Linking National Statistical Offices and Open Data
By Deirdre Appel and Amelia Pittman
Links between the national statistical offices and the wider open data community remain limited despite having much to gain from each other. Innovation, technical resources, and IT platforms are among the resources the open data community can offer national statistics offices while national statistics offices can offer data quality assurance, data security, management, and international processes and standards to the wider community. Capitalizing on these strengths and taking advantage of what the other can offer will be a key enabler to meeting the unprecedented data demands of the SDGs and increased dialogue between the two groups is key.
With our partners – the World Bank, the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21), and Open Data for Development (OD4D) and Development Gateway, which are all members of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data – Open Data Watch convened several sessions at the 2016 International Open Data Conference (IODC), from Oct. 3-5 in Madrid, connecting the open data community and national statistical offices (NSOs). Our aim is to foster and strengthen linkages between these two critical actors, to create an open space for shared dialogue, and to better match demand for open data solutions at the government level with the current supply of tools at the agency level from those organizations which offer statistical capacity support.
We are pleased by the first-ever inclusion of country representatives from NSOs in this year’s conference, including representatives from Ecuador, Egypt, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Morocco, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Philippines. Below are three takeaways from our two high-level panels events and one preconference workshop that focused on official statistics and open data at the IODC.
|NSOs face a broad scope of challenges in implementing open data practices and standards.
At the preconference workshop, “Openness and National Statistical Offices: A Review of Available Tools and Methods,” NSO country representatives shared experiences, challenges, and plans for implementing open data principles and practices. The challenges facing countries covered technical, capacity, legal and political, financial resources, coordination and planning, and data literacy. It was an enlightening workshop as it reminded us of the reality of implementing open data principles and standards on the ground and that work still needs to be done.
|Demand > Supply. There is a growing supply of open data tools for NSOs but more is needed to support the NSOs and there are gaps evident in a number of areas.
The workshop provided an opportunity to review the demand and supply. Governments shared the status of open data implementation and their perspectives on what more is needed and what are the challenges they face. In response, the international agency experts provided information on the innovative tools and approaches they are using to support open data efforts. We heard an incredible range of tools and assistance available to NSOs, but we have yet to fully address the full range of challenges NSOs face. Tools are available to help address technical infrastructure or identify data gaps, but other barriers remain with less readily available externally sourced solutions. These barriers are often rooted in politics, leadership, and legal frameworks.
|NSOs can be leaders in open data but they must increase engagement.
The attendance of NSO representatives at IODC16 set a precedent for participation in future open data conversations. Participation in these conversations will help the open data community consider the NSO perspective while encouraging inclusive data communities. NSOs may be at the core of the data ecosystem but if they remain isolated, then coordination between government ministries implementing open data principles and partnerships among data producers and users will remain a challenge.
NSOs have a unique role as leaders within governments to coordinate and release data, and while open data would benefit both them as producers and the users they serve, financial and technical support is needed to achieve these benefits. We need to actively bring together the open data and NSO communities to bridge the resource divide. Sparking conversation between these two communities at the IODC is the first step in creating greater coordination and more connection between the supply of open data tools and the needs at the country-level. This conversation will help increase the ties between official statistics and open data until the two are intricately linked. We hope these conversations continue beyond the IODC. The upcoming UN World Data Forum in South Africa represents an opportunity for NSOs and the open data community to engage and further strengthen the connection between official statistics and open data.