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Sharing Open Data Will Accelerate Progress

What used to be associated with academics and the bread and butter for statisticians, data has now been elevated to a much higher status by the vast majority of people and organisations that include even the UN Secretary General. The need for robust data to develop nations has been agreed. And now the time to address the use of it, and how, needs to be made clear.

The world had agreed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are 17 global commitments to end poverty, fight inequality and climate change, though ambitious, is noble and worth striving for. The success of the SDGs depends on good data being made available, and so the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the International Open Data Charter were launched with the SDGs.

With these “collaborative” efforts, the data revolution has garnered over 100 committed fighters for its cause, while Africa took up the African Data Consensus to improve its data availability and standards – which in the past has not been able to keep track of even birth registrations.

The 3rd Edition Barometer Report, meanwhile, looks at how much of this data will be openly available to the public following the International Open Data Charter.

The SDG 16 stipulates that open data is essential to growing effective institutions that are accountable and the public’s access to that data. At the same time, proper monitoring of all 169 SDG 16’s goals is essential. Further, having the data open to human rights activists, journalists or regular citizens have a far more significant impact.

Having data given freely to everyone on the web, through easy-to-use formats that can be shared, open data then becomes more than just a tool to keep governments in check and be accountable for their actions. It then transcends to improving the lifestyle and living conditions of all affected by it. From education to healthcare, business opportunities and even scientific breakthroughs. To quote the World Bank, “sharing open data and the methods for using it will accelerate progress and help to make the SDGs possible”.

And yet, there is still much to be done in terms of making the data available as only a small portion of countries actually provide free access to data that’s important for the SDGs. Data such as public spending, education and health are not readily available, and this puts a damper on the open data progress. At present, open data is readily available through the rich countries of the world, thus stalling its implementation worldwide.