It’s time to close the books on 2021, and what a year it has been for Open Data Watch (ODW). As we’ve continued to navigate the pandemic, we have found growth in our pivots and hope in our progress. We experienced a return to the office and the first in-person meetings since early 2020 as well as welcomed two staff members to our growing team. Through new and ongoing research, we doubled-down on our commitment to high-quality and timely data for policy-making and robust data systems to respond to emergencies like COVID-19. In this annual end of the year blog, we look back at all that we accomplished and all that we have left to achieve across our main focuses of work.
Measuring, monitoring, and promoting open data principles
Open data are widely recognized as a means to driving sustainable development and improving livelihoods. From increasing aid transparency and monitoring government budgets to uncovering gender inequalities and better targeting policy interventions, open data has a wide-reaching, positive impact on our world. That’s why we remain committed to making official statistics openly available to the public and promoting data use for impact. In March of this year, we launched the fifth round of the Open Data Inventory (ODIN) and are proud to say that open statistical data are on the rise, with countries demonstrating the most significant progress to date.
While our mission to improve the quality and use of open official statistics for sustainable development has not changed, our strategies have evolved. We’ve scaled up our country engagement work and conducted 13 engagements with national statistical offices (NSOs) tackling topics such as data gaps, open data standards, proper licenses, and data use.
In addition to our country-level work, we have been active on the global stage helping to set policies and advocate for increased adoption of open data standards. As a member of the United Nations Statistical Commission’s Working Group on Open Data and co-chair of the Open by Default workstream, we have been formally shepherding the concept of open data through official UN processes. Our recent publication of “Open Data for Official Statistics: History, Principles, and Implementation” in the Statistical Journal of the IAOS is another example of our efforts to share our expertise on the topic.
Moving up the data value chain from production to use
This year we have focused on the different stages of the Data Value Chain – from production and dissemination to use, uptake, and impact of data – to better understand the enabling environment for increased data use in different contexts.
One popular resource that covered data use was our recently published Data Dissemination in the Digital Age report with PARIS21. Data portals form a critical link between producers and users of data, but they are often not designed and implemented in a manner that is beneficial to end-users. Based on the assessment of 74 data portals, we proposed five recommendations to improve their use and function.
With the support of partners, in 2022, we plan to continue our work to demystify data use — as we helped to do with open data— so it is not an afterthought but measured among the goals that national and international statistical agencies aim to achieve. We look forward to working with SDSN TReNDS on our new data use project as well as better understanding how existing indexes and tools measure data use.
Improving data quality and closing data gaps for gender equality
Improving gender data lies at the heart of our work at ODW. Through our close partnerships with Data2X and PARIS21, we collectively aim to close data gaps and promote the use of gender data in evidence-based policy making. This year we proudly published Bridging the Gap: A Comparison of Three Regions, a culmination of research on gender data availability across 25 countries.
But we are not only interested in identifying where the gaps are; we strive to illuminate the underlying causes of such gaps and provide recommendations for filling them. That’s why this year we kicked off a portfolio of work with Data2X focusing on documenting solutions to gender data gaps. Our first brief out of this work, Solutions for Building Resilient Gender Data Systems, was published in October, and more innovative products from this workstream are to come in 2022.
We also recognize that supporting the statisticians behind the data sets is just as important as filling data gaps. That’s why we are excited that the Gender Data Network has found its new home with PARIS21, and the 15 members continue to build skills, foster collaborative relationships, and inspire future leaders and advocates within statistical offices.
More and smarter financing for development data
Meeting the data challenges of the SDGs requires increased investments in international and national data and statistical systems. Unfortunately, the demand for data for the SDGs has not translated into increased funding and investments: total funds stagnate around 642 USD million. This year, alongside the Bern Network, we launched the Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data and published the second edition of the State of Gender Data Financing. Most recently with Data2X, we identified a set of five guiding actions to ensure ongoing and future investments in gender data to produce the greatest returns.
In 2022 we will continue our calls for smarter investments in data financing. The mobilization of additional domestic and global resources should instead focus on all stages of the data value chain – from collection and production to use and impact. We aim to utilize the Clearinghouse platform and seek opportunities to convene NSOs, donors, and other stakeholders to identify funding opportunities that will harness data for sustainable development.
Promoting inclusive and smart data governance
When ODW started its operations in 2014, the availability and publication of open data was our primary focus. Nearly eight years later, our areas of focus have grown in both depth and breadth and data governance is now making its mark high on our list. We are striving towards a reality where the people, technology, and processes within a country’s data ecosystem work together to increase the trust in and the value, use, and impact of data for all.
Our work as members of three different UN Working Groups (Open Data, Data Stewardship, and Microdata)provides us with opportunities to craft the development of specific data governance guidelines, such as data stewardship or access to microdata, and help shape future agendas. We were active participants at the UN World Data Forum with six different sessions covering open data, data stewardship, data use, and more.
We hope that progress in data governance will improve the quality and trust in data and lead to more sustainable statistical systems in countries and international agencies.
Looking Ahead to 2022
2021 was indeed a transformative year for ODW, and we expect no less from 2022. With the new year standing before us, we remain committed to our goals of working towards stronger statistical systems that have boundless potential to improve the lives of everyone around the world.
The activities and accomplishments of Open Data Watch in the past year would not have been possible without our dedicated partners and we are grateful for their ongoing support.
We wish Happy Holidays to everyone in the data for sustainable development community and look forward to continuing and expanding our work together in the year ahead!