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Open Data: Understanding Demand, Underpinning Development

José M. Alonso · November 9, 2014




Today, we’re delighted to announce the launch of a major two-year research programme, which will focus on ensuring open data initiatives lead to true development benefits in the Global South. Entitled ‘Harnessing Open Data to Achieve Development Results in Asia and Africa’, the research will take place under the umbrella of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) initiative and will be coordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation. The project has been established with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada).

Today’s announcement is a logical next step for the Web Foundation — we’ve long been working to ensure that open data leads to real advances in the quality of life in less developed countries. Since early 2013, the Web Foundation’s ‘From Data to Development: Exploring the Emerging Impact of Open Government Data in Developing Countries’ (ODDC) project has explored how open data operates in practice across the Global South, building a network of research partners investigating the supply and use of open data in different political, social and governance contexts. This ongoing project has found that whilst southern partners believe substantial benefits can be secured by opening up data, existing supply-side open data initiatives (for example, initiatives focussed primarily on building open government data portals) rarely connect with the needs of the citizens, civil society groups, intermediaries and entrepreneurs who could make use of data. New strategies are needed if open data is to deliver powerful development impact.

Harnessing Open Data to Achieve Development Results in Asia and Africa looks to build on these findings and uncover new solutions to tackle this challenge. We will be:

  • Exploring demand and use-driven approaches to scaling open data across developing countries, in contrast to the supply-side efforts currently undertaken;
  • Developing regional, research-driven hubs in Africa and Asia to complement the existing Caribbean Open Institute (COI) and Open Data for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (ILDA) hubs developing in Latin America;
  • Continuing to develop a network of empowered leaders, academics and practitioners from the developing world able to shape the global debate on open data practices, principles and standards.

Priorities, opportunities and challenges for securing developmental outcomes from open data vary across continents, and it is important that the agenda for research and development in each region be set, owned and driven from within that region. Therefore, in the first stages of the project, we will convene two meetings (one in Asia and one in Africa) at which we will bring together established and emerging open data leaders, including policy makers, technical experts and sectoral specialists. Both meetings are scheduled to take place in the first quarter of 2015, and further details will be provided on this site.

In addition to the new project, we are also pleased to announce that Dr. Savita Bailur becomes our new Open Data Research Lead and will build on the excellent work done to date by our colleague Tim Davies.

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