The benefits of open data for the Global South

The modern era is marked by growing faith in the power of data. “Big data”, “open data”, and “evidence-based decision-making” have become buzzwords, touted as solutions to the world’s most complex and persistent problems, from corruption and famine to the refugee crisis.

While perhaps most pronounced in higher income countries, this trend is now emerging globally. In Africa, Latin America, Asia and beyond, hopes are high that access to data can help developing economies by increasing transparency, fostering sustainable development, building climate resiliency and the like.

This is an exciting prospect, but can opening up data actually make a difference in people’s lives?

Getting data-driven about data

The GovLab at New York University spent the last year trying to answer that question.

In partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the non-profit FHI 360 and the World Wide Web Foundation, we scoured the evidence about what roles open data, particularly government data, can play in developing countries.

The results of our 12 in-depth case studies from around the world are now out. The report Open Data in Developing Economies: Toward Building an Evidence Base on What Works and How offers a hard look at the results of open data projects from the developing world.

Our conclusion: the enthusiasm is justified – as long as it’s tempered with a good measure of realism, too. Here are our six major takeaways:
The Conversation | How open data can help the Global South, from disaster relief to voter turnout

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