January 6, 2016 IODC

IODC15In the months since the third International Open Data Conference (IODC), we have seen our community deepen their involvement, by sharing the wealth of materials in our IODC 2015 Report and through our blog posts that seek to map out the road to Spain and IODC 2016. The cooperation and teamwork at the heart of the IODC mission are evident in emerging open data initiatives like the UN’s Data Revolution, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, and the Open Data Charter, with whom the IODC continues to partner closely in our open data Roadmap.

We hope you’ve had the chance to follow along as our blog contributors comment on all five Action Areas laid out in our Roadmap, including the Charter, Standards, Skills and Learning, Problem Solving, and Measurement. Our bloggers continue to share their progress at partner organizations from the Caribbean Open Institute in Jamaica to Indonesia’s Jakarta Lab, to the Omidyar Network in the UK to the French office of the OECD.

This past fall was also busy with conferences and summits hosted by peers in the open data community. Check out our blog for reports from the OGP summit in Mexico City and Condatos in Santiago, among other places. Events like these enable the IODC community to explore emerging ideas in the data revolution. They also offer a space for continuing discussion of our next steps. These hubs of community around the globe are essential to propelling the IODC agenda forward.

Looking ahead, we are grateful for the widespread participation in the IODC 2015, from the intensive days of the Ottawa conference to the shared development of the IODC Roadmap, to the contributions of dozens of expert colleagues to the OpenDataCon blog.

Now, in partnership with our colleagues in Spain, we turn to the planning and agenda development for the IODC 2016 in Madrid. Our fourth event will draw upon the Roadmap and continue conversations from Ottawa, but it will also provide a shared platform for our European colleagues and all of you in the IODC community to discuss new opportunities and challenges.

Under the slogan “Global goals, local impact”, the Madrid conference will focus on aggregating the most innovative and practical open data solutions that are driving social and economic impact in areas such as smart cities, journalism, geospatial data, open science, health, education, and more.

IODC 2016 will also provide opportunities for networking and collaboration among approximately 1,500 participants from government and civil society who will learn from international open data experts—and of course from each other.

Therefore, we look forward to continuing to facilitate conversations about the Roadmap and the desired outcomes of IODC 2016. Community engagement is essential to IODC, as it allows us to share, learn, and co-create the the open data agenda.

If you are interested in contributing to the IODC blog, please feel free to get in touch with us by e-mailing We would also love to discuss and share with you on Twitter, so please follow us and tweet us your insights!

Above: Panelists of the Main Session titled “Open Cities: The Local Data Revolution” at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada in May 2015. From left to right: Tuty Kusumawati (Head of Board for Regional Planning Development, Jakarta Capital City Government), Amen Ra Mashariki (Chief Data Analytics Officer, City of New York), Guillermo Moncecchi (Deputy Minister, Industry, Energy, and Mining of Uruguay), and Harout Chitilian (City Councillor and Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee, City of Montreal). Photo: Teckles Photography Inc.

November 2, 2015 Martin Tisne

A guest post from Martin Tisne

As director of policy at Omidyar Network, Martin brings extensive experience advocating for change in government and donor policies and driving sector-level change in the field of government transparency and accountability. Based in London, Martin leads policy, advocacy strategy, and related investments for the global Government Transparency initiative. 

There is a huge amount of talk about a ‘data revolution’. The phrase emerged in the years preceding this September’s announcement of the Sustainable Development or Global Goals, caught on, and has recently been strongly reaffirmed by the launch of a Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data.

The importance of data in measuring, assessing, and verifying the new Global Goals has been powerfully made and usually includes a mention of the data needing to be ‘open’. However, the role of ‘open’ has not been clearly articulated. Fundamentally, the discussion focuses on the role of data (statistics for example) in decision-making, and not on the benefits of that data being open to the public. Until this case is made, difficult decisions to make data open will go by the wayside.

Much of the debate justly focuses on why data matters for decision-making. Knowing (link is external) how many boys and girls are in primary and secondary schools, how good their education is, and the number of teachers in their schools, are examples of relevant data used in shaping education delivery, and perhaps policy. Likewise, new satellite and cell phone data (link is external) can help us prevent and understand the causes of death by HIV AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

Proponents of the data revolution make powerful points, such as that 1 in 3 births go unregistered. If you are uncounted, you will be ignored. If you don’t have an identity, you do not exist.

