by Veronica Cretu

A hub, according to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, is “the central and most important part of an area, system, activity, etc. which all the other parts are connected to.” For the Global Data Barometer, regional hubs constitute a central part of our design. In collaboration with our regional hubs, we’re working to include 120 countries in the first edition of our global report.  

GDB regional hubs connect us and each other with stakeholders around the world involved in data for public good, data for development, open data, good governance, open government, and transparency and accountability. Over the long-run, we aim to establish a strong network across regional hubs, and support organizations to develop as ‘Centers of Excellence’ in the collection, measurement, and use of data for public good. We hope that regional hubs will continue to engage across future GDB editions.

To set up our hubs, we began with the Open Data for Development Network, through which we established hub partnerships for Latin America, MENA, Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and a prospective hub for North America. These partnerships gave us a strong foundation to build upon, but as we aim to cover more than 120 countries, we still had a few gaps, so we put out an open call to cover the Eastern Partnership, European Union, Central Asia, Hong Kong, Russia, Small Pacific Island States, and Western Balkans.

We received sixteen applications, which we then evaluated on several criteria: geographical balance; capacity for in-kind contribution during GDB’s design phase; experience in implementing data-related projects, policies, or regional initiatives; fundraising capacity; and the network and resources for convening various stakeholders during the dissemination phase. 

Today, after many interviews and some very difficult decision-making, we are excited to introduce you to our fourteen regional hubs! 

The GDB Community of Regional Hubs 

Hubs are listed loosely below by broader region, based on the focus of the hub and the location of the majority of the countries the hub covers. Together, GDB’s hubs cover Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, North America, Pacific Island States, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Asia 

The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) is a Georgia-based non-governmental organization that aims to support the development of an informed and empowered society for democratic governance. Since its establishment in 2009, IDFI has rapidly become a respected leader in advancing open democracy in Georgia and increasingly, around the globe. IDFI works to access quality information, develop rigorous analysis and use innovative tools in order to improve governance, advance the rule of law, reduce corruption, promote informed civic participation, expand accountability, spark innovation, and encourage inclusive growth. IDFI believes that information fuels democratic and prosperous societies:  it empowers citizens to hold governments and businesses accountable; governments to better respond to society’s needs; and businesses to design innovative and socially responsible products. 

 IDFI is the regional hub for both Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Internet Society Hong Kong (ISOCHK) is a local Chapter of Internet Society (ISOC) founded in 2005. ISOCHK dedicated to the open, unencumbered, beneficial use of the Internet; the upholding of the freedom of expression and opinion, privacy of personal information and aversion of social discrimination; through responsible self-regulation and harmonized governance.

The Open Development Initiative, a project of the East-West Management Institute, Inc. (EWMI-ODI), which hosts the OD4D Asia Hub, will coordinate the research along with partner Sinar Project. Open Data for Development (OD4D) was launched to improve the availability and impact of open data in Southeast Asia through research and strategic coordination of existing, as well as new regional collaboration initiatives. The hub aims to build a stronger community of practice in Southeast Asia, consisting of open data technologists, civil society organizations, government officials, donors, and researchers. Through collaboration between OD4D, Open Development Mekong, Sinar Project (Malaysia), and partners in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, the community of open data advocates are increasing the quality, impact, and sustainability of individual initiatives and collaboration in the region, establishing links with regional and global networks, and building on the vision outlined in the Open Data in Asia 2020 report.

Open Data China is the very first and only civic organization based in China dedicated to promoting and building up an open digital society. Founded in 2014, Open Data China is part of Open Knowledge Foundation’s global network and originally focused on advancing the Open Data agenda in China. It initiated and operated several key projects including China Open Data Lens, Shanghai Open Data Watch, and Shanghai Open Data Apps. 

