A guest post from Ahmed T Rashid and Laura Husak reflecting on the panel on “The Future of Open Data”

In many respects, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Chairman of the Open Data Institute, and Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, looked back in history to demonstrate how open data can become a key pillar for future social and economic prosperity. For one thing, media across the world is taking more note of the potential of open data.  Alex Howard, who moderated the panel, was the only journalist covering the first Open Data Conference held in Washington D.C. in 2010. This year’s conference not only had a much wider media coverage, but provided ample evidence of the traction open data is having in governments and civil society. The challenge ahead for proponents of open data is to convince others, including new governments, policymakers and citizens, of the value of open data.
Sir Nigel Shadbolt cited Danish physicist and philosopher Niels Bohr who argued in the 1950s that societies and democracies are better off with more openness, not less.  It is only now that we are witnessing concrete examples that support Bohr’s argument:

  • In the aftermath of Nepal’s earthquake in May 2015, 4,000 volunteers mapped 20,000 km of road in 48 hours in Kathmandu using OpenStreetMap, an online, open global mapping platform
  • In the U.K, data on mortality rates is used to gauge hospital preparedness and service (avoid falling sick in the weekend!)
  • opencorporates shares information about companies, currently listing 55 million companies from around the world

Open by default

What about the role of open governments? Tony Clement, the Minister responsible for Canada’s open data efforts, described the push to open up government information a revolution in thought and action.  Minister Clement underscored the federal government’s commitment to pro-actively disclose and make information available to citizens.

Some key initiatives include:

  • The open.canada.ca website gives user access to federal datasets under open government license
  • Canadian Open Data Exchange is a public-private collaboration to promote commercialization of open data in Canada
  • Open Data Canada serves as a platform to be used at any level of government, including common standards and open licenses to create a roadmap for openness and innovation

“It is not a done deal”

Sir Nigel Shadbolt reminded us that open data still has a long way to go.  The open data movement must take on key challenges of setting data standards, practices, and building trust, in order to move forward.  Alex Howard raised a fundamental issue that discussions on open data often evoke: how will open data alter the relationship between citizens and the state?  Do we know all the unintended consequences of opening up data, such as breach of privacy?

The panel agreed that when it comes to open data there is a need to maintain a delicate balance between “public” and “private” interests.  The open data movement must be aware of the constantly evolving social norms and regulations on rights, so that open data works as a tool for citizen empowerment.

Another key challenge mentioned by Sir Nigel in the UK is a lack of coordination of open data efforts at various levels of government that make the integration and comparison of data challenging.  Minister Clement argued that there is a need to make open data “as liquid as possible”, so that it can spread seamlessly without geographical and administrative barriers. Related to this point is the need for a technologically advanced infrastructure to sustain open data efforts.

Finally, there is a lack of trained staff to take full advantage of economic and social opportunities afforded by open data.  Developing countries in particular lack data analysts and statistical agencies with the resources to translate data into economic opportunities.  Important initiatives such as the Open Data for Development Program, which aims to scale innovative open data approaches to benefit citizens in developing countries, will go a long way to address this problem.


The future of open data is “now”

Open data is more than just a product, it is an infrastructure, which must be available in high quality, accessible, and maintained. Never before in history has this idea of making information accessible, readable and collaborative been a possibility like it is now. Open data has come a long way in a relatively short time period. The goalpost is constantly shifting, however.  More than ever, there is a need for greater collaboration and cooperation among all stakeholders to solidify the gains and keep the momentum.  We are at the beginning of something big.  As Minister Clement said, this conference has the potential to be the moment when open data closes the distance between citizens, communities, and countries.


June 9, 2015 IODC

With over 1000 participants, 58 panels and workshops, ten parallel tracks, over 200 speakers, and more than 15 fringe events over 9 days, the 2015 International Open Data Conference in Ottawa was a truly global gathering. The events brought together policy makers, technologists, entrepreneurs, humanitarians, journalists, and leaders to explore the role that open data is playing in people’s lives across the world.

