Featured NOI GovLab Blog

Toward Evidence-Based Open Governance by Curating and Exchanging Research: OGRX 2.0

The Open Governance Research Exchange (OGRX) is a platform that seeks to identify, collect and share curated insights on new ways of solving public problems. It was created last year by the GovLab, World Bank Digital Engagement Evaluation Team and mySociety. Today, while more than 3000 representatives from more than 70 countries are gathering in Paris for the Open Government Partnership Summit, we are launching OGRX 2.0 with new features and functionalities to further help users identify the signal in the noise of research and evidence on more innovative means of governing.
What are the goals behind OGRX?
The field of research on topics falling under the banner of open governance is rapidly growing and evolving. Identifying the most important findings remains challenging, however, and important work often resides behind paywalls. OGRX seeks to improve the visibility and accessibility of open governance research – across domains like open data, crowdsourcing and civic tech – through curation, a submission form for users to share important publications and a detailed taxonomy to help users browse and find the research that fits their needs.
What is new?
First, the new OGRX Blog provides an outlet for more easily digestible and shareable insights from the open governance research community. OGRX currently features over 600 publications on governance innovation – but how to digest and identify insights? This space will provide summaries of important works, analyses of key trends in the field of research, and guest posts from researchers working at the leading edge of governance innovation across regions and domains. Check back often to stay on top of what’s new in open governance research.
Second, the new OGRX Selected Readings series offers curated reading lists from well-known experts in open governance. These Selected Readings will give readers a sense of how to jumpstart their knowledge by focusing on those publications that have been curated by those in the known about the topics at hand. Today we are launching this new series with the Selected Readings on Civic Technology, curated by mySociety’s head of research Rebecca Rumbul; and the Selected Readings on Policy Informatics, curated by Erik Johnston of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Opening Governance and director of the Arizona State University Center for Policy Informatics. New Selected Readings will be posted each month, so check back often!
Help us develop this joint resource on Open Governance
These new developments are only the beginning of our efforts to increase the utility of OGRX and work toward more evidence based open governance. Future efforts could include a forum for researchers to share insights and best practices and a project inventory to help researchers identify partners and avoid duplicative efforts. Watch this space and #OGRX to stay abreast of new developments.
And if you are interested in becoming an OGRX partner, developing a Selected Readings list or penning a guest post for the OGRX blog, please contact Andrew Young, OGRX editor-in-chief at We’d also love to hear your feedback on the platform and any ideas you might have about how to ensure that it is as useful to the community of open governance researchers, policymakers and practitioners as possible.

CrowdSourcing Featured NOI GovLab Blog

Fighting Zika: The Need for Sustained But Flexible Messaging

By Carlos Scartascini

Over the last year, newspapers and television stations in the Americas have reported hundreds of stories about the Zika epidemic. The media is flooded with news accounts of people suffering from temporary paralysis, infants with brain damage, and the fears the virus has unleashed, especially among pregnant women.

Yet despite these accounts — and thousands of warnings by governments, scientific organizations, and NGOs–large swathes of the population still fail to take the mosquito-borne disease seriously. By now Zika has swept through 45 countries. There have been more than 1 million suspected cases in Brazil alone and some 1700 incidentsthere of Zika-linked fetal brain damage. Latin America and the Caribbean, the epicenter for the disease, could suffer Zika-related losses this year of around US$3.5 billion, including forfeited tourism and productivity, according to World Bank estimates. Puerto Rico has been devastated. Still, many people in these areas feel that Zika poses no risk to them personally or that combatting the disease is out of their hands, posing a major challenge in a crisis in which individual prevention provides the best weapon.

I recently participated in an online conference sponsored by the IDB and the Governance Lab at New York University, aimed at overcoming these barriers and spurring people to action. Together the two organizations are hosting a series of online conferences between August and October of this year in partnership with the governments of Argentina, Panama, Colombia and the city of Rio de Janeiro. The idea is to bring experts together from around the world to find ways to communicate risks more effectively in fighting the disease.

