The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) is organising an Open Data side event at the first ever United Nations World Data Forum (WDF), that will be held in South Africa in January, to help build consensus among national statistical offices and other parties involved in generating data on the need to work together to develop open data services for official statistics on the continent.
The session also aims to build consensus among national statistical offices and other data generating agencies as well as parties involved in national open data initiatives that official statistics is an essential component of the open data initiatives.
“The session will therefore help strengthen the resolve to work towards a new national data ecosystem in which official statistics is open by default,” says African Centre for Statistics Director Oliver Chinganya.
The benefits of open data have been documented to include enhancements and/or improvements in cross-departmental data sharing; citizen and constituent engagement in implementing services; transparency and accountability; innovative services and concomitant opportunities for business and economic development.
Open data are data that are online, free of cost, accessible data that can be used, re-used and redistributed subject only, at most, to the requirements to attribute and share.
The concept implies that the data must be free for all users to allow for universal participation.
“To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honour citizens’ entitlement to public information, hence the importance of the session during the WDF,” said Mr Chinganya.
Following on this principle, he adds, official statistical agencies should be actively involved in initiatives designed to improve availability and accessibility of data to citizens and other stakeholders.
The open data initiative is one vehicle that makes this possible.
“However, Africa ranks very low in open data developments, as reflected in the third edition of the Open Data Barometer,” said Mr Chinganya, adding so far most of the work in Africa on open data initiatives are being led by international organizations.
Africa does not feature in the top ten countries on the Open Data Barometer, while six of the bottom ten countries are from Africa.
“This is why the 9th Joint Annual African Union-ECA Conference of Ministers in 2015 resolved to lead the African data revolution by bringing together diverse data communities and using a wide range of data sources, tools and innovative technologies. So this session at the WDF seeks to speak to some of the challenges we are facing on the continent and map the way forward.”
The Conference also resolved “to ensure that the African data revolution is built on the principle of openness across the data value chain”, that is that data belongs to the people and should be open by default.
However national statistical offices have not been fully involved in activities or discussion on open data initiatives.
The World Data Forum session will also provide a forum for African statisticians, open data enthusiasts and partners to brainstorm together in preparation for the Conference of Minister 2017.
The first UN World Data Forum will be hosted by Statistics South Africa from January 15 to 18, 2017, with support from the Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, under the guidance of the United Nations Statistical Commission and the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It will be an opportunity for data and statistics experts from around the world to: join together in this unique event with governments, businesses, civil society and the scientific and academic communities; explore innovative ways to apply data and statistics to measure global progress and inform evidence-based policy decisions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; contribute to important discussions, data labs and interactive platforms aimed at improving the use of data for sustainable development and launch new initiatives and solutions that will deliver better data for all.