This working paper seeks to contribute to the conversation on open data research, focussing in particular on open data in developing countries.
In the following sections we offer a brief overview of open data definitions and recent development, before turning to look at different approaches for researching open data. We outline a twin-track approach of looking at macro-level assessments of the context open data operates within, and detailed comparative case studies of open data in use. We then focus in on this second track, exploring the need to connect the study of open data to the study of existing governance processes in transparency and accountability, innovation and economy growth, and inclusion and empowerment. We follow this by outlining a number of open data specific issues that cut across different the different settings where open data may be in use. We end by bringing these elements together in a research framework, and outlining some of the ways in which the IDRC/Web Foundation ‘Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries’ research programme will be applying this framework over 2013 – 2015.
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.
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.
This paper summarises how the Web Foundation’s Open Data Lab Jakarta teamed up with local CSO GeRAK Aceh and USAID’s Kinerja program to stimulate greater demand for information in the education sector using open data – the proactive release of government data sets in freely reusable, machine-readable formats.
The keys to success were a participatory, bottom-up process in which interested groups (including the media, researchers, and civil society organisations) identified which data sets would be most valuable to them, coupled with close collaboration with the government to build the trust needed to release that data—an approach we refer to as ‘responsive open data model’.
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 Up: This 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.