Stimulating Demand for Open Data in UK and beyond – A Deloitte Report on OGD landscape in UK

A recent report by Deloitte in collaboration with Open Data Institute elaborates on the promise open data holds and provides a picture of the current open data landscape in UK.

The view the report, click here.

The report looks at the nature of datasets available for download from UK open data websites and also at the applicability of the different categories of datasets to different sectors within the UK economy. The report identifies that the highest number of datasets available in UK relate to government spending. The details are as follows:

Figure 1: Open Datasets Availability in UK


Reading this report leads me to the following thoughts:

1. Encouraging to see one of the big 4 firms waking up to the importance of the open data and attempting to study about the growing demand for it in UK

2. Encouraging seeing that the demand for open data in UK is steadily increasing with time and so is the availability of datasets

3. The visual representation of different nature of datasets available for download on UK government’s website can help us to understand the areas that can be focussed on to improve the open data landscape even further. For example, the focus can now be on the areas that have low representation, for example, energy, resources & utilities, agriculture etc.

The report regards UK as having the leading open data portal catering a global audience and having a large number of datasets available for download. Interestingly, the report compares the reach/range of the UK open data website with open data sites of US, Brazil and New Zealand. I’m curious to see whether the next report aims to compare OGD implementations of other countries as well. As far as I am aware here is the list of number of countries who already have their open data catalogues functional.

I will like to encourage reader inputs about countries I may have missed.

Table 1: Open Data Catalogues – Different Countries

Country Link
Hong Kong
Saudi Arabia
New Zealand
United Arab Emirates

The report also talks about the importance of understanding the relation between opening up greater number of datasets and their economic benefit, however, it does not answer this question as of now. It ends with the promise that Deloitte will continue to track quantitative measures as open data marketplace develops over the coming months. Will there be some studies on measuring the economic impact of opening up datasets, well, that’s one thing I’m waiting for!

Posted in Deloitte, Denmark, eGovernment Strategy, ICT4D, Open Government Data | 3 Comments

How does mobile adoption impact economic growth – Report by Deloitte and Cisco for GSMA Association

A few days back I came across an excellent report written by Deloitte and Cisco for GSMA association titled, “What is the impact of mobile telephony on economic growth?” The report aims to explore an important question in the ICT4D discourse – what effect does mobile phone adoption have on economic growth?

The report argues that “mobile sector have become an essential part of how economies work and function” and “mobile communications can offer unprecedented opportunities for economic growth” for developing and developed countries. The article bases itself on the essential premise that mobile phones lead to improved communication, social inclusion, economic activity in various sectors thereby leading to an increase in economic growth and worker productivity.

The article compares the effect of mobile adoption in both developing and developed countries which makes it very interesting. The earlier studies I have come across had a narrower focus as they looked at either developed or developing countries and did not provide a comparison between the two.

Specifically, the article looks the following research questions:

Question 1 – What is the impact of 3G penetration on GDP growth?
Question 2 – What is the impact of mobile data on GDP growth?
Question 3 – What is the impact of basic mobile telephony on productivity in developing markets?

To calculate the extent of impact of mobile adoption to economic growth, the article estimates a series of econometric models. The details of the calculations are available in Appendix A, B & C of the article. I’m summarising the results of the article succinctly in the table below –

Deloitte and Cisco aim to publish the report on an annual basis as usage of mobile grows with an aim to provide ICT4D practitioners and policy makers a useful source of information. The articles gives a lot of importance to the contribution of 3G mobile communication towards economic growth. This makes it important for us to ensure that we create conditions to increase 3G penetration in developing countries as well to help them to steer  towards a path of much faster economic growth.

How much are  we able to accomplish? – I guess only time can tell!

If readers have other interesting reports, anecdotes, statistics or facts which will help us to understand the impact of mobile adoption on economic growth better – do share it with us.

Posted in ICT4D, Mobilefordevelopment | 1 Comment

K-Monitor – Watchdog for Public Funds in Hungary

Sometime back I got to know about a wonderful initiative, K-Monitor, a watchdog for Public Funds based in Hungary. Founded in 2007, K-Monitor website now contains over 20,000 articles and essential background materials in related topics.