The organization has implemented initiatives such as China Open Data Lens, a city-level index based upon ODB methodology (more details about it can be accessed from this paper) and SODA ,originally called Shanghai Open Data Apps, which is a competition-based innovation model we use to unlock local government data and support the developments of solutions to local issues. The program primarily was run in Shanghai and was duplicated in Chongqing, Shenyang and other cities. Overall, Open Data China, has directly unlocked more than 60 datasets from 30 government agencies and private companies, generated nearly 1000 prototypes and applications, cultivated several startups with over 1000 million dollars investments. 

The Caribbean 

The Caribbean Open Institute (COI) is a regional coalition of individuals and organizations that promotes open development approaches to inclusion, participation, and innovation within the Caribbean, using open data as a catalyst. Our focus is on (i) advocacy, awareness, and engagement with public sector stakeholders on Open Government and Open Data; (ii) evidence of the potential impacts of Open Data initiatives through demand-side research initiatives in various thematic sectors; and (iii) capacity building in data literacy, competence, and application as an essential component of Caribbean development.  The COI is a member of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) Network and as the regional hub for the Caribbean, is an active participant in the broad open data community, bringing the Caribbean’s nuanced voice to contribute to the global discourse and partnerships for sustainable development using data as a catalyst.

Europe

Access Info Europe is a human rights organisation established in Madrid in 2006 and dedicated to promoting and protecting the right of access to information. Access Info runs a range of projects designed to leverage the right to information in order to increase participation and accountability, to defend human rights, and to advance democracy. Activities include a mix of research and monitoring, standard-setting, law reform campaigns, and strategic litigation. Access Info also provides support and training for civil society and journalists. We have contributed to developing civil society activism on transparency in Europe, building a network of national organisations dedicated to securing increased transparency in practice. Access Info will coordinate GDB efforts across 20 EU member states. 

Digital Communication Network Global is a consortium of Aristotle University, Digital Communication Network, non-profits, public and private organisations and companies, working, or interested to be involved, in the field of digital communication, social impact campaigns, technology, and innovation. It is a unique initiative, a multi-field coalition, forming a continent-spanning network that will attract a wide range of actors, enabling to tap into the best talent, ideas and resources. The hub is a living entity which connects people and organisations, in a dynamic partnership, ready to adapt to the changing realities in the information space and the emerging needs and challenges of the region. DCN GLOBAL, headquartered in Thessaloniki, Greece, provides space, tools, and expertise in order to improve the digital and media spaces, as well. It aims to foster cooperation and promote democratic values as a way to respond to critical challenges that the region faces. It is a Community of Action with core values: impact, excellence and partnership. Thus, knits together organisations in different sectors from countries that have a common goal to empower citizens and maximise the potential of new ideas and technologies, in action. The goal is to encourage new, independent voices, well-equipped technologically and socially aware and also generate products, services and content that cannot be created unless putting minds, creativity and skills together. In order to achieve mentioned goals, DCN GLOBAL will has three units: 1) Training 2) Research 3) Innovation/Action.

InfoCulture is Russian Open Government NGO dedicated to open data and open government. Founded in 2012 it created multiple Open Data projects like Clearspending, OpenNGO, Hub of data and many others. Every year we organize Open data day in Russia and other open data related events. Other of our priorities are on plain language and digital preservation initiatives.

Open Data Kosovo is a civic-tech organization based in Prishtina, Kosovo focused on government transparency pertaining to open and good governance. Accessibility to government data, ICT-educated youth, and active citizenship lie at the heart of ODK’s mission. ODK’s work has started with the development of a procurement data visualizer and analyzer called e-prokurimi.org. This platform raised red-flags on suspicious contracts awarded by a municipality. Besides, ODK has developed the first open data portal for Kosovo in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Administration in Kosovo. Following ODK’s recent work, digitizing public procurement processes through the development of impactful digital solutions via high-end technologies has remained at the core of its mission. In addition, young leaders at Open Data Kosovo were included in the Forbes’ 30 under 30 Europe list. The nomination highlights ODK’s work in developing impact-driven software to support advocacy groups and policy-makers so that they may efficiently operate in the digital age.

