Case Study

Open Data for Public Service Delivery

How can the interest and capacity within government be developed to make ‘open government’ possible?

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Around the world, open data platforms are unlocking exciting opportunities to improve public service delivery and providing new channels for civic engagement. But there are many hurdles to realizing open data’s potential. Many governments are simply not interested. Even where there is enthusiasm, governments may lack concrete understanding of the ways in which open data can support their interests or the capabilities. Turning raw data into useful analyses or inputs for decision-making requires specialist technical skills and strong design.

In September 2013, Edo State launched an open data portal, the first state government in Nigeria and first sub-national government in Africa to do so, to similar challenges. In particular, limited capacity to manage data, along with limited political support to access data across government departments hampered Edo State’s Open Data Team in fulfilling their mandate. The World Bank engaged Reboot to help this team within the ICT Agency secure political support for its initiatives within government and to grow its capabilities for working with open data.

After only a few months, our engagement helped the Open Data Team win support from various government agencies and senior officials. The growing buy-in for open data in Edo State led to the state governor mandating that all state agencies must make their data open and available.

In September 2013, Edo State launched an open data portal, becoming the first state government in Nigeria and first sub-national government in Africa to do so. The Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA), was the government body driving the initiative. The Agency’s leadership viewed the portal as a vehicle for enabling greater transparency and accountability in the management of public resources. Led by a passionate, young staff in the Open Data Team and with the tagline “bringing governance to the people”, the portal held exciting potential for improving social outcomes.

But at launch, the portal did not have the resources to fully meet ICTA’s ambitions. The few dozen datasets released provided useful information but they weren’t accessible for the average citizen. A handful of featured applications showed the data’s potential, but they weren’t yet relevant for improving public services. Additionally, the Open Data Team’s counterparts in other government agencies did not have the same enthusiasm for sharing their data—both within government and with the public. Some were even suspicious of requests to do so.

Faced with this opposition, the World Bank engaged Reboot to help ICTA’s Open Data Team secure political support for its initiatives within government and to grow its capabilities for working with open data. Specifically, Reboot sought to boost the technical capacity of the team to deliver on its vision, while simultaneously working to achieve rapid enough results to increase the level of political support for the team’s work.