By Obinna Chima
Nigeria is currently ranked 67th out of 92 countries in the Open Data Barometer published by the Web Foundation. The Web Foundation is published by the World Wide Web inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s.
The report obtained at the weekend showed that Nigeria has open government data available on both health and education. This, the promoters of the initiative described as a good step forward for transparency and innovation in the country. They therefore stressed the need for more data to be opened to the public to allow citizens to access and analyse information for free, and find ways to improve policies that affect them.
According to the Web Foundation, open data will play a critical role in anti-corruption, adding that Nigeria must open data on procurement contracts, public spending, budget and company registers.
The report, which further stated that over half of countries studied now have open data initiatives, however noted that less than 10 per cent of the government data vital for sustainable development is open.
“Today the Web Foundation, set up by World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, announced the results of the third Open Data Barometer, a global snapshot of the state of open government data in 92 countries. Open data is data that is openly published online and is free for all to access and reuse. For the first time, over half of the countries in our study have open data initiatives in place,” it added.
However, faster progress on translating commitments into action is needed to close data gaps in the developing world, the study warned.
“Fewer than 10 per cent of the data set surveyed were open, and most of these are in the rich world: nearly half of the open datasets in our study are found in just 10 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, while almost none are in African countries. “Although many developing countries have pledged to open up more data – with 10 additional developing countries making open data commitments last year alone – a lack of resources and weak data infrastructure are limiting implementation,” it added.
This data divide, it noted was depriving developing countries of the information tools needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on education, health, environment, and rule of law, the study warned
In the area of combating corruption, the report pointed out that: “Only two per cent of countries in the study publish detailed public spending data and only one per cent publish open company data – the two worst performing datasets in our study.
“Contracting data performs slightly better, with eight per cent of data open. Publishing this data in reusable, machine-readable formats is essential not only to pierce the veil of secrecy but to help corruption fighters unravel the complex webs through which illicit money circulates.”
Also, in the terms of improving health and education, the report noted that: “Only 13 per cent and 11 per cent of countries respectively publish open data on the performance of health and education services, while only 15 per cent release open demographic data that can be combined with health and education data to identify ways to improve outcomes for women, girls and poor communities, for instance.
“Fighting global warming and related problems such as deforestation, flooding and falling crop yields require sifting through vast amounts of data, yet little of this data is readily available online in machine-readable formats. Only 13 per cent of countries release open environmental data, five per cent have open land registries and 12 per cent publish open map data.”
Commenting on the findings, Berners-Lee said: “Inequality and poverty are about more than income – they are also about information. Seven years after I first demanded that governments open up their data to all, open data initiatives are now in place in more than half of countries we track. Yet their quality is variable, and benefits are concentrated in rich countries. Now is the time to resource and implement open data throughout the world, through projects such as the international Open Data Charter.”
Also, Web Foundation CEO, Anne Jellema said: “Trying to use traditional data sources to tackle complex development challenges like climate change and hunger is like tunnelling through rock in the dark with a teaspoon. It takes ages and you may come out in the wrong place. Making development data open is vital for fast and accurate collaboration on the SDGs, and the urgency now is to move from promises to implementation.”