Towards an International Open Data Charter

Open data sits at the heart of a global movement with the potential to generate significant social and economic benefits around the world. Through the articulation and adoption of common principles in support of open data, governments can work towards enabling more just, and prosperous societies.

In July 2013, G8 leaders signed the G8 Open Data Charter, which outlined a set of five core open data principles. Many nations and open government advocates welcomed the G8 Charter, but there was a general sense that the principles could be refined and improved to support broader global adoption of open data principles. In the months following, a number of multinational groups initiated their own activities to establish more inclusive and representative open data principles, including the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Open Data Working Group.


An Inclusive and Transparent Process

The Charter was developed within a broad participatory process which actively engaged governments and civil society from around the world.

As a first step, 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 constituted a group of stewards with representatives of governments, civil society organisations, and multilateral institutions from around the world.

At the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, participants debated the importance of openness in “Enabling the Data Revolution”. More than 1000 participants discussed an action plan for international collaboration on open data and the impact it can have in achieving sustainable development. The subsequent consultation of the draft document of the Charter, open through July and August 2015, resulted in the submission of over 350 comments, from all over the world, and contributed to significantly improve the Charter principles.
The conveners of the Ottawa meeting continue to lead the development of a global, multistakeholder action network during its initial catalysing phase. Additional open data experts, officials, and champions, known as Stewards, have committed themselves to work closely with the leaders of this new partnership toward the official launch during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), where a global call for adoption of the Charter will be made, which envisions a world where governments, civil society organizations, private sector, multilaterals and citizens can find the necessary data as an input to make better decisions, create new solutions, increase their competitiveness and promote sustainable development.

After the official launch of the Charter at the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), rolling-launches for the adoption of the Charter took place at:

  • The OGP Summit in Mexico City (October 27-29, 2015);
  • The G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey (November 15-16, 2015); and,
  • The COP21 in France (December 7-8, 2015).

Throughout 2016 additional governments, both national and subnational, and organisations have adopted and endorsed the Charter. Key events, such as the International Open Data Conference in Madrid and Open Government Partnership Summit in Paris will also be moments to announce new adoptions and endorsements.


The International Open Data Charter

During 2015, open data experts from governments, multilateral organizations, civil society and private sector, worked together to develop an international Open Data Charter, with six principles for the release of data:

  1. Open by Default;
  2. Timely and Comprehensive;
  3. Accessible and Useable;
  4. Comparable and Interoperable;
  5. For Improved Governance and Citizen Engagement; and
  6. For Inclusive Development and Innovation.

The international Open Data Charter has built on previous efforts and new findings in a number of important ways:

  • It is available for adoption by all national and subnational governments
  • It promotes the comparability and interoperability of data for increased usage and impact, with an entirely new principle.
  • It acknowledges global challenges such as the digital divide, and the significant opportunities of open data for inclusive development;
  • It recommends standardisation (e.g. data and metadata);
  • It encourages cultural change;
  • It recognizes the importance of safeguarding the privacy of citizens and their right to
  • influence the collection and use of their own personal data;
  • It fosters increased engagement with citizens and civil society; and
  • It promotes increased focus on data literacy, training programs, and entrepreneurship.
  • It welcomes the adoption by other organizations, such as those from civil society or the private sector.


Upcoming Opportunity: adoption of the international Open Data Charter

The principles in the international Open Data Charter provide governments with a common foundation upon which to realise the full potential of open data. For governments that have already established open data initiatives, the Charter provides continuing guidance for maximising the release of data. For countries that are just getting started with their open data activities, the Charter can serve as a statement of commitment and the means to pursue political support for the fundamental principles of openness.


Next Steps

The Open Data Charter continues to bring together a diverse, inclusive group of stakeholders to engage in the process of adoption of the international Open Data Charter. To support the development of the open data field, the Open Data Charter provides practical guidance through its Open Up Giudes, partners with international allies to develop useful tools that are published in the Resource Center, and works with its working groups yo help governments in their local contexts.

To this end, our goals for 2019 are:

  1. Show how those adopting the Charter principles can improve their implementation drawing on the findings of the 2018 principles revision process
  2. Gather evidence of the positive impact of implementing the open data Charter principles in practice, using our Open Up Guides as a tool.
  3. Engage with broader data communities in order to help government officials navigate conflicting rights-based approaches to data governance.
  4. In achieving these goals, we will focus on several thematic areas where we see most potential for impact: Climate Change, Anticorruption, and Gender Pay Gap.