Open data is shaking up civic life in eastern Europe

 in the Financial Times: “I often imagine how different the world would look if citizens and social activists were able to fully understand and use data, and new technologies. Unfortunately, the entry point to this world is often inaccessible for most civil society groups…

The concept of open data has revolutionised thinking about citizens’ participation in civic life. Since the fall of communism, citizens across central and eastern Europe have been fighting for more transparent and responsive governments, and to improve collaboration between civil society and the public sector. When an institution makes its data public, it is a sign that it is committed to being transparent and accountable. A few cities have opened up data about budget spending, for example, but these remain the exception rather than the rule. Open data provides citizens with a tool to directly engage in civic life. For example, they can analyse public expenses to check how their taxes are used, track their MP’s votes or monitor the legislative process….

One of the successful projects in Ukraine is the Open School app, which provides reviews and ratings of secondary schools based on indicators such as the number of pupils who go on to university, school subject specialisations and accessibility. It allows students and parents to make informed decisions about their educational path… Another example comes from the Serbian city of Pancevo, where a maths teacher and a tax inspector have worked together to help people navigate the tax system. The idea is simple: the more people know about taxes, the less likely they are to unconsciously violate the law. Open Taxes is a free, web-based, interactive guide to key national and local taxes…(More)”