Open Data for Development Camp highlights challenges and innovations in aid transparency

July 1, 2011Andrea Calabrese

The Open Data for Development Camp (ODDC), hosted by Open for Change in Amsterdam from May 12-13, proved to be a fantastic forum for discussion of practical issues in institutionalizing open data practices. Participants generally agreed that open development data should be a core component of a paradigm shift towards increased transparency, accountability, and public participation in development practice. However, many organizations are facing legal and financial hurdles in bringing sensitive data to the public – several delegates, for example, expressed concern that data would be “misused”. Christian Kreutz of the Open Knowledge Foundation highlighted the benefits of open data and geo-mapping for citizen participation, but also urged consideration of privacy issues before making certain data public. Others echoed the Italian government’s concerns about the cost of implementing open data initiatives.

These concerns do not preclude donors’ ability to implement open data initiatives – rather they indicate donors’ willingness to discuss the full risks and benefits of these initiatives. As the recent ONE Data report pointed out, “buy-in and agreement [on open data] appear to be increasing in the run-up to the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.” According to Publish What You Fund, donors should be wary of falling behind on their commitments to initiatives like the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) if they want to be taken seriously at this important forum.

Beyond challenges and difficulties, delegates to ODDC also presented exciting new open data initiatives. Akvo, for example, announced a pilot project with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to visualize part of its portfolio of aid projects online in IATI standard format (Pieter Dorst, director of aid coordination at the Dutch MFA, confirmed his government’s commitment to IATI in an interview with Akvo last Thursday). The World Bank announced a new knowledge partnership on ICT, through which they will invite technology start-ups, developers, think-tanks, and academics to partner with the WB in using ICT to empower citizens in developing countries. AidData (a joint initiative of Development Gateway, the College of William and Mary, and Brigham Young University) presented its experience geo-coding development aid projects.

Those interested in open data issues beyond the international development arena may be interested in an upcoming event: the Open Knowledge Foundation’s annual conference, to be held from June 30-July 1, 2011.

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