Image credit: Mykhailo Dorokhov, CC BY-SA 2.0

How Ukraine became an open data pioneer

Mon Dec 17, 2018
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Open data in Ukraine has progressed significantly in recent years, and it serves as an important case study of national and local government investing in and benefitting from open data

Open data in Ukraine has progressed significantly in recent years, and it serves as an important case study of national and local government investing in and benefitting from open data 

In the 2015 edition of the Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer – in which governments around the world are compared by how they are ‘publishing and using open data for accountability, innovation and social impact’ – Ukraine was ranked 55th.

Three years on, Ukraine is ranked 17th in the Leaders Edition of the Open Data Barometer and have achieved the second biggest historical rate of improvement since the Barometer’s inception.

Recent improvements are largely down to reforms in eGovernance, which have been led by the State Agency for eGovernance of Ukraine (SAEG). The reforms aim to increase public sector transparency and accountability in order to reduce or eradicate corruption, while stimulating economic value from data use and innovation. As part of these reforms, the State Agency for eGovernance have created, and are committed to maintaining, an effective and sustainable open data programme under which central government and city governments publish data following an ‘open by default’ approach. To help support the Ukraine Government with these reforms, the Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS) programme was set up in 2016. The ODI has been an implementation partner working with local actors and SAEG to share international experience, adapt tools and methodologies for developing capacity and stimulating innovation, and provide policy advice.

Two years on from the start of the programme, open data is regularly being published by national government, while cities are making their first steps towards publishing data. Strong leadership has played an important role in supporting this initiative and the creation of an Open Data Leaders Network for national and city government officials, has been a key driver for this continued commitment to publishing data openly.

Aside from just creating a supply of data, Ukraine national government adopted the Open Data Charter and are embedding its principles and best practices in order to implement resilient open data policy. They have developed partnerships between agencies, data journalists and civil society to make sure the data they publish is published with purpose, so they meet user needs. Strengthening these relationships within the data ecosystem has been an important factor in making open data work for Ukraine.

Open data in Ukraine is also beginning to be recognised for its potential economic value. Research by Kyiv School of Economics estimates that open data contributes between $746 and $903m to the Ukrainian economy currently and can increase to $1.4b or 0.84% of GDP by 2025. Realising the maximum economic value of open data to Ukraine’s economy will require sustained investment and high level political support.

In an effort to emulate positive changes at national level, several city governments have committed to publishing open data and have also adopted the Open Data Charter. Data that city governments publish is often more useful to their community on a day-to-day basis (e.g transportations services), including startups, small-to-medium enterprises and the wider civil society, as data is relevant to people who live in that municipality. To help foster innovation through the use of some of this open data, the TAPAS programme runs a nationwide Open Data Challenge, which offer participants the opportunity to win further funding in exchange for developing open data solutions that create social or anti-corruption impact.

Winning innovations have included:

  • Monitor.Estate  – A service that analyses the legal risks involved with purchasing and leasing properties. Users can access real-time compliance documentation about the real estate developer.
  • Greenval – An application allows farmers to compare registered pesticides and agrochemicals in Ukraine, in order to make better informed purchases based on their particular needs and product safety.
  • Transparent Infrastructure – A platform that can be used to monitor infrastructure projects that have been implemented with public funds. It helps make complicated data such as contracts or complex technical information on infrastructure easier for citizens or journalists to digest.
  • LvivCityHelper – A chat-bot which allows Lviv residents to ask their local city council questions and quickly receive answers. The bot is able to answer frequently asked questions such as when street will be repaired or how much money a municipality has allocated to a particular school.

Building on recent successes, there are further opportunities for the State Agency for eGovernance to create impact with open data, across national and local government agencies, business and civil society. Raising more awareness across government of the value of data, and improving the digital skills of civil servants can help government departments to publish datasets that are valuable to society. The implementation of open standards for data will help to improve the quality of the data that is being published, and make it easier to harmonise local government data. Continuing to work in an open way through creating a dialogue with data users will also help to develop a better understanding of which datasets users find valuable, where the gaps are, and whether new eServices can be built to make people’s lives better.

Making the case for sustained investment into open data and the underlying data infrastructure is crucial to embed the gains achieved by Ukraine to date. This means continuing to do the hard work of measuring impact, and telling stories like these about the economic value.

If you’re inspired by any of the work in Ukraine and would like to do something similar, get in touch with James Maddison at [email protected].

Image credit: Mykhailo Dorokhov, CC BY-SA 2.0