between local governments from the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. The aim is to provide a data platform to improve data discoverability and use for better service delivery. There are specific topics in urban areas such as transport, climate, and health that expand beyond administrative boundaries of a city and need a data-driven metropolitan approach. Starting in 2016 and launched in 2018, AMBA data covers 200 socioeconomic, demographic and urban indicators which is relevant information for citizens, CSOs and specialists. It was inspired by international experiences such as Barcelona, Paris and Los Angeles and co-designed around the principles and values of transparency, collaboration and open decision making.

AMBA Data platform

AMBA data is not an open data portal per se, but indicators and maps are built from statistics from the national census, open data portals and other official data sources. The current goal is to make it an open data portal in a collaborative way. Currently, only 5 local governments in the metropolitan portal have an open data portal, so AMBA data is a huge opportunity to increase collaboration across municipalities and prioritize common agendas such as climate change. There have been efforts to work closely with NGOs, universities, to organize roundtables to cover different aspects of open data projects (e.g. standards).

There are also challenges to scale up this effort. For instance, developing a co-governance to manage data effectively so all municipalities can steward their own data and make the portal sustainable is the main challenge.

Strengthening data governance practices to foster collaboration

There are common challenges around these projects: political realities, lack of open data standards, absence of regulations and legal frameworks and poor data skills at the local or municipal level. They showcase the need to put in agenda data governance discussions to collect, access and use good quality open data.

In December, ODC in partnership with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GSPDD) hosted a high level roundtable to discuss how to develop a common understanding of data governance. We had two presentations from ODC adopters: Gustavo Suarez from AGESIC in Uruguay and Jieun Oh from the National Information Society Agency in South Korea. Gustavo Suarez presented the work of AGESIC in developing Uruguay’s Data Policy (Datos 360). This policy takes a holistic approach on data governance and establishes the fundamental principles of government data as a digital transformation key driver as well as the organizational ecosystem to carry out a national data strategy, which promotes and develops specific projects in the matter. Datos 360 is a unique effort to integrate and balance the open data agenda, and defines principles, roles and responsibilities across public entities to use and exchange data assets towards building a data-driven public administration.

On the other hand, Jieun Oh from South Korea presented the government’s vision and data governance model. They define data governance as the exercise of authority, control and shared decision making over government data assets. South Korea’s data governance model is divided into two layers: (1) a strategy layer that includes the national data strategy, leadership and stewardship; and (2) a tactical layer that oversights policy coordination, laws and regulations and data infrastructure For implementing this framework, South Korea appointed a Chief Data Officer at the national level and is committed to increase capacity building across organizations to manage data effectively.

Lessons learned during the session include:

  • Statistics agencies in each country need to be part of a public sector organisation to ensure developing a strategy.
  • Have regulations after starting these projects. These regulations can mitigate risks related to privacy problems
  • The real step to start this process is to listen to civil society organisations to then open with a purpose.
  • Working with citizens at the local/city/community levels. Open data forums are places where data users can improve data and request developing data policy to be adding in the next stage
  • Making an action plan to monitor and maintain engagement with civil society organizations

New Year resolutions for the IWG

We will kick-off our IWG sessions this month, having our first call on January 25th. This month’s theme will be “Equity: Placing vulnerable populations at the center of data-driven crisis response”. In the meantime, we are preparing this year’s IWG Action Plan aligned with ODC’s 2022–2021 strategy. We will be sharing a survey to gather feedback and insights and draft an action plan for approval. We will continue our efforts towards building an inclusive and diverse IWG, inviting new governments to the table to continue discussing how we can put ODC principles into action.

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.

Mercedes de los Santos is a Project Manager at the Open Data Charter.

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.

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