Here’s a quick recap of just some of the events that took place:

Over the coming weeks we will continue to upload blog posts, videos, and media from the sessions to www.opendatacon.org, capturing even more of the insights and activities that were shared at IODC15.

We’ll also be looking to the future, pulling together a full conference report, and refining the roadmap for action discussed in the closing sessions.

Keep following #iodc15, and www.opendatacon.org to find out about next steps forward from here.


IODC would not have been possible without the work of hundreds of people, giving their time to prepare panels, workshop sessions, and fringe events. The IODC15 team would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to everyone who took part and supported the event, including everyone who came from around the world to participate, contribute, and learn.

IODC15 in Numbers

In the spirit of openness, here are some key numbers from the conference .

June 9, 2015 IODC

A guest post from Mélanie Brunet

For anyone who attended the 3rd International Open Data Conference, it is clear that we are in the midst of a data revolution. Furthermore, the level of enthusiasm around development data could not be higher for the revolution’s potential to be reached, it must be open.

According to Wayne Smith, Canada’s Chief Statistician, data is the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability. The data revolution is marked by an explosion in the volume and speed at which it is produced, the number of producers, the range of things on which there is data, and the new technologies that use this data. This coincides with the enormous need for data to fulfil the post-2015 development agenda. However, Smith warned that big data is not a panacea; it provides information and the means to solve many problems, but it should only be used if fit for the purpose. He reminded the audience of these key data principles:

  • Quality and integrity, i.e. standards and common concepts for comparability
  • Disaggregation, i.e. need for more granular data while protecting privacy
  • Timeliness, i.e. new technology to reduce time between collection and dissemination
  • Transparency and openness, i.e. only with open data can governments be meaningfully held accountable, but a larger body of citizens also need the skills to evaluate and analyse the data
  • Usability and curation, i.e. preservation and maintenance to support larger number of purposes
  • Governance and independence, i.e. investing in human capital, data management systems and standards, and build statistical capacity in developing countries
  • Data rights, i.e. right to be counted, provide consent, and have one’s privacy protected

Although Smith emphasized the importance of data quality, he also compared data to children: we need to let go of them, even if they are not quire ready or else they will never make their way into the world. It is not about perfect quality, but about trust between those who create and those who use the data.

Catherine Woteki presented the example of a project she helped catalyse, Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) to demonstrate the importance of data to drive better decisions and enable governments and the private sector to provide a range of services and achieve sustainable development goals. Woteki pointed out that public investment in agricultural research has been declining, except in India, China and Brazil. Adopting open data policies could boost agricultural research worldwide and enhance food production to fight malnutrition, as outlined in GODAN’s working paper, released at the IODC.

Closely involved in the publication of the UN’s report, A World That Counts, Shaida Badiee of Open Data Watch insisted that the data revolution is really here, but some challenges remain, including a growing gap in the statistical capacities of many countries, and weaknesses in access to and literacy on data (leading to vicious cycle of low usage). Indeed, open data is not just about transparency, but about empowering users, bringing them together, and making them data literate, in addition to modernizing statistical systems.

José Alonso of the World Wide Web Foundation talked about the importance of policy grounded in research, pointing to ODDC, a network to study the impact of open data in developing countries. But data goes beyond statistics. There are different sources of data and it is imperative that all of these be put to use for better outcomes, while being integrated with official data. Cooperation between the open data community and governments is crucial to fill capacity and data gaps. So is the need for intermediaries, i.e. application developers and data disseminators.

Finally, Amparo Ballivian of the World Bank stated there was no doubt the data revolution would be open, and in more than one sense: in the types of partnerships and the sources of data. For Ballivian, open data is more than a monitoring and innovation tool; it allows for the creation of new businesses and services, it contributes to the GDP and job creation. In that sense, transparency and accountability are almost byproducts of open data. The supply of such data should be driven by the needs of the users, the farmers in the field, for example, a point that was made in more than one session during the conference.


