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November 8, 2016 Silvana Fumega

contribSilvana Fumega is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a PhD (University of Tasmania, Australia); her thesis is focused on international NGOs working with Open Government Data and Freedom of Information policies. She also holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand) and a degree in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina). She also participated of the Research Programme Chevening Hansard (United Kingdom). She has served as a consultant for several international organizations, governments and civil society groups 

Two years ago we –quite impressed– highlighted the fast progress of the open data agenda in Latin America [1]. Today, a bit less surprised, we keep reflecting on the role of many actors from the region in the global open data agenda.

. Recuento de algunas discusiones regionales y globales

Within the framework of the 4th International Open Data Conference, Latin American actors shared some of the initiatives that have been implemented in the region. From research to development of applications in the civic technology sphere, including data journalism, they’ve had their chance during the conference and its many pre-events. In this context, during the first conference day’s afternoon, we had a round table with some of the actors in the region, along with some actors from the Caribbean, to discuss about what’s going on in Latin America. A –quite reduced– list of some of the highlighted topics of this session and the Conference is included below:

    • Latin America has a lot to offer to the open data agenda. These advances are not exemplified anymore as developing countries that try to follow the agenda of first world countries, but as actors with a weight of their own that contribute equally to the dialogue. Perhaps the fact that Argentina will organize the next IODC exemplifies this quite well.

Recuento de algunas discusiones regionales y globales

  • At the Latin America and Caribbean regional talk at IODC16 the work of civil society actors was addressed. These actors are in a very active state in the data release processes and, more comprehensibly, in the promotion of the agenda. In any case, infrastructure in management and public data release terms is still quite precarious in most countries of the region. There is still a long way ahead in this sense.
  • Despite the advances and the dialogue, it is also necessary to identify obstacles and pending tasks such as the data infrastructure. Even though the agenda has experienced strong developments, cultural change around opening (not only data but the government in general) still means a challenge in the region. Cultural change, yet functioning, is still far from becoming a reality in most countries.
  • In order to overcome the obstacles it is a sine qua non condition to start thinking on long-term policies (State polities) and not in short-term projects. The logic of fast wins conspires against the development and the possibility of scaling these policies in the region.
  • Similarly, one of the points that were repeated most often during the conference –and transcended at regional level– was the necessity of focusing on the problems of the different sectors. It is necessary to start thinking about opening policies at sectoral level, responding to the specific problems of public policy implementation in each area and collaborating with the construction of a community of intermediaries who collaborate and add value to these data. We must invest in the construction of a community of users and intermediaries.
  • Regarding the previous point, we need actors who work on the open data agenda to understand, just like other communities did, that this agenda is not an end itself, but a means to achieve/solve other problems.
  • It is also crucial to highlight that language unity, in many contexts, has collaborated along with the leadership of some actors to the fluid dialogue between different actors from the region. Seeing the professional bonds that have turned into personal in many cases, the dialogue and exchange of experiences and reflections is very fluid and doesn’t stop surprising actors from other latitudes. This exchange should be extended to other actors such as those living in the Caribbean. The dialogue between Latin American and Caribbean actors is not yet as fluid as some would think. Hence we need an additional effort to try to connect with these actors and empower the agenda in both regions, which is perceived by many as one only region.
  • This parity is possible due to the capacities that have been developed in the region and that allow the advancement of the agenda. This generation of capacities is a point that needs all the support –through the articulation of actors and resources– to keep on generating actors and initiatives within the region that can continue the advances of this agenda.

To close this blog post I would like to point out something that has generated a lot of discussion (very enriching, though) and numerous tweets: the “open washing” idea.

Even though this point should have its own post (we’ll see if time and those pending articles permit), it is worth mentioning that the regional and global open data communities have started to lose innocence –which has taken us at times to an incommensurate enthusiasm and optimism– in order to start questioning some policies and initiatives that, sometimes, seemed more focused on improving the image of certain actors that on achieving an actual opening of a sector or government. This looked like a sign of maturity from many of the involved actors in the promotion of the agenda and this should be celebrated. From now on we still need to see how the agenda will develop in Latin America and the rest of the world and how, all together, we can get to minimize the negative consequences of this “open washing” in the cases where it is identified. At a personal level, I applaud this advance.

[1] 2014: http://silvanafumega.blogspot.com.ar/2014/10/esta-vez-las-noticias-han-llegado.html 2015: http://silvanafumega.blogspot.com.ar/2015/09/los-desafios-de-la-maduracion.html

[2] More info: EN: http://opendatacon.org/increasing-demand-measugin/ ES: http://opendatacon.org/2431/?lang=es


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September 9, 2016 Reyes Montiel

Reyes Montiel is expert in public affairs, has worked on formulation, management and evaluation of public policies. Additionally, she has participated in political incidence activities for public decision-making and in negotiation projects at national and international level. Trained journalist, she currently develops 2.0 communications plans for public and private companies and entities. She works in strategies on economic mobilization and citizen participation that make sense out of open data services. Transparency activist, she participates in research projects for the causes of corruption and the evaluation of action plans against it, as well as specific education plans.