Part of the problem, many experts agree, lies in changing the perception of risk. People tend to fear an illness if a family member, friend or the friend of a friend has been afflicted. They also may pay attention if a famous personality, like Barak Obama or Salma Hayek, succumbs. Otherwise, warnings can seem like an abstraction. One minute people hear there have been thousands of new cases of Zika over the last month in Brazil. The next minute they hear there were no cases of Zika at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. What is a person to believe? The challenge of making the public understand that an epidemic is close-at-hand, virulent and unyielding, while not overstating the risks, is enormous. Authorities must shake people from their apathy. But they also have to prevent them from panicking, so they don’t overuse insecticides or repellents, resign themselves to the inevitability of infection, or fail to take an epidemic seriously the next time it strikes.

Another challenge is getting people to realize that their action, or failure to act, affects them not only as individuals, but society as a whole. This is particularly important when it comes to Zika and other diseases, like dengue and chikungunya, which are spread by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. There is no vaccine for these diseases. Moreover, mosquito nets don’t help: the mosquitos bite in the day, not at night. That means people can best protect themselves by also protecting those around them: by eliminating things that collect the standing water where Aedes aegypti breeds, like old tires, garbage cans, plastic bags, flower pots and soda cans, and by participating in pesticide-spraying efforts.

Fashioning forceful and precisely targeted messages to get people to do so is crucial. One approach is through personal visits by authorities. These, as seen in an IDB study of efforts against tax evasion in Colombia, can be highly effective. Community Health Agents in Brazil, for example, have been going house to house to inform rich and poor residents alike about measures to fightAedes aegypti.

Other kinds of messaging work best by focusing on particular sub-sectors of the population. Radio and television can engage older persons or less educated ones. Social media hones in better on younger people or NGOs. And in Virginia, one young mosquito biologist even wrote and produced ahip-hop video, in which he can be seen online in a backwards baseball cap, rapping about the use of repellent and the emptying of water containers. “Don’t get sick with Zika from the bite of a mosquit-a,” he repeats.

Whatever the approach of a given time and place, the key is ensuring that anti-Zika campaigns are sustained and mold to changing circumstances. That means not relaxing communication efforts during seasons when the mosquito is less active. And it means modifying them as good and bad news about the disease filters through and people’s perceptions of risk shifts. Just as private advertisers tailor their ads to fit new fashion trends and politicians reshape their political ads to suit the mood of the political season, authorities and their private partners in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases must always be ready to monitor beliefs and perceptions and revise the information, the message and the form of communication accordingly.

The struggle will be long. A genetically-modified version of Aedes aegyptiwith a lethal gene is currently being bred in captivity. It is being released into neighborhoods with the hope that it will kill off its own offspring and dramatically bring down the mosquito’s population. Researchers also are working on ways to infect the insect with a bacterium that would stop virus transmission. But these and other high-tech solutions are still years away from being widely applied. For now, the best solutions are elemental ones of trash and water disposal, repellent and targeted insecticide use, and permanent vigilance. In that battle, effective — and flexible — messaging, along with continuous monitoring to see what works and what doesn’t are the best remedies.

This post was originally published in the Ideas Matter Blog of the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Featured NOI GovLab Blog

Meet us in Paris?

For the third consecutive year The GovLab is getting ready to participate in the Open Government Partnership Global Summit. This year’s OGP Summit will be held in Paris, France on December 7th-9th. The annual event’s international collection of representatives from across sectors will once again “gather to share their experiences and best practices and push forward the open government global agenda in light of the great challenges of the modern world.”
Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 5.53.02 PM
We are eager to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones at this year’s OGP Summit – but we don’t want to wait until December to get the conversation started. We want to hear from you. Please share your feedback on the knowledge-sharing sessions, collaborative workshops and other engagements we are preparing for the Summit. What are you hoping to learn at this year’s event?


