Within less than a year, the United Kingdom and United States have put hundreds of thousands of rich datasets on the Web in machine readable formats. Thousands of applications have been built — the vast majority without taxpayers’ money — by civic hackers to analyze, mash-up, and map these data. Potential benefits of an Open Government Data (OGD) practice include new services, new insights, increased citizen participation, new businesses and better governance. Though other countries, provinces and cities are exploring OGD, there has been little activity in low and middle income countries (see map at left). Given the potential benefits and reasonable costs, it is importance to assess how relevant an OGD initiative might be in these countries as well.
The World Wide Web Foundation, with the our partner Fundacion (CTIC), is taking the first steps in this direction. We are starting a new project to conduct an assessment of the feasibility and potential of an OGD program in three diverse countries — Chile, Ghana and Turkey. The bottom line questions are: Is the country ready to engage in an OGD initiative? If so, what support might they need? If not, why not, and what lesson can we take away from this assessment?
The project originated in response to a call for proposals from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative: a donor collaborative that includes the Ford Foundation, Hivos, the International Budget Partnership, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Institute, the Revenue Watch Institute, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The funding for this project originates from the Omidyar Network and the Open Society Institute. The project runs in parallel to a similar feasibility study focusing on India, also support by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, and run by the Centre for Internet and Society.
Our work is starting with the development a new methodology for assessing OGD readiness, based on our experience and an excellent paper commissioned by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative and written by Becky Hogge from earlier this year. We will then conduct research through visits to each country, Web studies, and phone and email interviews to complete the assessment by the end of October. As Tim Berners-Lee said in his interview with Becky, “It has to start at the top, it has to start in the middle and it has to start at the bottom.” In other words, we must talk with people from the highest levels of government, the public administration officials who collect and care for data, and the people who will leverage the data to create new applications. And we will do so during this study. The results should be available before the end of this year.
The Web Foundation is committed to supporting efforts around OGD in individual countries, and as a emerging movement around the world. This is evidenced by the work of Web Foundation Directors Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt in the UK and US, the W3C Brazil Office in their country, and W3C’s eGovernment Interest Group, as well as work to built capacity in the Caribbean. If you want to learn more, please contact me or Stephane Boyera.
About World Wide Web Foundation
World Wide Web Foundation leads transformative programs to advance the Web as a medium that empowers people to bring about positive change. Created under a seed grant from the John S and James L Knight Foundation, the Web Foundation brings together business leaders, technology innovators, academia, government, NGOs, experts, developers and end users to tackle challenges that, like the Web, are global in scale. By funding education, outreach, research and the next generation of Web technologies, Web Foundation strives to enable all people to share knowledge, access services, conduct commerce, participate in good governance and communicate in creative ways. Web Foundation is a registered tax exempt, public charity in Switzerland and the United States.