Yet as important as this information is, I still can’t help but think: Do we change the course of history with the mere existence of more data or because people access it, mobilize, and press for change?

We need an equally eloquent narrative for why ‘open’ data matters and what it means.

To my thinking, we need the data to be open because we need to hold governments accountable for their promises under the Global Goals, in order to incentivize action. The data needs to be available, accessible and comparable to enable journalists and civil society to prod, push and test the validity of these promises. After all, what good are the Goals if governments do not deliver, beginning with the funding to implement? We will need to know what financial resources, both public and private, will be put to work and what budget allocations governments will make in their draft budgets. We need to have those debates in the open, not in smoke-filled rooms.

Second, the data needs to be open in order to be verified, quality-checked and improved. The most powerful argument for opening up data is simply that it will make it better – its quality will increase. I have been told countless times by government officials that they could not open the data because they were not sure it was correct or good enough. But that precisely is a very good reason to open it up, thus enabling the crowd to fact check it.

Furthermore, we need to open up not just the statistics, but also the information on how it was developed. We need access to the formula, the algorithms, the models underpinning decision making (e.g. climate models used by countries in planning policy positions for COP21) so we can check and improve them. Many more different eyes on data beyond policy makers means we will come up with better ideas on how to solve the problems that new data illustrates.

Open data is critical because data itself can be held hostage to politics. By opening data, you enable different perspectives on its interpretation and implications.

Lastly, we need the data to be open, because we want the beneficiaries of these services to actually have a voice in changing policies, inputting in to policies and being fully-fledged participants in the development process.

I hear a lot of conversation in the data revolution debates about filling data gaps by accessing new forms of private sector data (on water, sanitation, health etc.) but much less (or not at all) about ensuring that official bodies include citizen-generated data in their analyses (for example supreme audit institutions agreeing to take the results of social audits into account). People have a right to access the data and a right to engage in the debate.

A data revolution where only the powerful get privileged access to more and better data sounds like the opposite of a revolution to me. However, if open data can be shaped to hold governments to account, shared in a way that improves its veracity and utility, and embraced by those who stand the gain the most from it, then perhaps we are participating in a ‘revolution’. Not one defined by bits and bytes, but one where open data empowers individuals and fuels their ability to bring about the changes they wish to see.

One can reasonably argue that having more and better data alone has not changed the course of history. But people have changed history. Let’s empower them.

Originally posted on the Open Government Partnership Blog, October 27, 2015.


August 11, 2015 Heather McIntosh

By Heather McIntosh

Alexander Howard, The Huffington Post’s senior editor of technology and society, interviewed James Fletcher, Saint Lucia’s Minister for the Public Service (Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, and Technology) at the 3rd International Open Data Conference. Although brief, the conversation touched on some important issues pertaining to open data and improving governance.

Here are some of the highlights:

Open data is about strengthening democracy and improving the level of governance. Open data helps citizens learn about what governments are doing, allowing them to make informed assessments of government activities. This allows governments and citizens to have “enlightened conversations” due to open data, empowering both parties in decision-making and informing policy.

There needs to be a two-way data flow between the government and citizens. Although governments play a central role in opening data to improve democracy and governance, Fletcher states that open data is not just about making government data available. It is also about civil society feeling empowered to share their information with the government.

The digital divide cannot be ignored. The digital divide persists as a challenge in the Caribbean; although many areas of the islands have excellent access to broadband Internet, there are also many regions that have little or no connection. Because of this, Fletcher notes that attention needs to be paid to the digital divide when thinking about open data, as it can further isolate non-connected individuals and communities.

The culture of secrecy and withholding information needs to be changed. This is particularly an issue among employees of the public service, in which people want to withhold information because they believe that doing so makes them more powerful and provides job security. This understanding of public information and power is deemed counterproductive by Fletcher; he states that employees are actually more valuable and indispensable if they share information and can demonstrate their ability to use such information across multiple platforms and sectors. Fletcher emphasizes the pressing need to change this culture of secrecy and power and to incentivise the opening of data for the public good.

