May 29, 2015 IODC

A guest post from Sherwin Ona, reflecting on the Emerging Impacts of Open Data panel.

The panel discussion highlighted two main points namely: a) the difficulty of measuring open data impacts and b) the opportunities on how to measure its impacts.

According to the discussions, the difficulty of measuring open data impacts can be traced to the following: its different definitions, its nature and its application areas. Various disciplines have contrasting views and context in their use of open data, thus contributing to a multitude of meanings. Another reason is the nature of data itself. Frequently regarded as intangible resources, measuring data impacts now becomes a part of its perceived effects. If measured using its effects, quantitative (e.g. Time, satisfaction index, etc.) and qualitative factors (e.g. Perceived benefits, relevance, etc.) come into play. This results to complexities caused by the lack of models and frameworks that can guide its measurement.

Nevertheless, the panel presented possible opportunities in evaluating impact. Using a developing country perspective, the panel proposed that measuring open data impacts can be linked to development issue such as hunger, education, health, among others. The idea of linking impacts to development issues is further connected to the delivery of services. Although practical, this may oversimplify the meaning of impact and trivialize the role of open data.  I think that caution must be exercised when performing this.

Mechanisms must be set in place to ensure that impact measurements go beyond statistics and should focus on development outcomes such as improvement in the quality of life, transparency, participation and collaboration. Furthermore, the idea of viewing open data as infrastructure is an innovative and bold proposition. In my opinion, this may contribute to a change in paradigm regarding the use of data in addressing socioeconomic and political challenges.

Indeed the panel has unpacked many issues regarding open data impacts. Today the challenge for open data advocates is to directly confront these concerns. I believe that the 17- country ODDC case studies mentioned in the discussion provides an excellent opportunity to identify the possible impact factors. Certainly, these are challenging, but exciting times for open data and its stakeholders.



May 28, 2015 IODC

A guest post from Jed Miller on understanding data on financial flows. 

When we present data and information, the medium is often the message. “Download our full dataset (19MB),” sends a different message than “New figures suggest the oil spill would cover Lake Erie.” The tension between data depth and clear narratives is not a simple one, though. Sometimes the most important story data tells is in the relationships between data sets.

In the oil, gas and mining sector, a complex web of relationships governs the flow of money from private companies to governments to the local communities that benefit from government spending and services. Groups like Publish What You Pay and NRGI are in Ottawa discussing better tools to promote accountability in the extractive industries by extracting data on these fiscal flows, which can also include foreign aid and local taxes, among other things.

The World Bank has been working with colleagues from these fields to draft a tool that can illustrate the web of relationships in the extractive sector, and serve as a visual backdrop for posting data in context.

The first sketches are now available and we are pleased to present them below—as a work in progress—for feedback from the IODC community. Comments from our open data colleagues will help guide how we develop the tool from a simple image to a flexible system that can explain fiscal flows in a particular country, or can track gaps in data availability or disclosure rules.

We want to build from a “base image,” to collaboratively define a range of uses and adaptable “layers,” as the example layers illustrate.

Working with John Emerson, a veteran designer in the human rights field, we’ve deliberately begun modestly with a static picture not a fancy tool, in order to test our assumptions with users in the open data and Follow the Money communities. We believe that over time we can add layers that show harder-to-follow flows such as illicit and “gray” payments, political influence, and extra-national flows through corporate ownership structures and tax havens.

Michael Jarvis, Extractive Governance lead for the World Bank, says that the oil and mining sectors are an ideal starting point for “following the money,” because extractives dominate the budgets of many less developed countries, and a map like this can help donors and advocates link areas of current and potential work to several points in the system. “We hope it can be a conversation starter to bridge the work of people looking at the management of extractives with those thinking about public financial management, investment and procurement in resource-rich country settings.”

In open data circles, when someone says they’re making a visualization, your first thought might be a picture that’s beautiful but rather complicated, or a web tool that promises a windfall of analysis if you have the time and expertise.

By starting with a simple visual vocabulary, we think we can more clearly convey these fiscal systems to a wider group. We can also give government officials, international campaigners and open data advocates a tool to make the case for open data policies and good practices.

By making the tool flexible for future uses, we can help a range of different advocates and experts to explain and disseminate their work more easily, and hopefully save time and money rebuilding the wheel each time they create a new visualization.

Most importantly, we believe that by making a visualization that can be repurposed for different uses, we can give the groups that use it a channel for collaboration—or at least a common reference point to worked to greater interoperability of data.

Please note that these images are works in progress. The Base Map is generic, the sample layers have real data, but it has not been exhaustively compared to other sources. We know there’s no such thing as a generic map. The value for people comes when the image is populated with the flow or overlay that applies to them.

