New report: How Open Data can drive sustainable development

by Editor

August 31, 2015 | 12:12 am
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Open Data — data that is freely available online for anyone to use and republish for any purpose — is becoming increasingly important in today’s development agenda driven by the Data Revolution, which has been recognized worldwide as the key engine for achieving the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Data is probably one of the most valuable and least-utilized assets of modern governments. In that context, Open Data is being widely recognized as a resource with high economic and social value and as an effective approach for smarter data management.

The primary purpose of Open Data initiatives worldwide is to help governments, businesses and civil society organizations utilize the already available digital data more effectively to drive sustainable development. Many Open Data initiatives involve taking data that is already publicly available and putting it into more usable formats, making it a powerful resource for private sector development, jobs creation, economic growth, and more effective governance and citizen engagement.

In recent years, several studies — including those led by the World Bank — have shown a growing number of Open Data applications around the world, from water management social enterprises in India to agro-businesses in Ghana. The Open Data Impact Map, developed as part of the OD4D (Open Data for Development) network, has more than 1,000 examples of such use cases from over 75 countries, and the list is growing.

The World Bank has now published a new policy paper, “Open Data for Sustainable Development,” that highlights the ways Open Data can be utilized to achieve development goals through a range of applications such as improved medical care, financial access and management, urban planning, agriculture, and many other areas. The World Bank has identified four broad types of benefits of Open Data, which are illustrated throughout the paper with specific examples, some of which are highlighted below:

Fostering economic growth and job creation: Open Data helps fuel new companies and helps existing companies operate more efficiently and profitably. New lending organizations in several countries use Open Data to make loans to borrowers with no credit history. In addition, Open Data about available jobs and workers’ skill sets, job-matching platforms are helping employers staff up and individuals find employment. And Open Data can improve the foreign investment climate, creating new growth opportunities.

Improving efficiency and effectiveness of public services: Social service agencies are using Open Data to help prospective patients find medical clinics or emergency care; to improve access to high-quality education;; and improve agricultural programs and food security.

Increasing government transparency, accountability, and citizen participation: Open Data plays a critical role in improving governance by exposing and preventing corruption. Several national governments are considering open contracting standards, which would bring new transparency to government contracts — a move that could increase trust in those governments both among citizens and for foreign investors.

Facilitating better information sharing within government: Municipal governments are using Open Data to coordinate efforts that improve transportation and other aspects of city infrastructure, and also to manage recovery efforts when hurricanes or other natural disasters damage that infrastructure.

These applications of Open Data and others are relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will be adopted by the U.N. General Assembly next month. The SDGs cover a wide range of issues, including economic, health, education, and environmental factors. Open Data can play a critical role in helping to achieve the SDGs, and can also support the U.N. Data Revolution initiatives now under way.

As the world is becoming more data-driven, governments are uniquely positioned to provide some of the most valuable types of data to businesses, civil society and the general public. To make their Open Data programs successful, governments will need to do more than simply open the gates and make data public. They need to engage with the current and potential users of their data, provide legal and policy structures for data use, and focus on the quality of important datasets.

But we now have more evidence than ever that these Open Data programs will be worth the effort. With the right focus, approach and implementation, Open Data can have a high economic and social return on investment for countries in all regions and at all stages of development.

Learning from initial pilots

Around the world, governments, entrepreneurs and established businesses are seeing the economic growth potential of using Open Data – data from government and other sources that can be downloaded, used and reused without charge.

As a public resource, Open Data can help launch new private-sector ventures and help existing businesses create new products and services and optimize their operations. Government data – a leading source of Open Data – can help support companies in healthcare, agriculture, energy, education, and many other industries.

In addition, government agencies can be most helpful to the private sector if they understand the unique needs of the businesses that currently or could potentially use their data.

The World Bank has used the Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) in more than 20 countries to provide an overall evaluation of a country’s Open Data ecosystem. With that information and insight, government agencies can identify strengths and opportunities for making their Open Data more useful and effective. The ODRA covers essential components of any national Open Data program, including:  Senior leadership;          

Policy/legal framework;

Institutional structures, responsibilities and capabilities within government;

Government data management policies and procedures;

Demand for Open Data;

Civic engagement and capabilities for using Open Data;

Funding for Open Data programs; and

National technology and skills infrastructure.

The World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice, which helped develop the ODRA, is now developing an additional tool to help client countries dig deeper into the private sector demand for Open Data. The Open Data for Business (OD4B) Tool is designed to help governments engage businesses to better understand and meet their data needs. It provides insight into the private sector’s current and potential uses of Open Data, business needs for various datasets and data services, and recommended strategies for ongoing public-private engagement.

The OD4B will be part of the World Bank’s Open Data Toolkit and can be used as a supplement to the ODRA or as a standalone tool.

Initial Findings

The OD4B methodology has been piloted in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, and Serbia. These pilots have helped clarify the most important factors in making Open Data a resource for business and economic growth. The work in these countries included surveys, interview and roundtable discussions with private sector representatives to assess the current data use environment and factors that influence Open Data demand.

In addition to helping to develop the OD4B tool, these pilots have shown a number of patterns in the business use of Open Data.

Current Trends in Data Use: Large and small companies from all industries have shown interest in utilizing Open Data. Many data-driven companies have developed their business intelligence by using data from government sites or centralized portals, including data from neighboring countries or regions.

Data of interest: Geospatial/satellite data is of great interest to both large established companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While large companies can use it to improve their business processes – for example, by improving shipping routes by using GPS – many SMEs use the data to develop new products and services in mapping, transportation, and other areas.  In particular, companies have shown great interest in national business registries and in finding more accurate and interoperable statistical data. In several countries, entrepreneurs have expressed interest in regional data, such as census data that can help them understand and scale into larger markets.

Challenges: Many governments cannot yet provide the real-time data that companies need to make critical business decisions. Much of the data that is most relevant to business is not findable in countries without public data inventories or basic directories. And even when data is available, many startups and SMEs lack the technical resources needed to utilize open datasets.-The World Bank

by Editor

August 31, 2015 | 12:12 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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