Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), in Georgia, is a regional hub for the 2021 edition of the Global Data Barometer coordinating 12 countries in Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. Founded in 2009, IDFI Georgia was created to advocate for transparency by working on openness, transparency and improvement of access to public information.
IDFI is involved in data protection initiatives and has developed Open Data Lab to support the use of data by different stakeholders. They believe that when data is open, society has a better understanding of the government’s actions and holds it accountable. IDFI is currently advocating for the release of beneficial ownership data as open data in Georgia to counter elite-corruption.
Q: You do a lot of work to support democratic governance in Georgia, how can data collected by the GDB help you in your anti-corruption efforts?
The Global Data Barometer will be a very important tool for our advocacy work. Data produced in this first edition will help us to promote data openness with decision makers in different sectors.
Anti-corruption and integrity issues are very important. The country is facing high levels of elite-corruption. To address this we are advocating for publishing of beneficial ownership data and endorsement of beneficial ownership standards, focusing on access to public procurement data.
Q: One of your current projects is on promoting personal data protection in Georgia. What does this entail and what are some of the positive outcomes you expect to see at the end of this project?
When you are advocating for accessibility of public information, protection of personal data is very important. Countries like Georgia sometimes have tendencies to protect public officials or to close particular data as very sensitive data by claiming that this information is personal data. For example, according to our legislation, there is a distinction between data, which could be published about high officials and data which cannot be published like salaries and bonuses. We went to court and the Constitutional Court ruled in our favor arguing based on our appeal that any decision taken in the process of administration of justice should be open unless there is a reasonable need to restrict access to it. We are waiting for parliament to adopt relevant changes to the legislation which ensures implementation of this court decision.
We want to ensure that there is a balance between access to public information and protection of personal data. So that’s why we want to be engaged in this discussion and ensure that legislation is properly interpreted by different agencies.
Q: As advocates for open governance, what key projects are you undertaking to ensure that more people use data?
We have been promoting use of data by different stakeholders from the very beginning when IDFI was established. One of our projects supported by Luminate aims at increasing public oversight of state institutions, and increasing transparency and accountability of the government of Georgia. We also have another project supported by the International Russia Growth Fund and now we have elaborated a special guidebook on open data. As well as another guidebook and practical toolkit for data journalists. The main aim of these toolkits is to provide practical information and guidance to different stakeholders about use, processing and analyzing and collecting data.
We also launched Open Data Lab as a way for people to have access to data. The site has data on 12 topics including local government, public administration, transport, finance, and education that can be used for conducting research or creating mobile applications.