Data deliverers: stories of impact from around the world

Enrique Zapata B. Pérez

Director of Public Innovation and Coordination at the National Digital Strategy, Office of the President, Mexico

As the public innovation director, I am part of the team responsible for Mexico’s open data initiative, which is part of the Coordination of National Digital Strategy of the Office of the President. This strategy was instigated in 2012 and it was the first time that a digital office had been established to oversee the digitalisation efforts of the whole government, in and across all sectors. It ranges over issues from connectivity to digital inclusion and open data. All Mexican agencies – all 273 of them – have specific digital commitments. It is the responsibility of our team to help make sure they keep to their objectives and obligations under the open data policy, which mirror the ambitions of our National Development Plan. Open data is a key part of this process, and this reflects our mission to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth. We are now building capacities and knowledge within government, but also across all sectors of society, as well as finding real pioneers and empowering them to use open data to create economic and social value. I remain confident about accelerating Mexico’s deployment of this initiative. We have recently published the open data executive mandate, instructing all federal governments to start releasing their public data as open data, and have successfully set in place the ‘data squads’, a model conceived in Mexico and which is now being exported to other countries for the implementation of the open data policy. These initiatives have provided us with a great foundation moving forward, as we seek to make open data the default position for all government data in Mexico.

Kitty von Bertele

Head of Policy and International team, Transparency and Open Data, Cabinet Office

I am based within the transparency and open data team, focusing on open data and the projects that cut across departmental boundaries. I also work with colleagues overseas, leading the UK government’s collaboration with the Open Government Partnership and our interactions with international fora such as the G20 and G7. The objective of our team is to get open data accepted as the default position for government, to change the culture and to entrench it across all levels of the UK government. I’m interested in how we can use the champions, reformers and networks at our disposal to make sure that we are abreast of best practice, but also ensure that there is a wider support network for people who want to do this. This is because a significant element of my work is opportunistic: identifying more broadly whom we should be talking to and where, so that I can promote the value of open data. It can feel, though, as if we are still some way from open data being widely known and accepted across government. This means there is still a big job to do to spread the word and communicate our message and objectives. Looking ahead, I think there are clearly still more things for us to do, and we need to remain internationally engaged so that we can learn from what other governments are doing and how the notion of best practice is evolving. We need to ensure that we are making open data relevant to wider policy priorities. There is the perennial challenge of embedding this initiative as part of the wider culture, but at the same time making sure it stays innovative and doesn’t go stale.

Irena Bojadzievska, PhD

Councillor for Audiovisual Media Policy, Ministry of Information Society and Administration

The open data initiative is led by the Minister of Information Society and Administration. As the national coordinator for open data, my role is to coordinate the implementation of open data across government agencies. Open data is still something of a novelty in Macedonia. So, it’s not easy to get it through and it can be time-consuming because it is a ‘horizontal’ policy. Unlike other ministerial policies, which are executed exclusively by one ministry and are well understood and fully resourced, it is a policy that affects all the other ministries and agencies, which means that it is much harder to implement. Firstly, you need a lot of time to make these changes. This is because it involves a lot of people across all the other ministries and it’s not straightforward to persuade them to make time for this policy and align it with their own departmental interests and objectives. Secondly, there is also a need to get them all on board at the same time, in order to avoid having to have recurring individual meetings and this involves a lot of coordination. Macedonia has a long tradition of openness and transparency, starting with our Freedom of Information Act which has been in place since 2006. This means that open data is not something that is a huge breakthrough, but rather it is something that is innovative and which will deliver economic benefits, as well as being an agreed objective of the minister. Looking ahead, I am hopeful that the younger generation – the coders, the developers, the end users – will lead the charge. You can’t expect an older person, who is not used to using a smartphone, for example, to be a consumer of open data. So, I am counting on these younger people to push this concept through and help ensure it becomes an entrenched feature of our society and system of government.

Natalia Carfi

Open Government Coordinator, Modernisation and e-Government, Chile

I work within the e-Government unit that is part of the General Secretariat of the Chilean Presidency. Ours is a coordinating ministry – which is a very important role as Chile has a huge cabinet made up of 23 ministries. Within the e-Government unit I am responsible for the open data initiative. Chile has been an early adopter of open government. Of course, we have had our challenges, but we have also had an open data portal since 2011, for example. The current administration came into office in March of last year. The previous administration did a really good job of introducing the portal and, through a presidential mandate, asking most public institutions to publish five sets of data. When the current administration started work, the task was to build on these foundations. It is clear that much progress had been made, but we are shifting the strategy to include more qualitative data, rather than just relying on numbers and statistics. The biggest challenge we face is that many in government still don’t know about open data or understand why it is so important. Fortunately, Chile already has a strong transparency law. This means that I am hopeful that within five years open data will be fully implemented – at least within the key ministries. We also have strong ministerial backing. For example, we are hosting the upcoming regional open data conference, which is something that we couldn’t do without government support. That said, the transition between governments can be frustrating. Sometimes you’ve convinced a large group about open data and then suddenly they have to move on and are replaced with people who are unfamiliar with it, so you have to start again. So, we are trying to come up with strategies to make open data accepted everywhere, thereby making it a state policy rather than a government policy.

Sarah Lamrani

Director, e-Government Pilot Programme, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Investment and Digital Economy, Morocco

In Morocco we deployed an ICT strategy between 2009 and 2013 and we are now embarking on a new strategy which makes e-government a priority, using open data as key to our plans. What is missing is the legislation, in that open data is not yet enshrined in law. It has been prepared in draft form and has received ministerial approval but we are now waiting on Parliament, which can take time, and unfortunately this limits our ability to persuade government colleagues to adopt open data principles in their work. However, we have a strong technical offering and we are working with selected ‘champions’ across government, such as the Ministry of Finance, which already publishes information on its website in open format. The challenge now is to create a strategic plan – including all ministries and local authorities – that persuades them to share their information. We will do this by communicating success stories that showcase the potential of open data to transform government services. I am hopeful that in five years’ time open data will be fully deployed. The biggest challenge we face is the transition between governments. I had previously worked for four years in another agency and during that time I worked for four ministers. Each time the new one was appointed we had to start again to ensure they were supportive of the programme and our efforts, which takes time. The minister can also have other priorities. But we are sure that we have the capability to go on and fully embrace open data and open government.

 

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