December 28, 2015 Natalia Carfi

A guest post from Natalia Carfi, BA in political sciences, former Legislative Modernization Director for Buenos Aires City Legislature, Open Government Coordinator for Secretary General of the Presidency of Chile, currently working for the Buenos Aires City Lab.

As one of the Stewards developing and promoting the Open Data Charter, I had the opportunity to join the Smart City World Congress that took place in November in Barcelona. This is the world’s biggest annual event about “smart cities,” gathering around 14,000 people over three days.

The “smart cities” world and the open government/open data world are not yet having the most coordinated conversations. The different movements are based on different preconceptions, so it was interesting to wonder who would attend our workshop on the Uses of Open Data and the Charter, and what the commonalities and differences between the two worlds would be.

As background, the initial draft of the Charter was introduced at a workshop prior to the 2015 International Open Data Conference in Ottawa. The Charter Lead Stewards team—which includes the Mexican and Canadian governments, the Omidyar Network, the Web Foundation and IDRC—invited other institutions into the process and that’s how I got involved.

I joined the conversation certain that the Charter could help spark closer interaction between the different conversations about open data standards and regulations, and my expectations were surpassed. As part of the Stewards group we participated in drafting of the final text of the Charter, and I was pleased to see that the discussions on subnational and local government grow as the weeks went by.

Eventually a Charter Working Group was created to promote the adoption by subnational governments and to connect relevant initiatives from around the world. Last Friday, December 11th, we had the Working Group’s first virtual meeting, to discuss the first draft of Terms of Reference for subnational work on the Charter.

Meanwhile, we are also working to get out the word about the Charter itself. It was as part of that effort that I was invited to the Smart City conference in Barcelona. During that Workshop, co-presented with Arturo Muente of the World Bank, I was able to experience the already known fact that although technology plays a big role in Open Government and in Smart Cities, the perspective is quite different if you are discussing an Open Government initiative than if you are developing a city strategy.

Unlike many national-level data strategies, the creation of a smart city plan seems to have at its core the handling of data—open or not—not necessarily the opening up (i.e., the disclosure) of data. Our workshop was filled with many people working on local level projects who hadn´t heard much about Open Data but still knew a lot about new data technologies. When given the chance to think about a local problem they might solve using open data, however, most of the groups engaged in meaningful discussions and came up with great ideas. A lot of them then asked to learn more about the Charter and how they could get their organizations and governments involved.

My impression is that there a lot must still be done if we want to join up the conversations on open government and smart cities. And both “worlds” could make advances if there was better collaboration. Smart cities initiatives, for instance, seem to have a more developed relationship with the private sector, something we often lack in the open government space. Meanwhile civil society organizations were nowhere to be found in Barcelona, denying everyone involved a great opportunity for collaboration between the different actors in the urban sphere.

Smart Cities projects also seem to do stronger work developing platforms than they do ensuring their data (or their code) is open. It would be great if we in the open government world could bring that openness to that amazing city-level work, while learning from our counterparts in the Smart Cities how to build and iterate as fast as they do.

The action plan for the Charter sub-national Working Group includes a first in-person meeting in fall 2016, to be held as pre-event of IODC 2016. We are especially pleased because the city of Madrid is hosting the 2016 conference along with the Spanish government, so the Subnational governments will have a huge place in the agenda. Over the next few months, we will be planning the rest of our 2016 activities and aligning them with the IODC Roadmap. We continue to reach out to get more subnational governments involved and we look forward to working with the IODC community to foster stronger connections between national, local and municipal programs.

December 4, 2015 Barbara Chiara-Ubaldi

Guest post from Barbara Chiara-Ubaldi

Barbara Chiara-Ubaldi leads the work on Digital Government and Open Data at the OECD. The projects aim to help governments worldwide make the most of new technologies and data to foster more innovative administrations and deliver more inclusive results. Prior to joining the OECD, Barbara worked for the UN as Programme Officer responsible for ICT for Development. Graduated in Political Science, she holds a Master of Science in Public Administration and Development Studies from North Eastern University in Boston, where she was a Fulbright Scholar in 2000-2001.

The International Open Data Charter offers a comprehensive path toward making open data a global resource or, as Sir Tim Berners-Lee put it, the Charter is a roadmap to “accelerate progress by placing actionable data in the hands of people”. Governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, and the private sector have all collaborated in the Charter’s development.

Can open data help your government provide better health or education services to you, your friends and family? Can open data help you locate the closest pharmacy, spot the best performing hospital, or see how much your government spends in healthcare? Is it true that the app I use to find the easiest route to work was developed using open data? Increasingly, the answer to questions like these is, Yes, it is true!

By opening up data they collect or produce, governments are not only helping businesses offering us new products and services, they are also empowering their own offices to better target public outcomes and deliver improved security, or water quality, or employment opportunities.

We read about the potential impact, value, benefits, and gains of open data. But what are we really expecting from our governments? What data would we like them to release? And for those of us who are not “geeks” and cannot play with the figures, do we know yet how data could change our lives or make them easier?

If the ultimate benefits come from data re-use, it’s important that data users and consumers are clear in what we ask our governments: Is data practical? Is the quality good? Is it easy to understand? What actions do we expect from our governments? What impact? These questions can help shape a government’s plans to ensure that data is comparable and interoperable, and to involve civil society, social entrepreneurs, creative individuals, and businesses in value creation, for instance through events such as hackathons.

For every expected benefit of open data—from improved governance and citizen engagement to opportunities for inclusive development and innovation—we need to know what we are measuring and how we are measuring to be sure to track the impact.

In a rich and intense discussion during the last OGP Summit in Mexico City, many of you spoke up to express your views on what and how open data impact should be measured. Ideas included increased involvement of civil society and service providers in measurement, working with app developers and “going local” at the community level, as well as strengthening governments’ capacity to focus on a specific objectives and monitoring impacts on policy making. Though the discussion was short, it was fruitful and productive.

This conversation needs to continue and it needs to be bolstered by concrete ideas and proposals. As we map the road to impact measurement that will bring us to IODC 2016 in Madrid, Spain, we hope we can count on you to help us address these questions: What would we like governments to measure? What actions do we expect our governments to take on open data? And who should be involved in the measurement?

The OECD, the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Web Foundation have co-ordinated the respective work related to the measurement of open data. Following up on the workshops at IODC 2015 in Ottawa and at the OGP summit in Mexico, our intention is to organise a third Workshop of this kind at IODC 2016 in Madrid on 6-7 October. Your inputs will contribute to shaping the agenda of that Workshop, and help us to further develop the international effort to measure the impact of open data.

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