Traditionally, science –especially economic science– has been treated within “gender-blind” categories; this is, it has not considered men and women’s behavior and condition to be different as a consequence of the different social, cultural and economic roles that they have been assigned, culturally and economically. This is far from a neutral position, and we can go further, it is overtly antisocial, as it leaves behind numerous realities we live with, especially the one that concerns gender equality.

Therefore, the reason behind counting on sex-disaggregated data is not just a technical matter. We measure what we value. We only act over what is valued and can only be adequately valued if we have data, as has been said by Eva Armendáriz, from Economistas sin Fronteras: “As traditional economy just takes into account what happens within the market, a separation is produced between the economic –the public sphere- and what is not considered economic –the private sphere-, hence resulting in the disappearance from the economic level of all those jobs realized in the home environment, community work or those realized through volunteering or citizenship participation.”

Many years of advocacy and work have made us go forward in what we have named “Gender Statistics.” Tools and methodologies that bring us to having this kind of statistics are already being implemented. The fight for equality has made institutions and entities look to women’s issues. On the website of Women’s Institute in Spain we have access to statistics about conciliation, violence, discrimination, recognition…(even though it has not been updated since 2013). However, we must distinguish between sex-disaggregated data and gender statistics:

  • Sex-disaggregated data are data whose main standard is based on whether people are men or women. They are not gender-based because they are limited to raw data. They feed gender analises.
  • Gender statistics, they drive us to present an image of the conditions, contributions, specific needs and problems of men and women.

What is the purpose of sex-disaggregated data? They raise awareness and promote change; they are the base for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policies, plans and programmes. Gender statistics are meant to help us measure impact and improve these data.

An example of how sex-disaggregated data foster progress is financial inclusion, defined by the Centre for Financial Inclusion as “a state in which everyone who can use them has access to a range of quality financial services at affordable prices, with convenience, dignity, and consumer protections.” Measuring who is included or excluded from the financial system is an essential consideration for regulators and political decision-makers. Sex-disaggregated data give us information about who is accessing which kind of products, their behaviors, which channels and which users, and what kind of financial providers are they using and at what level. For example, disaggregated data use in Rwanda made the financial inclusion index rise from 20% in 2008 to 42% in 2012. The National Bank of Rwanda has set the goal of reaching 80% by 2017. According to Global Findex, an index resource that measures global financial inclusion, the amount of women owning a bank account is 15% lower than men, and the estimate of neglected financial needs of women who own businesses is 320,000 million dollars. Being aware of these gaps is essential to overcome them, and this is impossible without sex-disaggregated data.

Beyond formal declarations, we need to start working while bearing in mind the following actions:

Knowing what is being done and who is doing it: It is important to support initiatives that are opening sex-disaggregated data in order to have healthy diagnostics, devise gender objectives and measure their impact. In this regard there are many interesting initiatives (see References). This is important, not only to know the reality of data in the world and how they are retrieved but also because it is crucial to agree on data standardization so that we can have efficient tools. For example, from the indicators that have been prepared to measure the achievements of the Objective for Development 5, the one covering gender equality, only 3 comply with the agreed international standards for measuring, and the collection of information about them is made systematically. For further information, see When data became cool.

Establishing cross-cutting strategies with a clear public leadership: A lack of information is serious enough, but it is even worse to have partial information that devalues the role of women and presents them as more dependent and less productive than they really are. We need to count on a cross-cutting strategy with objectives in all areas of government, and whose implementation is supported by objectives of generation of data related with action objectives.

Relying on awareness and education plans: We need to be aware that the information that supports the formulation of public, economic and social policies and their development must project the reality of women’s everyday life, and that corresponds with political values and priorities. Data use requires strong skills in searching, cleaning, verification and analysis. According to Mayra Buvinic and Ruth Levine on The Guardian, “the data gap has fed the myth that women working in the home have free time for training and other development interventions. Projects designed on this false premise have high dropout rates from female participants.” Gender education is fundamental.

Visualizing good practices: There is much to do yet, but it is important to be aware that what is being done is efficient. The effort that is being made to fulfil the OSD can give us a source of good practices (and a few errors) to keep on advancing. From this perspective, we can find them on the UN Women initiative Make every woman and girl count.

 

Cover photo by Stephen Di Donato.


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