In May, 2022, the results of the first edition of Global Data Barometer (GDB), examining the importance and benefits of data for the public good, and being based on the Open Data Barometer methodology, were released. The GDB evaluates and scores 108 countries according to a unified methodology, based on various modules and indicators.
The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) has been acting as a regional hub in Central Asia and Eastern Europe as part of the GDB's 2021 pilot study. The hub includes 12 countries - Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia. This analysis overviews the regional results and key findings.
Central Asian and Eastern Partnership countries have one major common denominator in the form of the Soviet past, the consequences of which are still fairly apparent in terms of governance and administration. These countries share many common characteristics of post-soviet Governments to varying degrees, such as complex bureaucracies, authoritarian-leaning leadership, under-developed digital infrastructures and literacy, and challenges to freedom of the press. However, despite the similarities, there are vastly different data ecosystems, with fairly developed examples such as Ukraine at one end of the spectrum and more suppressed structures such as Turkmenistan and Belarus at the other.
When it comes to marginalized groups, most re searchers defaulted to identifying ethnic minorities residing in their respective countries, such as the Uzbek population in Tajikistan, ethnic Armenians and Azeris in Georgia, various groups in Azerbaijan, etc. For conflict-affected areas such as Georgia and Ukraine, a common theme was the populations isolated in rural areas and internally dis placed people. More generally, the following groups were mentioned as potentially marginalized groups in the case of several countries: women; the LGBTQ+ community; Roma people; people with disabilities; the elderly; and rural populations. An interesting trend that was uncovered had to do with official recognition of marginalized/vulnerable groups by the state. While some countries refer to such groups in their legislation/policy documents and are actively engaged in tackling the challenges faced by them, others do not seem to have taken any formal steps in this direction.
The Barometer’s use and impact category appeared to be the most challenging for the region, with the exception of strong performance in Ukraine. Researchers found only sporadic examples of data use cases, mostly led by media and civil society organizations. This points to a lack of engagement with data from academia and the private sector actors in many countries. Even where media were using data, this often relied on civil society as intermediaries. With an absence of open datasets and analytical tools, carrying out in-depth data processing can be too time-consuming for fast-paced media outlets, and for this reason they mostly cover the studies and reports published by CSOs, particularly those based on political finance data and public officials’ asset declarations.
Furthermore, in several countries of the region, there are virtually no tools for public oversight of officials and governance processes. Their political systems remain closed for any meaningful socio political engagement of citizens and civil society actors. There is a lack of genuinely independent institutions that can identify, expose, and highlight the government’s failures in all authoritarian-leaning countries of the region. The national re searchers from these countries have reported that the very few activists that speak out against the government in their respective countries, regularly face intimidation, harassment, and imprisonment.
Out of all data categories, procurement data seems to be the most available in the region. Most countries surveyed had innovative procurement portals in place and were actively using the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) to varying degrees of adherence. In contrast, lobbying data seems to be the most challenging in the region, with most of the countries either not having a functional framework to collect such data or not making it publicly available. Another challenge that stands out, especially in the post-pandemic recovery period, is the lack of disaggregated vaccination data. Although overall statistics are available in most countries of the region, there is a significant lack of machine-readable, open datasets in this regard.
Although this may be true for many other regions, political integrity data in Eastern Partnership and Central Asian countries was found to lack interoperability. Some countries are progressing in terms of improving access to open data legislation and practices, while some countries are stalled and no fundamental reforms have been initiated over the past years, while others are even backsliding.
First and foremost, countries in the region need solid regulatory frameworks on access to open data, since a majority of the countries lack common open data standards. To this end, there is a need for a strong political will, which will ensure that decision-makers are aware of the importance, bene fits, and key enablers for solid open data ecosystems in the country.
Another important component is the capacity building of all relevant stakeholders in open data management: which includes data collection, processing, publication, and use. In particular, civil servant qualifications with respect to data management and open data also need to be prioritized, since they are responsible for generating or collecting most public data. In parallel, capacity building with other stakeholders, such as civil society, media and business, is needed in order to increase the impact generated through the use of open data.
Finally, it is of crucial importance for different stakeholders to establish partnerships with each other on the issues of open data collection, publication, and use. Such multi-sector and multi-stake holder cooperation will significantly increase the impact of data initiatives for the public good. Different stakeholders with different backgrounds and experience can better combine their efforts, and potentially design innovative services and new products positively affecting citizens’ well-being. Benefits to civil society and media are already apparent at this stage, however the economic potential of data does not seem to be fully generated or encouraged at present. Shifting focus towards the economic aspects of open data may incentivize and play a crucial role in enabling and advancing all open data practices around the region. Moreover, a focus on economic aspects of open data may help convince decision-makers to put open data related reforms on the political agenda, and may engage the private sector in dialogue with civil society and the public sector regarding the need for improved data management systems and increased access to public data for public good.
- Global report of Global Data Barometer is available at the link
- Results of particular countries are available at the link
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