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7.3 Open data policies / data ownership

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Dr. Manzul Kumar Hazarika and Colleen Curran


Datasets are growing bigger as the recent advances in technology increases our ability to collect and create data and data are being unlocked by different levels of government – the world is witnessing the golden age of data. Many developing countries and organizations do not have the capacity or resources to fully participate in the acquisition and analysis of data, and the countries in the Caribbean region is not an exception. To address these challenges it is important to cultivating a public sphere for ‘open data’, which aims to make data more transparent, accessible and useful. 

Simply put, data is ‘open’ if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it, and if it meets the minimum criteria: 1) technically open – exists in a recognized standard format which makes it easily accessible, 2) legally open – licensed for use and distribution to the general public (ODR). Many countries and organizations are participating in open data initiatives not only because governments are increasingly pressured to be more transparent, but also the fact that open data has now become a burgeoning industry.


  • To provide a definition of open data
  • To provide a snapshot on open data initiatives

Benefits of Open Data

In times of disaster open data allows for a collaborated approach increasing response efficiency with that includes citizen driven crisis mapping on open mapping platforms such as OpenStreetMap (OSM), combined technical on the ground damage assessment which helps validate remote sensing products like flood inundation maps given by open source satellite imagery which helps first responders and rehabilitation specialist in rescue operations and prioritizing building efforts.

Open data not only aids in community development and reporting, helps fight the spread of disease (Kumar, 2014) and improves health care, but allows for a innovative research that are currently being researched in academic institutions all over the world – in short, we don’t know all the possible benefits of open data.

Weaknesses in Open Data

A World Bank survey finds that open data is still a new concept and that funding sources for start-up companies that use and rely on open data for their business is still weak. Furthermore, these companies still remain skeptical about the quality of data coming from their “open” governments; companies working in the open data sphere report that they spend a lot of time cleaning and refining open government data into a useable form.

Open Government Initiative

According to a UN-PACS global survey African and Latin American have the least amount of government open data compared to European Countries, which have the highest amount.  While research is still ongoing, assumptions are that a major hindrance for developing countries to join in the data revolution comes down to resources, capacity and exposure to open data initiatives. Open Government Partnership, an initiative driven by an international, multi-stakeholder steering community is a leading actor in helping ‘Open Governments’ – for them, governments that do the following are ‘open’ - provide fiscal transparency, provide access to information, disclose public official Asset Disclosure and engage citizens.  It should come as no surprise that governments of regions that ranked low in data sharing, also ranked low in counts of open governance; so while resource challenges hinder open data initiative globally it is also pertinent to look at things like systematic government corruption and malaise as a further challenge in the data revolution.

OpenDRI Initiative


The World Bank group Open Data readiness assessment toolkit

To help governments prepare for open data initiatives, the World Bank’s Open Government Data Working Group has developed an Open Data Readiness Assessment toolkit. This questionnaire divides readiness into several categories of action:

Leadership: commitment and structures by which national leadership advance open data.

Policy/Legal Framework: laws and policies around government data, intellectual property, and protection of data.
Institutional: responsibilities and work processes for release and curation of government data.
Government Data: availability and findability of key government data.
Data Demand/Reuse: extent of existing engagement with government data within civil society and between ministries.
Ecosystem: health of partnerships by which governments can catalyze the application of open data to problems in civil society, academia, and industry.
Financing: support for open data efforts, including training, scaling pilots, and curating data sets.
Infrastructure: evaluation of the baseline ICT resources and what infrastructure will need to be built to support open government data initiatives.



The Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) was started in 2011 by the World Bank, in order to address the limitations of governments to possess the resources to collate existing data, collect new data, and feed them all into an ecosystem of analysts who can make sense of them so that practitioners can design and implement projects that get ahead of the disaster cycle. The OpenDRI is a growing partnership around this core data problem. It offers governments and their partners a process for cataloguing their existing stocks of data without giving up control of those data to third parties. It offers an inexpensive method of engaging at-risk communities in the process of mapping and curating data about their changing exposure to natural hazards. And it offers a guide to building an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, researchers, and international institutions around data that a nation manages for itself (World Bank, 2014).


Open data, Open government, OpenDRI


  1. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Geomatics Environmental Scan and Value Study Summary Report, 2015
  2. Kumar, R. (2014) “How Youth Saved Bananas in Uganda (
  4. Division for Public Administration and Development Management
  5. (DPADM), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations, Future Government, A Global Perspective in Connection to Open Government A Global Perspective in Connection to Open Government (unknown date),
  6. UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development: A World that Counts.  Mobilising the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, 2014, 32 pages
  7. World Bank, 2014, Open data for Resilience Initiative Field Guide.

(v. 27/3/16. 13/6/16)

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