The GovLab Selected Readings on Open Data for Developing Economies

By Andrew Young, Stefaan Verhulst, and Juliet McMurren

This edition of the GovLab Selected Readings was developed as part of the Open Data for Developing Economies research project (in collaboration with WebFoundation, USAID and fhi360). Special thanks to Maurice McNaughton, Francois van Schalkwyk, Fernando Perini, Michael Canares and David Opoku for their input on an early draft. Please contact Stefaan Verhulst (stefaan@thegovlab.org) for any additional input or suggestions.

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Open data is increasingly seen as a tool for economic and social development. Across sectors and regions, policymakers, NGOs, researchers and practitioners are exploring the potential of open data to improve government effectiveness, create new economic opportunity, empower citizens and solve public problems in developing economies. Open data for development does not exist in a vacuum – rather it is a phenomenon that is relevant to and studied from different vantage points including Data4Development (D4D), Open Government, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Open Development. The below selected readings provide a view of the current research and practice on the use of open data for development and its relationship to related interventions.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Readings List (in alphabetical order)

Open Data and Open Government for Development

Benjamin, Solomon, R. Bhuvaneswari, P. Rajan, Manjunatha, “Bhoomi: ‘E-Governance’, or, An Anti-Politics Machine Necessary to Globalize Bangalore?” CASUM-m Working Paper, January 2007, http://bit.ly/2aD3vZe

  • This paper explores the digitization of land titles and their effect on governance in Bangalore. The paper takes a critical view of digitization and transparency efforts, particularly as best practices that should be replicated in many contexts.
  • The authors point to the potential of centralized open data and land records databases as a means for further entrenching existing power structures. They found that the digitization of land records in Bangalore “led to increased corruption, much more bribes and substantially increased time taken for land transactions,” as well allowing “very large players in the land markets to capture vast quantities of land when Bangalore experiences a boom in the land market.”
  • They argue for the need “to replace politically neutered concepts like ‘transparency’, ‘efficiency’, ‘governance’, and ‘best practice’ conceptually more rigorous terms that reflect the uneven terrain of power and control that governance embodies.

McGee, Rosie and Duncan Edwards, “Introduction: Opening Governance – Change, Continuity and Conceptual Ambiguity,” IDS Bulletin, January 24, 2016. http://bit.ly/2aJn1pq.  

  • This introduction to a special issue of the IDS Bulletin frames the research and practice of leveraging opening governance as part of a development agenda.
  • The piece primarily focuses on a number of “critical debates” that “have begun to lay bare how imprecise and overblown the expectations are in the transparency, accountability and openness ‘buzzfield’, and the problems this poses.”
  • A key finding on opening governance’s uptake and impact in the development space relates to political buy-in:
    • “Political will is generally a necessary but insu cient condition for governance processes and relationships to become more open, and is certainly a necessary but insu cient condition for tech-based approaches to open them up. In short, where there is a will, tech-for-T&A may be able to provide a way; where there isn’t a will, it won’t.”

Open Data and Data 4 Development

3rd International Open Data Conference (IODC), “Enabling the Data Revolution: An International Open Data Roadmap,” Conference Report, 2015, http://bit.ly/2asb2ei

  • This report, prepared by Open Data for Development, summarizes the proceedings of the third IODC in Ottawa, ON. It sets out an action plan for “harnessing open data for sustainable development”, with the following five priorities:
    1. Deliver shared principles for open data
    2. Develop and adopt good practices and open standards for data publication
    3. Build capacity to produce and use open data effectively
    4. Strengthen open data innovation networks
    5. Adopt common measurement and evaluation tools
  • The report draws on 70 impact accounts to present cross-sector evidence of “the promise and reality of open data,” and emphasizes the utility of open data in monitoring development goals, and the importance of “joined-up open data infrastructures,” ensuring wide accessibility, and grounding measurement in a clear understanding of citizen need, in order to realize the greatest benefits from open data.
  • Finally, the report sets out a draft International Open Data Charter and Action Plan for International Collaboration.

Hilbert, Martin, “Big Data for Development: A Review of Promises and Challenges,” Development Policy Review, December 13, 2015, http://bit.ly/2aoPtxL.

  • This article presents a conceptual framework based on the analysis of 180 articles on the opportunities and threats of big data for international development.
  • Open data, Hilbert argues, can be an incentive for those outside of government to leverage big data analytics: “If data from the public sector were to be openly available, around a quarter of existing data resources could be liberated for Big Data Analytics.”
  • Hilbert explores the misalignment between “the level of economic well-being and perceived transparency of a country” and the existence of an overarching open data policy. He points to low-income countries that are active in the open data effort, like Kenya, Russia and Brazil, in comparison to “other countries with traditionally high perceived transparency,” which are less active in releasing data, like Chile, Belgium and Sweden.

International Development Research Centre, World Wide Web Foundation, and Berkman Center at Harvard University, “Fostering a Critical Development Perspective on Open Government Data,” Workshop Report, 2012, http://bit.ly/2aJpyQq

  • This paper considers the need for a critical perspective on whether the expectations raised by open data programmes worldwide — as “a suitable remedy for challenges of good governance, economic growth, social inclusion, innovation, and participation” — have been met, and if so, under what circumstances.
  • Given the lack of empirical evidence underlying the implementation of Open Data initiative to guide practice and policy formulation, particularly in developing countries, the paper discusses the implementation of a policy-oriented research agenda to ensure open data initiatives in the Global South “challenge democratic deficits, create economic value and foster inclusion.”
  • The report considers theories of the relationship between open data and impact, and the mediating factors affecting whether that impact is achieved. It takes a broad view of impact, including both demand- and supply-side economic impacts, social and environmental impact, and political impact.

Open Data for Development, “Open Data for Development: Building an Inclusive Data Revolution,” Annual Report, 2015, http://bit.ly/2aGbkz5

  • This report — the inaugural annual report for the Open Data for Development program — gives an overview of outcomes from the program for each of OD4D’s five program objectives:
    1. Setting a global open data for sustainable development agenda;
    2. Supporting governments in their open data initiatives;
    3. Scaling data solutions for sustainable development;
    4. Monitoring the availability, use and impact of open data around the world; and
    5. Building the institutional capacity and long-term sustainability of the Open Data for Development network.
  • The report identifies four barriers to impact in developing countries: the lack of capacity and leadership; the lack of evidence of what works; the lack of coordination between actors; and the lack of quality data.

Stuart, Elizabeth, Emma Samman, William Avis, Tom Berliner, “The Data Revolution: Finding the Missing Millions,” Open Data Institute Research Report, April 2015, http://bit.ly/2acnZtE.

  • This report examines the challenge of implementing successful development initiatives when many citizens are not known to their governments as they do not exist in official databases.
  • The authors argue that “good quality, relevant, accessible and timely data will allow willing governments to extend services into communities which until now have been blank spaces in planning processes, and to implement policies more efficiently.”
  • In addition to improvements to national statistical offices, the authors argue that “making better use of the data we already have” by increasing openness to certain datasets held by governments and international organizations could help to improve the situation.
  • They examine a number of open data efforts in developing countries, including Kenya and Mexico.
  • Finally, they argue that “the data revolution could play a role in changing the power dynamic between citizens, governments and the private sector, building on open data and freedom of information movements around the world. It has the potential to enable people to produce, access and understand information about their lives and to use this information to make changes.”

United Nations Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. “A World That Counts, Mobilizing the Data Revolution,” 2014, http://bit.ly/2am5K28.

  • This report focuses on the potential benefits and risks data holds for sustainable development. Included in this is a strategic framework for using and managing data for humanitarian purposes. It describes a need for a multinational consensus to be developed to ensure data is shared effectively and efficiently.
  • It suggests that “people who are counted”—i.e., those who are included in data collection processes—have better development outcomes and a better chance for humanitarian response in emergency or conflict situations.
  • In particular, “better and more open data” is described as having the potential to “save money and create economic, social and environmental value” toward sustainable development ends.