June 8, 2015 IODC0

A guest post from Lynne McAvoy

Moderator David Eaves led a thought-provoking panel discussion at the 3rd International Open Data Conference 2015 (#iodc15 #cities) on the value of open data for cities with representatives from various municipalities throughout the world. The panel included Amen Ra Mashariki, New York City’s Chief of Data Analytics, Guillermo Moncecchi, Uruguay’s Deputy Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mining, Harout Chitilian, City of Montréal’s City Councillor, and Tuty Kusumawati, Head of Jakarta’s Regional Planning Development Board.

Amen Ra Mashariki started the discussion on work being done through the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) to enable access to open datasets. New York City has an open data law, considered to be one of the most comprehensive pieces of open data legislation in the US. The vision is to “Engage and empower all New Yorkers through open data”. The Office hopes to increase transparency by working with the community to identify areas where open data will provide the most value. The goal of this work is to discover hidden talent, and reach underserved communities. By making the data more easily accessible and useable, everyone can use the data. Mashariki wants “open data to be a verb, not a noun” using a two-phase approach: open the data and then build the open data ecosystem. A key to the success of the New York City efforts was that the various agencies released New York City data, not agency data. Users had the buy-in of contributing to the whole, and were engaged. The MODA philosophy on open data is to engage the data community, demonstrate the value of the data, and provide results. When applied to the New York City Business Atlas, they could show that high-quality open data provides opportunity by enabling a quick overview of population demographics and economic indicators using a base-map approach.

Guillermo Moncecchi from Montevideo, Uruguay  talked about their Datos abiertos initiative. In 2010, the Mayor of Uruguay agreed to the principles of open data and the Open Data Charter was developed shortly after.  Releasing datasets was an easy win, since people were open to sharing both data and knowledge, however the need for awareness, data science, data skills, computational and statistical thinking have become crucial as we move toward the next step in the data revolution.

A new Mayor was the catalyst for change in the City of Montréal, as he decided to focus on turning the city into a smart, digital city using open data principles. Harout Chitilian described how a CKAN-based platform was publicly-launched in 2013. It was developed based on the 4Cs: collecting data, communicating the data to the citizens, coordinating data and the resources of the city, and the key factor, collaborating  with the community. Next steps include further defining governance for the various levels of government: higher-level bodies have roads and highways data, but there is also taxi data and operations data for snow removal that could lead to interesting results.  Chitilian said that initially, the thought was that releasing the data was sufficient, but they now see that they must go further to provide data visualization using open data platforms. As he looks toward the future of open data, he sees increased efficiency, along with trust and transparency in open data, and a means of benchmarking against other cities, using common indicators.

Tuty Kusumawati participated in the session on behalf of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Governor of Jakarta. She very quickly shared the message that fraud and corruption in public and private dealings were rampant in Jakarta, and that the government must win back the trust of citizens, who now demand responsiveness and transparency. Jakarta is very media-oriented, and with meetings uploaded to YouTube, there are more than 100,000 subscribers, and 23,000,000 viewers. Jakarta’s budgeting process is scrutinized at every step, since the budget has been made accessible. Digital ID cards are being used as a means of holding people accountable, including vendors. Jakarta is the top contributor to Indonesia’s data portal and is fully committed to building a strong partnership with citizens, inviting everyone to contribute and opening doors for global partnerships.

Civic engagement, media coverage, coupled with political oversight and accountability were seen as the formula for ensuring open data’s success.

Implementing a digital strategy is seen as being more easily achievable at the city level than at the higher levels of government. The close relationship with the federal government (for New York City) is seen to be more around data sharing than around policy. As Harout Chitilian said, “The important thing to remember is to remain focused on the challenges of your citizens, and their needs”. In order for open data policy to last, it must become the system.


June 8, 2015 IODC

A guest post from Lynne McAvoy.

