Last year’s Regional Conference on Open Data in LAC that took place in Montevideo was a turning point for open data in Latin America. It was the first Regional Conference and was supported by several international development organizations.
Some months later, at the Open Government Partnership Summit 2013, a panel discussing the lessons learned from the Open Data for Development (OD4D) project and the Regional Conference on Open Data in LAC that took place in Montevideo, resulted in a concept note for new initiative to encourage governments and public institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to openly publish and freely make available their datasets for analysis and reuse by civil society and private citizens. Although the initiative has not yet a final document, here are the main reasons why these organizations believed it was important to support the initiative.
Open Data can help improve services in the cities
A practical example, like GXBus from Uruguay, demonstrates how open data can be used to improve services in cities, and build new alliances with the private sector, which can innovate quicker and faster to come up with the right solution and are ready to take some risks.
Mobile device users can be both producers and consumers of data
Mobile device users have the potential of turning into both producers and consumers of data, and can provide immediate feedback to governments about how citizens rate the services provided and fill the gap with the most appropriate product or service. This is especially relevant because in LAC there are already more mobile users than home internet users: 607.5 million, compared to 317 million in the US and 284 million in Europe
Open Data can trigger innovation
Also, the information collected can be a great and new source for data analysts and become an important source for innovative solutions. Taking the words from Maurice McNaughton from UWI-MONA, spoken at the Open Data Regional Conference in LAC in Montevideo in 2013, – “The future of open data is to build one app at a time”. This will allow us to be creative, to innovate, and to prototype our solutions. And if there is usage and reusability, we can scale them to size.
The cost of implementation is very low
The cost of implementation is decreasing and it is practically marginal. In many cases, free software or toolkits are available that require no programming to use them, and are specially crafted for Govenrments’ needs, like the Open Data Kit (ODK), developed by the University of Washington. This is an open source tool used to collect survey data offline on any mobile device running Android. ODK also provide a backend data repository to store the surveys.
In more general terms, open data provides opportunities for greater transparency and accountability, more efficient and better public administration of government programs and services, and to engage civil society and private citizens to innovate solutions that benefit society as a whole.
What other benefits do you think a Government could find in Open Data?
- Bob Rohlin is a Knowledge Management Consultant and software developer for the United Nations Development Programme. He has over 15 years of experience designing, developing, and implementing open source and open data solutions in the areas of health informatics and financial management. He holds a Master of Science in Public Health from The Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
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