The World Bank, “Digital Dividends: World Development Report 2016.” http://bit.ly/2aG9Kx5

  • This report examines “digital dividends” or the development benefits of using digital technologies in the space.
  • The authors argue that: “To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on the “analog complements”—by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses, by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy, and by ensuring that institutions are accountable.”
  • The “data revolution,” which includes both big data and open data is listed as one of four “digital enablers.”
  • Open data’s impacts are explored across a number of cases and developing countries and regions, including: Nepal, Mexico, Southern Africa, Kenya, Moldova and the Philippines.
  • Despite a number of success stories, the authors argue that: “sustained, impactful, scaled-up examples of big and open data in the developing world are still relatively rare,” and, in particular, “Open data has far to go.” They point to the high correlation between readiness, implementation and impact of open data to GDP per capita as evidence of the room for improvement.

Open Data and Open Development

Reilly, Katherine and Juan P. Alperin, “Intermediation in Open Development: A Knowledge Stewardship Approach,” Global Media Journal (Canadian Edition), 2016, http://bit.ly/2atWyI8

  • This paper examines the intermediaries that “have emerged to facilitate open data and related knowledge production activities in development processes.”
  • In particular, they study the concept of “knowledge stewardship,” which “demands careful consideration of how—through what arrangements—open resources can best be provided, and how best to maximize the quality, sustainability, buy-in, and uptake of those resources.”
  • The authors describe five models of open data intermediation:
    • Decentralized
    • Arterial
    • Ecosystem
    • Bridging
    • Communities of practice

Reilly, Katherine and Rob McMahon, “Quality of openness: Evaluating the contributions of IDRC’s Information and Networks Program to open development.” International Development Research Centre, January 2015, http://bit.ly/2aD6h0U

  • This reports describes the outcomes of IRDC’s Information and Networks (I&N) programme, focusing, in particular, those related to “quality of openness” of initiatives as well as their outcomes.
  • The research program explores “mechanisms that link open initiatives to human activities in ways that generate social innovations of significance to development. These include push factors such as data holders’ understanding of data usage, the preparedness or acceptance of user communities, institutional policies, and wider policies and regulations; as well as pull factors including the awareness, capacity and attitude of users. In other words, openly networked social processes rely on not just quality openness, but also on supportive environments that link open resources and the people who might leverage them to create improvements, whether in governance, education or knowledge production.”

Smith, M. and L. Elder, “Open ICT Ecosystems Transforming the Developing World,” Information Technologies and International Development, 2010, http://bit.ly/2au0qsW.

  • The paper seeks to examine the hypothesis that “open social arrangements, enabled by ICTs, can help to catalyze the development impacts of ICTs. In other words, open ICT ecosystems provide the space for the amplification and transformation of social activities that can be powerful drivers of development.”
  • While the focus is placed on a number of ICT interventions – with open data only directly referenced as it relates to the science community – the lessons learned and overarching framework are applicable to the open data for development space.
  • The authors argue for a new research focus on “the new social activities enabled by different configurations of ICT ecosystems and their connections with particular social outcomes.” They point in particular to “modules of social practices that can be applied to solve similar problems across different development domains,” including “massive participation, collaborative production of content, collaborative innovation, collective information validation, new ‘open’ organizational models, and standards and knowledge transfer.”

Smith, Matthew and Katherine M. A. Reilly (eds), “Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development,” MIT Press, 2013, http://bit.ly/2atX2hu.

  • This edited volume considers the implications of the emergence of open networked models predicated on digital network technologies for development. In their introduction, the editors emphasize that openness is a means to support development, not an end, which is layered upon existing technological and social structures. While openness is often disruptive, it depends upon some measure of closedness and structure in order to function effectively.
  • Subsequent, separately authored chapters provide case studies of open development drawn from health, biotechnology, and education, and explore some of the political and structural barriers faced by open models.  

van den Broek, Tijs, Marijn Rijken, Sander van Oort, “Towards Open Development Data: A review of open development data from a NGO perspective,” 2012, http://bit.ly/2ap5E8a

  • In this paper, the authors seek to answer the question: “What is the status, potential and required next steps of open development data from the perspective of the NGOs?”
  • They argue that “the take-up of open development data by NGOs has shown limited progress in the last few years,” and, offer “several steps to be taken before implementation” to increase the effectiveness of open data’s use by NGOs to improve development efforts:
    • Develop a vision on open development and open data
    • Develop a clear business case
    • Research the benefits and risks of open development data and raise organizational and political awareness and support
    • Develop an appealing business model for data intermediaries and end-users
    • Balance data quality and timeliness
    • Dealing with the data obesity
    • Enrich quantitative data to overcome a quantitative bias
    • Monitor implementation and share best practices.