UNDP Serbia. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) works in around 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. UNDP helps countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results. The UNDP office in Serbia has been working on establishing and supporting a dynamic open data ecosystem since 2014. Its work has helped establish the national Open Data Portal, introduce open data into Serbia’s legal framework, raise the capacities of different sectors (government, civil society, media, private companies and startups, as well as academia) for working with open data, and facilitate the opening of more than 2000 data resources. Additionally, UNDP works actively to engage both data holders and data users, hence creating a feedback loop that can continually improve the quality of open data in Serbia. The network of UNDP offices across the Western Balkans allows the exchange of expertise and resources across the region, thus presenting a solid foundation for enabling a regional open data ecosystem.

Latin America

ILDA is a Latin American organization based in Uruguay that seeks to address public policy issues in the region through reflecting and promoting ethical uses of data. Since 2012 ILDA has developed applied research to advance the open data field and connect evidence and policy makers. ILDA was in charge of delivering the LAC report of the Open Data Barometer in 2016, using the Web Foundation methodology and data. ILDA took a closer look at the performance of the 11 countries in the Latin America region featured in that Barometer edition. ILDA is currently in charge of the Open Data Barometer 2020, LAC edition. It is the host organization for the Global Data Barometer project. 

Middle East and North Africa

The Center for Continuing Education (CCE) at Birzeit University is the University’s  community outreach arm working in the areas of educational reform, professional and organizational development, enterprising & entrepreneurship and capacity building for the current and future work with special focus on data skills. It was established in 1991 and has since worked with various sectors and stakeholders to carry out training and development projects and programs. In the past few years, the Center has been working on several data projects with regional partners and is acting as the MENA OD4D node.

North America 

The Center for Open Data Enterprise and Open North are collaborating to cover Canada and the United States together; this is currently a prospective hub.

The Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE) is an independent nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. CODE’s mission is to maximize the value of open and shared data for the public good, by working with government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and researchers who are both data providers and data users. Since it was founded in January 2015, CODE has held more than two dozen Roundtables and Workshops with the White House, federal agencies, and international governments and organizations focusing on topics including medical research and health care, climate and the environment, and private-sector use of open data. CODE has also developed informational materials and recommendations to promote the use of government data and public-private collaboration. CODE developed and maintains the Open Data Impact Map, a global project funded by IDRC, which is the largest searchable, sortable database of examples of open data applications.  For more information, please visit www.odenterprise.org

Open North. Founded in 2011 in Montreal, Open North is Canada’s leading not-for-profit organization specializing in open smart cities, governance and data management, open governments, partnerships, data sharing, digital inclusion, open sourcing and AI ethics. We work with research partners, public and private partners and with different stakeholders to promote the effective, responsible and collaborative use of data and information in the technologies and solve complex problems. We encourage peer networking on data and technology, both nationally and internationally, in order to amplify our collective influence. We convene communities of practice and practitioners and connect public administrators, researchers, civic leaders, and eminent practitioners with thinkers and practitioners. For more information, please visit www.opennorth.ca.

Pacific Island States

SPC – The Pacific Community is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. We are an international development organisation owned and governed by our 26 country and territory members. We work for the well-being of Pacific people through the effective and innovative application of science and knowledge, guided by a deep understanding of Pacific Island contexts and cultures.

Sub-Saharan Africa 

The Local development Research Institute (LDRI) is an action-oriented non-profit think tank based in Nairobi whose work contributes to the efforts of African governments to end extreme poverty, end hunger and reduce inequalities. LDRI’s work is organised in two main practice areas focusing on the use of data for development practice and evidence informed decision making and covering themes such as agriculture, open government, gender equality, health, education and energy. LDRI’s work seeks to inform public policy in favour of an improved enabling environment, strengthening human capital development and mobilising domestic financing for better development outcomes. Through its Africa Open Data Network Program, LDRI is currently providing technical assistance to four African countries in strengthening evidence-informed decision-making.