Problem Definition for Open Innovation and Public Engagement: Defining Public Problems to Enable Collaborative Problem Solving.
Workable solutions demand a clear and compelling problem definition. This workshop will help you think more critically about defining, scoping, shaping and articulating public problems you want the community to solve through open innovation and citizen engagement practices. See the full proposal here.
Unlocking Expertise in Governance Innovation
Through this workshop we want to better understand how OGP participants currently access expertise and share knowledge regarding open government interventions, to the end of collaboratively developing strategies and tools for making expertise more accessible within and across OGP governments. In particular, we will seek to gain user feedback and insight to aid in the continued development of the Network of Innovators platform, which seeks to enable governance innovators to share experience and know how to the end of accelerating the adoption of open government innovations. See the full proposal here.


Open Data: If you build it, will they come…?
Through this roundtable we want to define strategies for identifying and promoting the demand side of open data and increasing the alignment between supply and demand to expand the use and uptake of open data for social and economic development. In particular, we hope to collaboratively craft a framework for responsibly leveraging intermediaries, cross-sector “data collaboratives” and other demand-side entities to amplify open data’s ability to improve people’s lives – at the international, national and city level. See the full proposal here.


Open Innovation for Solving Public Problems in Latin American Cities: Case study of San Pedro Garza García, México.
Listen to the story of our pilot project, testing open innovation for solving public problems in Latin American cities. Through the pitch we will share why we decided to launch the project, showcase how it worked, explain the process of its design and the lessons we learned. Ultimately, we want to demonstrate the value of open innovation to tap into the skills, talents and abilities of diverse citizens to solve social problems more quickly and effectively. See the full proposal here.

You can send us your feedback through the discussion button at the bottom of each proposal. Looking forward to hearing from you, and hope to see you in Paris!

