From Open Data to Impact

This Guide does not intend to suggest that open data alone will directly lead to more effective, equitable, and accountable climate policies and actions. It acknowledges the open data movement’s call to shift away from the initial “publish and they will come” disposition to one of “publishing with a purpose.” Understanding the particular use case for opening a dataset, as well as the capacities and needs of the stakeholders involved (both data owners and prospective users/beneficiaries) is crucial to prioritizing what information to curate and publish. This helps ensure that limited resources are spent where they are most effective. For climate-relevant data, this means demonstrating how a particular data type can inform or improve mitigation or adaptation actions or enhance the ability to measure their results and impact.

Open data programs are only one component of a broader information management system. If done well—for example, with datasets that are systematically tagged, catalogued, and made as open as possible—they can build both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders’ awareness of what information is available and who produces it. But access to the data is only one link in the chain from data collection to data use. The data disclosed should be relevant to its potential use cases and, as much as possible, be complete and up-to-date. It should also be systematically accompanied with the appropriate metadata and, whenever possible, presented in a fashion suitable to its intended or likely audience.

The number of potential users of open data and the degree to which these users can effect change depends on a number of factors, including the data literacy of civil society, the legal and institutional enabling environment to create space for engagement and advocacy, and the responsiveness of public authorities to citizens’ voice. Open data accompanied with effective visualization tools can help a wider audience understand and engage. Civil society networks can play a crucial role in both engaging with governments around the prioritization of data, as well as in building the capacity of a broader set of stakeholders to use the data. Civil society can also act as “infomediaries” and help to interpret data among groups that are affected (i.e. communities and livelihoods exposed to climate impacts). Civil society networks may also have a big role to play in advocating for more participatory decision-making processes and helping ensure that the data can sustain greater participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups. This is essential to any sincere efforts to link up the climate and sustainable development agendas.

Through a pilot test in one to three countries, the developers of the Guide will seek to capture the experiences and lessons learned from the coordination work necessary to establish a climate-relevant open data initiative, as well as the efforts to connect the emerging initiatives to communities of users.