Open Data Can Help The Global South, From Disaster Relief

Modern times are mark by a growing belief in the power and potential of data. Big data, open data, and evidence-based decision-making have all become popular buzzwords. They are tout as solutions for the world’s most persistent and complex problems, including corruption, famine, and the refugee crisis.

This trend is most evident in countries with higher incomes, but it is also emerging worldwide. There are high hopes that developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia will have access to data that can increase transparency, foster sustainable development, and build climate resilience. It is an exciting prospect. But can data sharing actually make a difference in peoples lives?

Getting Data-Driven About Data

This question was explore by the Gov Lab at New York University over the past year. We gathered evidence in partnership with USAID, FHI 360, and the World Wide Web Foundation to determine the role of open data, especially government, in developing countries.

Our 12 case studies are now available. Open Data in Developing Economies Toward Building an Evidence Basis on What Works and How provides a detailed look at the outcomes of open data projects in the developing world. Conclusion the enthusiasm is valid, provide it is balance with some realism. These are the six main takeaways.

We Need A Framework

Overall, there are still very few evidence to support the optimistic claims that open can foster sustainable development and transform governance. This is not surprising considering the very early stages of many open data initiatives.

Although it may not be too early to evaluate the impact of opening, it is possible to create a model that will allow us to eventually assess the impact over time

The Gov Lab created an evidence-based framework to capture the importance of open in developing nations. Below is the Open Data Logic Framework. It focuses on different points of the open value chain, including supply, demand, use, and impact.

Open Data Holds Real Promise

Based on this framework, and the evidence it contains, we can confidently conclude that open-data does indeed spur development. However, only under certain conditions and in the right ecosystem.

After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, a well-known success was when open allowed NGOs to map important landmarks like roads and health facilities.

The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (ICCA) launched Aclimate Colombia in Colombia. This tool gives smallholder farmers data-driven insights into their planting strategies, making them more resilient to climate changes. We found many examples of transformative experiences that were not only amazing but also challenging.

A pair of education-information dashboards in Tanzania, for example, were launch with good intentions (to improve student test scores by empowering families with information on school quality). These efforts quickly failed to realize the need for long-term strategies that would scale them and sustain their impact.

We Found Four Main Areas

where open data can make a difference in people’s lives. This was after we examined projects in several critical sectors, including education, health, humanitarian aid and agriculture.

Open can help improve governance. This is what happened in Burundi, where the results-based financing system was made public. This information improved transparency and accountability by linking development aid to predetermined target results.

Data can empower citizens, enabling them to make better decisions. Kenya’s GotToVote! provides information about voter registration centers. This system raised voter awareness and, therefore, increased turnout.

Data can also be used to enable economic growth and innovation. The Esoko platform in Ghana is helping smallholder farmers maximize the value of their crops through providing valuable information about the increasingly complex global food chain.

Data can also be used to assist citizens, governments and NGOs in solving major problems. Paraguay has had dengue since 2009. Researchers recently developed a tool to predict outbreaks of the disease using open data.

Data Can Be A Development Asset

While both developed and developing nations can see these effects, we believe open can play a significant role in developing countries. Open can help to create a more democratic and equitable distribution of knowledge and information in areas where is scarce. This is often the case in poorer countries. This can lead to a greater range of expertise in solving complex problems. It’s what we call open innovation in the field.

This quality could allow developing countries with limited resources to tap into the best minds and make use of them. Because trust in government is low in many emerging economies, transparency can have long-lasting effects that extend beyond the data’s immediate impact.