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Call for Feedback: How-To Note on Open Government Data for Social Accountability

The review process for this How-to Note has ended. The paper has been downloaded 84times and we received 10 comments.

We are grateful to the many reviewers for their valuable comments. The author will carefully review and consider all comments when finalizing the note. The final version of the How-To Note will be published on the Open Development Technology Alliance website and announced in the World Bank blog forum

The Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA), in collaboration with the World Bank's OPCS' Governance and Anticorruption Team (GAC) and the Social Development Network (SDV), is holding a consultation period to invite feedback on four short How-To reports. These draft papers explore the role information and communication technologies (ICTs) can play to enhance governance, strengthen social accountability mechanism and ultimately improve development outcomes.

You are invited to download and review the how-to note, "Towards Open Government Data for Enhanced Social Accountability," and submit your feedback in the comments section below.

 

Towards Open Government Data for Enhanced Social Accountability

 

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About the note: The release of open government data has become a major policy objective for governments around the world. However, the ways in which this data can lead to development outcomes and strengthen social accountability often remain obscure. This note therefore sheds light on the demand side of open data. Relying on a variety of best practice examples, it suggests how open data initiatives should be designed and implemented to enhance social accountability.

 

To learn more about this How-To series, click here.

Comments

Hi. This note is very helpful for task teams, providing an easy to understand framework for multi-disciplinary participants. A couple of thoughts; 1. It may be important to explicitly include testing of the articulated theory before engaging stakeholders whenever possible. It would improve the likelihood of better engagement when stakeholders are assured of good chances of success. Government actors may especially be nervous about doing something new that could fail very publicly. 2. Task teams working with CSOs and government should also be encouraged to design OGD programs that also encourage the use of other technologies like print and FM radio. Building this in from the onset would nudge organizations or government departments intimidated by technology to use channels they are already used to in reaching citizens. Feedback loops also need not only be mobile/PC but could also be these low tech channels that are still fairly ubiquitous in both urban and rural areas.

Submitted by Jennifer Shkabatur on
Dear Muchiri, Thank you very much for these very helpful comments. I agree with both of your suggestions and will incorporate them in the final version of the note. An effective testing of the articulated theory can greatly improve its likelihood of success and it should be pursued whenever possible. A strategic pre-launch engagement of the relevant stakeholders is likely to result in a more mature and sustainable policy. The use of more "low-tech" tools is also important. While the open government data conversation often focuses on "apps" and other sophisticated software tools, "low tech" channels can considerably expand the audience of the intervention. Thanks for your feedback, Jennifer

Submitted by SAT GOEL on
I am a visitor here in Bahrain. It is great example of how a tiny Kingdom ( Pop. less than a million) can use ICT in governance and life easier for all.

I think this is a very useful and thoughtful piece and covers most of the issues that need to be addressed but are often overlooked in the OGD environment. My major reservation about the document is that it is too short--I would like to see it go down a level and get into rather more detail on the various issue areas it is identifying. Also, it would be good to get rather more specific on the recommendations/directions for further development--how exactly can one use mobiles for OGD, what role more precisely should one be encouraging for civil society and how does one do that encouragement particularly in somewhat more difficult environments. But overall a very good initial effort IMHO. Mike

Submitted by Jennifer_Shkabatur on
Dear Michael, Many thanks for your feedback. It would indeed be great to expand the document in the directions you specify and make the recommendations more detailed. The role of mobile phones is particularly important in this respect, as mobile penetration is very high in many developing countries and mobile phones can serve as an effective method for citizen engagement around open data. The Kenyan Budget Tracking Tool, which is discussed in the note, is just one example of such citizen engagement (it shows how mobile phones can help disseminate structured budgetary information to civil society groups working in remote Kenyan villages). The challenge of OGD in fragile states and difficult environments is another key aspect that should be further discussed. Important lessons can be learnt in this respect from various crowdsourcing initiatives in fragile states (for more information, see e.g., an World Bank report on the Role of Crowdsourcing for Better Governance in Fragile Sates: http://www.scribd.com/doc/75642401/The-Role-of-Crowdsourcing-for-Better-Governance-in-Fragile-State-Contexts). Thank you again for your comments, Jennifer

