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© UN Women/Ryan Brown, CC BY-NC-ND

© UN Women/Ryan Brown, CC BY-NC-ND

The case for gender and the Open Data Barometer

Web Foundation · September 27, 2017

This update outlines aspirational ideas we hope to implement in future editions of the Open Data Barometer.

Where we are

As we outlined in this year’s Barometer findings, open data is about people, not just innovation. And yet, we face a ‘sexist data crisis’ with a shortage of gender disaggregated data allowing us to ensure women are counted and included. Although countries that provided datasets for national statistics, health, and education had gender-disaggregated data in 60 percent of cases, in more sensitive areas such as crime data, that percentage reduced dramatically.

The Barometer findings showed women are less likely to be consulted on the design of data policies and initiatives; are under-represented among the ranks of data scientists; and are often uncounted in official statistics. Moreover, poor urban women in the global South are nearly 50 per cent less likely to access the web than men and are therefore unlikely to access data that empowers them.

We need to systematically identify where these data gaps are and ensure gender data becomes the norm — not a ‘nice to have’. There are some positive developments. For instance, the Africa Data Revolution Report encourages the data revolution to be gender-sensitive “in all its facets”. Our Women’s Rights Online’s (WRO) REACT framework is key for tracking the availability and use of data that is needed to ensure digital skills and education programmes do not leave women and girls behind. Therefore, we are exploring new ways to introduce gender specific criteria by aligning the Barometer methodology with the WRO Digital Gender Gap Audit toolkit.

A notable gender data initiative is the Web Foundation-led TechMousso (TechWoman) in Côte d’Ivoire that brought together the tech and gender communities to use data on women’s health, safety, education, and economic empowerment to develop solutions for local problems. Because of TechMousso, the government is now working on publishing and releasing this data on the Open Data Côte d’Ivoire platform.

Moreover, it is important to have open data policies that are inclusive by design in order to promote equality and improve social outcomes, as outlined by Open Data Charter Principle Six: ‘For Inclusive Development and Innovation’. Data2x is doing good work with gender data, recently partnering with Open Data Watch to launch the Ready to Measure Phase II Report on indicators to monitor the SDG gender targets, along with a new gender data query tool.

What we envision

The Barometer measures the readiness for open data initiatives, implementation of open data programs, and impact that open data is having on business, politics and civil society. We think gender must be integrated more prominently throughout the Barometer methodology. Therefore, in a future edition of the Barometer, we would like to assess gender commitments for open data policies and how they align with Sustainable Development Goal 5, as well as measure how governments support civil society to engage with gender data and the degree to which governments support gender inclusion. To do this, we hope to introduce the following gender-focused datasets, or adapt existing ones:

  • Health data: maternal health, HIV
  • Crime data: domestic violence
  • Education data: primary and secondary school enrollment
  • Legislation data:UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women)
  • Budget, contracting, and spending data: to assess how women use budget, spending and/or contracting datasets to address their (financial) needs

We think it is important that the impact section of the Barometer assesses whether open data better includes marginalised groups in policy making and accessing government services. The impact section should also highlight open data case studies on gender.

Additional steps to improve the measurement of gender data in the Barometer would ideally include:

  • Mapping actors in the open data space who work on gender
  • Engaging with open data experts who work on gender data decision-making at a national and global level
  • Exploring opportunities to conduct workshops and face-to-face meetings to better understand data use
  • Forming an advisory group of gender and data experts for the Barometer

We believe these methodological changes would shed light on how open data is being used to support women and their needs, and the role governments play to support these efforts with data. It would also advance the inclusive data agenda and the work of the UN’s Data Revolution and the SDGs.

In order to make this happen, we need your support. If this is of interest, please email us at


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