CrowdSourcing Featured NOI GovLab Blog Smarter Governance

Smarter Crowdsourcing for Zika

According to the World Health Organization, vectors, those living organisms that transmit diseases between humans or from animals to humans, such as mosquitos, account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than 1 million deaths annually. Although than 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting Dengue alone, the recent linkage of the Zika virus to serious fetal brain defects – and the absence of a foolproof vaccine – has spurred global attention to the question of how to prevent infection. Global and complex public health emergencies, such as Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, and other vector-borne diseases threaten public health and well being, risk disruption to global and regional trade and economic stability, and cause widespread uncertainty and concern. People look to traditional institutions, at the local, national and international level, to act effectively and quickly eradicate problems.
But how do public officials discover the most effective and especially the most innovative actions to take to address such complex issues as Zika?
To assess what people know and what they misunderstand about Zika, typically governments conduct face-to-face or telephonic household surveys. How is a public health official to learn that mining what people post on Twitter and Facebook has been usefully done to gauge awareness of Malaria and foodborne illness in other regions?
To eliminate standing water in trash where the mosquitos that cause Zika can breed, typically governments rely on municipal trash collection services. How is a public works official in Latin America to know that in Pakistan, they introduced the use of a smart phone app to coordinate anti-Dengue measures and cases decreased from 21,000 to 258 over the one-year when the tool was introduced?
Above all, how can those responsible for managing Zika connect with those who possess the practical know how about what works, what doesn’t and how to implement innovative new approaches?
This is where Smarter Crowdsourcing comes in. The Governance Lab and the Inter-American Development Bank in partnership with the Governments of the City of Rio de Janeiro, Argentina, Colombia and Panama, are hosting a series of online conferences taking place August-October 2016 to identify those at a local and global level with relevant experience, skills, and know-how and, above all, with creative ideas for how governments and the public can fight Zika.
What is crowdsourcing?
 Technology can help to accelerate communication among, and engagement with, widely dispersed experts. The process of using the Internet to solicit such help from a distributed audience or “crowd” is known as “crowdsourcing.”
Typically, crowdsourcing involves putting out an open call inviting all corners to help. Enlisting the aid of a large audience can augment the manpower and wisdom of those inside an organization and help to accomplish many tasks more quickly, such as when an organization turns to the crowd to help classify thousands of photos of space for NASA to advance our understanding of how galaxies form or to help digitize records to help a public institution quickly create a digital archive.
The open call of traditional “crowdsourcing” is not sufficient. By itself, crowdsourcing is too “hit or miss” because crowdsourcing relies on the happenstance of having the right people learn about the opportunity to participate and wanting to do so. It may not attract the people with the right know-how quickly enough. Typically, crowdsourcing works well when the need is to perform small tasks without a high degree of complexity and it almost does not matter who participates.
What is Smarter Crowdsourcing?
In the case of serious and time sensitive challenges such as mosquito borne diseases, what’s needed is to marry the agility and diversity of crowdsourcing (also called open innovation) with curation to target those with relevant know-how and bring them together in a format designed to produce effective and implementable outcomes.
This more targeted form of crowdsourcing, which quickly matches the demand for expertise to the supply of it, is what we call “smarter crowdsourcing.”
The GovLab has deep expertise with designing smarter crowdsourcing projects. We designed the first smarter crowdsourcing program for the United States Government when we convened scientific and technical experts to help the United States Patent and Trademark Office get the information it needs to make a more informed determination about pending patent applications. We married an online open call with extensive curation to attract knowledgeable participants and replicated the project in several countries, leading to a statutory change to enable citizen engagement in patent practice in the United States.
More recently, the GovLab designed and ran a smarter crowdsourcing project to help government officials in Quito, Ecuador prepare for the imminent eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano, which was spewing ash for the first time in over a century. In that program, we worked with the municipal government and nonprofit organizations to develop a more nuanced understanding of the public health problems needing to be tackled in connection with the Volcano, including how to notify citizens without causing alarm, how to manage especially vulnerable populations and their evacuation and care, how to deal with the overwhelming demand for key health services, and how to mobilize distributed medical and other emergency personnel.
Over sixty-five experts joined two months of online discussions. In between sessions, the GovLab debriefed with government officials to discuss what we learned. This process led to the development and testing of a new citizen reporting platform as well as new mapping and sensing initiatives and an effort to create an expert network to mobilize medical personnel.
How Will Smarter Crowdsourcing: Zika Work?
 This four-month initiative will target and mobilize global expertise to help governments in Latin America prepare for and respond to mosquito borne viruses and to generate innovative and implementable solutions to the challenge posed by major infectious disease outbreaks in the region, in particular those transmitted by mosquitoes. Instead of a handful of people meeting once at great expense in a conference room, we will use the Internet to make it easy for people to lend their time and know-how and deliberate with one another to identify, design and iterate upon implementable ideas that governments can use.
To participate, please request an invitation here.

BigData Featured NOI GovLab Academy GovLab Blog

Strategies for Responsible Data Sharing between Administrative Agencies – A Presentation to the Arnold Foundation Data Driven Criminal Justice Projects Coaching Program

The goal of the Data Driven Criminal Justice Projects Coaching Program, supported by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and organized by The GovLab, is to support the work of public entrepreneurs trying to improve people’s lives. The twenty teams and individuals participating are among those who are fighting to improve the criminal justice system and who have asked for help integrating new technology into hidebound bureaucracies or developing approaches for sharing data responsibly.
Starting the second week of June, the GovLab, an action research institute based at New York University, has been providing skill-based coaching and expert mentoring to practitioners who share a common desire to make greater use of data to understand past performance, improve day-to-day operations, and develop innovative enhancements to the operations of the criminal justice system.  We are supporting work at the local level, for example, to build a better recidivism risk profile, develop a process for matching the supply and demand of crisis psychiatric beds to reduce the number of mentally ill people going to jail, and identifying how many juveniles are sent to juvenile hall versus those who are diverted to other programs.
During the third online group session of the coaching program on July 13, we brought in experts on data sharing between administrative agencies to help those working on projects designed to enable the sharing of information between criminal justice and mental health agencies, in particular. More details about the session here.
The first of those presentations was by Stefaan Verhulst, Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer at the GovLab, who spoke about frameworks for responsible data sharing :
Overview of the presentation: In this presentation, Stefaan focused on how to develop data driven criminal justice initiatives in a responsible manner. There are substantial risks across the data life cycle –collection, analysis and use of data– that, if not addressed or mitigated, may harm the intended beneficiaries (in terms of harmful disclosure of sensitive information or negative profiling) or those part of the initiative (in terms of reputation, liability and otherwise). By applying a four step process organizations can establish responsible data practices that are embedded from the outset of a project.
Please find the slide-deck of presentation here.