Submitted by Andrew McLaughlin on
There's a lot of good information in this draft paper. Here are some thoughts on how to make it more useful to governments and officials: 1. It includes both (a) advocacy for the idea of open government data, its benefits, etc., and (b) actual how-to guidance. I would explicitly separate those onto two different sections -- what it is, why do it, and then how (as a practical matter) to do it. Right now, there is a lot of blending among those three. 2. Too much World Bank-y jargon, abbreviations. "Enabling conditions". "Supply side" and "demand side". "Interventions". "Capacity building". "Closing the feedback loop." Especially at the working levels of government, that kind of language and taxonomy is off-putting. IMHO, a real how-to paper should be written in clear, concrete terms, leaving elsewhere the theories and abstractions. At least if this doc is actually intended to help people on the ground figure out how, in practice, to provide open government data. This might be a strictly personal stylistic pet peeve, but too many WB documents are written in passive abstraction. I.e., instead of a heading like "Improving public service delivery", I'd much rather see something like "How-to: Give your citizens better public services." 3. The concept flow charts do not enhance understanding. They look right out of a generic powerpoint toolbox. I would ditch and reimagine. 4. The Boxes are promising in the way they interweave real-world examples that reinforce the main points. But the actual formatting within this paper is choppy. It's a really good selection of examples to highlight. There should be hyperlinks where possible.

Submitted by Jennifer_Shkabatur on
Dear Andrew, Thank you very much for your comments! Your suggestion of making the distinction between advocacy for the OGD idea and a practical implementation guide more explicit is very helpful. The note aims to offer general background on the OGD concept before going into more specific implementation details, so for this reason it presents some of the policy considerations and challenges behind OGD. Flow charts and graphics will certainly be improved in the final note! Thank you, Jennifer

Submitted by Amparo on
Good paper and useful for the purpose of advancing the OGD agenda in the developing world. Only missing thing is data quality (data catalog, metadata, calendar, etc) without which users will loose interest as soon as they realize the data is not reliable, untimely, or lacks other quality attributes. For a uninitiated, OGD and data transparency are often confused. People generally don't understand how they differ. So, tactically, giving examples of data transparency, virtuous as those may be, may act against our interest of promoting OGD. I think that beyond the technical and legal definitions we need to give concrete, practical examples of what is possible to do with OGD that is not possible to do without it, even if data is transparent. I suggest to merge stages 1 and 6 in the "design" loop (page 9). In my mind, the sustainabilty triggers the opportunity. I would also tone down the "theory of change" parts. While I agree that those considerations are important, they may seem too daunting to the uninitiated. Overall it is very nice and should be added to our knowledge repository. Thank you.

Submitted by Tim Davies on
Hello Jennifer. Many thanks for sharing this draft. This is a really useful note setting out an approach to OGD initiatives. I wonder if it does suffer a bit from being caught between being a summary, and a more in-depth manual. It may be worth exploring splitting into a short 4 - 6 page publication that contains the key models from the How To, and then a more in-depth manual like resource (which could usefully act as the 'policy' and 'organisational' counterpart to the 'legal, social and technical' focus of http://www.opendatahandbook.org) However, assuming the 20 page document evolves as is - some general comments: It would be good to reference the wider literature and guidance on OGD policies, either in-line, or including a section of further resources at the end. For example, consider pointing somewhere to the technical guidance in OpenDataHandbook.org and note that, whilst organisational culture and leadership are as important as technical details, the difference between easy-to-use and well licensed, and poorly-formatted data can be the difference between effective civil society use and none. A 'further resources' section would be valuable to show that this is part of a wider growing literature of practical guidance on developing OGD policy and practice. Consider highlighting that, in many cases, open data is about effectively meeting the Right to Information and that access to documents through RTI can be important alongside OGD in supporting social accountability outcomes. A number of the theories of change developed in the http://www.opendataresearch.org Brasilia workshop boiled down to: 'open data + crowdsourced data / RTI + activism = change' In thinking about users of OGD (p 11), it might be worth highlighting also that actors like Parliamentarians can be key users of OGD, and that there are in fact many cases where individual citizens can benefit from direct, non-intermediated access to data, such as when they zoom in on a particular fact about their local area or about services they use (and where they might be happy to look directly in the government spreadsheets and messy data), and use that fact or claim, plus information they know, to promote accountability at a very local level (for example, the citizen who becomes aware of what was supposed to be spent on their school who confronts teachers directly with that data, rather than going through larger-scale processes). Smaller specific comments: P1: - Open Data licenses do not have to be 'Creative Commons' licenses (and in practice, many Creative Commons licenses do not work for data because they do not handle database rights, and anything other an attribution only places restrictions that create difficulty for integration of different datasets) - Not all of the 55 Countries of the OGP have made commitments relating to OGD. A number of National Action Plans do not reference OGD at all (and there is no obligation for OGP members to do so). P2: - 4 million page views over what period? Box 3: Do all of these route data through Government? Are some not 'targeted transparency' measures which obligate the private providers to publish data, but where that data is not neccesarily held by government? P12: In "C) How will an OGD intervention be implemented?" it would be useful to refer to the background conditions for different theories of change to work. For example, it mentions that consumer choice based theories of change are popular in the US, and may be useful in developing countries. Consider highlighting that this relies on there being meaningful choice between providers for the change mechanism to work effectively. p18: Box 30 - it would be better to focus on feedback loops that are relevant to open data. If we have no evidence of anyone establishing an effective OGD feedback loop then that might be worth highlighting.

