Strengthening governance through open data

May 20, 2015, Open Data Research Network
In Chennai, India, researchers found data on the number and location of public toilets to be unreliable. Without good data, sanitation investments were not reaching vulnerable communities. Credit: C/N N/G, flickr

A research network is exploring how open data can help address specific challenges and bring about positive change in developing countries.

Governments hold a wealth of highly valuable data, including birth and death registries, financial records, public infrastructure inventories and much more. A growing movement has pushed for wider digital access to public data to increase government transparency, efficiency and accountability. It has also spurred business innovation in sectors such as public transport, infrastructure and health. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute pegged the potential global economic value of open data at $3 trillion.

However, little hard evidence exists to suggest how open data strategies can benefit vulnerable groups. A research network funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre is helping to fill this gap. Led by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Open Data Research Network is exploring the emerging impacts of open data in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Using case studies from 14 countries, including India, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines, researchers are examining how open data can help address specific challenges.

In Chennai, India, for example, researchers found that existing municipal data on the urban poor – on informal settlements, water and sanitation access, and public health – is unreliable. Without data on the number and location of public toilets, for instance, public sanitation investments were not reaching vulnerable communities. Working with researchers, local officials significantly improved their procurement processes by creating and connecting different open databases.

Another case study in India focused on the extractive energy sector, where a lack of publicly available data has hindered regulatory enforcement in the production of coal, oil and natural gas. The study mapped the landscape of India's energy sector. It identified barriers to accessing data and proposed ways in which more open data could help in many areas, from discouraging corruption to enforcing rules for environmental health and safety.

In the Philippines, researchers have looked at how business, media, civil society and other groups benefit from a national policy introduced in 2011 that requires local governments to disclose financial and procurement-related information on their websites. The project has identified where local governments can be more accountable: for example, by making citizens aware of online data sources and how they can make use of them.

Through the Open Data Research Network, 17 research teams across three continents are fine-tuning and standardising data collection methods to assess whether and how open data is bringing about change in . A July 2014 report highlights how developing countries can more fully benefit from and build on their existing policy and practice to develop open data strategies tailored to local contexts.

Explore further: International team reveals barriers to public health data-sharing; proposes life-saving solutions

Related Stories

Subsidies key in improving sanitation, new study finds

April 16, 2015

With poor sanitation estimated to cause 280,000 deaths per year worldwide, improving sanitation is a key policy goal in many developing countries. Yet governments and major development institutions disagree over how to address ...

Free urban data—what's it good for?

October 29, 2014

Cities around the world are increasingly making urban data freely available to the public. But is the content or structure of these vast data sets easy to access and of value? A new study of more than 9,000 data sets from ...

Recommended for you

Fish-inspired material changes color using nanocolumns

March 20, 2019

Inspired by the flashing colors of the neon tetra fish, researchers have developed a technique for changing the color of a material by manipulating the orientation of nanostructured columns in the material.

Researchers shed new light on the origins of modern humans

March 20, 2019

Researchers from the University of Huddersfield, with colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the University of Minho in Braga, have been using a genetic approach to tackle one of the most intractable questions of ...

One transistor for all purposes

March 20, 2019

In mobiles, fridges, planes – transistors are everywhere. But they often operate only within a restricted current range. LMU physicists have now developed an organic transistor that functions perfectly under both low and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.