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
- Improved or new private products and services
- 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!
19 Studies on Open Data's Impact Worldwide
Freshly released case studies seek to provide a more nuanced understanding of the processes and factors behind the use and impact of open data worldwide. Learn more and explore them at Open Data’s Impact.
Why Open Knowledge’s Global Open Data Index 2015 Is a Failure
“Researchers and professionals interested in Open Data can still use the 2015 Index, but with caution. The only correct statement that I found is that “This year’s Index showed impressive gains from non-OECD countries”. Otherwise, the entire Index needs to be reviewed,” writes Open Data expert Hatem Ben Yacoub.
A Quick Overview of Open Data in MENA
Bruce Haupt, data-for-innovation consultant based in Oman, decided to explore the state of Open Data in the MENA region. Bruce will also provide further insights on Oman and the Gulf region for Open MENA. Ahlan!
A data revolution for the Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa countries trail in involvement with the data revolution. A recent workshop organised in Cairo addressed how we can change that.
Statistics data matters for Egypt's development
CAPMAS should realise this historic opportunity of moving towards a more open approach to releasing its datasets, embracing convenient and modifiable publishing formats and open licensing terms. It is time to shift CAPMAS away from producing information for the state towards producing information for the people. It is time for CAPMAS to embrace Open Data.
Opening up budgets in MENA
Opening up budgets is a required first step to greater citizen participation to public life and to ultimately improving people’s lives. Along the way, we just need to keep in mind that getting to know and becoming wiser is not restricted to releasing data.
Mwazna: Government Budget Explained
Mwazna (‘budget’ in Arabic) recently launched in both English and Arabic. Planned for and beautifully executed by Amr Sobhy and Tarek Amr, Mwazna aims to break down financial complexities so anyone can understand where their money goes. I asked Amr and Tarek to answer five questions to elaborate on the vision they have for this initiative.
Open Data for Qatar: Now What?
A year ago, I wrote a quick overview of Qatar’s draft Open Data Policy paper and responded to the public consultation on how this policy should evolve. The Qatari Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (generally referred to as ictQATAR) announced the finalised policy in December 2014, through a dedicated one-day workshop. It is interesting and encouraging to observe that, despite its various transparency shortcomings, Qatar is quite openly discussing its Open Data policy.
Draft Open Data Policy for Qatar
The Qatari Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (generally referred to as ictQATAR) had launched a public consultation on its draft Open Data Policy. I thus decided to briefly present a (long overdue) outline of Qatar’s Open Data status prior to providing a few insights of the current Policy document.
“Open washing” – The difference between opening your data and simply making them available
We are seeing a rising trend of what can be termed “open-washing” (inspired by “greenwashing“) – meaning data publishers that are claiming their data is open, even when it’s not – but rather just available under limiting terms. If we – at this critical time in the formative period of the data driven society – aren’t critically aware of the difference, we’ll end up putting our vital data streams in siloed infrastructure built and owned by international corporations. But also to give our praise and support to the wrong kind of unsustainable technological development.
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
Oman Needs Open Data
Open Data can provide great opportunities to Oman. The government has massive amounts of data about all aspects of life in the country that remain stored without ever getting used or, at best, remain constantly under-utilised.
After Open Data Day #ODD14
On 22 February, the open knowledge enthusiasts celebrated the International Open Data Day (#ODD14) across the world. More than 190 events took place around the globe and many of these were organized by Local Groups of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Our part of the world saw quite some excitement in Egypt and Tunisia.