K-Monitor’s website “gathers, stores, and makes available online articles concerning corruption, public spending, and the transparency of public life in Hungary.” And I must say that they are doing a great job in accomplishing this goal. K-Monitor:

1) Aggregates and then publishes the collection of all corruption related articles in Hungarian media

2)  Ensures that the database is updated with new and archived articles

3) Has published its tool-kit for corruption that contains all the relevant definitions and guidelines for citizens detecting corruption.

4) Has a blog for whistleblowing wherein a “potential legal framework” has been suggested through international comparisons of whistleblowing laws worldwide.

5) Conducts its own investigative work in form of public data disclosures, research work, disclosures etc.

6) Aims to make all the necessary and relevant information about Hungarian politicians, policy-makers, business people and companies available on its website.

7) Conducts its legal advocacy and lobby activity in the fields of freedom of information, transparency, state corruption etc.

On a different note – from the perspective of open government data (OGD), the Hungarian government has expressed intention to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP). In my opinion, K-Monitor is both the source and a beneficiary of the move of the Hungarian government to join OGP.

Going forward K-Monitor must aim to make use of the government’s political will to kick-start a process and start consultation on the creation of a single, well-established government database of public data from an open government data perspective. A lot more can be achieved to democratise information (the optimist inside me speaking right now)! With the Aarhus Convention and the implementation of Freedom of Information Acts in various countries, including UK – it has started to look even more promising now!

Being an Indian, I am sure that no one can feel the need to develop corruption eradication strategies more. Indians suffer from corruption in all facets of life and I am keen to see how K-Monitor progresses with a hidden motive to view their approach, identify synergies and learn lessons from them which maybe implementable in India. Or maybe we are charting a new way of our own, see India against Corruption!

Posted in Hungary, ICT4D, Open Government Data | Leave a comment

The more things change, the more they remain the same – Similarities between Social Media led Citizen Engagement and Citizen Engagement in 16th Century Mughal India

Reading this very interesting article, Go where your audience is: what EU communicators can learn from local citizen engagement initiatives at EuropCom, made me think about the importance of proper citizen engagement in the digital world and what we need to keep in mind if we want to encourage purposeful citizen engagement.

In the article Aurélie Valtat talks about how engaging citizens for a meaningful dialogue with the government may lead to formulation of suitable policies.  Aurélie gives examples of local citizen engagement initiatives in Europe – all with the aim of encouraging an internet enabled participative democracy. It is clear from the article that many governments and public institutions are trying to find answers to variety of questions related to citizen engagement to ensure that true benefits of citizen engagement for public policy formulation are realized.

Aurélie  also brings out a very important point, that in spite of all the promises of internet led citizen engagement, “participatory democracy will never replace representative democracy, but rather complement it.” In my opinion setting out this expectations is one of the highlights of the article.

However, in this article I try to compare the 21st century Citizen Engagement Model with the Citizen Engagement Model of the 16th century Mughal India. I look at how the Mughal leadership encouraged purposeful citizen engagement in the policy formulation process during their reign with the aim to identify inherent similarities and check if there are lessons we can learn that might help us to create an internet led citizen engagement model.

So let’s get straight to the point – the table below shows and compares the sequence of steps required to solicit citizen engagement in the 16th century and 21st century.

Looking at the table I cannot help but observe the inherent similarities between citizen engagement mechanisms in the 16th century and 21st century. Finding and bringing out the similarities from these different eras leads me to think that essentially world is still the same.  So true is this saying, “The more things change the more they remain the same.”

                                                                                                                   Picture from the link

In my opinion, the table also bring out the fact that technology is merely an enabler to accomplish goals of citizen participation as similar processes to engage citizens for policy formulation existed centuries before the adoption of internet. I am sure similar analogies also exist elsewhere which have the potential to help us better understand and improve our transformation in this internet connected world.

In spite of all these similarities, of course there is one important difference – with the ever pervading nature of internet, 21st century citizen engagement allows us to scale citizen engagement to enormous limits, solicit opinions from a far greater audience, and communicate information on a far greater scale that anyone could have ever imagined in the 16th century.

However of all these steps made easier by internet, “sieving” through the comments from the citizens is one step which is critical and often it is the most difficult to accomplish even through technology automated means. Are there any other analogies from yesteryears that we can look at to learn more about this? I’ll let the readers ponder this question!

