Supporting sustainable development with open data

Open data can make an impact across the globe. Its role in combating development challenges of the next 15 years, both as a tool for measuring progress and in finding solutions, is becoming more clear. As this paper will show, open data has been used to help plan smarter cities in Rio de Janeiro, streamline emergency response in the Philippines, map the Ebola outbreak to save lives in West Africa and help parents to assess school performance in Tanzania. Open data can also bring significant economic benefits: it could be used worldwide to generate between US$720-920bn in digital transport applications, and US$150–270bn in geospatial technology

While open data can be used to benefit many areas, this report identifies three where it could have a significant impact in the next development agenda and beyond.

Open data can:

  1. more effectively target aid money and improve development programmes,
  2. track development progress and prevent corruption, and
  3. contribute to innovation, job creation, and economic growth.

To achieve these aims, the development community must address many challenges, including:

  • a weak enabling environment for open data publishing
  • poor data quality
  • a mismatch between the demand for open data and the supply of appropriate datasets
  • a ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor, affecting both the supply and use of data
  • and a general lack of quantifiable data and metrics.

With these challenges in mind, the report sets out ways that governments, donors and (international) NGOs – with the support of researchers, civil society and industry – can apply open data to help make the SDGs a reality:

  1. Reach global consensus around principles and standards, namely being ‘open by default’, using the Open Government Partnership’s Open Data Working Group as a global forum for discussion.
  2. Embed open data into funding agreements, ensuring that relevant, high-quality data is collected to report against the SDGs. Funders should mandate that data relating to performance of services, and data produced as a result of funded activity, be released as open data.
  3. Build a global partnership for sustainable open data, so that groups across the public and private sectors can work together to build sustainable supply and demand for data in the developing world.
This report explores how world leaders can use and promote open data to tackle global problems post-2015. It does not evaluate specific SDGs, but provides examples of where open data is starting to make a difference in cities and nations around the world. It draws extensively on international open data case studies, the Open Data Barometer,– a survey of open data policyand practice across the world, launched by the World Wide Web Foundation – and ongoingresearch by the Open Data Research Network.