At the 3rd International Open Data Conference 2015 (#iodc15), moderator José Alonso of the World Wide Web Foundation, initiated the discussion on global data standards with a panel of open data supporters, including Caroline Burle, World Wide Web Consortium’s Brazil office, Hudson Hollister, Data Transparency Coalition, Chris Taggart, OpenCorporates, Sarah Telford, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), with guest, Michael Cañares, from Step Up Consulting in the Philippines.

When asked what the phrase “global data standard” meant to the panelists, we heard that there are different areas in which standards are required. A global data standard would ensure a common semantic understanding across governments and countries, allowing us to effectively extract and use shared data, while improving data quality. Without such a standard, there is no basis for comparison of various social indicators, from government financial transactions through to fair contracting practices or environmental assessments.  Chris Taggart felt that the Open Contracting Data Standard is a first step in the right direction; by increasing clarity in the procurement process, the operational burden is reduced. Sarah Telford highlighted the importance of finding ways to communicate across countries, focusing on the importance of lightweight programs such as Humanitarian Exchange Language (HEL) to ISO standards, which provide stable, internationally agreed-upon guidance. Caroline Burle felt that a global data standard should allow the use and sharing of data and that, most critically, it enables people to use the Web from anywhere.

Drivers for data standard creation include cultural change and a top-down interest. In Jakarta, there are two kinds of response: for agencies lacking infrastructure, data standards provide a framework from which they can begin development; agencies with existing infrastructure can be resistant to onboard new standards, unless it can be shown how the new standard will increase efficiency or provide a quick solution to an existing pain point. Chris Taggart mentioned that such important tools as the Open Data Contracting Standard and the Legal Entity Identifierare critical as we move forward, and are a benefit to different levels of government in defining their data. An example of this is the location code PA: does this refer to Panama or Philadelphia? Sarah Telford stressed that expectations have changed. Previous data collection was done in Excel, using a cut and paste approach. Data collection methods must be nimble, and the time required to understand and use standards must be short. Caroline Burle has been promoting open data standards in Brazil since 2008, and has witnessed the rapid release of  both open data and its metadata.

According to the panel, the best data standard models that have emerged over the past few years are those which exploit top-down  and bottom-up engagement, which increase the chances of adoption. A lack of data awareness and knowledge is seen as a challenge in Jakarta, where the first draft of a metadata standard, based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s Data Catalog Vocabulary (DCAT), was edited beyond recognition because of language issues. By moving away from the standardized terminology, the agency involved impacted the potential for interoperability and data sharing. The risk is that one agency can say “yay” or “nay” to the proposed model. We must engage users and encourage them to modify their behaviour when collecting, describing, and using data. Data standard models that work are led by knowledgeable people who have the time to dedicate to doing it right. Chris Taggart mentioned that there are several barriers to using data standard models: projects close, we have to pay for ISO standards, examples provided in documentation often contain errors. This leads to the idea that standards are there, but only available to some. What is needed is inclusiveness and iteration. He feels that “Open access is a fundamental requirement to what we are trying to accomplish, and the legacy approach will not work”. Sarah Telford stated that rapidly-needed information requires a more nimble approach. The Humanitarian Exchange Language was born of necessity, but the reason it has been taken up so quickly is because a large organization, UN OCHA, is at the helm to promote it. “What makes a standard is that people adopt it and use it”.

When asked about a business model for maintaining a high-quality data standard, the panel agreed that it is not just about the money. Organizations need to change their culture and behaviours around data. Legacy systems and proprietary software are being put aside as we move to open data standards and open access tools, more nimble and agile models for handling data. The role of the Chief Information Officer is changing to include the responsibility of Chief Data Officer, hopefully because organizations are recognizing the importance of having leadership in changing the information and data management culture.

June 5, 2015 IODC1

A guest post from Madeleine McGreevy about the ‘Unlocking the Supply of Open Data’ panel at IODC15. 

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 14.27.11Governments around the world have begun to unlock the supply of open data. Leaders and implementers of government open data strategies from across the globe convened recently at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa to share their experiences embarking on open data initiatives in their countries.