Submitted by Hal Zhao on
Very interesting and well-advocated article. I would just like to say that in order for open government data to be used for development, for prosperity and sustainability, and for righteousness by world citizens, there must be ground rules of mutual trust between the civilians and government, and both groups must hold each other as well as themselves accountable. More collaboration is also needed in addition to competitive use of the information itself. We can then live in a world more free of corruption and more build on foundation trust.

Submitted by Jennifer_Shkabatur on
Dear Hal, Many thanks for your feedback. You are absolutely right, OGD initiatives should be part of a more general development agenda and they are much more likely to succeed when such ground rules of mutual trust and collaboration are present. The question of incorporating OGD in difficult environments and in contexts is therefore particularly challenging. Time will show to what extent well designed and implemented OGD policies could bring as a small step closer to the development of such rules. Thank you, Jennifer

Submitted by Vijay Jagannathan on
I couldn't download the pdf. Could you e-mail a copy please? If you have a ppt that accompanies it will be most grateful as the contents will of interest to a meeting of City Mayors I will be attending next weekend in Surabaya. Thanks

This is a thorough guide of how to use open data released by governments to improve government practices and distribution of services or to develop capacity. It considers the roles played by various stakeholders (government, civil society, and ICT developers) and the stages of interventions using Open Government Data (OGD). The handbook points out that the release of OGD is dependent upon the cooperation of government actors, which may be difficult to achieve in restrictive or corrupt governance contexts. Our suggestions: This framework relies upon existing technical capacities in civil society and IT intervention by outside groups. More emphasis should be placed upon increasing technical capacity of the general population through trainings in data literacy. Ethical and methodologically sound data collection practices should be encouraged in addition to data release and management. Too often, governments collect only minimal data on informal settlements and economies. Better data collected through ethical and defensible methods is necessary for good research practice. Handbook should consider not only encouraging the release of government data but also industry data, especially as essential services are increasingly supplied by public-private partnerships (PPP). PPPs, like government government agencies, should be accountable when taking on the role of essential service providers. You can read more in this blogpost: http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2012/development_as_freedom_the_world_bank_s_how_to_series_amplifying_citizen_voices_throu Thanks, Open Technology Institute

Submitted by Jennifer_Shkabatur on
Dear Greta, Many thanks for your feedback and for discussing the how to notes on your blog. Capacity building and data literacy are highly important for the effectiveness of any open data policy and they certainly should be part of any OGD implementation agenda. Similarly to other cases of transparency policies, the role of civil society groups seems to be central in this respect, as they are the most likely capacity builders and intermediaries between open data and local communities. In line with the general open government data debate, the how to note targets data possessed and released by governments. However, you are absolutely right to note that this data may well be missing - governments may not collect important types of data and thus an effective open data policy should encourage the collection and analysis of data from non-governmental sources as well. As private industry actors may possess in some cases publicly important data, the OGD movement should target them as well. A recent article by Archon Fung and David Weil makes this precise point: http://cdn.oreilly.com/oreilly/booksamplers/9780596804350-sampler.pdf. Many thanks again for your helpful insights, Jennifer

This How-to Note has been reviewed by New America Foundation independently. Overall the review is positive with some good suggestions. It's available on their blog titled, "Development as Freedom: The World Bank’s how-to series “Amplifying Citizen Voices through Technology” (PART 2 OF 2)", at the URL below. http://oti.newamerica.net/blogposts/2012/development_as_freedom_the_world_bank_s_how_to_series_amplifying_citizen_voices_throu

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