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.

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