by Veronica Cretu, Global Data Barometer Director of Strategy and Partnerships 

The Global Data Barometer is seeking expressions of interest for regional hubs to join our global research network, coordinating country research next year in Central Asia, Eastern Partnership, European Union member countries, the Western Balkans & Turkey, and Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Small Islands. 

Regional hubs are a central part of the GDB’s design: helping to shape the study, gather grounded insights, and produce regional analysis and research outputs that speak to critical debates on data for the public good. 

We invite you to submit a short expression of interest by Monday 7th September (extended deadline) at  https://globaldatabarometer.org/involved/call-for-regional-hubs/ or share about this opportunity among your network. 

What does it mean to be a regional hub?

By becoming part of the GDB Community, Regional Hubs will have access to a dynamic global community of practice working on modern data policy across many settings and themes, and will have the opportunity to strengthen their own regional networks, recruiting and coordinating country-level researchers. Through the GDBs focus on data in context, and the whole spectrum from data protection and AI policy, to data sharing, open data and data re-use to solve key social and economic challenges, participating as a Regional Hub offers organizations the chance to develop their role as ‘Centers of Excellence’ in the collection and use of data for public good, as well as the measurement of impact. We hope that Regional Hubs will also be engaged on a regular basis in future GDB editions.

We see Regional Hubs as organizations capable of concentrating existing expertise and resources in the field of data for development or data for public good, and able to attain and sustain high level performance and value. Their role will be to combine learning and oversight around the Global Data Barometer at the regional level longer-term, but also drive discussions and knowledge sharing across the global network on any theme or issue that has data at the core.

Regional Hubs are also core to the sustainability of the Global Data Barometer. Whilst we will be working to gather comparable data that can speak to global policy debates – we also want to root our research in regional needs. That means also exploring joint fundraising approaches that can support enhanced country coverage, in-depth data collection, and customised research analysis at the local level. 

The journey to here: the Global Data Barometer in context

In the video above I present an overview of our approach to Regional Hubs. Below, I wanted to share a bit more of the journey that has led us individually and collectively to exploring how the GDB can be not just as bi-annual report, but also a network and community of practice supporting ongoing critical work.

Almost a decade ago, open data was an idea emerging across pro-democracy practitioners, civic technology developers, open knowledge promoters to name a few. I remember fondly the first Techcamp I co-facilitated back in the summer of 2011 in Chisinau, Moldova which brought together representatives of civil society, media, government and the private sector to explore how the government can make much of the data it holds public, and how civil society, utilizing the latest information technology applications, can use that information for the benefit of Moldovans. And that was just the beginning of a series of Hackathons and Apps for Development challenges, of several partnerships established with Central Government and relevant agencies around the disclosure of key data sets for those socially valuable applications. Review of national legislation and institutionalization of open data agenda. Training public servants across all line Ministries and opting into Open Government Partnership, placing data at core of first Action Plans on Open Government and we were watching this movement growing and thriving both nationally, regionally and globally. We were learning a lot from each other, with peer-learning and support being extremely valuable.

Globally, Open Data for Development Network was engaged in regional networks in the Global South and involved in global initiatives such as Open Data Barometer, Open Data Charter, OGP’s Open Data Working Group, the Impact Map, and the Open Data Leaders Network. Several global and regional events on open data were organized during the past 10 years, with hundreds of professionals across regions and countries gaining more experience, building expertise and promoting more actively the use of data among several stakeholders.

We have seen civil society organizations from across the globe beginning to play a more active role in making the case for data when they pushed for new laws, programs and policies, in holding their governments to account on their commitments across various sectors; to identifying innovating solutions, providing support to those in need and ensuring that national policy making does not forget the poor and vulnerable.

All those examples have been encouraging and promising, the Global Data Barometer aims to keep building on those efforts and create new venues for learning and sharing, particularly around data for public good. We are following on the success of our predecessor study, the Open Data Barometer, and with the Global Data Barometer, we recognize a more complex landscape – in which policy must combine good governance of data, with ongoing efforts to promote data re-usability, and to realize the benefits that open public data infrastructures can bring.

This is where regional hubs come in. We believe there is value in comparable global indicators of data policy and practice, and of surfacing evidence using common questions across many countries. But we also know that data cannot be studied top-down, from an abstract ‘global’ viewpoint. It is only by working with regional and country experts who can collect, contextualise, and analyse data to speak to regional debates, that we can be both a global study, and a global network.