Posted in Citizen Engagement, Crowdsourcing, ICT4D, Mughal India, OGD Participation, Social Media | Leave a comment

Bringing peace – one SMS at a time!

Kashmir has been in a state of violence for almost two decades now. People, inside and outside Kashmir, have the desire to create conditions for peace and communal harmony but unfortunately there is still a lot to achieve. Of course, the ambition of a peaceful co-existence is difficult to accomplish but as its said, “from small beginnings come great things” – I want to ask the question, can we using technology make a small beginning with the dream of achieving great things! The answer is, perhaps, yes.

Sometime back I came across this excellent article titled, Marketing Peace using SMS Mobile Advertising: A New Approach to Conflict Prevention, by Patrick Meier and it has got me thinking!

The article gives an example of how mobile technology has been used to “catalyze behaviour change around peace and conflict issues.” Specifically, the article talks about PeaceTXT – a project to promote peace and communal understanding in Kenya using mobile SMS.

I googled and found that similar techniques have been used elsewhere, for example:

1) In partnership with CeaseFire SMS’es are being sent as reminders to people with an aim to interrupt gun violence in marginalised neighbourhoods in US

2) Moreover, multiple studies in public health domain bring to light the impact SMS reminders may have on behaviour change e.g., improving drug adherence behaviour among AIDS and TB patients in Africa and Asia.

Keeping these examples in mind, can we think about replicating something similar in Kashmir? In PeaceTXT, for example, a SMS was sent out to 10,000 subscribers saying, “A good leader initiates and encourages peace and development among all people and is not tribal. “ The aim with the SMS was to educate the people about good leadership and positively impact their understanding of good leaders. The response to such a campaign was quite positive.

Can we do such a campaign a Kashmir, for example, to improve the perception about the defence forces in Kashmir? And most importantly, will such an initiative have some positive impact? How do we decide and formulate the content of SMSes to be sent out? Will there be a need to modify the content of the messages for different reader demographics? Will we be able to gather government support and get required buy-in from the telecom companies to help us develop a financially sustainable model?

Perhaps, these are the question we may need to ask ourselves before we start thinking about implementing something similar in Kashmir. Of course, there will be detractors (including the cynic inside me!) who will question the inherent value of this initiative right from its outset, however, I will end this article with a quote from Gautam Buddha, “there are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” So let’s start and see where it takes us!

Posted in Crisis Management, ICT4D, Kashmir | Leave a comment

Social Media and Political Awareness: How do we manage it for long term societal good?

While looking at the blog, I came across a matrix proposed by Professor Simon Baddeley from University of Birmingham to develop a model of political behaviour using “political awareness and acting with integrity” as two dimensions to create distinct behavioural categories for the public.

With the growing talk of the role social media can play in the rise of political awareness and political activism, an extension of this matrix, which I explain in this article, might just add insight into the social media landscape. Using the matrix, I aim to bring out:

a) the affect social media has on political awareness and;

b) how public attitude determines the nature of political activism that results out of political awareness.

In the matrix, Political Awareness maybe defined as the extent to which the public is aware of the politics prevalent in the society. Politically aware society possesses the following characteristics, “foundation and contemporary knowledge of politics, access to elite opinion, forum to discuss individual opinion” (above dimensions taken from a research paper).

Public integrity maybe defined as the extent to which the public is able to look at the long term and societal implications of a political action thereby ignoring the short term personal gains.

Public attitude determines the extent of integrity with which public is able to evaluate and take actions having a political aim. I differentiate between public attitude as either “good” or “bad”.

Using the extension of the 2X2 matrix (see above), I analyse the impact social media and public attitude can have on the political awareness and public integrity.  My adaptation of the 2X2 matrix by Professor Simon Baddeley adds the perspective of how social media and public attitude affect the movement of the public from one quadrant to another. By acting as source of sharing and discussing information social media essentially increases the political awareness of the public thereby moving the public towards the quadrants lying in the high political awareness half.

The arrows in the matrix depict that by acting as a source of information social media improves political awareness of the public, whereas, the influence of public attitude depends on its nature. If the public attitude is “good” it will invariably lead to shift of the public towards the quadrants lying in the high integrity half of the quadrant. However, “bad” public attitude leads to a shift towards the quadrants in the low integrity half.

