Feb 222013

 Open data has game-changing potential to end poverty

Focus on better quality and capacity building needed

People in developing countries are increasingly realising the potential of open data and the role it can play in ending poverty says aidinfo, a leading transparency organisation.

“There is an open data revolution happening and, with the world’s third Open Data Day tomorrow (23 February), it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the incredible progress the open data movement has made. The huge increase in available data – whether World Bank poverty data, or better data on aid flows – has real game-changing potential to lead to better use of resources to help the world’s poor and it’s something both the developed and developing worlds are increasingly galvanised by,” says aidinfo programme leader Simon Parrish.

Aidinfo is working with partners in Kenya, Nepal and Uganda to support the use of open data and to improve its quality.

Simon Parrish: “In Nepal we have been advocating for more open data to be made available since 2011. We know that our country partners need more detailed, timely and disaggregated information about where aid is spent, not only at the country but down to particular geographic locations that identify the ultimate beneficiary and state the intended and actual outcomes of projects.”

A key challenge is the significant gap between the availability of open data, and people’s capacity to use it – something common to developed and developing countries alike. A major aspect of aidinfo’s country work is to develop the capacity of individuals and organisations to access, analyse and use information to engage in policy and decision-making processes, and to act as intermediaries and translate what the raw data means to a multitude of other users and potential users.

In Nepal, aidinfo’s partners will this year launch an open data platform, linked to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and the Aid Management Platform(AMP) with the aim of making reporting more efficient and will run workshops to build the capacity of key stakeholders such as journalists to be able to analyse and advocate for open data.

In Uganda, the Open Development Partnership Platform (http://www.opendev.ug/), launched last November by partner Development Research and Training (DRT), a Ugandan NGO, is a CSO-led initiative that aims to increase access and use of information about resources for poverty eradication by civil society and other stakeholders. Aidinfo also works to assist countries to implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which aims to make information about aid spending easier to access, use and understand.

As an open data initiative, it means that the data being published can be freely used, re-used and distributed by anyone. In the past year IATI’s membership has expanded from 22 signatories to 35 (www.aidtransparency.net). New members include: Belgium, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Says Parrish: “Whilst it is important to acknowledge and respond to the challenges of getting real impact and change from open data, it’s clear there is a real buzz and energy building around it, and a lot of exciting initiatives. Open Data Day provides a unifying opportunity for citizens around the world to get together to share ideas, show support for open data and build visualisations that illustrate the data. Our colleagues in Nepal and Uganda will be joining individuals around the world by running open data sessions and hackathons.”

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