Open Data Barometer: Ranking the Nations

May 7, 2015 11:42 am PST | Data as a Service

From culture to current legislation, complex influences affect openness in the 86 countries surveyed by the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) for its Open Data Barometer 2nd Edition (ODB).

Along with scores and rankings, the WWWF uses hierarchical cluster analysis to reveal similarities and differences across countries. This comparison method identifies natural groupings of items in a dataset – in this case, “the broad capacity, potential, and policy progress,” of the nations evaluated in the ODB. The analysis results in four country clusters: high-capacity, emerging & advanced, capacity constrained, and one-sided initiatives.

High-Capacity: The Wealth and Freedom Lift

“These countries all have established open data policies, generally with strong political backing,” finds the WWWF. Along with policy wins, these 21 nations tackle data licensing issues, and their readiness to benefit from open data bridges civic involvement, government projects, and private enterprise.

With its appointment of the first Chief Data Officer in Europe, France rises six spots from the 2013 ODB, to fourth place and a score of 80.21. Other influences on France’s uptick include the opening of datasets on legislation and maps, and, “a growth of well-resourced municipal open data initiatives,” observes the WWWF. France also became the 64th nation in the Open Government Partnership.

“Finland has also experienced substantial growth in its overall Barometer score,” notes the WWWF. Following the country’s hosting of the 2012 Open Knowledge Festival, “strong links appear to have been built in Finland between civil society, government, and businesses.” Ranking 12th in the 2015 ODB, and with a readiness score of 93, Finland seems poised to act on its collaborative momentum. 

Emerging & Advancing: Countries on the Move

The WWWF believes, “The countries in this cluster have a variety of different strengths – and have great potential to innovate in developing best-fit approaches to open data.” The ODB also acknowledges challenges for these 24 nations developing sustainable networks of open government policies and practices.

Latin American countries rank well, reflecting, “growing momentum around open data on the continent, where substantial developments are also being seen at the city level.” For example, Chile, at 15, moved up 10 places from 2013, while Peru’s ranking at 33 reflects an advancement of 14 spots. The WWWF highlights the strong, widespread influence of collaboration between civic tech and government, as well as a growth in data journalism, “with traditional and emerging media exploring how data can be used to uncover stories on government activities.”

China ranks at 46, climbing 15 spots from 2013. “Accountability datasets remain almost completely absent,” says the WWWF, but the nation demonstrates, “an increase in the readiness of entrepreneurs in China to engage with open data, as well as continued growth of city-level initiatives.” With an impact score of 19, though, the country needs stronger efforts for citizens’ daily lives to benefit from open data.

Capacity Constrained: Hard Work Ahead

“Limited government, civil society or private sector capacity, limits on affordable widespread Internet access, and weaknesses in digital data collection and management,” hinder these 35 nations, the WWWF finds. 

Nepal, at 61, fell six places from 2013. As with its peer in this cluster, 64th-ranked Uganda, citizens operate Nepal’s open data portal. The WWWF highlights the potential of these alternative initiatives as, “partnerships between civil society, government, donors, and social entrepreneurs.” Though the April 25, 2015, Nepal earthquake devastated infrastructure, it may ultimately boost the crucial role of open data.

Nigeria’s January 2104 open government data initiative launched multiple engagement, training, and capacity building efforts, boosting the country up seven spots to 68 with an overall score of 11.53. “A number of civil society organizations in Nigeria have sought to develop information and advocacy based work with open data,” states the WWWF.

One-Sided Initiatives: Time to Reach the People

The six countries in this category, “each have some form of open data initiative,” explains the WWWF, but lack vital capacity. “The potential of open data to bring about political and social change,” can be unlocked in these nations by private sector involvement and increased political freedom.

“The outlier in this group may be Malaysia,” reflects the WWWF, noting the country’s ODB rank of 41 and more than 200 open datasets. Historically low on citizen outreach, Malaysia may improve its ODB impact score of three with two recent changes: 31 new open data advisors, and a partnership with the Open Data Institute.

At 52nd place, the UAE receives a readiness score of 53, the highest in this cluster, “in part because of policy commitments that have been made to open data within the framework of well-funded e-government reforms,” explains the WWWF. Increasing the social and economic impacts of the reforms remains dependent on, “availability of key transparency, accountability and social policy datasets.”

More from the ODB

The WWWF observes, “a widening gap between those able to establish and sustain open data programmes, and those countries where open data activities have stalled, moved backwards, or not yet begun.” In future installments, we’ll look deeper into the data and its policy implications around the globe.


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