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.