The OD4D Programme in 2017-18
2017 represented an important turning point for the Open Data for Development Network. Following a largely
positive network evaluation, OD4D began to integrate key learnings from the evaluation into the network
structure. Additional focus was placed on building OD4D’s regional network hubs as centres of excellence:
demonstrating southern leadership of open data agendas, supporting context-specific open data use and discourse,
and connecting with conversations about the “Data Revolution” at subnational, national, regional and
international policy levels. This strategic shift allowed the network to better research and engage with
important dialogues emerging around data for development (Ethics, Algorithms, and Privacy rights), to support
relevant development priorities and sector-specific opportunities, and continue to act as conveners of
stakeholders in government, civil society, academia and business.
With a renewed focus on the OD4D Network Hubs, we also engaged a network of advisors for the network. These
advisors aimed to provide sector-specific advice, and explored important crossover areas, for example in terms
of National Statistics, Open Cities, Data Governance, and Data and Gender. They acted as strategic
representatives in some for a, and supported new learning models for building data literacy and technical
With a renewed focus on Gender, OD4D invested significant funds into further exploring how open data can
support gender equality. A new set of investments which engages the OD4D network started in 2018, and work on
combatting femicides with data in Latin America, data literacy in Haiti, and new innovations in Africa are
slowly augmenting work in this area, with outcomes expected to be realised by 2018. The OD4D Network is also
directly engaged in building the evidence that will support a more Feminist Open Government, a key priority of
the Canadian co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Nathaniel Heller, which starts in September 2018.
The OD4D network also continued to support global efforts to measure and monitor open data. The last edition of
the full Open Data Barometer, launched in 2017, provided a global overview and benchmarking of government open
data. Also, the State of Open Data project began an open and consultative process to investigate the past ten
years of open data, with over 32 chapters examining regional trends, sectors-specific discourse, and cross-data
thematics, shared for consultation online and a final edition due in early 2019. And the network contributed to
global activities around sharing new research and opportunities, aiming to use evidence
Finally, the programme had to contend with external forces relating to global strategy and shifting
geopolitical headwinds. Some well-established funding partnerships came to an end, as OD4D reached the
culmination of its initial programming cycle (2014-mid 2017). Meanwhile new ones began, such as with the welcome
addition of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has targeted the establishment of our new hub in
Francophone Africa (CAFDO).
Ultimately, releasing and using open data to spur the public interest is far from a universal trend, and
visions of open by default are far from being realized in a number of sectors and countries. At the same time,
in the almost eight years that OD4D partners have been engaged in this space, the infrastructure, capacity, and
discourse has evolved and been adopted by new actors. Since its inception the OD4D network has supported over 15
governments through technical support, provided capacity building to 1000+, generated a significant amount of
learning and policy uptake, and provided a number of opportunities to seed and scale open data innovation and
The next OD4D Action Plan, currently in the planning phase for 2018-2020, will ultimately take emerging new
trends into account, re-emphasizing research and learning, knowledge translation for policy change, and ongoing
capacity building for existing and new actors, and the need to collectively build context-specific agendas to
spur ongoing political support and sustainable investments into the open data space.
Open Data Innovation in a Global Context
“Open data is only valuable insofar as it is relevant to the concerns of society, and actually being used to
improve people’s lives”
– Interim Technical report, Africa Open Data Network
As the field of open data has matured, discussions around the value of open data and understanding of the
political will, drivers and capacities of government departments, National Statistics Offices, to supply of
relevant and important data in via standards that facilitate its use and re-use through interoperability. While
there is still a need for core skill building, now different models of sectoral collaboration are emerging to
emphasize the potential uses of open data.
Now more than ever before, more diverse data from a variety of sources is being created and released, and this
raises new opportunities for innovation towards the sustainable development goals, and also new opportunities
for ethical, open sharing of data to serve the public interest in a variety of ways.
Much of the world’s government data is still closed
The 2016 Open Data Barometer, published in 2017 and supported by the OD4D network, revealed an important
finding – as many as 9 out of 10 government data sets are still closed. With emerging innovative sources of
data, and multiple systems within countries generating and/or using data, it is important to think about how
systems can talk to each other to facilitate improved data collection/use, taking into account the ethical and
operational challenges of interoperability
The big questions: Big Data, Open Data, Ethics, AI and Algorithms
New data sources, such as private sector data from mobile phones and satellites, citizen-sourced data, as well
as data from global NGOs, has major potential to fill in the existing data gaps, but techniques to validate and
use this data are still under study. New mechanisms of analysis and decision-making such as Machine Learning and
Artificial Intelligence benefit from data sharing and open data. A new and complex policy space is emerging that
seeks to harness the power of data sharing and advanced analytics while ensuring privacy and rights. This
conversation is moving beyond the technical and social aspects of open data to consider new legal and governance
frameworks to manage the many sources of data for development.
Capacity is still a core challenge
Data literacy is but one of the many open data capacity gaps that continue to challenge the open data
community. Technology gaps, human resource challenges, inadequate access to meaningful data, language
restrictions, business model challenges all continue to be challenges that need to be overcome. That being said,
this is an area that has seen significant progress and the emergence of many new communities.
Openness under threat: inequality, data gaps, democracy
Open Data is not neutral, and who gets counted and who does not often has political implications.
Taking gender issues seriously: Gender was one of the new emerging topics of the Open Data for Development
(OD4D) Network is taking these trends into account as we seek to scale open data approaches that can improve the
lives of citizens around the world.