In Mexico, open data has emerged as a tool to achieve goals that include government transformation, digital economy, quality education, universal and effective health care and civic security. Citizens have been engaged with the initiative from the start, and open data policy has been made available to the public for scrutiny and feedback. The creation of a national strategic infrastructure on open data was directed by demand and national development goals. Achievements so far have included the identification of new ways to approach maternal mortality prevention.

The national open data portal in France is the first to welcome contributions from citizens. In addition to hosting government data, the platform hosts 14,000 data sets from other sources. The platform showcases reuses of data and features tools that allow users to “like” data sets. Features create a conversation between government and reusers of data, helping government to understand the value of data and identify what people are doing with it. Thematic open debates have encouraged data producers and reusers to discuss possibilities and conditions for data opening.

In India, the national data portal was launched with a policy (formulated through public consultation) that mandates ministries to release the maximum possible datasets. During implementation, individual departments have been encouraged to take ownership of their data and capacity building has been a key focus. Citizens have been engaged to suggest, rate, share or query data sets, and the community has been invited to participate in hackathons. Over 15,000 data sets have been released so far, with a focus on agriculture, the census and planning.

In Indonesia, there are 600 government institutions and no technical regulations. The initial difficulty in launching a national open data portal in this context was to convince government institutions of its value and that it was indeed possible. Interested stakeholders assembled a team, launched a prototype and showcased champions. This initiative involved 290 developers, 100 collaborators and showcased 77 apps. Following the initiative, government institutions showed an interest in open data. Moving forward, goals include public participation, the incorporation of open data into program oversight, and the embedding of open data into government systems.

The objective of the Korean national data portal is to create new industry and jobs through the active use of public data by the private sector. For the past two years, a foundation has been laid, but a new development strategy is needed. So far, there has been a lack of demand for data and released data sets have been poor in quality. Goals include releasing a high volume of data driven by demand, a transition to private sector led service delivery and fostering and supporting the emergence of start-ups.

In the United States, the national open data portal emerged as a result of President Barack Obama’s executive order to create a more open, transparent and collaborative government. The portal has grown from featuring a mere 27 data sets at the time of its 2009 launch, to including over 130,000 data sets today. Not only is the data transparent but the process behind the portal and related policies has been open and collaborative. Recently, there has been added emphasis on accessing and using information. For example, the new “open with” feature allows users to import data into other sites. Looking forward, focus will be directed towards metadata quality, measuring impact, public engagement, open data tools for agencies and collaboration.

In St. Lucia, a desire to move towards evidence-based decision making lies behind government motivation to adopt open data policies. Key challenges have included overcoming data gaps and inconsistent internet penetration, common problems across the Caribbean region. To help bridge the digital divide, 311 contact centres have been setup to provide access to government database through an intermediary. The digitization of government documents and an e-document record management system have been implemented and a new web portal is in early stages of development.

In Jamaica, the Consumer Affairs Commission has engaged in an app developer partnership to make consumer information available to the public. The partnership aims to improve consumer reach and empower consumers through price availability. Apps have included “FuelFinder”, a community of drivers assisting each other to find the lowest gas prices, and “ItCheap”, an app that helps users compare grocery prices. An open data portal has been implemented, but has not yet launched.

Leadership, political support and inclusiveness are key to success

The success of government open data initiatives finds its roots in clear leadership, strong political support, and inclusiveness of key stakeholders within the government and outside the public sector. Governments putting open data at the forefront of their strategy have had strong political buy-in from the President’s office or equivalent. They have tended to put a small task force in place, with significant support to engage key ministries and communities of users.

June 5, 2015 IODC0

A guest post from Mélanie Brunet and Silvana Fumega on the Open Government Partnership panel at IODC15.

