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Call for ideas: What is the value of open data for developing economies?

Web Foundation · July 18, 2016

The Web Foundation is proud to partner with GovLab to build evidence on the value of open data for developing economies. Below we’ve shared the call for input originally posted on GovLab’s website. Please get in touch and share your views!

Recent years have witnessed considerable speculation about the potential of open data to bring about wide-scale transformation. The bulk of existing evidence about the impact of open data, however, focuses on high-income countries. Much less is known about open data’s role and value in low- and middle-income countries, and more generally about its possible contributions to economic and social development. The field lacks a coherent Theory of Change for how and in what contexts open data supports or hampers development.

The new project – commissioned by the Mobile Solutions, Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) program funded by the Global Development Lab at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in collaboration with the Web Foundation – that seeks to build an evidence base on open data for developing economies by identifying:

  • The conditions under which open data is most (and least) effective in the development process;
  • Strategies to maximize the positive contributions of open data to development; and
  • Means for limiting open data’s harm on developing countries.

To tap into the expertise of the global open data field and to be inclusive of different views on the subject we are calling upon the community to share evidence and suggestions for possible case studies.

In particular, we’d like to hear about:

  • Existing research on open data in developing economies (which we will add to the Open Government Research Exchange at;
  • Impactful releases and use-cases of open data across various objectives and sectors;

By being inclusive and collaborative, we hope to develop actions, deliverables, and resources that can support the field-at-large, including:

  • Taking stock of current findings investigating the value of open data in low and middle-income contexts by carrying out a landscaping that examines existing research;
  • Developing a collection of  in-depth, illustrative and detailed case studies to better understand how developing countries are responding to public demand (if at all)  to open their data, who is making use of that data and for what, and what impact it is having in several key domains. These case studies will be built with close attention to contextual conditions and in particular the effects of varying geographies, sectors, and types of users or data. Particular emphasis will be placed on identifying and reviewing strategies that may be replicable in different contexts.

Initial findings and recommendations will be shared at the International Open Data Conference on October 6 and 7, 2016 in Madrid.

For more information on the Open Data for Developing Economies project, or if you have suggestions and recommendations for research and case studies to be included in our analysis please contact Stefaan Verhulst, the GovLab’s Chief Research and Development Officer (

Discuss Open Data for Developing Economies on Network of Innovators.

Stay up to date with the Web Foundation’s open data programme on Twitter @webfoundation.


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