Published on Digital Development

Open Data for Business Tool: learning from initial pilots

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Citizens in Nigeria participate in a
readiness assessment exercise to identify
high-priority datasets
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:
Pilot in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • 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.
Open Data for Business Roundtable
​in Astana, Kazakhstan
  • 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.
Over the coming months, we will continue to develop the OD4B tool for release. As an approach to help deepen the understanding of business uses of Open Data, we hope it will be a valuable addition to the World Bank Open Data Toolkit. 


Laura Manley

Open Data and ICT Consultant

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