4th IODC

Blog IODC 2016
Madrid. October 6-7, 2016


On the Road Again… and Again – The International Open Data Charter and the Road to IODC 2016

Guest post from OGP Open Data Working Group (Stephen Walker and Jose Alonso, Co-Anchors)

The mission of the OGP Open Data Working Group (OD WG) is to identify and share good practices to help OGP governments implement their commitments and develop more ambitious and innovative open data action plan commitments. The OD WG focuses its efforts on four work streams: Principles, Standards, Measurement of Impact, and Capacity Building.

The OD WG is jointly coordinated by government and civil society anchors: Stephen Walker, Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada, and José M. Alonso, World Wide Web Foundation.

When it comes to open data, it can sometimes feel like the road we are on is one with no ending. No matter how much is accomplished, there is always more to be done. This is why we must take the chances we get to celebrate the victories we’ve achieved, but always with an eye on what’s next.

First, the victories – on the margins of the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa at the end of May 2015, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Open Data Working Group (co-chaired by Government of Canada and the Web Foundation), the Government of Mexico, the International Development Research Centre, the Open Data for Development (OD4D) Network, and Omidyar Network convened a meeting of open data champions from around the world to discuss next steps for consultations on the development of an International Open Data Charter. This meeting brought together representatives of governments, civil society organizations, and multilateral institutions from around the world who committed to act as “Stewards” of the Charter, supporting development, launch, and implementation.

An international consultation was launched, and at OpenDataCharter.net we received over 300 comments, suggestions, and questions on the draft Charter Principles. After weeks of work incorporating the thoughtful feedback we received, Charter Stewards met again in Santiago, Chile in September to finalize the text. Finally, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, launched the Charter Principles and called on governments to express their commitment to adopting and implementing them.

The temptation, of course, is to kick up your heels. The Charter is launched! The text is out there for all to see! All that’s left now is for the endorsements to roll in.

But with the Charter Principles launched, the work is just beginning. We all know that it is not enough to say that data should be open. The “how?”, “when?”, and “why?” remain in the air even when the principles are agreed upon.

So we are here now on the road to IODC 2016. Throughout the remaining months of 2015, a number of Charter launch and adoption events are planned. One of the biggest moments, though, will come next year in Spain. By the time of IODC 2016, we hope to see many governments – countries, states, and cities – adopting the Charter’s Principles. And in order to ensure that they are able to implement those principles, a number of details and structures remain to be defined.

While the Principles are the keystone of government’s’ commitment to open data, the Charter must also be an enabling resource that supports governments in their effort to become more open and transparent. For this reason, Charter Stewards will be working in the coming months to develop a Charter Resource Centre. This was discussed thoroughly at a Charter workshop during IODC 2015, where we heard from governments and civil society organizations about what resources they thought were needed to support Charter implementation. Definitions of key Charter terms, sample policies and open data platforms, and existing self-assessment tools, are just some of the elements governments will need to implement and expand successful, effective open data initiatives that reflect the Principles of the Charter.

Also needed are mechanisms to hold governments accountable for their commitments, and incentives to push governments to be ambitious in their open data goals. Governments implementing the Charter can report on their work via existing mechanisms, such as the OGP National Action Plan. But a commitment is empty without follow-through. Independent accountability and incentive mechanisms are needed to push governments to work toward open data, and to call out those governments who speak about the value of data without actually practicing the values of openness. Over the coming months, Stewards must find ways to ensure governments meet the Charter commitments they set out for themselves, without creating burdensome or bureaucratic new assessment systems.

There is also the essential element of collaboration and consultation: ensuring city governments can implement Charter Principles just as easily as countries do; ensuring the private sector is brought into conversations on open data and privacy; ensuring civil society organizations are consulted on Charter principles and accountability mechanisms. Bringing together these global conversations, and focusing these diverse actors on the core principles that all open data champions work every day to support, will not be a simple or an easy task.

At IODC 2015, Charter Stewards agreed to create a series of Working Groups, each focused on a particular aspect of the work above. As these Working Groups are now beginning their initial discussions and formulating work plans for the coming months, we are focused on delivering the information and resources countries need to support Charter implementation. At IODC 2016 in Spain, we will be ready to highlight the Charter and the Resource Centre developed to support its implementation everywhere.

On the road to IODC 2016, we will be focused on creating and curating the kind of supporting, enabling resources that can help governments unlock the potential of open data, and implement the core Charter principles that will embed a culture of openness around the world.

And beyond that? We are excited to see where this road will take us next.

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