Open Data and Development Goals

Berdou, Evangelia, “Mediating Voices and Communicating Realities: Using Information Crowdsourcing Tools, Open Data Initiatives and Digital Media to Support and Protect the Vulnerable and Marginalised,” Institute of Development Studies, 2011, http://bit.ly/2aqbycg.

  • This report examines the potential of “open source information crowdsourcing platforms like Ushahidi, and open mapping and data initiatives like OpenStreetMap, are enabling citizens in developing countries to generate and disseminate information critical for their lives and livelihoods.”
  • The authors focus in particular on:
    • “the role of the open source social entrepreneur as a new development actor
    • the complexity of the architectures of participation supported by these platforms and the need to consider them in relation to the decision-making processes that they aim to support and the roles in which they cast citizens
    • the possibilities for cross-fertilisation of ideas and the development of new practices between development practitioners and technology actors committed to working with communities to improve lives and livelihoods.”
  • While the use of ICTs and open data pose numerous potential benefits for supporting and protecting the vulnerable and marginalised, the authors call for greater attention to:
    • challenges emerging from efforts to sustain participation and govern the new information commons in under-resourced and politically contested spaces
    • complications and risks emerging from the desire to share information freely in such contexts
    • gaps between information provision, transparency and accountability, and the slow materialisation of projects’ wider social benefits

Canares, Michael, Satyarupa Shekhar, “Open Data and Sub-national Governments: Lessons from Developing Countries,”  2015, http://bit.ly/2au2gu2

  • This synthesis paper seeks to gain a greater understanding of open data’s effects on local contexts – ”where data is collected and stored, where there is strong feasibility that data will be published, and where data can generate the most use and impact” – through the examination of nine papers developed as part of the Open Data in Developing Countries research project.
  • The authors point to three central findings:
    • “There is substantial effort on the part of sub-national governments to proactively disclose data, however, the design delimits citizen participation, and eventually, use.”
    • Context demands different roles for intermediaries and different types of initiatives to create an enabling environment for open data.”
    • “Data quality will remain a critical challenge for sub-national governments in developing countries and it will temper potential impact that open data will be able to generate.

Davies, Tim, “Open Data in Developing Countries – Emerging Insights from Phase I,” ODDC, 2014, http://bit.ly/2aX55UW

  • This report synthesizes findings from the Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) research network and its study of open data initiatives in 13 countries.
  • Davies provides 15 initial insights across the supply, mediation, and use of open data, including:
    • Open data initiatives can create new spaces for civil society to pursue government accountability and effectiveness;
    • Intermediaries are vital to both the supply and the use of open data; and
    • Digital divides create data divides in both the supply and use of data.

Davies, Tim, Duncan Edwards, “Emerging Implications of Open and Linked Data for Knowledge Sharing Development,” IDS Bulletin, 2012, http://bit.ly/2aLKFyI

  • This article explores “issues that development sector knowledge intermediaries may need to engage with to ensure the socio-technical innovations of open and linked data work in the interests of greater diversity and better development practice.”
  • The authors explore a number of case studies where open and linked data was used in a development context, including:
    • Open research: IDS and R4D meta-data
    • Open aid: International Aid Transparency Initiative
    • Open linked statistics: Young Lives
  • Based on lessons learned from these cases, the authors argue that “openness must serve the interests of marginalised and poor people. This is pertinent at three levels:
    • practices in the publication and communication of data
    • capacities for, and approaches to, the use of data
    • development and emergent structuring of open data ecosystems.

Davies, Tim, Fernando Perini, and Jose Alonso, “Researching the Emerging Impacts of Open Data,” ODDC, 2013, http://bit.ly/2aqb6uP

  • This research report offers a conceptual framework for open data, with a particular focus on open data in developing countries.
  • The conceptual framework comprises three central elements:
    • Open Data
      • About government
      • About companies & markets
      • About citizens
    • Domains of governance
      • Political domains
      • Economic domains
      • Social domains
    • Emerging Outcomes
      • Transparency & accountability
      • Innovation & economic growth
      • Inclusion & empowerment
  • The authors describe three central theories of change related to open data’s impacts:
    • Open data will bring about greater transparency in government, which in turn brings about greater accountability of key actors to make decisions and apply rules in the public interest;
    • Open data will enable non-state innovators to improve public services or build innovative products and services with social and economic value; open data will shift certain decision making from the state into the market, making it more efficient;
    • Open data will remove power imbalances that resulted from asymmetric information, and will bring new stakeholders into policy debates, giving marginalised groups a greater say in the creation and application of rules and policy.

