While working on the Open Finances and Open Contracting programs something had become very clear: there was a growing and pervasive sense in the open data space that more work could and should be done on the demand side of open financial and contracting data.
A month ago, we embarked on an open data journey seeking to confirm whether that assumption was true, and if so, what could be done to further build on the progress that has already been achieved on the demand-side of open financial data. Here’s a recap of our initial findings and plans moving forward.
Growing Interest on Demand-driven Approaches
In April, we proposed a session for the Sunlight Foundation’s annual Transparency Camp focused on an exploration of demand-driven approaches to open financial data. The session was voted in by participants as an official session for the first day of the event, in itself marking high levels of interest around this subject. During the session, it was evident that the idea of collaborating to make more progress on the demand-side of open financial data was indeed a top priority for many open data practitioners and enthusiasts.
As the discussion evolved into exploring the current obstacles and opportunities to advance demand-side approaches to open financial data, interesting insights emerged. These included the idea of tapping into existing communities as opposed to "building" communities, the difficulty of truly measuring the demand for data that doesn't exist, linking data and its demand to actual problems that need to be solved, moving away from jargon and technical terms by adding context, and exploring "criticism" as a measure of demand. We are keen to receive more feedback and excitedly look forward to continuing these conversations.
International Survey: Assessing Demand of Financial Data
In conjunction with the session at Transparency Camp, we launched an international survey with the objective of assessing: 1) the current way in which users are interacting with financial data, 2) any shortcomings, limitations, obstacles that users were facing, 3) areas in which there was demand for additional or different types of data, 4) methods to share data so that it would more clearly respond to and address existing demand.
The raw survey data is available here, and while it won’t close until June 30th, we have already received responses from 26 countries providing very relevant information regarding the themes above. Furthermore, as evidenced through the recent scrutiny of Reinhart and Rogoff’s analysis of debt/GDP ratio and economic growth, little doubt remains that open access and open research are critical and valuable to informed discussion and debate. As such, this project was designed with the intent to share all feedback received and data collected as a driving principle. We’re eager to share these early results of the survey in open format and invite you to share your own analysis and thoughts as well. Access the data here. Some early highlights include:
- Responses from 26 countries: Survey Responses by Country
- Users of open data (90.5% of respondents) have also used financial data (75.6%) – As expected, many respondents indicated they had used open data; however, many of those users have also accessed and used open financial data. One of the common knocks against open financial data is that it is boring and hard to understand, but despite these conditions, there seems to be significant usage and interest in financial information. Access Open Data & Access Open Financial Data
- CSO-driven Use Cases in Morocco (flousnna.ma) & Nigeria (BudgIT) - Among many interesting use cases, these stood out because of the relatively limited supply of official information coupled with civil society making immediate use of available data and calling for more.
The text data is quite interesting, and we encourage you to explore the contents of the dataset and send us any reflections or feedback. We will continue to update the dataset as responses are submitted until June 30, 2013, and we would appreciate you sharing the link to the survey (bit.ly/OpenDataDemand) with anyone who may be interested in contributing to this effort.
Broadening the Conversation: Nano-Surveys
In order to complement the survey and continue the exploration about the demand of open financial and contracting data, in the coming days we will also be launching a “nano-survey”. This nano-survey (randomly offered short survey when human URL type-ins of unintended URLs occur) will serve as a way to collect information from a random sample of potential end users of data at a country-level. We will share more details about this nano-survey in the next update about the project, but please note that all of the data collected will also be shared and provided in open format.
Onwards: Bridging Online with Offline
Additionally, as we’ve continued this journey exploring key questions about the demand of financial data, one of the most important subjects that has emerged is the connection between online open data activities and offline engagement at the community level.
As a first iterative run, we are now planning to conduct engagement and feedback sessions in communities in Indonesia and Kenya. The sessions seek to provide a better sense of what information is being used at the ground level, what it is being used for, and how it might best be shared with local communities.
To this end, we have designed a methodology to explore potential opportunities for offline engagement around open financial data of development projects, directly with the communities where development projects are taking place. The sessions will also serve as the opportunity for citizens to participate in the creation of community-generated audio-visual products sharing the data with others in the community. We intend to test the resulting products on community members who were not a part of the feedback session. This would help us better assess whether those products were effective in raising the level of understanding and engagement around the data in the community.
We're also pleased to officially announce the latest partners on this research project's offline pilots. The first pilot will take place at the end of May in Indonesia (Karangasem, East Bali) in collaboration with the Asia Knowledge and Innovation Lab (an effort based in Indonesia that seeks to promote and support existing ICT initiatives and accelerate new innovations for development and poverty reduction) and our local partner Kopernik. The second pilot will take place in early June in Kenya (Makueni County) in collaboration with our local partner Muchiri Nyaggah of the Open Institute.
We’ve also received interest in working with additional partners to run iterations of this methodology in other countries, and we’ll keep you posted on those developments and announce them when they are official. If you have ideas or are interested in discussing other opportunities to continue building upon this work, please let us know.
We will continue to share results, experiences, and multimedia content through blogs and Twitter. In the meantime, let us know what strikes you as interesting in the response data, either directly in the dataset by creating a filter or visualization, blogging, or leaving a comment below. It's also not too late to take and share the survey!