Making Cities Open by Default: Lessons from open data pioneers

City governments play a vital role in building communities where people can live, work, and play, as well as fostering resilient and sustainable development. Cities are responsible for providing basic services that most directly impact the lives of the public. There is a growing movement to give people access to the data and information that they need to hold city leaders to account for the decisions they make and the services they deliver.

For this report, the Charter and OpenNorth investigated the opportunities and challenges faced by cities improving their open data programme, and specifically the role that the Charter can play in supporting this process.

We spoke to government officials, politicians and civil society from four cities (Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg) and one province (Ontario) in Canada, as well as three international cities (Lviv – Ukraine, Buenos Aires – Argentina and Durham – US).

Open Data in Developing Countries: Phase Two

The goal of the Web Foundation’s open data research programme is clear. We want to equip policymakers and shapers with actionable insights to ensure that open data becomes a powerful tool for development, particularly in the Global South. In line with this mission, in 2014 we completed the first phase of our Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC). This phase – ODDC1 – was an important first step, but we knew we had to go further. So, we embarked on ODDC2 – further synthesis research around common themes which arose across many of the projects. We deliberately chose not to focus on the technical aspects of open data, but rather on the social, political and legal aspects required to build a thriving open data community – one which is capable of using open data as a tool to improve the day to day lives of citizens. The results of these projects are available here.

Open Data in Developing Countries: Summary of Emerging Insight from Phase I

How can developing countries secure the full benefits of open data? What barriers are blocking greater impacts? And how can open data be implemented in ways that respond to local context, and that build on existing policy and practice of foundations?

To address questions like these, the Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) research network has been gathering information on open data activities across 13 different countries on three continents. Using a mixed-methods case study research, 17 local research partners have developed in-depth accounts on the supply, mediation and use of open data in diverse settings: from budget scrutiny to oversight of judicial systems.

This briefing offers 15 initial insights generated from a preliminary synthesis of this research, offered as a basis for further conversations.

Open Data and Fiscal Transparency: How Can We Unlock the Benefits?

Every day, national, regional, and local governments spend vast sums of citizens’ tax money. However, all too often, there is a lack of transparency around how these public funds are spent. In Indonesia and the Philippines, civil society groups have consistently clamoured for more accountability in public finances in areas such as procurement, education, and infrastructure. This paper summarises the approach we used and the lessons we learned as we explored how open data might best be harnessed for fiscal transparency in the region.

Open Data How to Guides

The Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab produces how-to guides that outline step-by-step the different approaches used in their projects. Some of the Guides are:

1. Opening Data from the Ground UpThis is our step-by-step guide on how we worked with the education agency in Banda Aceh to open up data that was in demand by civil society, as well as how we supported civil society organisations to make use of the data to improve the quality of education in their city.

2. Leveraging Open Data for Greater Fiscal Transparency: This How-to Guide is intended for organisations with expertise in open data, who would like to help civil society groups strengthen their fiscal transparency work through open data. It is also intended for government agencies with established open data initiatives who want to strengthen user engagement and increase citizen participation.

3. Fostering Government and Civil Society Collaboration through Open Data: This guide suggests specific steps that can be taken by funding agencies, project implementers, and other stakeholders who want to promote collaboration between government and CSOs through the use of open data. This approach is particularly helpful in a context where there is prevailing distrust and animosity between the two groups, as it can ensure collaborations are based on facts, not opinions.

4. Accessing and Making Use of Open Health Data: This guide is written for donors, civil society organisations, governments, and other stakeholders who would like to build capacity of user groups in accessing and using open health data to improve their advocacy or development work. In some cases, user groups will be entirely new to open data. Others might have experience using health data, but are unaware of better ways to find datasets efficiently and/or struggle to make effective use of them.