Image of Kiev, Ukraine. Adobe Stock.

TAPAS: Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (case study)

Fri Dec 13, 2019
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We partnered with the Eurasia Foundation to deliver the open data workstream of a project to support Ukrainian citizens and government in combating corruption in its public administration functions, and to support open innovation and economic growth

We partnered with the Eurasia Foundation to deliver the open data workstream of a project to support Ukrainian citizens and government in combating corruption in its public administration functions, and to support open innovation and economic growth. 

Summary

In 2017, the ODI partnered with the Eurasia Foundation to deliver the open data workstream of the project, TAPAS: Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services. TAPAS is a three-year project set up to support Ukrainian citizens and government in combating corruption in its public administration functions, and to support open innovation and economic growth.

TAPAS builds on Ukraine’s commitment to open data. Ukraine signed the International Open Data Charter in 2016, which includes an undertaking to implement a national open data policy aligned with charter principles.

The three TAPAS workstreams are: open data, e-procurement and e-services. The ODI team contributed to the open data workstream by advising on the design and implementation of the Ukraine government’s open data strategy. As well as partnering with the Eurasia Foundation, our team worked with the open data incubator 1991 and the data journalism agency Texty to help improve the quality of open data in Ukraine.

The aims of the open data workstream are: to increase the efficiency and transparency of government work; to provide open access to data across sectors; and to use open data to create innovative tools for society and business. The project team also aims to support local government areas that have populations of over 100,000: to publish data regularly; to organise seminars and workshops for open data managers; to develop an open data barometer; and to establish an Open Data Leaders Network.

Project funders include UK Aid and the United States Agency for International Development. The primary stakeholder is the Ukraine government’s State Agency for E-Governance.

TAPAS aims to help demonstrate transparency and accountability, and to build trust in the government – domestically and internationally. The project also has a role to advocate for open data, and to build trust and buy-in across government departments. This is particularly important in Ukraine: corruption is prevalent – the 2018 Transparency International corruption index ranks Ukraine 120 out of 180 countries – and the government recognises that open data has a ‘powerful anti-corruption effect’ while also having a positive impact on the economy.

Our role in the project is an example of practical advocacy, with the ODI working as a ‘critical friend’ – providing expert advice and creating products to support change. The Open Data Leaders Network element of the project is an example of a peer network, helping to connect people with a group of peers facing similar challenges who can exchange ideas and learn from each other. The project also helps demonstrate the benefits of data sharing to bring about positive impact.

Key facts and figures

Project facts

  • Three-year project, funded by USAID and UK Aid
  • TAPAS aims to: support the reduction of corruption in key public administration functions and services; and to build Ukrainians’ trust in their government based on demonstrated transparency, accountability and improved services.
  • The ODI team worked with the Eurasia Foundation to focus on the open data workstream

Global rankings and report findings

Project outputs

What was the ODI’s role?

We were commissioned to help deliver the open data strand of the three-year project, starting in 2017. The Ukraine government had already embraced the concept of open data, signing up to the International Open Data Charter in 2016. It had also established a Roadmap for Open Data Development, with the stated goal to embed the principle of ‘open by default’ throughout government. Our role was to help with the development and implementation of the roadmap.

In the scoping phase we identified a need to help audit the existing data infrastructure managed and held by government departments. We provided advice on how to run a data audit across government to identify:

  • the existing data in the ecosystem
  • how much had already been published as open data
  • and what other data they could potentially publish as open data.

We also identified different levels of data literacy across government. To address this discrepancy, we helped develop and publish accessible and relevant eLearning modules covering the following topics:

  • What is open data?
  • Unlocking value from open data
  • What makes quality open data?
  • The principles of the Open Data Charter
  • Why should we worry about sustainability?

To develop buy-in at senior level, and build a network of open data advocates, we worked with the wider TAPAS team to set up the Open Data Leaders Network. In 2017–18, 25 participants from across local and central government took part in the programme, designed specifically to train government officials and provide a forum for sharing ideas, with access to expert insights. The network includes representatives from Ukraine governmental departments including Ukraine’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the State Statistics Service and the Ministry of Justice.

In October 2017, the ODI invited 12 members of the Open Data Leaders Network for a three-day study tour in London. Open data experts from the ODI, the Open Data Charter and Open Knowledge International ran training sessions at the ODI headquarters.

To stimulate interest, generate demand and motivate startups and SMEs to work with open data, we also helped set up the Open Data Challenge. This is a national competition to encourage developers, entrepreneurs, designers and researchers to use open data to create products and services that will help solve a societal problem.

The ODI team ran the first challenge in 2017, developing a methodology which we could then handover to the TAPAS team. They then ran the 2018 challenge, with support from 1991, an open data incubator.

Across 2017 and 2018, over 350 ideas were submitted to the challenge. This led to 30 being selected and incubated, enabling the teams to develop their ideas. From that pool, the challenge selected nine winners. The prize included a share of UAH 4,000,000 (around £130,000) to continue developing their ideas.

The successful ideas include: 

We also commissioned a report, Economic potential of open data for Ukraine, which explores the economic potential of open data for Ukraine. The report estimated that open data contributed between $746 and $903m to the Ukraine economy in 2017, which could increase to $1.4bn or 0.84% of GDP by 2025. The report’s landing page on the ODI website has had 207 unique views over the past year.

What was challenging?

A main challenge was the lack of team continuity and issues around project documentation and organisational memory. Due to high staff turnover there was not a consistent team for the duration of the project, which led to knowledge being lost as team members left and were replaced. This caused challenges in terms of project documentation, loss of expertise and specialist knowledge, and continuing to deliver an uninterrupted partnership to stakeholders and partners. We also needed to rely on contractors and external suppliers, who found it hard to get up to speed with sometimes complex topics. This also introduced an extra level of management in terms of sign off and quality control.

Limitations around communications and dissemination in the first year may have reduced the impact of the project. We didn’t employ a working-in-the-open approach in year one. More working in the open might have worked well to both share our workings and generate interest in the project. It was sometimes difficult to measure/describe progress in concrete terms, as a lot of the support we provided was advice and advocacy, rather than tangible outputs. This difficulty was partly because communications was the remit of the TAPAS project itself, rather than a joint responsibility across partners.

International projects can be hard, as there is generally an intermediary – an organisation on the ground. While this is invaluable – projects would not be possible without them – it means there is a dependency, a degree of shared responsibility, and often inevitable delays because of translation requirements, different time zones, and political sensitivities etc.

For future projects, we should:

  • aim to build in robust document control, including using filing and naming conventions, and best-practice handover processes to maintain organisational memory and ensure any new team members are able to pick up the project details quickly. This would also help with briefing contractors and other suppliers.
  • ‘bake in’ communications to the project planning, and ensure there are actionable goals and a responsible person, whether within the ODI or a partner organisation.
  • When using an intermediary organisation, realistically plan for the extra time that may be required for translation, anticipate delays in feedback due to time zone differences, and ‘horizon scan’ for any political sensitivities that may need to be considered.

What went well/lessons for similar projects

The Open Data Leaders Network was a successful and smooth-running element of the project. Because the TAPAS team already had connections within local and national government, and the Ukraine government was well established in its open data journey, convening the Open Data Leaders Network was a fairly straightforward process, with potential members already ‘warm’ and willing to participate. However, it was vital to have TAPAS as an in-country project partner for this to be possible, as the geographic, language and cultural nuances would have made it much more complicated to convene, without the local in-country partner.

The three-day ‘study tour’ training also was a success, with participants taking part in training days: ‘Open data changes the way government works’; ‘Who is using my open data?’; and ‘Creating value from open data’. The study tour also included visits to the UK Government Digital Service, and the Geovation Startup Hub. Participants had the opportunity to reflect, exchange ideas and further develop their own open data strategies around the official training sessions. At the end of the week participants reflected on what they learned and highlighted that they felt inspired, motivated and supported to drive open data initiatives in their cities or departments. A main takeaway from the tour was that participants reported a strong understanding around the idea that, to create value from open data, more than just publishing is needed, and that an ecosystem of data publishers, users and end users of services ensure that open data is effectively utilised. The programme enables officials to improve their knowledge of open data and develop data-discovery strategies for their sector or geographic area.

In the second year of the project, we were able to focus on promoting some of the key outputs and successes of the project. These include that open data added $700m (0.67% of GDP) to Ukraine’s economy in 2017, and that 900 open datasets will published by government agencies under Decree #835 (which requires that specific government datasets are opened).

As a team, we recognised the issues around promotion and were able to address this effectively in the second year of the project. We found that once datasets began to be published, there was not a lot of interest in using the data, partly because the project did not have a specific user-engagement lead. In some cases, potential data users did not trust the quality of the data, because of previous experience of working with the government. Once this issue was identified, we put more effort into promotion and communication. In 2018, the TAPAS team ran an open data forum, talked on panels at international events, and organised smaller meetings and talks.

Video content works well to share messages and increase engagement. Working with Oxford Insights and the wider TAPAS team, we created videos: Open data in Ukraine; The economic impact of open data in Ukraine; Open data for cities in Ukraine, which have had approximately 300 views on YouTube. Open data in Ukraine was screened at the Open Data Leaders’ Summit at the International Open Data Conference 2018 in Argentina, which had around 60 attendees from governments around the world. TAPAS also showed Open data in Ukraine  at the TAPAS Open Data Forum 2017.

For future projects, it is key to build in time and resource for follow-up engagement and dissemination, as this enables the teams to: share the project outputs at events and forums; develop targeted communications campaigns to engage with particular audiences; and iterate on outputs following user feedback. It is also important to use the most effective format for messaging. In this case, video worked well, and it’s important to assess user needs and not automatically return to default formats such as reports.

What have we learned (how to create impact/how to engage effectively etc)

The TAPAS project generated impactful metrics that show the sort of progress that is valued by governments and businesses. For example, the number of datasets published and the impact on the economy. Ukraine has put a lot of effort into increasing the supply of open data. They are meeting the requirements for the Open Data Barometer – pushing them up the international ranking. For example, its score on ‘government action’ has gone from 29 in 2015, up to 70 in 2017.

Storytelling is important. It’s vital to have a mix of metrics and anecdotal evidence to tell the story properly. We achieved this through a mixture of blog posts, videos and reports, but a stronger focus on the human-interest stories may have delivered more impact and further reach.

Engaging senior sponsors is crucial. The lead at Eurasia was fantastic at getting decision-making advocates on board. The state secretary for cabinet was on board very early on, and he became the responsible person in the cabinet for the open data work. It’s important to have at least one person in the team who can engage and get buy-in from senior sponsors.

For future projects, to harness this learning around using valuable metrics, we should:

  • set realistic key performance indicators (KPIs) against our projects and ensure we have SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) objectives set at project inception, to allow us to measure and report on impact effectively.
  • ensure we think about effective storytelling, and build in user-needs testing/research to help us shape outputs using the most accessible and engaging formats and dissemination methods.