Montano, Elise and Diogo Silva, “Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC): ODDC1 Follow-up Outcome Evaluation Report,” ODDC, 2016, http://bit.ly/2au65z7.

  • This report summarizes the findings of a two and a half year research-driven project sponsored by the World Wide Web Foundation to explore how open data improves governance in developing countries, and build capacity in these countries to engage with open data. The research was conducted through 17 subgrants to partners from 12 countries.
  • Upon evaluation in 2014, partners reported increased capacity and expertise in dealing with open data; empowerment in influencing local and regional open data trends, particularly among CSOs; and increased understanding of open data among policy makers with whom the partners were in contact.

Smith, Fiona, William Gerry, Emma Truswell, “Supporting Sustainable Development with Open Data,” Open Data Institute, 2015, http://bit.ly/2aJwxsF

  • This report describes the potential benefits, challenges and next steps for leveraging open data to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The authors argue that the greatest potential impacts of open data on development are:
    • More effectively target aid money and improve development programmes
    • Track development progress and prevent corruption
    • Contribute to innovation, job creation and economic growth.
  • They note, however, that many challenges to such impact exist, 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
    • A general lack of quantifiable data and metrics.
  • The report articulates a number of 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:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.”

The World Bank, “Open Data for Sustainable Development,” Policy Note, August 2015, http://bit.ly/2aGjaJ4

  • This report from the World Bank seeks to describe open data’s potential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and makes a number of recommendations toward that end.
  • The authors describe four key benefits of open data use for developing countries:
    • Foster economic growth and job creation
    • Improve efficiency, effectiveness and coverage of public services
    • Increase transparency, accountability, and citizen participation
    • Facilitate better information sharing within government
  • The paper concludes with a number of recommendations for improving open data programs, including:
    • Support Open Data use through legal and licensing frameworks.
    • Make data available for free online.
    • Publish data inventories for the government’s data resources.
    • Create feedback channels to government from current and potential data users.
    • Prioritize the datasets that users want.

Open Data and Developing Countries (National Case Studies)

Beghin, Nathalie and Carmela Zigoni, “Measuring Open Data’s Impact on Brazilian National and Sub-National Budget Transparency Websites and Its Impacts on People’s Rights,” 2014, http://bit.ly/2au3LaQ.

  • This report examines the impact of a Brazilian law requiring government entities to “provide real-time information on their budgets and spending through electronic means.” The authors explore “whether the national and state capitals are in fact using principles and practices of open data in their disclosures, and has evaluated the emerging impacts of open budget data disclosed through the national transparency portal.”
  • The report leveraged a “quantitative survey of budget and financial disclosures, and qualitative research with key stakeholders” to explore the “role of technical platforms and intermediaries in supporting the use of budget data by groups working in pursuit of social change and human rights.”
  • The survey found that:
    • The information provided is complete
    • In general, the data are not primary
    • Most governments do not provide timely information
    • Access to information is not ensured to all individuals
    • Advances were observed in terms of the availability of machine-processable data
    • Access is free, without discriminating users
    • The minority presents data in non-proprietary format
    • It is not known whether the data are under license

Boyera, S., C. Iglesias, “Open Data in Developing Countries: State of the Art,” Partnership for Open Data, 2014, http://bit.ly/2acBMR7

  • This report provides a summary of the State-of-the-Art study developed by SBC4D for the Partnership for Open Data (POD).
  • A series of interviews and responses to an online questionnaire yielded a number of findings, including:
    • “The number of actors interested in Open Data in Developing Countries is growing quickly. The study has identified 160+ organizations. It is important to note that a majority of them are just engaging in the domain and have little past experience. Most of these actors are focused on OD as an objective not a tool or means to increase impact or outcome.
    • Local actors are strong advocates of public data release. Lots of them are also promoting the re-use of existing data (through e.g. the organization of training, hackathons and alike). However, the study has not identified many actors practically using OD in their work or engaged in releasing their own data.
    • Traditional development sectors (health, education, agriculture, energy, transport) are not yet the target of many initiatives, and are clearly underdeveloped in terms of use-cases.
    • There is very little connection between horizontal (e.g. national OD initiatives) and vertical (sector-specific initiatives on e.g. extractive industry, or disaster management) activities”

