In this week's data digest read about the ways that open data is being taken to offline communities, the introduction of Next.Data.Gov in the US and the UK government's ‘midata’ Innovation Lab. There is also news on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Post-2015 Development Agenda's call for a ‘data revolution’ and discussion of the opportunities and challenges in using big data to understand Africa's informal economies.
This World Bank blog post explains how participants in an open data project in the small and largely offline village of Desa Ban in Indonesia went from being passive receivers of information to showcasing the potential power of open financial data. It found that the data should not just be ‘open’ and distributed through the usual channels, which also reinforce existing power structures and dynamics. More inclusive and interactive methods and means of communication is important for real impact. Community members were separated into groups based on gender for free conversation and then prioritized projects, selected data elements of importance, and translated the content into posters. These posters were taken to local markets to help explain the impact of the projects and relevant data in their communities. In combination with these offline activities a nano-survey was also run across Indonesia.
The White House just announced that they are launching a new generation of Data.gov, moving to a WordPress/CKAN based approach with their newest iteration called Next.Data.Gov, which is easily scalable and Open Source. Similar to NASA’s Data.NASA.gov project, the content and community sections of Next.Data.Gov are powered by WordPress. The data catalog is powered by CKAN. The Next.Data.gov interface gives an early view of the future Data.gov experience.
Midata a UK Government voluntary run programme aims to give consumers increasing access to their personal data in a portable, electronic format. It recently launched the ‘midata’ Innovation Lab, which uses real customer data collected from 1,000 volunteer consumers, and invites businesses to access and use these datasets in an online data innovation lab with the help of the Open Data Institute. Some companies already working on the project include Google, British Gas, Lloyds TSB and O2.
The report by the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda calls for a ‘data revolution’, and proposes a goal to ‘Ensure Good Governance and Effective Institutions’. The recommendations are a big shift from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire at the end of 2015 as it focuses on improved data and measurable goals. A proposed public-private initiative, called the Global Partnership on Development Data, would be responsible for developing a strategy for this. A Data for African Development Working Group (DFAD) is also grappling with these issues in the context of sub-Saharan Africa and put forward some key requirements for a successful data revolution.
Mobile phones have created new channels of information about African informal economies and workers for governments and private companies. Laura Mann from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) discusses the implications of big (and open) data on the research environment in Africa. She examines who benefits and the purpose of the data being generated and used as the ‘scramble for Africa’s data’ ensues. The incorporation and integration of poor people into private sector understandings is a primary reason big data has become important but critics also say this can leave the poor more vulnerable.