Open Data and Civil Society


Nick Hurd, UK Minister for Civil Society, on the potential of open data for the third sector in The Guardian:

“Part of the value of civil society is holding power to account, and if this can be underpinned by good quality data, we will have a very powerful tool indeed….The UK is absolutely at the vanguard of the global open data movement, and NGOs have a great sense that this is something they want to play a part in.There is potential to help them do more of what they do, and to do it better, but they’re going to need a lot of help in terms of information and access to events where they can exchange ideas and best practice.”

Also in the article: “The competitive marketplace and bilateral nature of funding awards make this issue perhaps even more significant in the charity sector, and it is in changing attitudes and encouraging this warts-and-all approach that movement leadership bodies such as the Open Data Institute (ODI) will play their biggest role….Joining the ODI in driving and overseeing wider adoption of these practices is the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN). One of its first projects was a partnership with an organisation called Publish What You Fund, the aim of which was to release data on the breakdown of funding to sectors and departments in Uganda according to source – government or aid.
…Open data can often take the form of complex databases that need to be interrogated by a data specialist, and many charities simply do not have these technical resources sitting untapped. OKFN is foremost among a number of organisations looking to bridge this gap by training members of the public in data mining and analysis techniques….
“We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘knowledge is power’, and in this case knowledge means insight gained from this newly available data. But data doesn’t turn into insight or knowledge magically. It takes people, it takes skills, it takes tools to become knowledge, data and change.
“We set up the School of Data in partnership with Peer 2 Peer University just over a year and a half ago with the aim of enabling citizens to carry out this process, and what we really want to do is empower charities to use data in the same way”, said Pollock.”

Africa’s digital divide: still gaping


Peter Vanham in the FT’s Beyond Brics blog: “Don’t let success stories like M-Pesa in Kenya fool you: the worldwide digital divide is still increasing and Africa remains the biggest victim.”  So says Soumitra Dutta, Dean of Cornells’ Johnson School of Management, talking to beyondbrics at the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013.
M-Pesa, the highly successful mobile payments service in Kenya, has attracted global attention. Used by the vast majority of Kenyans, M-Pesa is so successful that, according to Quartz, a massive 31 per cent of Kenya’s GDP is spent through mobile phones.
It was proof that technological progress could happen in low-income countries with poor infrastructure. It has been copied in other emerging markets, leading some to believe the so-called digital divide between the developed and the developing world was ready to fall.
But the opposite is true, says the Indian born Dutta, a founding author of the WEF’s IT report….
To support his claim, Dutta refers to the latest available data on access to different mobile technologies (see graph – click to enlarge).”: