International Day for Universal Access to Information

“Since 2016 UNESCO marks 28 September as the “International Day for Universal Access to Information” (IDUAI), following the adoption of the 38 C/Resolution 57 declaring 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).  

The IDUAI has particular relevance with Agenda 2030 with specific reference to:

SDG 2 on investment in rural infrastructure and technology development,
SDG 11 on positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas and
SDG 16 on initiatives to adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information….”

Open data on industry payments to healthcare providers reveal potential hidden costs to the public | Nature Communications

Abstract:  Healthcare industry players make payments to medical providers for non-research expenses. While these payments may pose conflicts of interest, their relationship with overall healthcare costs remains largely unknown. In this study, we linked Open Payments data on providers’ industry payments with Medicare data on healthcare costs. We investigated 374,766 providers’ industry payments and healthcare costs. We demonstrate that providers receiving higher amounts of industry payments tend to bill higher drug and medical costs. Specifically, we find that a 10% increase in industry payments is associated with 1.3% higher medical and 1.8% higher drug costs. For a typical provider, for example, a 10% or $25 increase in annual industry payments would be associated with approximately $1,100 higher medical costs and $100 higher drug costs. Furthermore, the association between payments and healthcare costs varies markedly across states and correlates with political leaning, being stronger in more conservative states.

Access to Information Is Not Universal: Here’s Why That Matters

Today is the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

Image credit: UNESCO, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

You may be wondering why this day is necessary—particularly in 2019, when the average person is inundated with an estimated 34 gigabytes of information every day, from emails and text messages to Youtube videos and news programs. In fact, it’s easy to take information for granted. However, access to public information, in particular, is not universal.

“Although technology has increased the amount of information and systematized the collection of data, people and communities across the world still lack access to critical, public information,” explains Bushra Ebadi. As a researcher and Executive Committee Member of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Bushra relies on public information to study and develop solutions for issues such as insecurity, corruption, inequality, and climate change.

Access to information “is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression” and “a key enabler towards inclusive knowledge societies.”

According to Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, access to information “is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression” and “a key enabler towards inclusive knowledge societies.” Despite this, UNESCO says that many governments “do not have national legislation on access to information as a specific expression of the law,” otherwise known as freedom of information legislation. This means that millions of people do not have the right or the ability to access public information. Further, “Even when these laws exist they are not necessarily abided by,” adds Bushra, “there can be a lot of red tape to access information in a timely manner.”

This lack of access is particularly worrying for researchers and activists, like Bushra. Without universal, open access to data from governments or research institutions, for example, developing effective solutions to global problems is difficult.

A Closer Look At Government Data

Increasingly, governments are using tools like Creative Commons’ CC0 Public Domain Dedication (CC Zero) to maximize the “re-use of data and databases” by clarifying that these resources are in the public domain and not restricted by copyright. However, there are many instances when data collected by governments are not made easily accessible (e.g., through an online data portal or open source data set).

In 2017, the World Wide Web Foundation found that almost every country included in its Open Data Barometer report failed to adequately share important data with the public. For example, only 71% of the observed government data sets were published online, only 25% were available via an open license, and only 7% of government data sets were truly open—meaning they “can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose.” The Foundation also reported that many of the available data sets were “incomplete, out of date, of low quality, and fragmented.”

In her work, Bushra often relies on government data to conduct policy research, but has routinely experienced problems. “The relevance of the data is largely dependent on how and what information was collected, as well as the format it is available in,” she explains. While studying issues related to forced migration and gender discrimination in the Global South, for example, she found it difficult to access reliable data.

“By restricting access to those who can afford it or have power and privilege, we support a system and culture of elitism…”

To compensate for this lack of data, researchers must often rely on data collected by non-government entities—which are typically kept behind expensive paywalls. According to Bushra, this is particularly detrimental. “By restricting access to those who can afford it or have power and privilege, we support a system and culture of elitism in which a select group of people with access are able to dictate what is done with information and how it is used.”

Attendees meet at Rights Con, Tunisia 2019Image credit: Rights Con 2019, CC BY-NC 2.0

The Power of Information

Universal, open access to public information, particularly government data, not only facilitates scientific collaboration and innovation, it also empowers communities that have been historically marginalized and silenced.

“Access to information is intrinsically tied to the right to know and the right to exist,” Bushra emphasizes, “and without access to information, citizens lack the tools they need to hold their governments and people in power accountable.”

Information is powerful—that’s why, even in 2019, the International Day for Universal Access to Information remains not only important, but necessary.

To learn more and get involved, visit UNESCO’s website or sign up for their newsletter.

The post Access to Information Is Not Universal: Here’s Why That Matters appeared first on Creative Commons.

Learning to Spot the Revealing Gaps in Our Public Data Sets

“As art installations go, it is low key: a filing cabinet filled with meticulously labelled hanging folders. Visitors are welcome to browse under any heading that sparks their interest: publicly available gun trace data; the Nanjing massacre death toll; English language rules internalised by native speakers; how much Spotify pays each artist per play of song. The folders are all empty.

The work, titled “The Library of Missing Datasets”, is by Mimi Onuoha, an artist and adjunct professor at New York University. The aim, she says, is to expose the “blank spots in spaces that are otherwise saturated with data”. The blanks can reveal hidden biases in a society….”

Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE)

“Open government data is a powerful tool for economic growth, social benefit, and scientific research. This global resource must be developed and managed in ways that meet the needs of the people and organizations that use it.

CODE brings together data providers and data users to develop better strategies that serve stakeholders and their common goals. 

CODE, founded as the Center for Open Data Enterprise, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to maximize the value of open government data as a resource for economic growth, social good, and scientific research….”

India’ Open Government Data Platform Is Helping Data Scientists Kick-start Their ML Journey

The NDA government has come into its new term with a renewed gusto towards analytics in the public sector. Recognising the disruptive effect that the upcoming AI wave will have on citizen’s day-to-day activities, the government has put it on a spotlight.

One of the biggest needs for a healthy analytics ecosystem in any given environment is data. Identifying the data-hungry nature of the new data science and analytics startups in India, the government initiated the Open Government Data Platform at data.gov.in….

This move allows data scientists and machine learning engineers alike to harness one of the biggest collections of datasets available to the public….”

White House Releases Draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan – SPARC

Yesterday, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released their long-awaited draft Federal Data Strategy Action Plan which outlines the Administration’s concrete action plan for implementing the President’s Management Agenda priority to leverage data as a National Strategic Asset. It also serves as a blueprint for the government’s implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking/Open Government Act, which was signed into law in January.

Along with the draft action plan, OMB released final versions of the principles and practices it expects agencies to follow in gathering, using, protecting, and engaging with data.

The draft action plan, which is open for public comment until July 5th, lays out actions considered fundamental for the government to undertake during the first year in order to execute the full breadth of the strategy over time. It includes concrete deliverables for each individual federal agency, as well as government-wide actions facilitated by collaborative agency work.

The plan articulates six actions for all federal agencies to individually complete once the action plan is finalized in August:

  1. Improve data resources for artificial intelligence research and development by February 2020
  2. Constitute a diverse data governance body by September 2019
  3. Assess data and related infrastructure maturity by May 2020
  4. Identify opportunities to increase staff data skills by May 2020
  5. Identify data needed to answer key agency questions by August 2020
  6. Identify priority datasets for agency open data plans by August 2020…”

The associativity evaluation between open data and country characteristics | The Electronic Library | Vol 37, No 2

Abstract:  Purpose

The purpose of this study is to review the levels of open government data (OGD) among various countries that are not consistent with the development levels of those countries. This study evaluates the associativity between OGD Index (OGD) and the characteristics of those countries as well as to compare the degree of OGD among countries. Accordingly, an advanced discussion to explore how a country’s characteristics affect how that country’s government opens data was presented.

 

Design/methodology/approach

The stakeholder relationships of OGD is analysed with the characteristics of a country. The usage data are compared with the data availability according to nine indicators. These data collected from the statistics and OGDI websites are grouped for comparative statistical analyses based on basic descriptive statistics, one-way analysis of variance and a regression model with variance inflation faction.

 

Findings

The results 1) revealed the reasons some countries have high-ranking indexes and 2) verified the high index values of countries in terms of their degrees of development. This study, thus, attempted to derive a balanced appraisal of national development and OGD.

 

Research limitations/implications

The study sample is limited only to countries 1) which open the statistical data; and 2) are of uneven population density and development degree. The OGDI is limited to expert evaluation. The score might be vary to experts and users with diverse countries at different evaluation period. The limitations can be attributed to the differences between OGDI and real open levels. These differences might influence the reliability and validity.

Practical implications
 

Government departments with OGD policies provide raw data in various formats and with application interfaces for user access. This study, thus, attempts to derive a balanced appraisal of national development and OGD. The factors that evaluate which types of countries open the level of data are explored.

Originality/value
 

This study establishes stakeholder relationships of OGD and extends to analyse the characteristics of a country and OGD that affect the government data open level. The relationships are evaluated through the OGDI with design score scheme. The measurement results indicated that a country possesses high relation to open data with high DI and nature resource.

Exploring the quality of government open data | Comparison study of the UK, the USA and Korea | The Electronic Library | Vol 37, No 1

Abstract:  Purpose

The use of “open data” can help the public find value in various areas of interests. Many governments have created and published a huge amount of open data; however, people have a hard time using open data because of data quality issues. The UK, the USA and Korea have created and published open data; however, the rate of open data implementation and level of open data impact is very low because of data quality issues like incompatible data formats and incomplete data. This study aims to compare the statuses of data quality from open government sites in the UK, the USA and Korea and also present guidelines for publishing data format and enhancing data completeness.

Design/methodology/approach

This study uses statistical analysis of different data formats and examination of data completeness to explore key issues of data quality in open government data.

Findings

Findings show that the USA and the UK have published more than 50 per cent of open data in level one. Korea has published 52.8 per cent of data in level three. Level one data are not machine-readable; therefore, users have a hard time using them. The level one data are found in portable document format and hyper text markup language (HTML) and are locked up in documents; therefore, machines cannot extract out the data. Findings show that incomplete data are existing in all three governments’ open data.

Originality/value

Governments should investigate data incompleteness of all open data and correct incomplete data of the most used data. Governments can find the most used data easily by monitoring data sets that have been downloaded most frequently over a certain period.