On May 11th, the new Global Data Barometer (GDB) launched the results of its first edition. This event was the culmination of two years of work that I will try to summarize in this post.
Let me start by saying that the goal of the Barometer is to provide a new benchmark and the key data needed to better understand the state of data for public good around the globe. It draws on primary data from a global expert survey carried out in mid-2021 in 109 countries, which has been combined with secondary data from trusted sources to generate a range of metrics. The period assessed is May 2019 to May 2021.
As this is a collective effort, I’d like to acknowledge all the people (the team as well as consultants) and organizations (regional and thematic partners) that have been a key part of this project. Without them it wouldn’t have been possible to get to this point and deliver the results.
The global data agenda has changed dramatically over the last ten years. Initially, the main focus was on openness—particularly of public data—under the assumption that better open data would deliver better development outcomes. That’s the reason the Open Data Barometer (ODB)—the predecessor of our study—was set up in the first place. Today, we are talking and thinking much more about issues such as privacy, protection of human rights in the development of technological interventions, AI, digital security, inclusion, and data governance within countries and across them. All these topics can no longer be ignored. This increased complexity of the data agenda has, at best, only been partially reflected in global measurements, until now.
So, in this context, the GDB has been designed to respond to these issues and to fill critical knowledge gaps on how data policy and practices are unfolding in different sectors, regions, and countries around the world.
In this first edition we have included 109 countries, which were coordinated by 12 regional hubs and the support of 6 thematic partners. 39 indicators were answered in each of the surveys and thus we have collected more than 60000 data points. Inside the report and on the website, you will also find information on more than 1100 datasets, more than 900 frameworks, and also more than 70 open data initiatives.
All these data were collected through four pillars: data governance, capabilities, availability, and the use and impact of data for public good. All 39 indicators feed these 4 pillars via two core modules (which assess data governance and capabilities throughout a country) and 7 thematic modules.
You can see the structure here.
In order to gather all this data, regional partners hired national researchers, who were trained according to our Research Handbook and all the materials we provided. And after the researchers did the fieldwork, with the help of coordinators in each of the regional hubs, a review was conducted with the support of our thematic partners. All this process took place during the second half of 2021.
In spite of all the reviews and changes, responses and justifications are available on our website, as well as a feedback channel in order to share any comments or questions to help us continue to improve our work moving forward. We are currently working on a way to keep improving the dataset during the next few months. Will keep you all posted.
The data collected allows us to show how countries are performing against each module. However, it is important to highlight that the GDB is more of a Rating than a Ranking – primary indicators and scores are based on a 0 – 100 scale, where 100 is designed to measure ‘best practices’ defined against internationally agreed frameworks. Thus, while comparisons between countries can be used to look for relative strengths and weaknesses, the greater value in this model is in showing individual areas for improvement in each country and enabling them to target and track improvements over time.
More importantly, the Barometer norms are designed to be attainable. In that sense, If we take the maximum score given on each indicator, and construct an imaginary country that combines the best performance found across each of the countries, it would score 95.92, proving that virtually all countries should be able to attain high scores with time and effort.
Some key findings
Climate Action and Covid data
Nowadays, two of the most urgent matters affecting the world are Climate Action and Covid, however the way in which data is produced and published related to these issues varies significantly. For example, the global response to COVID-19 has demonstrated that new data infrastructures can be built rapidly, yet when it comes to climate data, there are significant gaps in the availability of emissions, biodiversity, and climate vulnerability datasets, as shown in these 2 graphics.
Data that should be available to support local action on combating, and adapting to, climate change is often only available in aggregated and out-of-date forms. Our evidence has the potential to support participatory action on improving climate data ecosystems by helping communities to identify and compare good practices.
This is the largest module of our survey. In that sense, there is a wealth of information in the Barometer related to political integrity, but the main takeaway is that if countries, that are already providing political integrity information online, were to shift from paper-based processes to collecting and publishing structured data, they could unlock new approaches to accountability.
Although a lack of interoperability among political integrity datasets remains a key problem in many countries, our data can be used to explore bright-spots and examples of best-practices.
We have also provided new baseline evidence on the prevalence of rules for disclosure, and we highlight the lack of structured data available, for example, related to lobbying, marking a target for greater disclosure to be tracked in the future.
Public Finance and Contracting
The relatively high levels of structured and open data publication detected by our survey for government budget and spending data, as well as for public procurement data, suggest a positive influence of global campaigns and capacity-building initiatives in promoting data publication and use.
However, a closer look at the available data also reveals that while data is increasingly available on the ‘input’ side of public investment (e.g. budget allocations, contracting tenders and awards, etc.), there is significant progress still to be made in tracking the ‘output’ side (for example, by providing joined-up data on the implementation of contracts, or the details on the impact of spending, particularly on issues of equity and sustainable development).
There is a large amount of information regarding the other modules as well as the 4 pillars. Some general findings, we would like to highlight are:
- Developing and using data for the public good is possible. As mentioned, virtually all the norms established by the Barometer are, in theory, attainable today, however the scores show us that there is still a long way to go.
- Also, when thinking about open data, still a key component of these measurements, we could say that the Open data agenda is still alive, but no longer progressing in a linear way. It is not increasing at the same rate that it was a few years ago.
- In that sense, although new national open data initiatives have launched since 2016, others have disappeared completely. However, in those instances where initiatives have been sustained, they are often now better resourced and more embedded than they were in the past, and open data principles have been embedded in a number of sectoral initiatives.
- Capacity gaps (skills, training, infrastructure) remain a significant barrier to delivering value from data. While the digital divide may be narrowing in some places, gaps still exist across government, the private sector, and civil society in their ability to create and use data for the public good.
- Another key takeaway is that well-drafted frameworks deliver better data. When rules are explicit about data collection, management, and sharing, data is much more likely to be available, useful, and sustainable in addressing any number of issues for the public good.
- And lastly, collaboration between traditional civil society organizations and civic technologists, or between journalists and private sector application providers, are driving new uses of data that highlight corruption, promote public integrity, monitor environmental issues, or shape public policy debate.
- There is also clear evidence that partnerships and the work of international organizations, in terms of advocacy of certain topics, is showing results in terms of advancing the data agenda.
You can learn more about each of these cases of use in our report, as well as in the qualitative data on our website. However, to finish this post, we would like to provide a few final recommendations, or key actions, for the field based on our results for further discussion today and moving forward.
Those who want to realize the potential value of data for the public good must work together to:
- Strengthen leadership and strategies to scale up and embed the skills, infrastructure, and freedoms required for data to be governed and used for the public good.
- Develop robust data sharing frameworks, including at the sub-national level, so that potential data abuses are limited, and the positive re-use of data is enabled.
- Deepen the emphasis on equity and inclusion, recognizing that data governance, capability, availability, and use all need to explicitly consider the needs of marginalized populations.
- And lastly, increase the transparency of government data use by making the public more aware of when governments are collecting, sharing, or using data. This can promote more accountable data practices, and support greater collaboration across sectors in using data effectively.
Once again I invite everybody to explore our website to check out all the results – by country, by module, also, additional findings. So, visit globaldatabarometer.org to check out all this data and much more!