I recently attended Open Government Data Camp 2010, the first of its kind event in London. It was a two-day workshop for individuals and organizations interested in Open Government Data, sponsored by the Open Knowledge Foundation. It was an impressive gathering of about 250 people including representatives from the UN, White House, the World Bank and European Commission.
The format of the event was innovative with several parallel working sessions and lightening presentations mixed in a continuous stream of topics such as measuring the impact of open data, empowering non-technical users and re-users of data, data from the grass roots up and my favorite topic – open government data in low and middle income countries.
The Web Foundation has been involved in a similar project that took me to Ghana in September. We conducted a feasibility study of the OGD domain from the perspective of a developing economy in Africa. The idea behind the study was that OGD initiatives are primarily beginning to gather speed in the developed world, however such initiatives are equally important for the developing world as well. Our well-attended lightening presentation on this topic further bolstered our confidence about the relevance of our research.
Fundacion CTIC,our partner in the study was represented by Carlos Iglesias. We emphasized the need of going one step back to learn from existing initiatives in the context of OGD in developing countries in our lightening presentation. We tried to stimulate a discussion around the indicators that enable OGD readiness in a given country. As expected the audience had a collective sigh at the mention of 70 indicators and just 4 use cases. On the sidelines there was unanimity that a complex set of variables need to be analyzed while undertaking OGD readiness study. They comprise of the economic and business environment, the social environment and the institutional and political environment in country.
In the parallel working session we threw open the discussion by inviting the participants to comment on the questions we put up in the research questionnaire. Is democracy well founded in the country? Immediately we got varied set of responses with examples thrown in the China and Latin America context. It was interesting to note that in the case of China, OGD type of initiatives were promoted internally by the local government to curb corruption and efficient reporting.
Another interesting lightening presentation highlighted Publish What You Fund campaigns for aid transparency. In line with its advocacy approach Publish What You Fund urges donors to disclose their aid information regularly and promptly in a standardized format that is comparable with other countries and accessible to all.
Some members advocated for a strong social component within the OGD community and also expressed the need in reaching out to those with new opportunities for development. It was interesting to hear David Eaves reminding us that libraries were built before the majority of the population knew how to read.
There was a buzz in the audience when Tim Berners-Lee came for a keynote on the second day. The atmosphere was electric when one member from the audience got up and said, “ I am from the Internet and you are my father or grandfather”. As we strive to scale up OGD initiatives in developing countries, his mantra of “ it has to start at the top, it has to start in the middle and it has to start at the bottom” has to be our guidepost.
Please visit the conference video page to see other talks, and scroll down three-quarters of the page to view the video of our talk.