3 challenges for open data in fragile states

Sandra Moscoso
Deputy Program Lead, World Bank
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While inroads have been made in many countries, some of the challenges that arise when opening, consuming and sharing data in fragile states and situations are similar to those arise in any context. In many countries, data scarcity, quality of source, and data capacity and literacy make it difficult to not only publish data, but also make it accessible to broad audiences.

The following additional challenges (and in some cases, solutions) come to light in the fragile context:

  • Security: In situations where security is a concern, collecting data becomes near in impossible and publishing data, risky. For example, because development projects still need to be monitored, Afghanistan has leveraged local contractors and mobile technology to reach remote locations. While this has led to a more rich view of development outcomes, there is still hesitation to publish precise location data to preserve security for communities, government entities and the World Bank.
  • Policy:  While the will may be there from the governments’ and from the public’s standpoints to make information more widely available, laws and policies aren’t always in line.
  • Inclusion: There the risk is that the open data revolution will be confined to small group, creating further inequalities between those with and those without access to data, and the capacity to interpret it. There is a need to invite and engage public at large, including outside of urban environments. YouKnow in Palestine and Code for Nepal both educate and leverage local media to disseminate information via traditional and new media approaches. YouKnow’s “Mapping Her” campaign is designed to crowdsource information about abuse and exploitation of women, and leverage SMS technology to educate women and girls about laws designed to protect them via widely used mobile phones.

Whether it’s better coordination among governments and aid organizations to ensure issues are addressed comprehensively, or to avoid redundancy in programming, to empower men and women with knowledge about their rights, or to coordinate efforts when disaster strikes, open data has a role to play. There are challenges, and thought must be put towards how to engage offline, unconnected beneficiaries in remote areas.

Development practitioners, advocates and governments must take care not to inadvertently contribute to further exclusion of already marginalized populations.

A final point vis-a-vis the Bank’s role in this agenda. Colleagues expressed that the opportunities around open data will only become more important going forward and the Bank and the development community should show leadership and be leaders and champions in the open data space.

The above represent a handful of cases and approaches. We would love to hear from you about your work in this space and approaches you’ve taken toward leveraging open data to meet your program’s development objectives. Complete the short Operational Use of Open Data survey at: http://bit.ly/OpenDataOps. We’ll continue to publish results frequently (as open data).

This post first appeared on The World Bank Governance For Development Blog. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum. 

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Sandra Moscoso is Deputy Program Lead at the World Bank. Ditte Fallesen is a Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank

Image: A picture shows wires at the back of a super computer. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 


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