Engaging the private sector in the open data value-chain: An innovation imperative

Of the five priority Action Areas emerging from the deliberations at the successful IODC 2015 in Ottawa, Canada (i.e., The Charter, Standards, Capacity Building, Measurement, Innovation), the latter—Innovation—is perhaps, the most eclectic and least structured of the areas. Otherwise described as the “Problem-Solving” Action Track, the characterization of this area includes collective efforts at:

  • -Developing open data innovation networks and thematic collaborations in sector-specific areas such as health, agriculture, and the environment.
  • -Understanding pathways (investments, methods, and business models) for scaling up the social and economic impacts of open data.
  • -Identifying mechanisms for catalyzing private sector engagement and innovation in the open data value chain, particularly in developing countries. (See the IODC 2015 Roadmap here for more information.)

Among several progressive developments relating to these actions that have occurred since IODC 2015, the following are worth noting:

1. The GODAN Network has launched a three and a-half year Action initiative for Open Data in Agriculture, supported by funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), that seeks to enable effective uses of open data in tackling food security and nutrition challenges through Research and Capacity-Building. The project was awarded to an international consortium with a strong record of expertise and experience in agriculture, nutrition, data, and ICTs led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

2. Valuable collections of real-world use-cases have begun to emerge that highlight the potential impact of open data in developing countries. Two significant contributions are:

  • -The Open Data Impact Map is a public database of 1700+ organizations that use open data across 94 countries. The Map, which was launched in beta at IODC 2015, will officially launch on October 3, 2016 with new regional and sectoral findings pages. In May of 2016, the Center for Open Data Enterprise also published a report of global trends in open data use using the Map data. The full report can be found here.
  • -The Open Data Impact Study by GovLabs that conducted 19 detailed case studies of open data projects around the world. The case studies were selected for their sectoral and geographic representativeness (detailed findings and report here).

3. The World Bank and the Center for Open Data Enterprise have collaborated to develop the Open Data for Business (OD4B) Tool, which provides a methodology to assess the private sector’s current and potential use of government data in various countries. The purpose of this Tool is to increase the business use of government data through (1) increased private sector awareness of government data, (2) identification of high-value data and barriers to use, and (3) a recommended Action Plan to engage with private sector stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Full Assessments have been conducted in several countries such as Sierra Leone (Report), Kazakhstan (Report), and Serbia, and pilots in Jamaica (Report), Kyrgyzstan, and India.

In order to gain some insight into the open data community’s interests and interpretation of these Action Areas, we examined the submissions to the IODC 2016 in response to the call for proposals. From the 624 submissions to IODC 2016, 80 were Action proposals distributed as follows:


A content analysis of the proposals relating to the Innovation / Problem-Solving track continues to reflect a dominant focus on technology platforms, mechanisms, and processes to enhance the publishing of open data to allow for greater efficiency and re-usability of data, indicating a persistent supply-side orientation. There is minimal attention to and priority action on the engagement and involvement of the private sector (business community) in the open data value-chain, beyond the provision of technology platforms for publishing and hosting open data portals. We believe that this area represents a critical component for the long-term sustainability of local and regional open data ecosystems.

In response to this glaring need, the Private Sector Working Group (PSWG) has been established as one of five working groups under the Open Data Charter with the expressed ambition to see a strengthening of the global data infrastructure through public-private collaboration; and, maximizing the economic and social value from open data. Anchored by three core members of the open data charter general stewards (Joel Gurin/Center for Open data Enterprise; Richard Stirling/Open Data Institute; and Maurice McNaughton/Caribbean Open Institute), the PSWG is working towards facilitating the following outcomes:

  • -Crystalize and promote value proposition and evidence for business awareness, engagement, and participation in open data conversations.
  • -More governments releasing data that are relevant to businesses and increased business-use of open data.
  • -Stronger data infrastructure through public-private collaboration.
  • -Public endorsement of Open Data Charter by 10-15 key businesses.
  • -Facilitating the creation of a minimal set of resource artifacts to support private sector outreach and engagement in open data conversations; including templates and guidelines for the engagement mechanisms that can be adapted/replicated in various contexts such as business case studies, business models, and economic valuation templates (to name a few).

Several of these initiatives and considerations will be discussed at the Action Sessions conducted at IODC 2016. Check out the IODC agenda and pre-event listings to get involved. We are keen to have members of the open data community contribute to, participate in, and learn from this important discourse. We look forward to your comments, in response to this blog, about the nascent challenges of actively engaging the private sector in the open data value chain and, we welcome your ideas, suggestions, and examples of strategies employed, and positive or adverse outcomes.

Reprinted from: IODC 2016 Conference Website