Featured NOI GovLab Blog

We Want to Hear from You: What Is the Value of Open Data for Developing Economies?

Recent years have witnessed considerable speculation about the potential of open data to bring about wide-scale transformation. The bulk of existing evidence about the impact of open data, however, focuses on high-income countries. Much less is known about open data’s role and value in low- and middle-income countries, and more generally about its possible contributions to economic and social development. The field lacks a coherent Theory of Change for how and in what contexts open data supports or hampers development.
Today, the GovLab launches a new project – commissioned by the Mobile Solutions, Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) program funded by the Global Development Lab at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in collaboration with the Web Foundation – that seeks to build an evidence base on open data for developing economies by identifying:

  • The conditions under which open data is most (and least) effective in the development process;
  • Strategies to maximize the positive contributions of open data to development; and
  • Means for limiting open data’s harm on developing countries.

To tap into the expertise of the global open data field and to be inclusive of different views on the subject we are calling upon the community to share evidence and suggestions for possible case studies.
In particular, we’d like to hear about:

  • Existing research on open data in developing economies (which we will add to the Open Government Research Exchange at;
  • Impactful releases and use-cases of open data across various objectives and sectors;

By being inclusive and collaborative, we hope to develop actions, deliverables, and resources that can support the field-at-large, including:

  • Taking stock of current findings investigating the value of open data in low and middle-income contexts by carrying out a landscaping that examines existing research;
  • Developing a collection of  in-depth, illustrative and detailed case studies to better understand how developing countries are responding to public demand (if at all)  to open their data, who is making use of that data and for what, and what impact it is having in several key domains. These case studies will be built with close attention to contextual conditions and in particular the effects of varying geographies, sectors, and types of users or data. Particular emphasis will be placed on identifying and reviewing strategies that may be replicable in different contexts.

Initial findings and recommendations will be shared at the International Open Data Conference on October 6 and 7, 2016 in Madrid.
For more information on the Open Data for Developing Economies project, or if you have suggestions and recommendations for research and case studies to be included in our analysis please contact Stefaan Verhulst, the GovLab’s Chief Research and Development Officer ( or tweet @thegovlab #opendata.
Discuss Open Data for Developing Economies on Network of Innovators.

Featured NOI GovLab Blog

Just released: Mapping and Comparing Responsible Data Approaches

Recent years have witnessed something of a sea-change in the way humanitarian organizations consider and use data. Growing awareness of the potential of data has led to new enthusiasm and new, innovative applications that seek to respond to and mitigate crises in fresh ways. At the same time, it has become apparent that the potential benefits are accompanied by risks. A new framework is needed that can help balance the benefits and risks, and that can aid humanitarian organizations and others (e.g., policymakers) develop a more responsible approach to data collection and use in their efforts to combat natural and man-made crises around the world.  In May we released together with UNOCHA , Leiden University and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, a think-piece to inform the World Humanitarian Summit on the need for such a framework to build “data responsibility into humanitarian action”.
Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.31.58 AMThe report we are releasing today, “Mapping and Comparing Responsible Data Approaches”, attempts to guide the first steps toward such a framework by learning from current approaches and principles. It is the outcome of a joint research project commissioned by UNOCHA and conducted in collaboration between the GovLab at NYU and Leiden University. In an effort to better understand the landscape, we have considered existing data use policies and principles from 17 organizations. These include 7 UN agencies, 7 International Organizations, 2 government agencies and 1 research institute. Our study of these organizations’ policies allowed us to extract a number of key takeaways that, together, amount to something like a roadmap for responsible data use for any humanitarian organization considering using data in new ways.
We began our research by closely mapping the existing responsible data use policies. To do this, we developed a template with eight broad themes that determines the key ingredients of responsible data framework. This use of a consistent template across organizations permits us to study and compare the 17 data use policies in a structured and systematic manner. Based on this template, we were able to extract 7 key takeaways for what works best when using data in a humanitarian context – presented in the conclusion to the paper being released today. They are designed to be broad enough to be broadly applicable, yet specific enough to be operational and actually usable.
We are mindful that the research being presented here represents only an initial step toward better understanding the use of data in humanitarian contexts and that there are other approaches one can learn from. As much as our specific findings, we are also hopeful that the paper and our methodology can serve to further a necessary conversation around some of the important issues confronting humanitarian organizations, policymakers, and anyone else involved in humanitarian action. We welcome your comments and suggestions, which you can share below or by sending us an email (stefaan at

