A guest post by Sherwin Ona on Capacity Building action sessions.
The need to build capacities was one of the recurring themes in IODC 2015. The discussions on this topic have unpacked a plethora of challenges. Using a developing country perspective, here are some of the issues that can be used to frame capacity building efforts.
- Inclusiveness: this concern touches on the equitable access to opportunities. Adequate consideration must be placed on questions such as, “how can openness and data promote equitable access to services and information? What types of data-information can support this? How can we ensure that the use of open data does not reinforce existing socioeconomic and political divisions? How can we avoid the possibility that open data becoming a tool for marginalization by empowering the few and excluding the many?”
- Allocation of resources and sustainability: in developing countries, allocating resources in building open data capacities competes with other priorities. Definitely there is a bias towards “low hanging fruits”: tangible outcomes that can guarantee socioeconomic benefits and political mileage. Another subject is on the sustainability of open data initiatives. I believe that the challenge here is how to evolve from a donor-driven/top-down approach to a model that encourages ownership and supports a value-driven/competency-based approach. An appropriate question here is, “how can we develop sponsors, leaders, champions and advocates within organizations and communities that can mainstream and sustain open data?”
- The need to go local: Going local means being able to consider context and address real problems. Localizing also includes being able to recognize the demand for open data and bridging it with supply. To go local also implies the creation of an environment that foster conversation, openness, sharing and collaboration. This environment calls for mechanisms and venues that minimize conflict and promotes critical collaboration among stakeholders.
In our group discussion, we realized that building capacities in open data must evolve from an advocacy and technical skills enhancement stance to an approach that encourage problem solving, empowerment and genuine engagement. To accomplish this we have identified the following opportunities for mainstreaming:
- Integration of Open Data in civil service-public administration. We propose that open data is integrated in civil service educational programs (long term). We also see the need to introduce open data in the continuing education courses (short term) in the civil service;
- For civil society organizations, we suggest that data management be made part of community development/ organizational management. We believe that this move will be a good opportunity to mainstream open data in the grassroots: in local-sub national governments, peoples’ organizations, communities and citizens;
- Open data in universities and standards organizations. Mainstreaming open data topics and courses in higher educational institutions (e.g. Universities, colleges and schools). We also envision the creation of certification courses by standards organizations. Lastly, we see a need to develop a nexus between building capacities and research. HEIs are in a good position to add to existing discourses in open data capacities.