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.

November 3, 2015 Katie Clancy

By Katie Clancy

A full four years after the emergence of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011, the dialogues have changed. Over 1,900 people converged in Mexico City to discuss, measure, and understand Open Government, including representatives from over 66 national governments and civil society groups from around the world – with a particular focus on the links between the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the OGP. The diversity in the crowds ensured that many of the panels, activities, and workshops contained lively debate about the meaning of openness, the importance of freedom of information, and how to move forward to ensure we are connecting things like open data with changes to people’s’ everyday lives. Summit-goers also widely promoted the importance of adopting a critical perspective on openness – of examining and acknowledging what is and isn’t working. The summit was widely acknowledged for bringing additional breadth and depth to open topics.

Defining What Open Data Is and Isn’t

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Graphic credit: Open Data Charter

At the 2015 International Open Data Conference (IODC15), the Open Data Charter was officially launched for consultation in an effort to come to a common understanding of what open data is – and how to use it to improve people’s’ lives. At the OGP closing ceremonies, the six principles of the charter were officially adopted by 17 governments, and endorsed by countless organizations. The IODC15 made it clear that collaboration over platforms and policies will be essential to realizing the promises of open data – and that open data is truly about the people that use and benefit from that data.


“We’re not a startup. This is about the commons”: Understanding the Challenges of the Open Data Movement

IMG_6423The Open Data for Development Program, one of the permanent co-hosts of the IODC16, hosted a workshop on what’s next for open data. The workshop, which engaged some key figures in the open data space, quickly went over what had come before (i.e., from “your data, NOW” to bridging communities and creating common principles and standards) and asked some important questions about the biggest challenges faced by the community. For example: should open data still be a “big tent” topic that continues to bridge sectors, or will it start to become more sector-based? Where does the commons fit into all of this? How do we guide governments whose interest is surging in open data to best practices? And for those who have not yet caught the open data bug, how can we bring policy makers who don’t believe it is a “sexy topic” to the table? How do we focus on sustainable economic development through data?

While there are still a lot of questions on the table, these important debates will help to shape the upcoming IODC16 in Madrid, Spain. For example, the importance of leaving no one behind will be critical to the future of open data initiatives – we need to invest in building data communities globally, and in connecting with ordinary people. We need to invest in the infrastructure needed to ensure that we can run and scale all of the great open data initiatives that are emerging. Panellists reinforced an important lesson: we are doing this for the public good. There is space for all actors, including governments, civil society, and the private sector to participate – but it needs to be collaborative and commons based. Citizens will be the ones driving their own empowerment and participation.  

Linking Openness and Freedom of Information

Graphic credit: Andres Snitcofsky/Cargografias
Graphic credit: Andres Snitcofsky/Cargografias

We all agree that access to knowledge is central to empowering citizens around the world. But how this knowledge is shared – the forms it takes and the freedom and accessibility of those forms is also critical in realizing openness.

A critical debate that wove through the entire week of the OGP summit was the importance of freedom of information, and how it is not enough to just open information such as data – there must be freedom of information as well. And the reality is that there are already so many communities working towards the end goal – information as empowerment – but we all need to join together to collaboratively move forward to realize the end goal: oversight, accountability, and transparency, and in the end – how people live. This important information can also be used to promote economic benefit within countries – making it essential to work together to further these goals.

Evolving the Conversation

The Open Government Partnership will continue to be an important space for moving governments towards a new way of engaging – openly, transparently, and accountably – with their citizens. The summit proved that a broad agenda is possible – including engaging different actors, and facilitating a space for them to come to work together on new initiatives and ideas. The next summit will be in two years’ time. In the lead-up to that time, the 4th International Open Data Conference will be held in Madrid – and will seek to help bring good practice into being – and support the scaling of new efforts.

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