The Story

Open Government

Over the past few years, a paradigm shift has been emerging around how governments work, and their use the Web and ICT to deliver better services to their constituencies.  The new approach is known as Open Government. It means rethinking how to govern, and rethinking how the administrations should adapt their procedures to meet the demands and necessities of the citizens. Open Government means a cultural, organizational, procedural and attitude change in public servants and the relation with the citizens.

It is a new form of understanding political policies which are more legitimate and collaborative:

Open Government = Transparency + Efficiency + Participation + Accountability

Open Government Data (OGD) is a pillar of an Open Government strategy. OGD is when ministries and state agencies put their raw data on the Web in readable formats (preferrably, machine readable, open standard formats).  The public can review and download the data, and even create new applications around the data.  The governments of the United States and and and United Kingdom are so far the most prominent practitioners of this new approach, and have established portals ( and to data catalogs.  These data are usable and freely exploitable by NGOs, activists, developers, IT companies, etc. to build and deliver services to people and organizations. See examples of applications in UK and in the US.

The Web Foundation has been deeply involved in the OGD domain from the beginning, particularly through founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee and director Nigel Shadbolt, who continue to advise the UK government on the realization of  This paradigm shift is taking hold in other countries, regions and cities, but mainly, so far in the developed world.

OGD programs have so far demonstrated multiple benefits:

Next Frontier: Low and Middle Income Countries

Given the apparent benefits of Open Government Data programs, it would make sense to consider the development of similar program all over the world, and particularly in low and middle-income countries. This project is a first step to assess this promising possibility. A first study, Open Data Study by Becky Hogge (2010), identified potential challenges and opportunities in low and middle income countries in a general sense. Our objectives is to take the next step by assess the feasibility of implementing Open Government Data programs the three countries specifically, in three different regions.  Base on the experience and contacts of the Web Foundation and our funders, we focus on Ghana, Chile and Turkey.

Project Plan and Expected Outcomes

The expected outcome of these studies is a report answering two major questions:

The final results are expected by the end of October 2010.

The Web Foundation is committed to supporting efforts around OGD in individual countries, and as a emerging movement around the world. We are also participating in discussions around  building OGD capacity in the Caribbean.  It is hoped that we will move to directly support countries to implement effective OGD programs, and help act as a forum for the activities of the necessarily large and diverse set of actors required for success.