the Open Data Watch Team
21 December 2022
The world population reached 8 billion this year.
This milestone comes just 11 years after a count of seven billion was met. It leaves us pondering what the future looks like with a population of this size. Will life expectancy climb or fall? How many people will have access to healthcare and social protection? What environment will the next generations inherit?
Data will help answer these questions.
As the year comes to a close, Open Data Watch (ODW) reflects on all that we accomplished and all that we have left to achieve across our work activities:
- supporting open data
- promoting data governance
- stimulating data use
- closing data gaps
- the building of our own team
All this is to work towards a world where data can improve lives—all eight billion of them.
Supporting open data around the world
This year, ODW completed the sixth round of Open Data Inventory in 192 countries. With demand on the rise, we scaled up our country engagements and 30 countries received significant training and advisory services. These country engagements have resulted in tangible improvements in the openness and coverage of official statistics.
Despite this progress, in many sectors data openness still lags behind where it needs to be to create its full impact—especially in the case of gender data. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we kick-started a new initiative: The Open Gender Data Monitor. This work expands on the current analysis of gender data in ODIN while also advocating for more open gender data and providing technical assistance to countries to apply open data principles to the gender space.
We also celebrated the endorsement of the open by default principle by the UN Statistics Commission (UNSC) in March 2022. Since 2019, we have formally been shepherding the concept of open data through official UN processes—and it’s paid off. This marks a significant step forward in the open data movement and is the result of years of advocacy and research from champions in the space.
Promoting smart and inclusive data governance practices
Effective data governance is required to tackle the complex challenges national and international statistical systems face. We believe proper data governance can create the enabling environment to ensure data are used, reused, and impactful. This year we’ve engaged with a handful of partners and numerous UN working groups to influence normative data guidelines and ensure they promote open and user-centric approaches that increase the value of data.
Establishing a framework for effective data governance is challenging due to a multitude of reasons—one of them being adequate and sustainable financing for data systems. Working with partners like the Bern Network and PARIS21, ODW is striving towards smarter data financing through increased transparency, improved coordination, and strengthened advocacy. This year we brought the topic to the high-level seminar at the UNSC and celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Clearinghouse for Financing Development Data.
Stimulating data use for better policies
Much of ODW’s work this year focused on stages further down the data value chain, moving from collection and production to use and impact of data. In collaboration with SDSN TReNDS and with support from GIZ, our team launched the Overcoming Data Graveyards report. This research presents a framework to understand institutional barriers to effective data use, focusing on the capacity to govern data; meet user needs; and use data. The report offered a way forward by sourcing best practices from countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Philippines, and the United Kingdom.
Strengthening the relationship between data journalists and national statistical offices can increase data use. But how can these two stakeholder groups build these connections? This year we teamed up with the Open Data Institute, PARIS21, and three global fact-checking organizations — Full Fact, Chequeado, and Africa Check — for a webinar to chart a joint path forward that overcomes barriers to the use of official statistics by journalists while putting the power of data into the hands of the people.
Highlighting data gaps with solutions to close them
Identifying data gaps is only half the battle; work to illuminate the underlying causes and document solutions is needed. Our report with Data2X, Transforming the Data Landscape: Solutions to Close Gender Data Gaps built an inventory of over 140 solutions across multiple sectors, including health, environment, education, and public participation. These solutions range from promising pilots to fully scaled projects that seek to address barriers to increased data production, analysis, and use.
Sustainable funding for gender data systems are needed to implement solutions and fill data gaps. Investing in gender-sensitive data ecosystems calls for more than an increase in spending; it requires a larger strategic effort to identify solutions to make dollars go further. That is why Open Data Watch partnered with PARIS21, UN Women, and Data2X to launch the Navigating the Landscape of Gender Data Financing event series, in which two events took place in 2022 and a third scheduled for February 2023.
In addition to financial capacity, human capacity is key to closing data gaps. The Gender Data Network, a joint initiative with Data2X, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, PARIS21, and ODW, brings together gender data experts from national statistical systems in over 22 African countries to share innovative solutions to overcome barriers to produce and use high-quality gender data. Not only did we expand the network to include new francophone and anglophone countries, but we have also worked with our partners to develop expansion plans to include other regions.
GDN members gather at the Africa Gender Statistics conference in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2022.
Building a strong and connected ODW team
This year, ODW welcomed our first visiting statistician, Luis Gonzalez Morales, to the team. Currently visiting from a sabbatical from his role as the Chief of the Web Development and Data Visualization Section of the United Nations Statistics Division, Luis supports our data stewardship, microdata, and open data workstreams. The addition of such expertise and historical knowledge of the development data space has been invaluable.
The ODW team spans coast to coast from Washington, D.C. to Seattle, Washington. We’ve continued to strengthen our virtual and in-person working arrangements with the support of a devoted Board. In October, we gathered at the OpenGovHub to reflect on our work to date and strategize for the year ahead.
ODW staff members gather in person and remotely for a full team retreat.
Our activities and accomplishments to date would not be possible without our supportive funders like the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and our community of dedicated partners. With the new year around the corner, we look forward to the potential our community has to create stronger statistical systems that improve the lives of everyone around the world.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!