Open Data Reinforcing Good Governance

Craig Beyerinck in Bend, Oregon, USA

The terms ‘open data’ and ‘good governance’ are popular buzz words of the modern day, but what do they mean? Looking specifically at the term ‘open data’, it is important to define what data is being opened.  In this case, it is the data that governments, NGOs and other actors produce in their work. The general idea of open data is that data should be freely available to anyone who wishes to use or republish it. Good governance is easier to understand as a term because of its lack of specificity. It is used to denote instances where public institutions are completing their tasks in ethical and accountable ways. This concept is based on the notion that government should be able to meet the needs of all citizens, not just specific groups. The eight characteristics that are widely considered to constitute good governance are that it is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and that it follows the rule of law.

The concept of open data and good governance seem relatively straight forward to many, especially to those based in the Western world, i.e. those who provide aid to the developing world. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific underlines the fact that major donors of financial assistance increasingly rely on good governance indicators to decide whether they should provide aid a specific country. As such, it is important for developing countries that are looking to receive external funding, to work towards, and be able to show that they are working towards good governance.

Ideas on how to achieve these goals are as plentiful as there are people interested in development aid. But, when you consider again the concepts of open data and good governance, it becomes apparent that they can become mutually reinforcing. The open provision of data on government activities goes a long way to proving the accountability, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency and following of the rule of law requirements that make up good governance as an overarching concept. Open data can also help different actors, including the government, become more responsive, effective and efficient because all data that each entity produces is available to every other entity, making it possible for each to build on the other’s work. And, since all data is available for public scrutiny, the government will use its money more effectively.

For Nepal specifically, the benefits of adopting open data and the resulting good governance are vast, and, due to the popularity of these two concepts, it is quite easy for Nepalese institutions to latch onto this momentum. Dong this would benefit local society in two ways. First, it would make government more accountable. Second, as a result, Nepal will become more attractive to foreign aid donors thus increasing the money available for development funding in Nepal.

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December 2022
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