4th IODC

Blog IODC 2016
Madrid. October 6-7, 2016


Open Data and East Europe and Central Asia: What have we learned since IODC 2015?

September 26, 2016 by Lejla Sadiku

This blog provides information on the Regional Talks: East Europe Session, which will be held at the 4th International Data Conference (IODC) on Friday October 7, 2016 from 18:00 – 19:00 (CEST) in Room D. Further information on the session can be found here.

Since the last edition of the International Open Data Conference (IODC), which was held in Ottawa, Canada in May 2015, a lot has happened in East Europe with regards to open data. In this post I will share some of the activities and key outcomes related to open data in this region recently and explain what to expect at the East Europe Regional Talk at IODC 2016 in Madrid, Spain.

Openness and transparency in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

With growing disenchantment with movements on open government and questions whether innovation has delivered for development, the open data community of East Europe and Central Asia (ECA)met in June 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss to what extent has open data delivered on its promise for our region?

In recent years, the movement has expanded quickly; for example, some countries have adopted the Charter, portals have proliferated, and communities are growing. However, the extent to which the movement has delivered for development and good governance goals remains debatable. The results, as demonstrated by the GovLab’s Open Data Impact research, can be multifaceted but they require alignment of many factors, not the least policies and performance metrics, public infrastructure, partnerships, and problem definition.

What does that mean for middle-income countries in the ECA region? Can open data be a meaningful vehicle of change in small countries with disconnected citizens? Of the many conversations, several key messages have emerged over the past year:

  1. We need to work more politically: Engaging political actors, comprehending their objectives, and applying open data in addressing their priorities, should constitute an iterative process rather than only an initial engagement. In our experience, while the quick wins work in the short run, the political buy-in needs to be strengthened, refreshed, and maintained over time. In contexts where open data has brought about results, such as Ukraine, the political actors have been continuously engaged.
  1. Institutionalizing is key: The culture of use and reuse of open data must be instilled in public space in this region, including schools and universities. Beyond civic engagement, at a time when data-related skills are in high demand, open government data can be used to foster more cohesive societies, active citizenry, and in improving skills for younger generations—be it through coding schools, data journalism, or stronger STEM education in public schools and universities. ODECAs regional data journalism academy brought together lecturers from eight countries during August 2016, and while the feedback showed an overwhelming enthusiasm with the content, some universities already included Excel in their curriculum for fall 2016.
  1. Solving problems through open data: Open data is a powerful tool, one that can be used for the empowerment of citizens, improving efficiency of the public system and strengthening the economy. But beyond this narrative, the value and relevance of open data is demonstrated in its potential for sense-making and problem-solving. Namely, availability of data in emerging crises, such as the migrant crisis last year or terrorism threats, can be key in even saving lives.

So with these key messages in mind, we come to East Europe Regional Talk at the 2016 International Open Data Conference, where our main questions will be: (1) what does open data bring to this part of the world,  and (2) how  can we enhance its effects?

The talk will bring together governmental leaders from local and national level, academia, civil society, and international organizations to emulate the open data ecosystem of the ECA region. While taking a critical perspective of accomplishments thus far, the panelists will discuss on how to create a conducive environment for tangible results from open data.

Should you be interested in further engaging in sessions or activities pertaining to open data and this region, the following pre-events and sessions will also be relevant:


Cover photo by Chris Leggat

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