Featured NOI GovLab Blog

2nd Open Data Research Summit

We are pleased to announce that the second Open Data Research Symposium (#ODRS16) will be held on October 5, 2016 prior to the International Open Data Conference 2016 in Madrid, Spain.

Call for Abstracts

Deadline: May 30, 2016

As open data becomes entrenched in the policy mainstream, there is an ongoing need to delve deeper into the dynamics of open data practice. At the same time, there is a need to maintain a critical perspective and to develop empirically-tested theories on open data.
Researchers across the world have been exploring various issues around the supply, use and impact of open data. The Second Open Data Research Symposium offer researchers an opportunity to share their research and to formulate the open data research agenda.
In due course, we will be inviting input from the open data community on how they would like to shape the open data research agenda.
Submissions that reflect critically on the following themes are invited:

  • Theoretical framing of open data as a concept and a movement;
  • Use and impacts of open data in specific countries or specific sectors;
  • The making, implementation, and institutionalisation of open data policy;
  • Capacity-building for wider availability and use of open data;
  • Conceptualising open data ecosystems and intermediaries;
  • Entrepreneurial usage and open data economies in developing countries;
  • Linkages between transparency, freedom of information and open data communities;
  • Measurement of open data policy and practices, including methods for assessing the impact of open data;
  • Critical challenges for open data: privacy, exclusion and abuse; and
  • Situating open data in the global governance and developmental contexts.

Submissions are invited from all disciplines, though with an emphasis on empirical social research. Doctoral students and early-career researchers are particularly encouraged to submit abstracts.

Submission Details

Extended abstracts in English of up to 1,200 words, detailing the question addressed by the research, methods employed and findings should be submitted via the EasyChair website by May 30, 2016.
Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit full papers. Full papers of accepted abstracts will be due by September 1, 2016.


Travel support is available for selected presenters from developing countries.
Accepted papers will be published in a peer reviewed open access journal or conference proceedings.

Programming Committee

  • Stefaan Verhulst (The GovLab, NYU Tandon School of Engineering) (Co-chair)
  • Francois van Schalkwyk (World Wide Web Foundation & Stellenbosch University) (Co-chair)
  • Katie Clancy (IDRC/OD4D)
  • Emmy Chirchir (Munster University)
  • Gisele Craveiro (University of Sao Paulo)
  • Tim Davies (University of Southampton)
  • Kyujin Jung (Tennessee State University)
  • Gustavo Magalhaes (UT Austin | Portugal CoLab)
  • Michelle McLeod (University of the West Indies)
  • Fernando Perini (IDRC)
  • Stefania Milan (University of Amsterdam)
  • Andrew Young (The GovLab, NYU Tandon School of Engineering)

For further information on ODRS16, including the call for abstracts, key dates, venue or any other details, please contact either Francois or Stefaan, or visit the symposium website.

