Hundred years ago Nepal first started collecting data of population census – the time when data and information used to be hardly shared with the public by authorities. However, the movement of open data after one century became significant in terms of opening up government to some extent that makes data and information open in Nepal. In recent years, base on the philosophy ‘certain data should make freely available to citizens’ emerged in parallel lobbying of Right-to-Information (RTI) – one of the key reasons to realize open and transparent governance for public administrators.
According to its theme ‘, we open governments’, WikiLeaks, an international organization that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media suggests that open data is a necessary element of “transparent and accountable government.” As an impact, the uses of ‘Open Data’ in western countries have helped improve the efficiency of public administrations and services as well as the economic growth in the private sector over the past decades. Similarly, there are examples of data-driven watchdog journalism (based on open data) helping reduce corruption in some Latin and African nations in spite of having repressive governments there. To achieve the same, however, Nepal needs to go a long way; where open government bodies from national to periphery levels can share a spectrum of public records to its people as ‘free-to-use information’.
In this connection, Open Knowledge Nepal, an organization led by young people, focusing on ‘knowledge should be liberated for opportunity and prosperity, has recently completed a month-long ‘Open Data Awareness ‘ accompanied by Open Data Hackathon – a collaborative engagement of youths in computer programming.
Organized in seven different districts of Nepal, nearly 400 youths including students were sensitized – those came from a dozen of colleges, school and youth organizations. In a hope to see Nepal’s ‘digital tech-friendly’ future leaders who can better understand the essence of data, participants from a range of backgrounds like computer science, engineering, management, arts, journalism, social workers were taught digital tools. The awareness program was based on the Open Data Curriculum and Open Data Manual which was developed as a reference and recommended a guide for the people who wants to work and contribute to open data sector.
Though being familiar working with statistics, however, ‘Open Data’ is still a new and unheard term for most of the attendees. It has urged the need of more local level awareness programs to promote open data in grassroots level of Nepal.
Making the data open means it should be accessible in a convenient and modifiable form, reusable and redistributable by anyone without any discrimination or restriction under certain standards.
Do you know about Open Data?
Fig: Participants understanding on open data according to pre-survey
The survey conducted among the participants suggested that sharing of the data isn’t everything. Focusing on other aspects is obligatory that enables people to build innovative products in order to solve the current issues or crisis faced by Nepalese citizens.
Please rate how well you can perform the following acts?
(1 = not aware, 5 = fully aware)
Fig: Participants’ expertise on Data Downloading, Extraction, Analysis and Visualization
Another pure downside, they lack the technical set of skills needed to work with data efficiently like data extraction, analysis, and visualization though they are quite acquainted with downloading data and information from the web.
Call to action
Without any delay, Nepal needs to take open data advocacy in local level at times when notable activities and interest already exhibited by civil society and public agencies, are creating a conducive atmosphere to go further. Despite the leisurely delivery to its citizens, government bodies deciding to use computer technology might help generate digital reports and data – technically shareable information to the public.
Having poor technical skills among citizens to access and use data is making the demand side feeble, one of the major challenges for open data actors and advocates. For this, infrastructures with sufficient technical human resources should be built concurrently that can play the role to manage supply and demand side of data.
Also, if to comply with a federal model of the political system; civil society, open data activists and local government should work together – to spark the consciousness of open data in periphery level.