• Nkechi Okwuone: Open data can foster people-centred and inclusive governance
  • Paul Stone: New Zealand’s open data is leading to better services and growth
  • Rudi Borrmann: In Buenos Aires, the next step was to open up the data

Nkechi Okwuone

Open Data Manager, Edo State, Nigeria

One of Nigeria’s 36 states, Edo was formed in 1991 and is located in the central southern part of the country. Our vision is for Edo to have the most open government and economy in Nigeria, and it rests on the recognition that open data can not only facilitate improved public services but also foster people-centred and inclusive governance.

For this to happen we need open data to be in the DNA of every ministry. A cornerstone of our approach is our open data portal, which we launched in September 2013. Currently housing 188 datasets, it has received more than 74,000 page views, 14,000 users and 5,000 visitors from 140 countries. As the data repository for the state government, we believe its information will help drive transparency and encourage innovation, both of which will further accelerate Edo’s social and economic development.

The creation and subsequent success of the portal reflects the state government’s belief that public services and citizen engagement should be at the core of everything the state does, underpinned by a continuous drive for service improvement and innovation. For this, though, we need to enable both citizens and civil servants to embrace technology. This will improve lives and increase the effectiveness of government, as well as growing Edo’s burgeoning ICT sector.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges. Engaging stakeholders, winning ministerial support and persuading citizens to use data, at a time when many are still unfamiliar with technology, have all been issues to address. Nonetheless, open data is now increasingly prevalent – our state crop cultivation and malaria density apps are signs of the progress we have already made and hint at the potential still to come.

Carolina Pozo

Secretary General, Planning and Open Government
Quito, Ecuador

In May 2014 there was an election and a change of government in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, for the first time in six years. Since taking up my role I have focused heavily on transparency, because I felt that there was a disconnect between government, citizens, universities and the private sector. No-one seemed to know what government really did.

We decided to start our shift towards open data at a local level. So we convinced the mayor of its merits and promoted the key principles of transparency, collaboration and participation. The first thing we did was to launch an open data platform. It is easy to navigate and enables citizens to find data clearly presented in graphs, maps and tables on topical issues such as education, transport, tourism and the environment. We also built the open government platform, with key information regarding the organisational structure and the open budget. In October 2015, we will launch an open government platform called My City – to monitor the progress of public infrastructure and other public investment projects. It is currently in beta version and soon will be available in open source for other cities to adopt.

We have also sought to collaborate with stakeholders outside government. For example, we have launched the Open Government Forum, an annual event to showcase best practices in open data from public sectors around the world. Innovation, too, is another important priority for us. The city will shortly be opening up an innovation lab to help identify innovative ways to strengthen public services. We are closely involved in this process, looking at key issues such as transport and poverty. We need to think beyond transparency, and work to have real impact and make a real improvement to people’s lives – and we will be continuing to focus on this as the open data initiative grows and develops across Ecuador.

Paul Stone

Open Government Data Programme Leader, Data and Information Programme
New Zealand

Many governments around the world look to learn from New Zealand’s use of technology to strengthen the delivery of public services. And, like us, they want to enjoy a reputation for open and transparent government policy. This is because they recognise that open data is a key indicator of a country’s innovation, transparency and lack of corruption. It is also important in demonstrating that it is a trustworthy trade partner.

In addition to supporting transparency, New Zealand’s open data is enabling a significant range of innovations, leading to better services, economic growth and a civil society that makes smarter, more informed decisions. Data ranging from tide predictions to land and property ownership data to census statistics, legislation and the location of public facilities. All leading to innovative new apps and services in everyday activities like fishing, buying a house, going boating, travelling around the country, and finding a school.

The visualisation of open data enables journalists to bring government policy into the public debate in new ways, with topics such as internal versus external education assessments or the delivery of affordable broadband. And NGOs are using the data to advocate for or against change.

The New Zealand programme has a network of data champions at executive level in all central government agencies and, increasingly, in local government. Through these data champions, the programme aims to change the agencies’ culture and understanding and guide them towards the release of open data as being ‘business as usual’.

It’s working. The 2014/15 Open Data Barometer Global Report showed that New Zealand continues to be one of the best countries in the world for open access to government data. This is thanks to its release of a broad range of high-value data, including cultural and heritage content, environmental data, lottery fund distribution, budget statistics and much more.

But we’re not resting on our laurels. We’re looking to encourage a wider supply of data from the public sector, including local government, as well as understanding user demand for public data. This is playing out in areas such as tide prediction data, which helps commercial fisherman, and demographic data, which helps the property industry deliver richer services by reporting on the latest information about our neighbourhoods. These examples show how open data is driving real change across New Zealand’s communities and this will only increase in the years ahead.

Rudi Borrmann

Director General, Ministry of Modernisation
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, has 2.5 million inhabitants and was the first city in the country to promote Open Government as s public policy. It launched its open data portal in 2012 and many requests for information are now answered with a link to this web address, as it contains information such as the budgets and salaries of city officials. For us, it was a logical step following our work on digital, moving from talking to people to co-creating with them. During the preceding four years we had made huge progress in deploying digital technology to strengthen public services. The next step was to involve our citizens – starting by opening up the data and creating new platforms for participation, both online and offline.

Over the past three years, we have successfully produced a new community around open data through the conversation that it creates. It is used as a performance indicator for the city, and we have also built networks inside and outside government – with businesses, designers, start-ups and entrepreneurs. It has also helped push the political agenda. We now have seven municipalities that have embraced open data, and the national government has been releasing more data over the past 18 months.

Open data, combined with new technology, has also helped us to keep moving ahead with the development of new services. For example, we have created a city app, which has already had more than one million downloads, that tells you how to get from point A to point B in the city. Open data has also been pivotal in helping us create a better IT strategy. In Latin America, many agencies of local governments have pursued different strategies but open data has prompted us to reset and get more aligned.

But it’s not just about the public sector. A private start-up, focused on buying and renting apartments, integrates the latest data from the city government in order to provide its customers with the latest information about individual neighbourhoods. This is just one example of many – we’re proud of our progress so far and excited about the road ahead.

 

FURTHER READING