Over a series of issues, Broken Toilets is exploring the question of how “openness” informs the design, implementation, monitoring, and financing of development programs, policies, and goals. We’ll be examining “openness” from a few different fronts, but we’re currently seeking content for the first issue of the series, Open Data.
Open data, or data that is free for distribution and use, is now a critical part of global development. Breezy surveys will ascribe open data with the potential to fight corruption, reveal savvy business ideas, build smart(er) cities, and solve civic problems. Open data can bring more transparency and accountability to governance, development and aid, and is now widely acknowledged as critical. After failing to adequately capture data that would track MDG progress, the global goals have emphasized open data as a core aspect of their monitoring approach.
This is not to say that these conversations are new. Communities of open data enthusiasts are all over the world and their conversations (often in geek speak), assert the potential for technology that brings more effectiveness and transparency through portals, apps, dashboards, etc. or through citizen-focused initiatives to liberate data, like hacking for a cause.
With millions of dollars of support, open data initiatives are starting up in places once closed (like Myanmar), or brand new (like South Sudan) with aims of building greater accountability structures into governments, funding agents and multilateral organizations. But this openness raises concerns about privacy and cybersecurity, the digital haves and have-nots, and whether technology can breach prevailing social structures.
For Broken Toilets’ third issue, we’re interested in how the enthusiasm for open and free data turns into policy change at the local, state, country, and global levels. How has having access to loads of free data been used for positive change? In other words, what’s worked? We’re also interested in its disruptive potential – has open data challenged development paradigms, both domestically and at a global level? And if the goal of open data in development is for localized impact at scale, how do we make vital data that holds institutions accountable, more open? For more details, see the full Call for Pitches.