A few other important features that come to mind while looking at the matrix are:

a) It is important to ensure that majority of people lie in the Wise quadrant. It will be usually the public in the Wise quadrant that provides the “good” public direction to ensure that maximum number of people moving towards the Wise cell.

b) Social Media is an information amplifier. It amplifies the distribution and impact of information leading to better political awareness. Therefore, it is critical to manage “good” public attitude to ensure that it never leads to misinformation.

c) Social media constitutes the people who are a part of it. Its participants define and communicate its purpose. Social media reflects what the society thinks. It is important to ensure that social media is democratic, transparent and it promotes healthy dialogue & constructive criticism. Therefore, “good” public attitude becomes important.

All of these assertions point to the importance of developing “good” public attitude and therefore raise questions about; how we manage the public attitude to get the most favourable benefit from the social media penetration? How to create suitable environment to ensure that the majority of the public is moving towards the Wise quadrant?

So, again, same as previous articles, this one has raised more questions in my mind rather than providing me with answers. I hope some readers comment and come to the rescue!

Posted in Models, Political Activism, Social Media | Leave a comment

Open Government Data – Report on Denmark’s eGovernment Strategy 2011-2015

I got a report titled, “Good Basic Data for Everyone – A Driver for Growth and Efficiency” sent to my inbox last week. The report, published in October 2012, has been written as part of Denmark’s eGoverment Strategy 2011-2015.

It is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in Denmark’s Open Government Data (OGD) landscape in particular and with curiosity to learn about OGD in general. This report has been commissioned by Agency of Digitalisation, Government of Denmark. The fact that government is doing this kind of research, asking such questions, and be at the forefront of its OGD strategy is very encouraging.

The report first explains the concept of open data, looks at the question of what datasets to open, gives examples of OGD initiatives implemented already in Denmark, suggests an operational framework to implement OGD initiatives, and most importantly outlines tangible benefits of open government data for the public, businesses and public authorities.

Of all the view points in the report, I found the perspective on identifying the benefits of OGD most interesting. The report says that

open [basic] data will benefit public-sector efficiency as well as innovation and value creation by Danish society in general. With [basic] data as a new digital raw material, commercial products can be developed and public information and services can be improved, providing for greater insight and stronger democracy. Open basic data will provide the public, businesses and the authorities alike with a number of tangible benefits.”

I found the division of benefits into three different categories, namely, the benefits for the public, businesses, and public authorities novel and interesting. The illustration below shows the benefits OGD can bring to these strands of our civil society.

To further reinstate and illustrate the benefits of OGD, the report gives few examples of the present applications of open data in Denmark. Two of the prominent examples are:

1. In 2002, the opening up of the Building and Dwelling Register containing detailed information about all buildings and dwellings in Denmark.

It led to an increase in the number of digital services and websites to enhance transparency and competition in the Danish real property market. Moreover, based on the study titled, The value of Danish address data: Social benefits from the 2002 agreement on procuring address data free of charge the benefits for society in the period 2005 to 2009 amounted to DKK 471 million. The study further states that the public sector saved DKK 38 million alone on not having to negotiate purchase agreements, manage rights etc thereby making their “procedures far more efficient.” Future growth potential for usage of these datasets may lead to applications in “GPS navigation and mobile application services, logistics and transport, real estates and utilities etc.

2. Police agencies can work more efficiently and effectively if they have access to relevant, appropriate, and timely information. For example, following an explosion at a “fireworks storage facility in a residential area in 2004, the police linked business data from the Central Business Register to map data to identify other places in the country where fireworks businesses were situated in close vicinity to residential areas” to identify potential areas and undertake pre-emptive measures.

Other applications with use in either day to day policing activities or critical security situations will surely be developed in the future. We, as readers, may also think of any useful applications in this area that currently exist elsewhere?

With these examples it is clear that OGD has a lot of potential. Once the datasets related to “personal data, business data, real property data, address data, geographic data, and incomes data” open up – a lot of benefits can be realised. How much of this is accomplished globally or in Denmark specifically, however, remains to be seen!

Posted in Denmark, eGovernment Strategy, OGD Participation, Open Government Data | Leave a comment