Canares, M.P., J. de Guia, M. Narca, J. Arawiran, “Opening the Gates: Will Open Data Initiatives Make Local Governments in the Philippines More Transparent?” Open LGU Research Project, 2014, http://bit.ly/2au3Ond

  • This paper seeks to determine the impacts of the Department of Interior and Local Government of the Philippines’ Full Disclosure Policy, affecting financial and procurement data, on both data providers and data users.
  • The paper uncovered two key findings:
    • “On the supply side, incentivising openness is a critical aspect in ensuring that local governments have the interest to disclose financial data. While at this stage, local governments are still on compliance behaviour, it encourages the once reluctant LGUs to disclose financial information in the use of public funds, especially when technology and institutional arrangements are in place. However, LGUs do not make an effort to inform the public that information is available online and has not made data accessible in such a way that it can allow the public to perform computations and analysis. Currently, no data standards have been made yet by the Philippine national government in terms of format and level of detail.”
    • “On the demand side, there is limited awareness on the part of the public, and more particularly the intermediaries (e.g. business groups, civil society organizations, research institutions), on the availability of data, and thus, its limited use. As most of these data are financial in nature, it requires a certain degree of competence and expertise so that they will be able to make use of the data in demanding from government better services and accountability.”
  • The authors argue that “openness is not just about governments putting meaningful government data out into the public domain, but also about making the public meaningfully engage with governments through the use of open government data.” In order to do that, policies should “require observance of open government data standards and a capacity building process of ensuring that the public, to whom the data is intended, are aware and able to use the data in ensuring more transparent and accountable governance.”

Canares, M., M. Narca, and D. Marcial, “Enhancing Citizen Engagement Through Open Government Data,” ODDC, 2015, http://bit.ly/2aJMhfS

  • This research paper seeks to gain a greater understanding of how civil society organizations can increase or initiate their use of open data. The study is based on research conducted in “two provinces in the Philippines where civil society organizations in Negros Oriental province were trained, and in the Bohol province were mentored on accessing and using open data.
  • The authors seek to answer three central research questions:
    • What do CSOs know about open government data? What do they know about government data that their local governments are publishing in the web?
    • What do CSOs have in terms of skills that would enable them to engage meaningfully with open government data?
    • How best can capacity building be delivered to civil society organizations to ensure that they learn to access and use open government data to improve governance?
  • They provide a number of key lessons, including:
    • Baseline condition should inform capacity building approach
    • Data use is dependent on data supply
    • Open data requires accessible and stable internet connection
    • Open data skills are important but insufficient
    • Outcomes, and not just outputs, prove capacity improvements

Chattapadhyay, Sumandro, “Opening Government Data through Mediation: Exploring the Roles, Practices and Strategies of Data Intermediary Organisations in India,ODDC, 2014, http://bit.ly/2au3F37

  • This report seeks to gain a greater understanding of the current practice following the Government of India’s 2012 National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy.
  • Cattapadhyay examines the open government data practices of “various (non-governmental) ‘data intermediary organisations’ on the one hand, and implementation challenges faced by managers of the Open Government Data Platform of India on the other.
  • The report’s objectives are:
    • To undertake a provisional mapping of government data related activities across different sectors to understand the nature of the “open data community” in India,
    • To enrich government data/information policy discussion in India by gathering evidence and experience of (non­governmental) data intermediaries regarding their actual practices of accessing and sharing government data, and their utilisation of the provisions of NDSAP and RTI act, and
    • To critically reflect on the nature of open data practices in India.

