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The Need For Politics In Open Data
March 1, 2018 Blog open data


For open data to gain real traction, it needs political momentum to help introduce and scale it up to an effective and profitable entity. Thanks to this political momentum, countries such as Ukraine, Argentina, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania experienced big improvements in Barometer scores and rankings that were reported in the 4th edition of the Open Data Barometer.

That being said, progress cannot be achieved unless political will is translated into strong legal and policy foundations. Open data initiatives (and the resources needed to advance them) will dry up when political winds change, just as what occurred in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Rwanda. These countries experienced positive progress on open data however, all their efforts were side-lined and left hanging since they lacked government backing.

Cases where leaders don’t back open data initiatives and fail to advance wider reforms that encourage a culture of openness, can also be a barrier to its success. Political imperatives must be focused towards proper data management approaches to develop sustainable resources and policies needed for open data to survive political change. In fact, countries with high Barometer scores such as the United Stated (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) still face this issue. With the new US administration removing key datasets from websites, doubts have been cast on the future of open government data in the US. However, the UK seems to be coming around to open data by allowing a new ‘open government data when appropriate’ default policy.

Azrin Abd Shukor

To ensure such situations that jeopardise the growth of open data do not occur, governments must adopt the Open Data Charter to ensure open data practices are embedded beyond political mandates.

The Open Data Barometer recommends that governments adopt and implement Open Data Charter principles in order to have:

  • A strong policy foundation that articulates processes, responsibilities, timelines, resources, appropriate privacy and data protection safeguards, and the national institutions or authorities in charge of its execution to establish a general right to reuse by means of an explicit ‘open by default’ mandate.
  • A consistent data management strategy and practice, including guidelines for metadata and publication frequency, data inventories, documentation, quality assurance procedures, and management of user feedback.

By implementing these practices, the sustainability towards creating an open data culture that’s beyond political changes can be maintained. It is also recommended that added provisions within their current right to information (RTI) legislation to reinforce the proactive release of open government data.

At the same time, the general public is a big part of the open data initiative as well. It is a collaborative effort between many small parts that will get the open data to its true potential.

For this reason, Big Community together with MAMPU are holding the Big Open Wrangle competition to encourage the general public to go to the open data portal and add, improve or create new data sets from the data provided. Anyone interested is encouraged to visit the Big Community website or click here for more details.

By : Azrin Abd Shukor, Country Manager, NetApp Malaysia