Open Data: A Roadmap to Delivering Impact!

Guest post from Barbara Chiara-Ubaldi

Barbara Chiara-Ubaldi leads the work on Digital Government and Open Data at the OECD. The projects aim to help governments worldwide make the most of new technologies and data to foster more innovative administrations and deliver more inclusive results. Prior to joining the OECD, Barbara worked for the UN as Programme Officer responsible for ICT for Development. Graduated in Political Science, she holds a Master of Science in Public Administration and Development Studies from North Eastern University in Boston, where she was a Fulbright Scholar in 2000-2001.

The International Open Data Charter offers a comprehensive path toward making open data a global resource or, as Sir Tim Berners-Lee put it, the Charter is a roadmap to “accelerate progress by placing actionable data in the hands of people”. Governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, and the private sector have all collaborated in the Charter’s development.

Can open data help your government provide better health or education services to you, your friends and family? Can open data help you locate the closest pharmacy, spot the best performing hospital, or see how much your government spends in healthcare? Is it true that the app I use to find the easiest route to work was developed using open data? Increasingly, the answer to questions like these is, Yes, it is true!

By opening up data they collect or produce, governments are not only helping businesses offering us new products and services, they are also empowering their own offices to better target public outcomes and deliver improved security, or water quality, or employment opportunities.

We read about the potential impact, value, benefits, and gains of open data. But what are we really expecting from our governments? What data would we like them to release? And for those of us who are not “geeks” and cannot play with the figures, do we know yet how data could change our lives or make them easier?

If the ultimate benefits come from data re-use, it’s important that data users and consumers are clear in what we ask our governments: Is data practical? Is the quality good? Is it easy to understand? What actions do we expect from our governments? What impact? These questions can help shape a government’s plans to ensure that data is comparable and interoperable, and to involve civil society, social entrepreneurs, creative individuals, and businesses in value creation, for instance through events such as hackathons.

For every expected benefit of open data—from improved governance and citizen engagement to opportunities for inclusive development and innovation—we need to know what we are measuring and how we are measuring to be sure to track the impact.

In a rich and intense discussion during the last OGP Summit in Mexico City, many of you spoke up to express your views on what and how open data impact should be measured. Ideas included increased involvement of civil society and service providers in measurement, working with app developers and “going local” at the community level, as well as strengthening governments’ capacity to focus on a specific objectives and monitoring impacts on policy making. Though the discussion was short, it was fruitful and productive.

This conversation needs to continue and it needs to be bolstered by concrete ideas and proposals. As we map the road to impact measurement that will bring us to IODC 2016 in Madrid, Spain, we hope we can count on you to help us address these questions: What would we like governments to measure? What actions do we expect our governments to take on open data? And who should be involved in the measurement?

The OECD, the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Web Foundation have co-ordinated the respective work related to the measurement of open data. Following up on the workshops at IODC 2015 in Ottawa and at the OGP summit in Mexico, our intention is to organise a third Workshop of this kind at IODC 2016 in Madrid on 6-7 October. Your inputs will contribute to shaping the agenda of that Workshop, and help us to further develop the international effort to measure the impact of open data.