Speaking at an Open Government Partnership reception recently, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web Foundation (Web Foundation) and inventor of the Web, unveiled the first ever in-depth study into how the power of open data could be harnessed to tackle social challenges in the developing world.
The 14 country study is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and will be overseen by the Web Foundation’s world-leading open data experts. An interim progress update will be made at an October 2013 meeting of the Open Government Partnership, with in-depth results expected in 2014.
‘Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries’ (ODDC) will assess how access to large-scale datasets can contribute to more accountable public spending, better urban governance and better sanitation and education, among other topics.
The need for such research was discussed at the first Open Government Partnership plenary in Brazil last April, with 17 case studies selected for further study thereafter via a global competition.
Researchers have gathered in London to discuss their projects, plan their research and identify key topics to address across all the cases. The case study findings will be compared and synthesised, contributing to the development and testing of common methods and tools for designing and evaluating open data initiatives.
No longer the obscure interest of a few geeks, open data initiatives enjoy rapidly growing popularity among donors, international agencies, businesses and civil society. To date, however, little evidence exists about the actual uses and impact of open data, especially in developing countries.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web Foundation and inventor of the Web said: “Open Data, accessed via a free and open Web, has the potential to create a better world. However, best practice in London or New York is not necessarily best practice in Lima or Nairobi. The Web Foundation’s research will help to ensure that Open Data initiatives in the developing world will unlock real improvements in citizens’ day-to-day lives. ”
José M. Alonso, program manager at the World Wide Web Foundation, added: “Through this study, the Web Foundation hopes not only to contribute to global understanding of open data, but also to cultivate the ability of developing world researchers and development workers to understand and apply open data for themselves.”
* Image via Shutterstock