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How Open Data can fight poverty and boost prosperity in Kyrgyzstan

Roza Vasileva's picture
All around the world, governments are recognizing the value and potential of Open Data. This is clear from the G8’s adoption of an Open Data Charter in June 2013 (with the G20 likely to follow suit), the growing number of countries adopting Open Data initiatives, and the 64 countries that have committed to Open Government Partnership action plans (most of which focus on Open Data). Kyrgyzstan has taken the first steps down this path.
 
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Photo: flickr/pjgardner

The Kyrgyz Government has been implementing the Open Government Policy and has already undertaken several measures, such as creating official web portals for state bodies including Open Budget, Electronic Procurement, Foreign Aid and many others. Through these websites, citizens can find information about public services and activities offered by government ministries and other state agencies.
 
In 2013, based on a comprehensive analysis of Kyrgyz public information resources and in consideration of plans for leveraging ICT for good governance and sustainable development, the government designed an e-Government program and corresponding Action Plan for 2014-2017 with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This program was approved by the Kyrgyz government on November 10, 2014.
 
In addition, this year the UNDP provided support to set up an online network for the Prime Minister’s online community liaison offices. This network has 63 connection points nationwide and supplements the Kyrgyz government’s official website by strengthening relations between the government and civil society by informing citizens about ongoing reforms, as well as and challenges that have been resolved for the country’s communities and citizens. This is one of the existing examples of Kyrgyz government utilizing its openness for greater citizen engagement.
 
The Kyrgyz government recognizes the role of open government and open data as a strong enabler within the e-government program to better engage citizens and improve service delivery as well as governance. Open Data has the potential to be a powerful tool to energize and extend some of the key policies for the transformation of the Kyrgyz Republic, building upon existing initiatives related to open government, investment climate and public sector reform. 
 
Other specific benefits of Open Data for Kyrgyz Republic include:
 
A worker in Kyrgyzstan

Boosting economic growth, foreign investment, employment and tourism
Open Data - particularly geospatial and other core reference data that the government is uniquely placed to collect - is an important resource for businesses to optimize their activities and take better decisions. Open Data from the Global Positioning System gives benefits of approximately US$100 billion a year to businesses in the United States, with US$19 billion to the agricultural sector. Open Data about market prices allows farmers to bring their products to market at the best time and find direct buyers.
 
On a national, regional and global scale, Open Data helps potential foreign investors and tourists evaluate their options through better understanding of the country. It can also catalyze entrepreneurship and job creation driven by IT innovations. 
 
Improving health, education and other public service delivery
Open Data empowers citizens as consumers of public services, which can create bottom-up pressure for reform that complements and reinforces a government’s top-down policies. It can expose local variation in services, allow citizens to make informed decisions in choosing service providers, and inefficient use of central government resources.  For instance, in the United Kingdom, Open Data about hospital-acquired infections reduced infection rates by 85 percent over four years - without any extra funding from the central government. In Uganda, providing rural villagers with Open Data about government-funded health services led to mothers asking local nurses why their children were not getting available (and subsidized) immunizations and other treatments, to a 33 percent reduction in infant mortality.
 
Combating corruption and waste among officials
Open Data makes officials’ work and decisions more visible, which increases their accountability for poor or corrupt choices. In the United Kingdom, the publication of the expenses claimed by all senior civil servants led to a reduction of 40 percent in expense claims over a year (and before any journalistic scrutiny took place). In Uganda, transparency regarding individual school budgets allocated by central government quickly led to 80 percent of the budgets actually reaching the schools, compared to only 20 percent beforehand. 
 
Public sector efficiency
Open Data improves the efficiency of public services by creating stronger incentives to understand the collection of data and reduce bureaucratic friction to sharing information among different ministries.  In Spain’s Catalonia region, the publication of the government’s geospatial datasets as Open Data paid for itself within six months in administrative savings, because government ministries could find their own data more easily and efficiently. In Canada, Open Data uncovered abuse of the charitable donations provisions of the tax code, worth C$3.2 billion in uncollected taxes.
 
There are risks, but these can be mitigated or managed; importantly, and unlike Access to Information Laws, the government decides what Open Data should be released (and when). In addition, most governments adopt a staged approach so that they can learn how to manage and mitigate the risks as they release more and more data.
 
Launching such initiatives in the Kyrgyz Republic requires activities to improve awareness of Open Data’s potential and its impact on the country’s economic growth. These responsibilities must be shared among government officials, state agencies, local governments, civil society organizations, academics and other stakeholders.
 
With this in mind, the Kyrgyz government – with support of the World Bank and the UNDP – will conduct a two-day “Open Data Days” seminar in Bishkek from November 18-19. This seminar will include workshops and roundtable meetings, with participation from global Open Data and Open Government experts, and will increase awareness of Open Data’s potential to boost economic and social prosperity. Discussions will aim to highlight international experience, insights and examples to the Kyrgyz context, so possible actions become apparent to participants.
 
“Open Data Days” will also introduce another important exercise: Open Data Readiness Assessment and Action Planning that are connected to policy efforts and the demands, needs and opportunities of external stakeholders. In collaboration with the Kyrgyz government, the World Bank and the UNDP will quickly assess current Open Data readiness and its potential to strategically and tactically connect stakeholders and policy issues, thus positioning Open Data as a tool and instrument for other key objectives. 
 
“Open Data Days” in Bishkek will launch the Open Data Readiness Assessment and lay firm grounds for successful adoption of Open Data initiative in the Kyrgyz Republic. International experts believe that these activities will bring the key open data stakeholders in Kyrgyzstan together and help leverage the power of Open Data to fight poverty and boost prosperity in the country.
 

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