2014 Open Data Index: Slow Progress by MENA Governments in Opening up Key Data

Government data still not open enough – 2014 evaluation highlights little change in favour of Mid-Eastern openness

Open Knowledge has published its 2014 Open Data Index which shows that whilst there has been some progress, most governments are still not providing key information in an accessible form to their citizens and businesses. With recent estimates from McKinsey and others putting the potential benefits of open data at over $1 trillion, slow progress risks the loss of a major opportunity.
Rufus Pollock, Founder and President of Open Knowledge, says,

Opening up government data drives democracy, accountability and innovation. It enables citizens to know and exercise their rights, and it brings benefits across society: from transport, to education and health. There has been a welcome increase in support for open data from governments in the last few years, but this year’s Index shows that real progress on the ground is too often lagging behind the rhetoric.

The UK topped the 2014 Index retaining its pole position with an overall score of 96%, closely followed by Denmark and then France at number 3 up from 12th last year. Finland comes in 4th while Australia and New Zealand share the 5th place. Impressive results were seen from India at #10 (up from #27) and Latin American countries like Colombia and Uruguay who came in joint 12th. Sierra Leone, Mali, Haiti and Guinea ranked lowest of the countries assessed, but there are many countries where the governments are less open but that were not assessed because of lack of openness or a sufficiently engaged civil society.

Open Government Data initiatives have a critical impact on countries’ future development, especially in countries having long sufferred repressive regimes and inadequate economic development strategies. Open Data initiatives should focus on enabling access to information that helps improving peoples’ lives and the society at large. Citizens in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have demanded more open and inclusive governments as well as increased transparency and public engagement, pre-requierements for government accountability.

The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of information in ten key areas, including government spending, election results, transport timetables, and pollution levels, and reveals that whilst some good progress is being made, much remains to be done. Overall, whilst there was meaningful improvement in the number of open datasets (from 87 to 104), the percentage of open datasets across all the surveyed countries remained low at only 11%.

According to the World Bank, access to information and public engagement mechanisms in MENA are among the weakest in the world. This year’s Open Data Index follows up from 2013 and indicates openness of fundamental government data in the region is still far from satisfactory. The 2014 Index includes full scorecards for seven countries (Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman). Updates for Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan could not be submitted in due time, therefore respective scorecards were for now removed.

Both the 2013 and the 2014 editions include Israel, Tunisia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It is noteworthy that each of these countries has shown little progress and has actually gone down in the ranking. Morocco enters 79th, Lebanon — 85th, and Oman nears the lowest-ranking countries at the 93th position. Regardless of their position in the Index, the percentage of open datasets across these countries is less than 50%.

The seven countries from the Middle East and North Africa, featured in the Index, globally show very low openness. Israel ranks close to the average-open countries. The remaining six countries are among the least open, with Oman being within the 10 least open countries worldwide showcasing perfect enclosure of fundamental government data. Tunisia, having recently joined the Open Government Partnership, shows a disappointing commitment towards Open Data, having lost more than 10 ranks compared to 2013. Jordan, the other Mid-Eastern country participating to the Open Government Partnership, is unfortunately absent from the Index but preliminary observations indicate it would not perform better than its MENA neighbours.


Notes:

  • For detailed Information and downloadable graphics: official website
  • The Open Data Index is run by Open Knowledge in collaboration with a global network of experts and contributors. In the process, members of the public, civil society organisations and open data experts assess the availability and accessibility of the defined data-sets in places around the world. Their submissions are then peer-reviewed and checked by an expert team of local and dataset reviewers and points are awarded in accordance with the findings.
  • The Index provides an independent assessment of openness in the following areas: transport timetables; government budget; government spending; election results; company registers; national map; national statistics; legislation; postcodes / ZIP codes; emissions of pollutants. For more, see http://index.okfn.org/dataset/
  • Countries and places assessed are: United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, United States, India, Taiwan, Colombia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Uruguay, Iceland, Netherlands, Romania, Chile, Japan, Isle of Man, Austria, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Brazil, Slovenia, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Turkey, Kosovo, Malta, Spain, Latvia, Georgia, Hungary, Ireland, South Africa, Portugal, Israel, Pakistan, Paraguay, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Indonesia, Jamaica, Russian Federation, Argentina, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Belgium, Costa Rica, Greece, Hong Kong, China, El Salvador, Burkina Faso, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Nepal, Senegal, Singapore, Tunisia, Guatemala, Lithuania, Philippines, Virgin Islands US, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Morocco, Panama, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Kenya, Lebanon, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Cyprus, Lesotho, United Republic of Tanzania, Benin, Oman, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Mali and Guinea.
  • See regional stories about open data and the Global Open Data Index 2014 here: http://index.okfn.org/stories/
  • Where we have received submissions for 2013 and 2014 from places that may not be officially recognised as independent countries, we have included these if they are complete and accurate submissions. Therefore, the Global Open Data Index 2014 ranks ‘Places’ and not ‘Countries’.
  • Open Data is information which can be freely used, reused and shared by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. Truly open data demands a range of both technical and legal qualities which ensure that anyone can reuse it freely, for maximum benefit, and the Global Open Data Index assesses all of these. The Open Definition sets out the principles which define “openness” in relation to data and content: http://opendefinition.org
  • Open Knowledge, founded in 2004, is a worldwide network of people who are passionate about openness, using advocacy, technology and training to unlock information and turn it into insight and change. Our aim is to give everyone the power to use information and insight for good.
  • Visit http://okfn.org/ to learn more about Open Knowledge and its major projects including http://SchoolOfData.org/ and http://OpenSpending.org/

 
Posted on: December 9, 2014, by :