For the first time, the International Open Data Conference (IODC) will be held in Europe this week. Around 1,200 experts from 42 countries are expected to gather in Madrid and discuss an agenda of openness: open data, open government, open Web, open world.
But global headwinds are blowing against the open agenda – internet shutdowns are common, freedom of information activists are subject to electronic and physical attack, newly elected leaders are reversing open policies, and many governments seem to be paying only lip-service to openness. Unless we acknowledge this and respond swiftly, decisively and collaboratively, the window of opportunity for an open future will close, for good.
We see four steps the open data community can take to keep our agenda on track, and ensure it is a force for the positive change we want to see.
1. Sustainability: We must make sure openness survives political transitions.
Sustainable political commitment across the whole of government must outlast election cycles, and live beyond the career of any individual open government champion. Governments must embed voluntary commitments like open licensing, right to information and proactive disclosure laws into legal frameworks and administrative processes by adopting the international Open Data Charter.
2. Rights: Our community must work more closely with rights organisations to ensure the open agenda is a rights-based agenda.
We must to stop the growing trend of Internet shutdowns, censorship, mass surveillance and crackdowns on free expression. We must promote legal reforms that ensure the right to information and the right to privacy underpin open data initiatives. And we must work more closely with transparency, privacy and right-to-information activists to achieve this.
3. Partnerships: Actors from government, civil society, the private sector and international organisations must work together and have mechanisms to hold each other accountable.
We can do this by strengthening and expanding collaborative initiatives like the Open Government Partnership and the international Open Data Charter. Our community must be unafraid to hold governments and other actors to account if they do not deliver on their commitments.
4. Equality: We must address the inequalities that exist within the open data movement by closing the digital and data divide.
Only 10% of data assessed by the Open Data Barometer is open, and the majority of it is located in the global North. Data critical to fighting the corruption that exacerbates inequality – such as contracting, beneficial ownership and public spending data – is still largely closed. Data relevant to and about women is simply not collected. We must put resources behind closing the data gender gap, educating everyone on data and digital skills and making sure governments and companies open the data citizens need and want.
These are the messages that we will be bringing to the panels that we are speaking on during the conference. Join us in this fight.