See the complete interview here:

August 6, 2015 Heather McIntosh

By Heather McIntosh

Alexander Howard, The Huffington Post’s senior editor of technology and society, interviewed Ania Calderón during the 3rd International Open Data Conference. Calderón, the General Director of Open Data at the Coordination of National Digital Strategy in the Office in the President of Mexico, discussed the role of open data in Mexico and the ways in which her work with open data seeks to inform better policy and foster development.

Calderón begins by stating that the need for information provided by the government to the public is not new. However, the Government of Mexico’s activities in and pertaining to open data are; in fact, conversations on open data policy have been going on for just under two years.

Calderón explains that in the early stages of open data and policy, the Government of Mexico’s focus was publishing. It was primarily interested in sharing data and then polishing and refining it after its release. Almost two years later, the focus has shifted: it is no longer just about delivering open data–it is now about delivering impact. This idea is fundamental to how the Government of Mexico is structuring open data policy at present.

To exemplify a specific instance of impact, Calderón explains the issue of maternal mortality; a problem that is not new, but continues to be pressing in Mexico. Her team approached the ministry of health to find a wealth of data being collected around maternal health and morality. However, it had yet to be used to try to increase understanding of the issue or create better interventions. Collaborating with data scientists and academics, they were able to better understand the influence of variables contributing to maternal mortality, such as level of education and number of prenatal visits, allowing them to address the problem in a more effective manner.

Howard and Calderón further discuss issues pertaining to open data and development, reinforcing that open data and data analytics are essential to facilitating the targeted interventions essential to development.

See the complete interview below:

May 29, 2015 IODC

A cross-post from Paul Maasen, OGP.
Today OGP is launching a new tool, the OGP Explorer. The core idea behind the OGP Explorer is to give the OGP community – civil society, academics, governments, journalists – easy access to the wealth of data that OGP has collected.

It will make it much easier to answer questions like:

  • What have countries promised – and what have they delivered?
  • How did the consultations go across Africa?
  • Which countries have commitments on fiscal transparency?
  • How many starred commitments does Albania have?
  • What happened to the UK promise on beneficial oonership?

The tool comes in two options and has three views.

Option 1 has all 2,000 commitments, of which roughly half have already been assessed by the IRM researchers. For the other half – commitments being implemented as we speak – the data is limited to the commitment title, details and thematic tags. The sheer amount of data makes this the slightly slower Explorer.

Option 2 will be faster as it only contains the data on commitments and consultation processes that have been assessed by the IRM.

The OGP Explorer can be viewed in three ways:

Graph view of IRM-assessed commitment data. This is by far the coolest view to play with because of all of the possible variations.. For example, you can make graphs on completion or relevance, select grand challenges, values or tags you are interested in, select countries or regions and even pick a sorting option. Moving your mouse over the bar chart will give you detailed statistics. The graph will change instantly when you change any of your chosen options.

Table view of the process dataset. This will give you details on how countries performed on their OGP process. It has information on the AP development, whether countries have a permanent dialogue during implementation and how they did on their self assessment. The x and ✓in the column headings provide filter options for each of the columns. The statistics change with filtering and show as mouse-overs when you look at specific subsets of information.

Table view of the commitment data. This is the Big Boy! All details on all commitments are here. You can explore most easily by selecting specific tags, using the search function or using the x and ✓in the column headings for filter options. You can view the commitments as a long list, by country, or opt for simply for the country statistics. This view has everything you ever wanted to know on impact, completion, relevance including which commitments are ‘starred’ and which ones are new. Each commitment is also classified with tags and on OGP values and grand challenges.

You can play endlessly with all these views, and once you are finished please feel free to export the data.

Many thanks to our talented developer, Miska Knapek, whose previous projects include the Web Index of the World Wide Web Foundation. Thanks also to the IDRC who gave the Civil Society Engagement team a grant to make this happen.

This is an important project for OGP. Having access to all data on OGP performance will make it much easier to find, filter and analyze the data. We hope academics will use it for their research, civil society for their advocacy, and that governments will be inspired by the progress being made by their fellow OGP members.

Please note that this is only Phase 1 of the OGP Explorer project!. We already have some ideas for phase 2, but also want to invite you as users to let us know what you like, what you don’t like and what you want to see in the next version of the OGP Explorer.

Send suggestions to

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