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Launching Research: Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries

Justin Edwards · February 19, 2013

Web FoundationIDRC


We are pleased to announce the launch of ‘Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries‘ (ODDC), a two-year research programme co-ordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation and established with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada).

In few short years open data has moved from being a niche interest in a few countries, to become part of the global policy mainstream, promoted widely by civil society, multilateral institutions, and by the Open Government Partnership. The ODDC project seeks to understand the dynamics of both open data policy and practice across the developing world, paying attention to the dynamics of open data use across different geographies and contexts, and looking at both positive impacts of open data, and unintended consequences. Through southern-led research cases, it seeks to develop a deeper understanding of developing country contexts and to determine the potential benefits and challenges of open data in such locations, supporting comparisons and contrasts to be drawn with early open data models from the US ( and the UK (

Armed with deeper insight and analysis of open data in a developing world context, ODDC project partners and stakeholders will be able to more efficiently engage global and local policymakers and practitioners to improve the developmental outcomes of open data initiatives in the developing world.

The Research Agenda

The core research objectives of this project aim to:

  • Support critical evaluation of the claims made for the benefits of open data;

  • Identify strategies through which open data can be employed as a tool of pro-poor and sustainable development;

  • Identify unintended consequences of open data policies and practices, and highlight strategies to mitigate these;

  • Identify the mechanisms through which open data can bring about change, and the factors that affect their successful operation, paying particular attention to the wider institutional, political and social systems in which open data use is embedded;

  • Inform the significant investments of money and time being put into open data by national governments, funders, multilateral institutions and grassroots groups, and contribute to the efficient and effective targeting of resources, based on reasonable expectations about the potential returns from open data.

Studying Case Countries

ODDC will conduct 17 independent case studies in 14 countries, drawing diverse samples and contexts to explore the emerging impacts of open data in relation to particular governance issues – from budget monitoring or regulation of extractive industries, to management of city infrastructure or involvement of marginalised communities in decision-making. Each study will include a number of shared components, supporting a broad, comparative analysis of how open data is developing in various locations, and in relation to different substantive issues.

Initial case-study countries include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Uruguay.

Building the Open Data Research Network

To better realize the positive benefits of open data, much work is needed to fill the gaps in empirical evidence upon which open data initiatives are based. ODDC will continue to host researchers from the global south to explore open data in action, where it meets the processes of governance, and to provide a critical perspective on whether the promised outcomes do indeed occur and under what circumstances.


Learn more about the Open Data Research Network and join the Network’s LinkedIn group or follow the conversation at @odrnetwork

Developing a Common Assessment for Measuring Open Data

A key outcome of the ODDC project will be a robust, methodologically sound Common Assessment tool measuring the shared components of open data initiatives in the developing world. This Common Assessment tool will provide the analytical foundation upon which to build further assessment models and will greatly assist the field of open data research.

Visit to learn more about this exciting exploration into open data and for details on how to get involved.
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