How could a visual tool like this be most useful to you? Which elements should be clickable and “expandable” to help your own work? Which measurements and assessments of money—and of data—can inform your own analysis or advocacy?

We encourage everyone in the IODC and open data communities to send input, feedback and ideas for potential uses of this visual tool. You can email us at ftmvisual@gmail.com.

Like open data itself, a tool that gets shared encourages links between the people sharing it. More links encourage more dialogue, which can make future collaborations more likely and more efficient.

Disclaimer: All images are works in progress. The layout is intentionally hypothetical and the Base Map does not represent any single country. The sample data is real, but neither complete nor verified against multiple sources.



May 28, 2015 IODC

A cross post from the Open Government Partnership blog, highlighting research launched at IODC15. 

The Independent Reporting Mechanism of OGP is one of the initiative’s key accountability components. IRM national researchers in OGP countries assess the ambition and completion of OGP commitments. But the IRM does not only carry out assessment, it also synthesizes information on key topics in OGP action plans. Authors Sonia Khan and Joseph Foti are taking a closer look at OGP commitments in open data. (See here for our general technical/synthesis paper and here for a paper on public participation in Latin America.)

For the release of the IRM’s third synthesis paper “Aligning Supply and Demand for Better Governance: Open Data in the Open Government Partnership,” we present a Q&A for the reader-on-the-go.

Top Ten Take-Aways From the Report

1. Why open data? Why do this paper now?

Open data is the third most popular topic in OGP action plans – after participation and access to information. (About 240 of 2000 commitments use the phrase “open data.” Of course, there are almost definitely more, but we only included the ones that explicitly use the phrase, as we cannot be sure what other commitments are clearly open data.) We wanted to know how successful these commitments are and decided to call on Tim Davies, formerly of the World Wide Web Foundation, to help us analyze the data. This is the third in a series of papers prepared by the IRM to help synthesize the most popular topics in OGP as shown in the working groups. See here for a copy of the data base and here for a definition of tags. Please feel free to try our new OGP Explorer here which allows users to search the database according to country, commitment, or policy area.

2. Is open data becoming more or less popular in OGP?

Open Data commitments continue to grow in popularity; of the countries with two action plans, all saw absolute or relative increases in open data commitments. The trend might be divisive, with proponents stressing open data’s potential for tremendous impact, while others fear open data commitments are often nothing more than empty promises made by “closed” governments. This is why it is so crucial that we that we create powerful open data commitments.

3. What can be done to make open data commitments more powerful?

The United Nations Development Programme says it best–access to information works when it is useable, useful, and used. Most of the open data commitments so far have been focused on usability (for example, making data available, discoverable, machine readable). A smaller group of commitments actually set in motion processes to ensure that the data being released is high-value for the various publics that would use data. Most importantly, though, OGP commitments can be made really impactful by ensuring that, where they put out governance data, that there are actually open, participatory forums where members of the public and officials can apply the data to make government more efficient, effective, and accountable.

4. Are the open data commitments in OGP actually increasing transparency and accountability?

This is a complex question. What we know is that open data commitments are being implemented at roughly the same rate as other commitments. At the same time, IRM researchers have assessed the commitments as being potentially more impactful than the average OGP commitment. Of course, this only speaks to how much the commitments are affecting open data policy in a given sector or as a policy area itself. Judging how well an action plan has a macro-impact in a country is, at the end of the day, a bigger question than IRM reports can answer.

5. What are the most common types of open data commitment?

So far, the majority of commitments focus on tools–technical building blocks such as open data platforms, machine-readable formats and open standards. Licence and re-usability permissions were slightly less popular as were efforts to promote open data within governments. While some might say that governments should build the system first, and then set priorities on what should be published, others would argue that the the question of “what” should be tackled before the “how.” A couple of countries have moved from a first action plan which emphasized infrastructure to a second plan with growing emphasis on matching public demand with supply. But this is probably too small of a number. Too many other governments are using the “if you build it they will come” approach, hoping they’ll get lucky and citizens will use the data presented to them.

6. Do OGP commitments address particular sectors of government or are they meant for all parts of government? Do we see any differences in approaches?

About one third of OGP’s open data commitments address specific sectors. In order to be more useful, open data will need to have on-the-ground impacts for citizens. Most civil society groups are concerned with specific issues and work in “sectors” often dealing with particular ministries like health or environment.  The most popular sector by far is budgeting, followed distantly by health, natural resources, and aid. There is a long tail of other commitment areas covering just a few things. An interesting finding is that sector-specific data sees a higher rate of completion than whole-of-government reforms.

7. A number of notorious open data programs have been launched to much fanfare, but haven’t been updated in months or years. Can OGP solve that?