Featured NOI GovLab Blog

RELEASE: Open Data Impact: When Demand and Supply Meet

Key Findings of the Open Data Impact Case Studies

By Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young

Today, in “Open Data Impact: When Demand and Supply Meet,” the GovLab and Omidyar Network release key findings about the social, economic, cultural and political impact of open data. The findings are based on 19 detailed case studies of open data projects from around the world. These case studies were prepared in order to address an important shortcoming in our understanding of when, and how, open data works. While there is no shortage of enthusiasm for open data’s potential, nor of conjectural estimates of its hypothetical impact, few rigorous, systematic analyses exist of its concrete, real-world impact.

About the case studies and

The 19 case studies that inform this report, all of which can be found at Open Data’s Impact (, a website specially set up for this project, were chosen for their geographic and sectoral representativeness. They seek to go beyond the descriptive (what happened) to the explanatory (why it happened, and what is the wider relevance or impact).
Each case study was built using a combination of desk research of existing evidence of impact and, especially, in-depth interviews with key players and stakeholders. An early version of each case study was also made available online and subjected to an open peer-review process. The paper released today includes valuable feedback and comments received as part of this process.
In order to systematically interpret the resulting data, we prepared an analytical framework that we applied across the 19 case studies. This framework examines open data projects through three categories, each of which is briefly described below, and examined at greater length in the accompanying paper:

  • Key dimensions of impact;
  • Key enabling conditions;
  • Key challenges.

Dimensions of Impact

Across geographies and sectors, we uncovered four common areas where open data is having an impact (positive or negative):

  • Improving Government: Open data is improving government, primarily by tackling corruption and increasing transparency, and enhancing public services and resource allocation.
  • Empowering Citizens: Open data is empowering citizens to take control of their lives and demand change by enabling more informed decision making and new forms of social mobilization, both in turn facilitated by new ways of communicating and accessing information.
  • Creating Opportunity: Open data is creating new opportunities for citizens and organizations, by fostering innovation and promoting economic growth and job creation.
  • Solving Public Problems: Open data is playing an increasingly important role in solving big public problems, primarily by allowing citizens and policymakers access to new forms of data-driven assessment of the problems at hand. It also enables data-driven engagement, producing more targeted interventions and enhanced collaboration.

Enabling Conditions

In order to achieve the potential of open data and scale the impact of the individual projects discussed in our report, we need a better – and more granular – understanding of the enabling conditions that lead to success. We found 4 central conditions (“4Ps”) that play an important role in ensuring success:

  • Partnerships: Intermediaries and data collaboratives play an important role in ensuring success, allowing for enhanced matching of supply and demand of data.
  • Public infrastructure: Developing open data as a public infrastructure, open to all, enables wider participation, and a broader impact across issues and sectors.
  • Policies: Clear policies regarding open data, including those promoting regular assessments of open data projects, are also critical for success.
  • Problem definition: Open data initiatives that have a clear target or problem definition have more impact and are more likely to succeed than those with vaguely worded statements of intent or unclear reasons for existence. 

Core Challenges

Finally, the success of a project is also determined by the obstacles and challenges it confronts. Our research uncovered 4 major challenges (“4Rs”) confronting open data initiatives across the globe:

  • Readiness: A lack of readiness or capacity (evident, for example, in low Internet penetration or technical literacy rates) can severely limit the impact of open data.
  • Responsiveness: Open data projects are significantly more likely to be successful when they remain agile and responsive—adapting, for instance, to user feedback or early indications of success and failure.
  • Risks: For all its potential, open data does pose certain risks, notably to privacy and security; a greater, more nuanced understanding of these risks will be necessary to address and mitigate them.
  • Resource Allocation: While open data projects can often be launched cheaply, those projects that receive generous, sustained and committed funding have a better chance of success over the medium and long term.