Chiliswa, Zacharia, “Open Government Data for Effective Public Participation: Findings of a Case Study Research Investigating The Kenya’s Open Data Initiative in Urban Slums and Rural Settlements,” ODDC, April 2014, http://bit.ly/2au8E4s

  • This research report is the product of a study of two urban slums and a rural settlement in Nairobi, Mobasa and Isiolo County, respectively, aimed at gaining a better understanding of the awareness and use of Kenya’s open data.
  • The study had four organizing objectives:
    • “Investigate the impact of the Kenyan Government’s open data initiative and to see whether, and if so how, it is assisting marginalized communities and groups in accessing key social services and information such as health and education;
    • Understand the way people use the information provided by the Open Data Initiative;
    • Identify people’s trust in the information and how it can assist their day-to-day lives;
    • Examine ways in which the public wish for the open data initiative to improve, particularly in relation to governance and service delivery.”
  • The study uncovered four central findings about Kenya’s open data initiative:
    • “There is a mismatch between the data citizens want to have and the data the Kenya portal and other intermediaries have provided.
    • Most people go to local information intermediaries instead of going directly to the government data portals and that there are few connections between these intermediaries and the wider open data sources.
    • Currently the rural communities are much less likely to seek out government information.
    • The kinds of data needed to support service delivery in Kenya may be different from those needed in other places in the world.”

Lwanga-Ntale, Charles, Beatrice Mugambe, Bernard Sabiti, Peace Nganwa, “Understanding how open data could impact resource allocation for poverty eradication in Kenya and Uganda,” ODDC, 2014, http://bit.ly/2aHqYKi

  • This paper explores case studies from Uganda and Kenya to explore an open data movement seeking to address “age-old” issues including “transparency, accountability, equity, and the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of governance.”
  • The authors focus both on the role “emerging open data processes in the two countries may be playing in promoting citizen/public engagement and the allocation of resources,” and the “possible negative impacts that may emerge due to the ‘digital divide’ between those who have access to data (and technology) and those who do not.
  • They offer a number of recommendations to the government of Uganda and Kenya that could be more broadly applicable, including:
    • Promote sector and cross sector specific initiatives that enable collaboration and transparency through different e-transformation strategies across government sectors and agencies.
    • Develop and champion the capacity to drive transformation across government and to advance skills in its institutions and civil service.

Sapkota, Krishna, “Exploring the emerging impacts of open aid data and budget data in Nepal,” Freedom Forum, August 2014, http://bit.ly/2ap0z5G

  • This research report seeks to answer a five key questions regarding the opening of aid and budget data in Nepal:
    • What is the context for open aid and budget data in Nepal?
    • What sorts of budget and aid information is being made available in Nepal?
    • What is the governance of open aid and budget data in Nepal?
    • How are relevant stakeholders making use of open aid and budget data in Nepal?
    • What are the emerging impacts of open aid and budget data in Nepal?
  • The study uncovered a number of findings, including
    • “Information and data can play an important role in addressing key social issues, and that whilst some aid and budget data is increasingly available, including in open data formats, there is not yet a sustainable supply of open data direct from official sources that meet the needs of the different stakeholders we consulted.”
    • “Expectations amongst government, civil society, media and private sector actors that open data could be a useful resource in improving governance, and we found some evidence of media making use of data to drive stories more when they had the right skills, incentives and support.”
    • “The context of Nepal also highlights that a more critical perspective may be needed on the introduction of open data, understanding the specific opportunities and challenges for open data supply and use in a country that is currently undergoing a period of constitutional development, institution building and deepening democracy.”

Srivastava, Nidhi, Veena Agarwal, Anmol Soni, Souvik Bhattacharjya, Bibhu P. Nayak, Harsha Meenawat, Tarun Gopalakrishnan, “Open government data for regulation of energy resources in India,”ODDC, 2014, http://bit.ly/2au9oXf

  • This research paper examines “the availability, accessibility and use of open data in the extractive energy industries sector in India.”
  • The authors describe a number of challenges being faced by:
    • Data suppliers and intermediaries:
      • Lack of clarity on mandate
      • Agency specific issues
      • Resource challenges
      • Privacy issues of commercial data and contractual constraints
      • Formats for data collection
      • Challenges in providing timely data
      • Recovery of costs and pricing of data
    • Data users
      • Data available but inaccessible
      • Data accessible but not usable
      • Timeliness of data
  • They make a number of recommendations for addressing these challenges focusing on:
    • Policy measures
    • Improving data quality
    • Improving effectiveness of data portal

van Schalkwyk, François, Michael Caňares, Sumandro Chattapadhyay and Alexander Andrason “Open Data Intermediaries in Developing Countries,” ODDC, 2015, http://bit.ly/2aJztWi