Open government and open data go hand in hand. The Open Government Partnership (OGP), a global platform for open government commitments, has helped implement many action plans(including over 200 open data commitments) since its inception in 2011, connecting allies in and outside government to bring about change, tackle problems, and deliver accountability and results through self-evaluation and independent reporting mechanisms. At the 3rd International Open Data Conference, OGP unveiled its new OGP Explorer, a visualization tool of governments’ commitments. Representatives from leading OGP member countries then discussed how to develop and implement effective national and multilateral open data commitments.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 13.31.19

Speaking on the Romanian government’s experience, Radu Puchiu credited OGP with bringing together civil society and government in very open discussion, showing how either parties need to collaborate to solve problems. He emphasized the importance of involving higher political levels in these efforts and admitting that opening the door may lead to some criticism of the government for past mistakes. It is essential for countries to share what went well and what did not go so well since others may have a solution. Fabrizio Scrollini of the Iniciativa Latinoamericana por los Datos Abiertos added that it is the role of civil society to influence government’s open data agenda through engagement that offers value for citizens. In that sense, OGP has been a valuable forum in Uruguay to engage government and adjust expectations on both sides.

Natalia Carfi discussed the progress made by the Chilean government, which already implementing its second action plan that includes a national strategy for open data. She credited OGP with bringing all parties to the table and breaking down silos.

For her part, Laure Lucchesi of France’s Etalab described OGP as a very stimulating platform to test the alliance between government and civil society, and further support other French-speaking countries in their move to open data, whether for trade purposes or to foster a better mutual understanding.

Jay Bhalla of the Open Institute, spoke of the importance of OGP as a platform (as opposed to an initiative) in order to be applicable on a global scale, including in Africa, where the African Peer Review Mechanism would be a logical ally to assess good governance on that continent.


June 5, 2015 IODC1

A guest post from Mélanie Brunet and Lynne McAvoy about the Open Data Charter plenary at IODC15. 

Despite the increasing number of open data initiatives around the world, the challenge of doing open data well remains. How can sectors and countries with various experiences and capacities come together to follow common principles?

The Open Data Charter, currently under development, is being touted as a step in the right direction. At the 3rd International Open Data Conference 2015 (#iodc15) in late May, four presenters from governments and multilateral organizations shared their experience drafting these common principles. Mexico’s Ania Calderón outlined the necessity of the Open Data Charter in order for governments and civil society to create policies-based evidence, not intuition, and to break silos across different data lifecycles. This set of principles will facilitate communication among various sectors and act as a platform for collaboration, leading to a more efficient delivery of new solutions to old problems.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 13.24.11

Paul Zeitz, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Department of State, qualified open data as the “revolution of our lifetime”. He referred to the case for sustainable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is impossible without sharing and harnessing data, which remained closed until recently. Zeitz argued that open data is about trust, innovation, mutual accountability and efficiency, and a Charter would be the first step in enhancing collaboration among sectoral communities and the open data community more generally.

Announcing the launch the Open Data Charter’s new website to engage participants in a more inclusive consultation process, Canada’s Stephen Walker described it as a universal translator to provide a common language of commitment for various jurisdictions who engage with open data. For those who have not started yet, the Charter could work as foundational declaration of commitment and a means to pursue the necessary political support.

In addition to outlining common principles, the Charter will be accompanied by documents and tools to help countries deliver on their commitment. This initiative got its momentum from the G20’s focus on anti-corruption, the principles are ambitious, and the language is specific, yet the Charter is broad enough to apply globally to different situations.

With its emphasis on inclusiveness, the conversation around the Open Data Charter needs to include organizations and countries from the Global South in order to reflect a diversity of expertise. For example, cell phones are ubiquitous in Africa, where the data revolution is leapfrogging over landlines and computers, which is distinct from the North American and European experience. It is essential to deliver on priorities identified by communities, including which data are deemed most useful.

But will these principles be applicable beyond government and civil society? All presenters agreed on the need to push open data principles outside the public sector, but acknowledged that the idea of data as a common good does not have much traction in private companies. However, Zeitz argued that post-MDGs, humanitarian principles should be at the core of the private sector. Calderón added that it is actually in companies’ interest to adhere to the principles of the Open Data Charter since it can actually help improve the way they function and relate to their customers, in addition to exercising “data philanthropy”.