In order to join the OGP, countries are asked to endorse the aspiration of the Open Government Declaration, which asks for the creation and implementation of mechanisms for request and prioritization of data as well as updated, regular production of information.  One of the paper’s most important findings is that OGP stakeholders, especially the Open Data Working Group, can play a role in helping to share model commitments that support these types of arrangements.

8. What is open-washing and are OGP governments participating in it?

Open-washing is the attempt by a government, corporation or civil society organization to give the appearance of being “open” while actually keeping the most important decisions and actions closed. In many first OGP National Action Plans, countries included open data goals which looked very impressive due to size or content area, but there was little evidence effective use or impact. OGP can change this by encouraging governments and civil society to create open data commitments based on citizen’s real needs and demands.

9. In order to ensure that citizens living in developing countries are able to benefit from the sale of natural resources, civil society groups been calling for greater transparency in field of natural resources. Has the OGP been used towards this end?

Nine open data commitments (fourteen percent) relate to natural resources, with the overwhelming majority (almost 90%) focusing on extractives. With more African countries joining the initiative, this figure will likely grow.

10. Were current concerns about surveillance and privacy reflected in the OGP’s open data commitments?

Seven commitments (three percent) made by five countries set limits on the release of personal and private data. Among these countries’ commitments to privacy, many mentioned health care in particular.

– See more at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/blog/joe-foti/2015/05/27/aligning-supply-and-demand-better-governance-open-data-open-government#sthash.vRA1pubr.dpuf



May 28, 2015 IODC

A guest post from the Center for Open Data Enterprise.

Today, we are proud to announce the beta launch of the Open Data Impact Map a project of Center for Open Data Enterprise, as part of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) network. The Map is a searchable centralized database of hundreds of open data use cases from over 50 countries. The Map includes examples from the Center’s research, previous studies, and a growing network of 18 Regional Supporters in 18 countries who are helping to collect use cases.

The Map visualization allows you to view the world of open data use cases in a way that has not been possible before. You can begin with a global view showing the location of different organizations and zoom in to see how open data is being used in a particular region, country, or city. You can also use the Map’s filters to visualize the organizations that use open data to help improve agriculture, or education, or operate in any number of other sectors. Other filters let you view these use cases by type of organization (for-profit, nonprofit, or developer group for example), by the type of data they use, and so on.

The Map is designed to support other researchers’ work and analysis. You can view all of the data in tabular form and sort by each column. However you use the filters, the stats tab will show you the total number of countries and organizations that you are viewing. And of course, all of this data is available for download as a CSV or JSON file.

The Open Data Impact Map gives policy makers, international organizations, open data advocates, researchers, and entrepreneurs a central place to search through the many ways open data is being used around the globe. Through collaboration and information sharing, we can not only create this Map together – we can also identify and share different experiences, examples, and best practices in open data use.

We encourage you to check out the Map, fill out the survey to add information about your own organization, and talk to the Open Data Enterprise team at our conference booth or afterward to learn more about this initiative and how you can contribute to this global resource.

To view the Map visit: www.opendataenterprise.org/map



May 8, 2015 IODC1

A guest post by Laura Manley from the Center for Open Data Enterprise.

The past few years have seen a number of projects, reports, and other research highlighting examples of open data use and innovations from around the world. Now, as part of the OD4D network, the Center for Open Data Enterprise is developing the Open Data Impact Map to pull many of these efforts together and build on them. The Map showcases a wide range of new examples through an interactive visualization and centralized database, built with contributions from:

  • Our research team at the Center,
  • Regional Supporters from a growing network of organizations around the world,  and
  • an online & mobile survey that will launch on May 20th 2015.

All this information is organized, vetted, curated, and transformed into interoperable data for display on the Map, and for download and re-use in secondary research.

The beta version of the Map will be showcased for the first time at the IODC.

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More about the Map

The Open Data Impact Map will provide a searchable, sortable database of open data use cases from around the world. It will include all types of organizations using open data in an effort to capture the broad spectrum of open data uses. The Map will make it possible to explore the applications of open data through a number of filters, and has been structured to facilitate comparative analysis by region, country, and city.

Its goals  are to:

(1) demonstrate the value of open government data in a range of applications;

(2) identify key trends and best practices in open data use; and

(3) provide a basis for research on the impact of open data globally.

Bringing research together

The Map will support cross-national analysis by using common classifications for data types, data sources, organizations that use the data, and areas of impact.  This system builds on past efforts to develop systems for analyzing the uses of open data. The Map can inform the Measurement Action Session and other work at the IODC on the assessment of use cases.  We hope it will help refine common approaches to capturing examples and help build a broader and more in-depth shared knowledge base about open data use cases and impact.

Get on the Map!

Are you an organization using open data? Do you want to become a Regional Supporter to help us find new examples? Email us at map@odenterprise.org or fill in the survey directly.


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