  • This paper seeks to provide “a more socially nuanced approach to open data intermediaries,” moving beyond the traditional approach wherein data intermediaries are “presented as single and simple linkages between open data supply and use.”
  • The study’s analysis draws on cases from the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) project.
  • The authors provide a working definition of open data intermediaries: An open data intermediary is an agent:
    • positioned at some point in a data supply chain that incorporates an open dataset,
    • positioned between two agents in the supply chain, and
    • facilitates the use of open data that may otherwise not have been the case.
  • One of the studies key findings is that, “Intermediation does not only consist of a single agent facilitating the flow of data in an open data supply chain; multiple intermediaries may operate in an open data supply chain, and the presence of multiple intermediaries may increase the probability of use (and impact) because no single intermediary is likely to possess all the types of capital required to unlock the full value of the transaction between the provider and the user in each of the fields in play.”

van Schalkwyk, François, Michelle Willmers and Tobias Schonwetter, “Embedding Open Data Practice,” ODDC, 2015, http://bit.ly/2aHt5xu

  • This research paper was developed as part of the ODDC Phase 2 project and seeks to address the “insufficient attention paid to the institutional dynamics within governments and how these may be impeding open data practice.”
  • The study focuses in particular on open data initiatives in South Africa and Kenya, leveraging a conceptual framework to allow for meaningful comparison between the two countries.
  • Focusing on South Africa and Kenya, as well as Africa as a whole, the authors seek to address four central research questions:
    • Is open data practice being embedded in African governments?
    • What are the possible indicators of open data practice being embedded?
    • What do the indicators reveal about resistance to or compliance with pressures to adopt open data practice?
    • What are different effects of multiple institutional domains that may be at play in government as an organisation?

van Schalkwyk, Francois, Michelle Willmers, and Laura Czerniewicz, “Case Study: Open Data in the Governance of South African Higher Education,” ODDC, 2014, http://bit.ly/2amgIFb

  • This research report uses the South African Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) open data platform as a case study to examine “the supply of and demand for open data as well as the roles of intermediaries in the South African higher education governance ecosystem.
  • The report’s findings include:
    • “There are concerns at both government and university levels about how data will be used and (mis)interpreted, and this may constrain future data supply. Education both at the level of supply (DHET) and at the level of use by the media in particular on how to improve the interpretability of data could go some way in countering current levels of mistrust. Similar initiatives may be necessary to address uneven levels of data use and trust apparent across university executives and councils.”
    • “Open data intermediaries increase the accessibility and utility of data. While there is a rich publicly-funded dataset on South African higher education, the data remains largely inaccessible and unusable to universities and researchers in higher education studies. Despite these constraints, the findings show that intermediaries in the ecosystem are playing a valuable role in making the data both available and useable.”
    • “Open data intermediaries provide both supply-side as well as demand-side value. CHET’s work on higher education performance indicators was intended not only to contribute to government’s steering mechanisms, but also to contribute to the governance capacity of South African universities. The findings support the use of CHET’s open data to build capacity within universities. Further research is required to confirm the use of CHET data in state-steering of the South African higher education system, although there is some evidence of CHET’s data being referenced in national policy documents.”

Verhulst, Stefaan and Andrew Young, “Open Data Impact: When Demand Supply Meet,” The GovLab, 2016, http://bit.ly/1LHkQPO

  • This report provides a taxonomy of the impacts open data is having on a number of countries around the world, comprising:
    • Improving Government
    • Empowering Citizens
    • Creating Opportunity
    • Solving Public Problems
  • The authors describe four key enabling conditions for creating impactful open data initiatives:
    • Partnerships
    • Public Infrastructure
    • Policies and Performance Metrics
    • Problem Definition

Additional Resource:

World Bank Readiness Assessment Tool

  • To aid in the assessment “of the readiness of a government or individual agency to evaluate, design and implement an Open Data initiative,” the World Bank’s Open Government Data Working Group developed an openly accessible Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) tool.