Toward a Next Generation Open Data Roadmap

The report we release today concludes with ten recommendations for policymakers, advocates, users, funders and other stakeholders in the open data community. For each step, we include a few concrete methods of implementation – ways to translate the broader recommendation into meaningful impact.
Together, these 10 recommendations and their means of implementation amount to what we call a “Next Generation Open Data Roadmap.” This roadmap is just a start, and we plan to continue fleshing it out in the near future. For now, it offers a way forward. It is our hope that this roadmap will help guide future research and experimentation so that we can continue to better understand how the potential of open data can be fulfilled across geographies, sectors and demographics.
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Additional Resources

In conjunction with the release of our key findings paper, we also launch today an “Additional Resources” section on the Open Data’s Impact website. The goal of that section is to provide context on our case studies, and to point in the direction of other, complementary research. It includes the following elements:

  • A “repository of repositories,” including other compendiums of open data case studies and sources;
  • A compilation of some popular open data glossaries;
  • A number of open data research publications and reports, with a particular focus on impact;
  • A collection of open data definitions and a matrix of analysis to help assess those definitions.

We welcome your thoughts and comments on any of the information included here, in our report, or at our website. To leave comments or suggestions, please contact Stefaan Verhulst, Chief Research and Development Officer (

Featured NOI GovLab Blog

Innovadores de la Red México Abierto

Guest post by Red México Abierto
Los gobiernos locales que forman parte de la Red México Abierto se han convertido en pioneros en la publicación y uso de datos abiertos como herramientas clave para detonar valor económico y social en sus comunidades. La publicación de datos abiertos desencadenó proyectos de innovación como Appdata del Ayuntamiento de Zapopan, Jalisco. Cruzaron los datos de delitos generados a nivel local con información sobre población y educación a nivel federal para identificar las zonas escolares de Zapopan en donde hay un alto índice de delitos. Usando esa información ubicaron cámaras de vigilancia de forma estratégica para mejorar la seguridad en las calles.
De igual forma, el Estado de Sonora implementó un nuevo sistema de transporte “Bus Sonora”, que busca “digitalizar” la movilidad en el Estado y eliminar el uso de dinero en efectivo. Realizan un seguimiento cercano a la rutas de transporte -pagando por kilómetro recorrido- y abren sus datos para garantizar camiones puntuales en circulación aún en rutas no rentables, pero que resuelven prioridades sociales.
Para apoyar a los miembros de la Red México Abierto en el desarrollo de proyectos de innovación, la Estrategia Digital Nacional de la Oficina de la Presidencia, colabora con The GovLab mediante la herramienta “Red de Innovadores”, diseñada para que los integrantes de la Red México Abierto puedan compartir sus experiencias en estos proyectos. Al inscribirse en la plataforma y contestando una serie de preguntas, los servidores públicos identifican tanto sus habilidades (es decir, en qué tienen experiencia), como las áreas nuevas que son de su interés (es decir, qué les gustaría aprender), para compartirlas con los demás usuarios. La plataforma conecta a los usuarios para fomentar el aprendizaje mutuo y poder resolver problemas comunes, llevando experiencia y conocimiento a los lugares específicos en los que hace falta.
Estas iniciativas están enmarcadas en la Política de Datos Abiertos, lanzada por la Estrategia Digital Nacional, para convertir la información pública que genera el gobierno en activos de gran valor que permitan a cualquier ciudadano innovar en la toma de decisiones y detonar un ecosistema de nuevos desarrollos y soluciones basadas en evidencia y habilitados por el uso de nuevas tecnologías.
Las ciudades juegan un papel fundamental en esta política porque generan y administran datos relevantes para la población, como los de movilidad y transporte público, seguridad o zonas de riesgo, entre otros. También son el primer punto de contacto con el ciudadano, lo cual crea una oportunidad única para ampliar los beneficios de los datos abiertos a nivel local.
La Red México Abierto es una alianza nacional entre los tres órdenes de gobierno que busca impulsar iniciativas de datos abiertos para crear gobiernos más inteligentes que colaboran con sus ciudadanos para diseñar soluciones conjuntas a retos comunes. Está conformada por innovadores y agentes de cambio al interior de diversas instituciones públicas y fue creada en febrero de 2015. Los municipios y estados que integran la Red México Abierto forman parte de una plataforma de intercambio de aprendizajes, herramientas y recursos técnicos; y cuentan con el acompañamiento de un equipo de expertos para facilitar la entrega de resultados.