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Open Data and Sub-national Governments: Lessons from Developing Countries

August 7, 2015

This paper is first of four in our second phase of research on Open Data in Developing Countries. These projects show the social, political and legal sides of open data that are too often overshadowed by the technical aspects in the debate. For an overview of the project please see our blog.


Open government data (OGD) as a concept is gaining currency globally due to the strong advocacy of global organisations as Open Government Partnership. In recent years, there has been increased commitment on the part of national governments to proactively disclose information. However, much of the discussion on OGD is at the national level, especially in developing countries where commitments of proactive disclosure is conditioned by the commitments of national governments as expressed through the OGP national action plans. However, the local is important in the context of open data. In decentralized contexts, the local is where data is collected and stored, where there is strong feasibility that data will be published, and where data can generate the most impact when used. This synthesis paper wants to refocus the discussion of open government data in sub-national contexts by analysing nine country papers produced through the Open Data in Developing Countries research project.

Using a common research framework that focuses on context, governance setting, and open data initiatives, the study found out that there is substantial effort on the part of sub-national governments to proactively disclose data, however, the design delimits citizen participation, and eventually, use. Second, context demands diff erent roles for intermediaries and diff erent types of initiatives to create an enabling environment for open data. Finally, data quality will remain a critical challenge for sub-national governments in developing countries and it will temper potential impact that open data will be able to generate.

Download the full research paper here

This project is supported by the Open Data for Development (OD4D) program, a partnership funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the World Bank, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), and Global Affairs Canada (GAC).