ICT Module -2 Topic -3

Data, Information, and Adding ICTs to the Social Accountability Equation

Open Government Data in Principle and Practice

As mentioned previously, in recent years there has been a shift from making information available only in response to an individual request (reactive disclosure), to emphasizing proactive disclosure of data and information by public bodies.

Government data, in particular, needs to be released in a format that allows it to be processed and reused. There are several principles (known as Open Government Data principles) that governments ought to adhere to in order for data and information to be most useful for users. For example, there are various technical obstacles which can impede both access and use, such as information not being in an electronic format or being in a non-machine-readable format (such as a PDF from which data cannot be extracted). Sometimes data is held in proprietary software which cannot be read by open source software.

However, an increasing number of governments are starting to release public data following the open government data principles. For example, Kenya this year became the first country on the African continent to launch a national open data initiative. Now it is possible for anyone to obtain their census or budget data, check on spending at the county level. Moldova has done the same. Other nations such as Mongolia, Nigeria and Rwanda want to follow suit. Some of the early developers of open government data platforms include the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Open Government Partnership

These kinds of developments are among the many issues addressed by the Open Government Partnership (OGP); a recently launched multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. It was launched by a small group of countries (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and now more than 50 countries have signed up.

A key pillar of OGP is the engagement of civil society; there has been significant active engagement of CSOs around the world that are uniting behind the common agenda of transparency. Civil society practitioners can share their expertise and experiences with OGP implementing governments through the OGP Network. Moreover, if your country is not yet eligible to participate in OGP together with other civil society organizations, you can identify the criteria on which your country falls short, and begin discussions with government officials and other CSOs about how to promote and support the open government reforms needed to enable participation.  

The ability of CSOs and citizens to (re) use that information/data largely depends mainly in the formatthe data is provided and also on the cost of the human and technological capital necessary to take advantage of it. Yet regardless of the type of data being used for an initiative, actions taken by CSOs and citizens to (re)use available data and information should be at the heard of any initiative involving ICTs.

Last modified: Tuesday, 19 August 2014, 11:50 AM