You can share your thoughts on the draft Open Data Charter until the end of the month at www.opendatacharter.net

June 3, 2015 IODC0

A guest post from Lynne McAvoy on the opening sessions of IODC. 

Master of Ceremonies, Alex Howard of Huffington Post, officially welcomed delegates to the 3rd International Open Data Conference 2015 (#iodc15) and introduced Lois Brown, Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development. The Government of Canada’s commitment to open data stems from a desire to foster creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation in its people, encourage expansion of the digital economy, and, through open government, provide a means to counter social injustice and inequity. Brown’s talk was on the importance of open data to all sectors of society, recognizing that “a life unrecorded is a life unsupported“, particularly spotlighting the plight of women and children in developing countries. Efforts to open information to address social inequities include the release of global vital statistics and indicators from such organizations as the World Bank and World Health Organization, and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), so that data is “open by default”. The United Nations has raised a call to establish global data standards. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s Africa Data Consensus was finalized in March 29, 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, enshrining its commitment to open data principles and the data revolution.

Jean Lebel, President of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), made a call to “unlock the power of information”. IDRC, in collaboration with partners including Treasury Board Secretariat (Canada) and the World Bank, is working to connect the most marginalized and seeks to include the excluded. In a compelling argument pro-open data, Lebel quoted the 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information that “… seven sectors alone could generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data”. IDRC looks toward leadership, capacity-building and science to help accelerate these goals.

Cyril Muller, Vice President, External and Corporate Relations at the World Bank, highlighted three numbers, each symbolizing a phase in the Bank’s open data journey: 5, 15, 40. It has been five years since the Bank’s commitment to open data principles. There has been a fifteen-fold increase in the use of World Bank data, and forty countries are working together to bring open data to international, national, local and sectoral levels. From its beginnings with a small group of open data evangelists, through to the interest of scientists, and finally on to entrepreneurs and innovators, and then to practitioners, Muller feels we must support civic entrepreneurs in their efforts to open data. Governments spend millions on technology to control data. His challenge: Why not spend this money on systems to enable open data? Counting the poor and naming the nameless is the place to start.

June 3, 2015 IODC0

A guest post by Lynne McAvoy on the ‘Open Data Around the World’ panel discussion.

Moderator, Alex Howard of Huffington Post, welcomed a panel of open data leaders to the 3rd International Open Data Conference 2015 (#iodc15). The panel included Beth Noveck, Director of The Governance Lab (GovLab), Sam Pitroda, telecom inventor, policy maker, and entrepreneur, Dr. Nii Quaynor, Chairman of NITA, and Martin Tisné, Director of Policy at Omidyar Network Ltd.

Sam Pitroda started the discussion by putting the onus on the open data community to use its power to ensure that the poor are well-served by ensuring that as platforms are developed, they will help the poor gain access to information that impacts on their lives.

Dr. Nii Quaynor focused on standards as a means of rationalizing private and public sector interests. With the enormous increase in the use of mobile devices, there is concern about how data will be gathered and the direction development will take.

The question of whether “open” and “public” mean the same is something to be considered as data is being released. The understanding is that if data belongs to the people, it is their right to see and use it. Open data should improve lives, be inclusive, equitable and equal, but there is still a data divide. “Open data isn’t a THING, it’s a principle of openness that cuts across many areas”.

There is a need to engage citizens in a combined top-down, bottom-up approach to open data, so that we can develop a complete picture around issues requiring solutions. The way to hasten change is to make opening our data easier by using new technologies and software, educating others on how to extract and use the information, and by dedicating more people to the task.

As we release open data, we will need to be able to ensure its integrity so that it can be trusted. We will also have to clearly define the distinction between privacy and openness, particularly with respect to ownership and governance over personal data.


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