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Summer of Open Data

Panel #4

Data Responsibility and New Forms of Collaboration

Posted on 12th of August 2020 by Mary Ann Badavi

The Summer of Open Data is a three-month project spearheaded by the Open Data Policy Lab (an initiative of The GovLab with support from Microsoft) in partnership with the Digital Trade & Data Governance Hub, Open Data Institute, the Open Data Charter, and BrightHive. Each week, we speak with data experts in local and regional governments, national statistical agencies, international bodies, and private companies to advance our understanding of how to establish a vision of open data focused on collaboration, responsibility, and purpose.

The Panel

Moderated by The GovLab’s Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer Stefaan Verhulst, the cross-cutting panel featured:

  • Barbara Ubaldi, Acting Head of Division and Head of Digital Government and Open Data, OECD;
  • Arturo Franco, Vice President, Insight, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth; and
  • Jean-Noé Landry, Executive Director, Open North.

In a 45-minute conversation, Stefaan and the panelists spoke on a variety of issues, including the importance of data governance, new data roles, and effective collaboration across sectors.

The full conversation, as well as a brief overview of highlights, is below:

Highlights

Assessing and Engaging the Demand for Data

The conversation began with an assessment of the current state of open data during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Barbara Ubaldi of OECD noted that the situation had created a broader awareness of the need for data holders, particularly governments, to take concrete actions in support of trustworthy data reuse.

“There’s a level of awareness of recognition at the moment [of the need for data reuse] which is much more felt within the broader system of open data,” she said. “Guidance and principles are often aiming to ensure the capacity to balance the opportunities and risks of data. Complementary to these actions, there are more high-level and political efforts that target the development of ethical frameworks.”

She highlighted OECD’s OURdata Index, which ranks governments on their implementation of open data based on three pillars: availability, accessibility, and reuse. She noted that governments across the board are lagging behind in the latter category.

Jean-Noé Landry of Open North added that data responsibility also involved ensuring data was available to a diverse group of actors, agreeing with Barbara that the COVID-19 crisis had exposed preexisting data challenges, especially at the subnational level.

“Because of the focus on the health crisis, we haven’t seen concerted efforts to document and reach out to different user communities to understand their specific data needs.”

To that end, he noted Open North’s national consultationto understand which public datasets in Canada were valuable to users, as well as what challenges users faced in accessing those datasets. The survey revealed key themes that were not necessarily surprising, but illuminating.

“More data needs to be accessible. There are institutional barriers to data use [and] data access can be confusing.”

As The GovLab’s Open Data Demand and Assessment Methodology notes, policymakers and practitioners need to better understand the needs of data users, the demand side of data use, to address these barriers.

New Forms of Data Intermediation

Arturo Franco of Mastercard brought a private sector perspective to the topic of using data for social impact, citing his organization’s Principles for Data Responsibility. He emphasized one principle: that “a company like Mastercard not only has the responsibility to protect data and use it securely, but to put it in the public interest and achieve social impact.”

Arturo pointed to the Inclusive Growth Score, a public tool which allows users to see how much local communities across the country benefit from equitable growth. Inspired by a commercial product that measures spending insights by geographical area, the tool was developed last year in collaboration with Accelerator for America and other local economic development organizations.

“We [realized] we needed to employ this type of data in order to help cities understand what investments they required.”

While the Inclusive Growth Score originally focused on Qualified Opportunity Zones, it now covers the entire country — over 70,000 census tracts.

“It went from a very specific purpose and use case to understanding that city government officials wanted to see other parts of the city too,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jean-Noé Landry advocated for the establishment of data intermediaries to foster collaboration between large public institutions and local community stakeholders.

“You need to have different types of skill sets to be able to broker an open flow of data,” he said. “Data intermediaries have opened up a space for topics that in the first wave of the open data movement, weren’t at the forefront […] like risk analysis around data release as a trust building measure. Something could be released to the public to explain the reasons why data is or is not made available. [Intermediaries] bring more openness to the decision making process.”

Systematic, Sustainable, and Responsible Data Governance

As the panel came to a close, Barbara discussed matters of data governance. The COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted persistent problems in ensuring sustainability and cross-sector participation. Organizations needed to be more systematic, sustainable, and responsible.

She stressed that that for these types of collaborations to happen, participants needed strong data governance systems.

“There’s a need to have a public sector that’s a learning organization that has people who are aware they are sitting on data that can create new relationships…. public sector, digital innovation, open data, and open government are seen as unrelated elements, but instead are the same pieces of a single cause.”

In closing, Stefaan Verhulst noted that in order to be effective, open data initiatives must be systematic, sustainable, and responsible. “Indeed, only by achieving these three objectives together will we really make progress on the third wave of open data.”

Next Panel

The Summer of Open Data will build on these points in the weeks and months to come. Our next panel will bring together:

Video of this panel will be released next Wednesday, August 26, 2020.

Until then, we welcome your input into the Third Wave of Open Data. Feel free to visit us at opendatapolicylab.org or participate in the conversation by tweeting with the hashtags #SummerOfOpenData and #3rdWaveOpenData.

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