26/8/2016

A handy initiative for open data in Nepal

 

The Open Data Handbook (first issued in 2010 and regularly updated) is a guide to open data, specifically open government data. It was first issued in 2010 by Open Knowledge International and has been regularly updated since. The handbook has been used by governments and civil society organizations around the world as an introduction and blue-print for open data projects.

The Nepali version of this handbook (which is currently seeking funders) will include content from Global Open Data Handbook, including Licensing terms from Open Definition and Open Data Policy guidelines / principles terms from Sunlight Foundation guidelines.

Need of the handbook in Nepal

Open data is steadily gaining momentum in Nepal, led by Civil Society and a handful of government agencies. But progress has been slow. One of the reasons for this slow uptake is the confusion because many people do not know about the meaning and benefits of open data due to the lack of proper guidance and resources.  In recent years, we have witnessed considerable enthusiasm over the opportunities offered by open data. Across many sectors, it is widely believed that we are entering a new era of information openness and transparency. This evolution has the potential to spur economic innovation, social transformation, and fresh forms of political and government accountability.

Yet, despite the evident potential of open data and the growing amounts of information being released by governments and corporations, little is actually known about its use and impact in Nepal. The condition of knowledge around open data in Nepal is inadequate because Nepal lacks resources in its native language concerning ideas around open data. A Nepali Version Handbook will work as a perfect resource for government and civil society organizations (CSOs) to expand their understandings of open data and, ultimately, reap its benefits.

We are translating and developing this Open Data Handbook in Nepali with the belief that it will help Government policymakers, leaders, and citizens understand open data in their native language. It will also be a useful resource for CSOs to use for their own open data awareness programs, as well as data journalists who rely on data openness to report on local stories.

How could it benefit the Government of Nepal?

Nepal’s Government has slowly begun to understand the value of open data and citizen engagement. Praise for this awareness raising can be attributed to the national and international civil society for running a continuously vibrant open data movement in Nepal. We can see how certain government agencies have set an example by supporting open data, such as the Election Commission Nepal, Office of Company Registrar Nepal, Ministry of Finance’s Aid Management Platform, and more. However, our recent crowdsourced research in 10 different local cities of Nepal has shown that Nepal still has room to improve its policy on open data, especially at the local level. For open data initiatives and programs to be successful, they needs to start focusing on local governments rather than the central government.

For local governments to adopt open data, they need to be clear about the whys, hows, and whats of opening up their data. They need to understand why making data open is not only a means to make them more accountable (or worse, alarmed), but it will also help them become more efficient and effective in their duties. This document will help individuals understand that opening data is only the beginning of participatory governance, and it will demonstrate the importance of well defined and easy-to-adopt mechanisms. To create a successful open data mechanism, local officials will need resource in their native tongue as many local peoples are unable to fully comprehend English. An open data guide in Nepali will also help the central government to implement open data related policy at the local levels.

How could it benefit local journalists?

As Journalists in Nepal have been the direct beneficiaries of the Right to Information Act, a legal transparency and accountability mechanism, they are beginning to understand the additional benefits that open data can have on their work. Interest in data journalism is increasing in Nepal and we can see lots of examples led by a number of teams, like Datajourno Nepal, FACTS Nepal, and Graph Nepal, who are using open data and visualizations for more in-depth storytelling. Print and online newspapers have also begun to use more open data for evidence-based reporting.

Still, open data is a new term for most Nepali Journalists. This is mainly true because open data is interlinked with technology and lacks learning resources in the Nepali Language. Through the Open Data Handbook in Nepali, we aim to minimize this problem by providing the answer to their questions regarding open data  in their native language. 

Through this handbook, we hope:

  • That journalists can learn the whats and hows of open data in Nepali.
  • That they can find new ways in which to innovate in the field of journalism.
  • That fact based reporting will increase.
  • Journalists will use it as a guidebook to teach others about open data and advocate for open data within local communities.

Dissemination of the publication?

In the first phase, we will be targeting Government Organizations, Government and Private Libraries and Educational Institutes. As one of the main supporters of the Handbook is the National Information Commission, they will be helping us to disseminate book through their networks.

What kind of impacts will the Handbook have?

We envision our impact to be mainly around the four differents themes of open data: improving government, empowering citizens, creating opportunity, and solving public problems. To achieve impact within these different themes, solely having a good supply of data is not enough. We also need to ensure that the demand side is strong by increasing innovation, engagement, and reusability of published data.

However, in Nepal, many people and organizations are reluctant to carry out the fully possibility of open data because they have a limited knowledge around the topic and  the concept as a whole. So, this handbook will make it easier for government officials and the citizens of Nepal to learn more about open data in their native language. In doing so, this project will help create a balanced environment between the supply and demand side of data, which in the long run will help promote and institutionalize transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in Nepal.

Find out more or contribute to the Open Data Handbook in Nepali here.

Image: Macro Eye.

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