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Open data research creating new advocates across Global South

Web Foundation · July 21, 2016

We’re excited to share the feedback from the latest evaluation of our ‘Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) research project. It’s clear that over time, our investment in research, building understanding and developing on the ground capabilities has paid off.

“In the participating countries it is clear that awareness of key concepts linked to openness has shifted, and attitudes and policies are beginning to change. This opens the door to achieve specific pro-development results in future.” – External evaluation team

ODDC was a research driven project, beginning in February 2013 with the goals of exploring how open data improves governance, and build capacity in these countries to engage with open data. The initial phase of this project (ODDC1) was implemented through 17 sub­-grants to partners from 12 countries and concluded in 2014. The seed funding was granted by IDRC and is part of the Open Data 4 Development network.

Since the publication of the last evaluation of the ODDC network, there have been significant, continued positive outcomes from the project. The network has created an impressive group of people who have become promoters, advocates, and experts in open data in their own countries,­ significantly adding to the number of Global South voices and perspectives in the sector.

However, it is the project’s impacts on open data policy and practice, where perhaps the most striking examples of change over the last two years can be found. The project has had a noticeable and cumulative effect on global understanding of open data, and the role of open data for pro-­poor sustainable development. In the participating countries it is clear that awareness of key concepts linked to openness has shifted, and attitudes and policies are beginning to change. This opens the door to achieve specific pro-­development results in future.

Impact on government understanding and of interest in open data

74% of the partners claim that policy makers and other government actors have shown an increased understanding of open data and related concepts (like Right to Information) after they have been in contact with them.

Impact on government policy and publication of data

Since the conclusion of the research projects, several local and national governments have enacted new, or updated open data policies. In other countries, there is evidence that governments are making more of their data public, however it doesn’t always adhere to open data principles. Finally, there is also increasingly more data being released, as open data. While not all of these instances are easily or solely attributable to the work of ODDC partners, it does speak to broad changes in the open data environment which certain partners were working in.

Impacts on partner capacity

Three quarters of partners had very little or no knowledge of open data before the programme, now three quarters say they have significant experience.

83% of the partners (15/18) feel that they are recognised by others as experts in the open data field, either in their national context or globally. Originally, only a small number reported feeling like ‘experts’. What is particularly compelling about this newly created expertise, is that it adds to the diversity of voices in the open data space (which has typically been dominated by academics and organisations from the Global North).

Citations of ODDC research papers

84% of organisations could identify cases where the ODDC research was being re­used by others. It is still early days for measuring the spread of the research through academic outputs, however there is evidence of some of the papers beginning to be cited more widely in academic research, as well as grey literature and several more forthcoming or pending articles expected in the near future.

Trends in open data policy discourse

Since 2014, the open data discourse has changed to incorporate issues of empowerment and rights and to recognise that policies must be responsive to users’ needs and contexts. This is certainly not solely attributable to ODDC, however there are strong connections between the results of some of the research projects, and wider arguments about empowerment and rights.

Partners’ perceptions of impact

Overwhelmingly, most of the partners perceive that they have influenced changes in local/ regional open data trends, in government policy, officials’ understanding of open data, interest from journalists and interest in working with other CSOs. Where most of the research partners agree that they have had the strongest impact, is on CSOs, and their understanding and use of open data. Where there is the least evidence of impact is on specific government policies at the local and national levels, but changes in the attitudes and understanding of government officials leading to broad shifts in the policy environment (such as more data being made available) were clearly evident.

You can download the full evaluation report and our management team’s response for further information. We are encouraged by the results of the evaluation and look forward to building on this work as we move forward to promote an open Web where citizens can easily access and use government open data.

This project is supported by the Open Data for Development (OD4D) program, a partnership funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the World Bank,United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), and Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

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  1. Kiapi K Frederick

    July 27, 2016

    This is a very good piece for all IT activists for use in their scholarly works

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