Open Data in MENA

Open data, especially open government data, is a tremendous resource that is as yet largely untapped. Many individuals and organisations collect a broad range of different types of data in order to perform their tasks. Government is particularly significant in this respect, both because of the quantity and centrality of the data it collects, but also because most of that government data is public data by law, and therefore could be made open and made available for others to use.

Why is that of interest?

There are many areas where we can expect open data to be of value, and where examples of how it has been used already exist. There are also many different groups of people and organisations who can benefit from the availability of open data, including government itself. At the same time it is impossible to predict precisely how and where value will be created in the future. The nature of innovation is that developments often comes from unlikely places.

It is already possible to point to a large number of areas where open government data is creating value. Some of these areas include:

  • Transparency and democratic control
  • Participation
  • Self-empowerment
  • Improved or new private products and services
  • Innovation
  • Improved efficiency of government services
  • Improved effectiveness of government services
  • Impact measurement of policies
  • New knowledge from combined data sources and patterns in large data volumes

Examples exist for most of these areas.

The above is from the Open Data Handbook. It outlines quite well the reasons why we are interested into exploring and popularising Open Data.

It is worth noting that examples exist for most of the aforementioned areas, but these examples generally (always?) come from places outside North Africa and the Middle East. This motivates us to talk more about Open Data in and for MENA: raising awareness about what exists elsewhere, trying to imagine what common good such stories could harbour if they inspired people in the region, etc. This is especially important considering that different MENA governments have decided to explore Open Data policies and initiatives domestically.

Thus, we wish to explore the good, the bad and the inspiring as well as to address the need for data literacy for anyone. We pay some particular attention to data journalism and data visualisation because some of us have worked or still work in such domains—but feel free to contact us and suggest topics, or write about them yourself!

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