This week in Open Data and Development: Politics and Power in Open Data


Politics and Power in Open Data

While the number of hackathons, data dives, and apps based on open data might make it seem that open data is a relatively simple concept: you have data, you make it available, and then you do something good with it. The reality is that politics play at several levels throughout the process.

Tim Davies made the point that it isn’t just the policies around data that are politically charged, but even the very datasets themselves are political insofar as deciding what is important enough to collect the data. With the ever increasing trend of making data open, it is probable to say that the questions asked at the start will be affected by this trend. While some may try to hide information by leaving significant questions out from the get-go, while on the other hand it may shine a light on deficiencies in the data collected.
On the same page, Patrick Meier pointed out, “information does not equal action. Response is political.” He gives the example of the Somalia Famine where famine warning systems had been setting off alarms for eleven months building up to it. 
While South Africa may be ranked number two worldwide in regards to budget transparency, Jay Naidoo is still appealing for government and civil society to take advantage of all the open data available to engage citizens for effective development. Politics
Even still, there are concerns over protection of information and data, including risks to individuals, such as those involved in crisis mapping. The overall consensus though, is that it is worth taking on the political field to create an environment where open data is warmly accepted, and enthusiastically used.
Barack Obama’s Budget Overhaul
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Wednesday of last week the Obama administration released its fiscal 2014 budget, including foreign assistance and support funding. Although the overall budget sees a $2.4 billion decrease from last year’s foreign assistance budget, global responses have generally been positive. 
The budget includes an extensive change to US food aid which will now allow the US to purchase food closer to where the needs are, or send cash vouchers. Previously, food aid was restricted to be purchased and shipped from the US.  
Plusses include being able to buy less expensive, local food, meaning more food for more people and a building up local markets. Negatives are passed onto US farmers and shippers who benefited from the restriction. 
USAID respondedby reemphasizing how their USAID Forward reforms allow for them to adapt to the forthcoming changes while continuing to focus on ending extreme poverty.
Weekly updates are written by Taryn Davis of Development Gateway; email her your tips for next week's update to get a shout-out in the post.
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