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Development Account Projects

Strengthening the capacities of developing countries to provide access to development information through open government data

Background:

Data are the new raw material of the twenty-first century. The availability of data is the key to the identification of development opportunities and policy decision-making. Providing access to government data allows for the more efficient use of resources and the improvement of service delivery for citizens. The effects of this are potentially far-reaching for sustainable development: innovation, transparency, accountability, participatory governance and economic growth. For example, the opening up of data in some countries revealed that some Governments were being charged much higher amounts, up to 25 times more, for the same medicines. The findings enabled Governments to exert pressure on pharmaceutical companies to reduce the prices. While much progress has been made in recent years in terms of the level of the accessibility and use of government data in developed countries, developing countries have not made as much progress. They need support in raising awareness, increasing capacities and providing technical assistance in the implementation of open government data policies and platforms.

The project is a logical follow-up to several of the current activities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs relating to open government data and e-participation, which are focused on institutional mechanisms and frameworks to engage citizens and civil society for development. In 2012, the Department, in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union, organized a capacity development workshop in Geneva on open government data and citizen engagement. A subsequent workshop, focused on the use of data for transparency, accountability and collaboration, was co-organized with the Centre for Public Service Innovation of South Africa in October 2012. At these events, participants from countries including Egypt, Jordan and Kenya discussed the need for open government data policies, platforms and capacity development. In this context, the proposed project fills an important gap by introducing to stakeholders new products and services that can be utilized in publishing and analysing government data. By using multiple media, including online platforms and face-to-face seminars, it will build capacities in a selected number of developing countries.

The analysis of existing experience and the development of pilots on the know-how, challenges and real benefits related to open government data provide additional input to capacity-building. Currently, a few measurement frameworks exist that assess the level of open government data development. In the next version of the United Nations e-government survey, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs will include the open data index as part of the United Nations
e-government development index.

A pool of 15 countries will be selected on the basis of their level of open government data development, including the availability of their policy and legislation regarding access to government information and data privacy, the existence of an organizational framework such as information privacy commissioners and national archives, and the presence of channels and modalities such as open government data catalogues. Of these countries, four with especially lower levels of experience will be chosen as pilot countries to benefit from direct training and advisory services in implementing open government data. Lessons learned by the pilot countries will be disseminated in workshops and online training to all 15 countries in the pool.

The project will assist the target countries in the development of an open data strategy, the establishment of an open data community, open data development, the deployment of an open data platform (website) and the monitoring and evaluation of the open data initiative. Pilot actions and their thematic policy focus will be developed in partnership with national partners. Priority will be placed on thematic areas relevant to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. These will include public expenditure and budgeting data, environmental data, procurement data, demographic data, socioeconomic indicators, health-care data, geographical data and local transportation data.

Objective:

To strengthen the capacities of the Governments of target countries to provide the policy framework and the technical infrastructure for the implementation of the open government data concept

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased capacity of senior government officials to formulate policies to develop open government data, in consultation with relevant civil society stakeholders
  • Enhanced technical capacity of the Governments of four target countries to develop and sustain open government data platforms and applications that utilize government data, in accordance with established policy frameworks

Implementation status:

In progress.