Impact of open government: Mapping the research landscape

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Mobile phone used by vegetable vendor in the Biombo region of Guinea Bissau.  Photo: Arne Hoel

Government reformers and development practitioners in the open government space are experiencing the heady times associated with a newly-defined agenda. The opportunity for innovation and positive change can at times feel boundless. Yet, working in a nascent field also means a relative lack of “proven” tools and solutions (to such extent as they ever exist in development).
More research on the potential for open government initiatives to improve lives is well underway. However, keeping up with the rapidly evolving landscape of ongoing research, emerging hypotheses, and high-priority knowledge gaps has been a challenge, even as investment in open government activities has accelerated. This becomes increasing important as we gather to talk progress at the OGP Africa Regional Meeting 2016 and GIFT consultations in Cape Town next week (May 4-6) .

Who's doing what?
To advance the state of play, a new report commissioned by the World Bank, “Open Government Impact and Outcomes: Mapping the Landscape of Ongoing Research”, categorizes and takes stock of existing research. The report represents the first output of a newly-formed consortium that aims to generate practical, evidence-based guidance for open government stakeholders, building on and complementing the work of organizations across the academic-practitioner spectrum.

The mapping exercise led to the creation of an interactive platform with detailed information on how to find out more about each of the research projects covered, organized by a new typology for open government interventions. The inventory is limited in scope given practical and other considerations. It includes only projects that are currently underway. It is meant to be a forward-looking overview, rather than a literature review--and are relatively large and international in nature.
Charting a course: How can the World Bank add value?
The scope for increasing the open government knowledge base remains vast. The report suggests that, given its role as a lender, convener, and a policy advisor the World Bank is well positioned to complement and support existing research in a number of ways, such as:

  • Taking a demand-driven approach, focusing on specific areas where it can identify lessons for stakeholders seeking to turn open government enthusiasm into tangible results.
  • Linking researchers with governments and practitioners to study specific areas of interest (in particular, access to information and social accountability interventions).
  • Evaluating the impact of open government reforms against baseline data that may not be public yet, but that are accessible to the World Bank.
  • Contributing to a better understanding of the role and impact of ICTs through work like the recently-published study that examines the relationship between digital citizen engagement and government responsiveness.  
  • Ensuring that World Bank loans and projects are conceived as opportunities for knowledge generation, while incorporating the most relevant and up-to-date evidence on what works in different contexts.
  • Leveraging its involvement in the Open Government Partnership to help stakeholders make evidence-based reform commitments.
What to expect next?
Following this initial exercise, the consortium is now looking into generating hypotheses that we can test together, as well as zeroing in on a few audiences and areas of common interest. One such activity includes developing a credible results chain to articulate the various pathways by which open government leads to social, economic, and/or environmental outcomes and impact.


In the meantime, we look forward to enhancing our dialogue with those who work with or can benefit from open government research. And if you are aware of or involved in a research project that was not covered by the mapping exercise, please take a moment to submit it for inclusion in the web portal.

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Stephen Davenport

Global Lead, Anticorruption, Openness, and Transparency

Tiago Carneiro Peixoto

Senior Public Sector Specialist

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