The weeks following the International Open Data Conference 2015 in Ottawa have been different than I expected. While IODC was full of discussions about high-level concepts, including the benefits of transparency and data use, I walked away with more than just an idealist’s ambiguous idea of Open Data could mean for the social sector. I wanted (and still am looking for) the “so what?” of Open Data.
Throughout the conference, speakers reflected on how amazing it was that so many people who are passionate about Open Data were in a room together and how we were a much bigger crowd than Open Data enthusiasts could have imagined in years past. It seems we’re passed the adoption phase of Open Data and are able to convey the benefits of data transparency to more a more mainstream audience (and outside the typical Open Data advocacy groups).
As a community, however, we’re not yet in a place where we can see what Open Data has done on a global scale to improve social outcomes. There are certainly traces of impact and different groups are trying to figure out how to measure it. I’ve been keeping tabs on the IODC Twitter feed since the event, and a lot of anecdotes about Open Data impact have been mentioned. However, sustained impact will require turning these anecdotes into application and action.
Instead of searching for impact, I’d like to see the Open Data community highlight groups that are actively using Open Data to further their existing initiatives — and are seeing results and impact in the process. IODC 2015 had a large focus on making Open Data usable, including a great techy session for data standards best practices. As Open Data becomes more usable and widespread, which is the trend that IODC hinted at, I hope that the Open Data community makes a collective push to put these concepts into practice and that these efforts are highlighted in the next IODC agenda. The reality is that there may never be a huge project that uses Open Data to benefit tens of millions of people and that’s ok. Instead, we need to embrace the smaller-scale victories, such as demanding accountability through published data, in order to see the impact of high-level concepts on the ground.
Representatives from Development Gateway: an IREX Venture (DG) will be attending the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) from September 5-9 in Kigali, Rwanda to highlight two projects: the Visualizing Insights on African Agriculture (VIFAA) project and the Farmer-Centric Data Governance Models project.
In Episode 2 of "Data…for What?!," a podcast series from Development Gateway: an IREX Venture (DG) which explores our new strategic plan, Josh Powell met with experts from DG and IREX to discuss DG’s expansion into the education, media and disinformation, and youth sectors. The conversations explore the most pressing challenges and greatest opportunities for data and technology to positively impact these sectors and discuss how these trends are likely to play out in the years ahead. Based on these trends, the experts explain the unique fit for DG’s skills and specific opportunities for collaboration that align with the vision of DG’s partnership with IREX, which has a long and successful history working in each sector.
To help contextualize the new Strategic Plan, we are launching a podcast series called Data… for What?! This series consists of 5 episodes in Josh Powell and Vanessa Goas talk to DGers throughout the organization – as well as collaborators within our strategic partner, IREX - about how and why we prioritized the various elements of the new strategy. In this first episode, we talk to Kristin Lord, President and CEO of IREX about how our partnership fits into the Strategic Plan; and to Aleks Dardelli, Executive Vice President of IREX and Chair of DG’s Board of Directors, about the process of putting the Plan together at this opportune, yet precarious, global moment.