Consultation for a review of the EITI open data policy
Comments and submissions on the EITI Open data policy are welcome by 7 January 2019 to email@example.com.
The EITI's Open data policy was adopted in 2015 and has since been an important reference for implementing countries in their open data efforts. This has been further reinforced with the EITI Board's decision to encourage systematic disclosure.
This consultation seeks to collect views from those involved in collecting, disseminating and utilising EITI data on how to rephrase the open data policy.
You can find a word version of the current open data policy attached below (direct download). Please send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The EITI Principles declare that “a public understanding of government revenues and expenditure over time [can] help public debate and inform choice of appropriate and realistic options for sustainable development” (EITI Principle 4). The EITI Standard, therefore, requires EITI Reports that are “comprehensible, actively promoted, publicly accessible, and contribute to public debate” (EITI Requirement 7.1). Improving the accessibility and comparability of EITI data is essential to realise these objectives.
To further these objectives, the EITI’s open data policy was adopted on 9 December 2015 (and incorporated into the EITI Standard in February 2016). The policy contains recommendations on open data in the implementation of the EITI, building on lessons emerging from national level implementation and emerging international best practice. The EITI Standard was also revised to promote open data. MSGs in implementing countries are required to “agree on a clear policy on the access, release and re-use of EITI data” (requirement 7.1). This requirement came into force on 31 December 2016 (list of open data policies).
Lessons learned from implementation of the Open data policy
Since the adoption of the EITI’s open data policy, there have been further developments within the EITI and open data communities, technological developments, country experiences and international data standards.
Most EITI countries have adopted an open data policy and we have seen some activity around publishing EITI data in open format. The use of data for accountability has been quite limited, however, because the published data is mainly two years old and not necessarily provided in the context that can be useful to public debate. Based on feedback from stakeholders, implementation support and experience from Validation, some key lessons include:
- A key factor to ensure the sustainability of publishing open data is to ensure that it is part of the bureaucratic routine and being published at the source.
- A key factor to ensure timeliness is to encourage publication at the source as soon as it is available.
- To avoid duplication of data, clear ownership and publishing rules for the dataset need to be determined.
- Where open data projects are being established, special attention needs to be paid to capacity-building in order ensure sustainability in the longer-term and that agencies dealing with data(such as statistical offices) are included in the project design and execution. While there have been some efforts in establishing data platforms, those have been established in isolation to other government processes or development projects. Coordination mechanisms within governments are needed to collect, manage, publish and integrate data over the mid- and long-term.
- To address the use of data, publishers need to consider the context, demand for the data and determine how to publish it so it can be found. Data will be used and can have an impact if it helps solve a concrete question or address a concern. Publishing data without context will not lead to it being used.
- Capacity needs to be built both in government and in civil society to prepare the data, publish it and analyse it.
- Emerging data standards can contribute to making data interoperable. A better understanding of data standards and how to apply those are needed in countries and at the International Secretariat.
- While publishing open by default is a good basic principle, the EITI must recognise that many companies and governments are dealing with legacy issues and that making data available in a meaningful way is a gradual process.
- Open data principles should reflect the level of maturity of the country’s data infrastructure. Open data policies should consider the current state of data infrastructure, such as internet and mobile penetration, the skills and equipment needed to publish open data, and include objectives to establish a solid data collection and distribution network (both in terms of technology and people), in line with the country’s level of development.
- In 2016, the EITI introduced a requirement for MSGs to agree on an open data policy. These policies have often focused on how to make the data in the EITI Report more accessible. A more effective approach is to review the open data policies and practices of the companies and government agencies that are the primary sources of data and to consider actions to improve their open data policy and increase public access to more timely data.
- To further learn support countries and companies the EITI should promote good examples of systematic disclosure and open data more widely and consider joining working groups to disseminate examples and draw on lessons learned.
The EITI Board has agreed that systematic disclosure should be the default expectation. The trend toward mainstreaming (systematic disclosure) and open data are mutually reinforcing. However, there is an emerging risk is that “EITI open data” portals are being developed independently of core administrative information management systems. This can lead to duplication and inattention to the strengthening the systems that the primary source and guarantor of reliable data. The EITI open data policy should highlight the importance of open data at source.
In a more recent decision, the Board has clarified the expectation that supporting companies are expected to publicly disclose taxes and payments. Where companies choose not to, they should state why. A revised open data policy could address the opportunities for companies to publish this information in an open format in line with the Board’s expectation of systematic disclosure through “government and corporate reporting” (see summary here).
Experience from other organisations and networks could be valuable in further developing the EITI’s policy. For example, that more attention needs to be paid to the data infrastructure and purpose of publishing data when orienting government systems to “open by default”. The Open Data Charter has (in May 2018) initiated a review of its own principles. Other initiatives have made good progress in collecting and publishing data and a consultation could draw on lessons from their experience. Other organisations have found that publishing data does not always lead to growing accountability and are reviewing their assumptions.
Internationally, the expectation on governments to publish data in open format has gained further traction. The first UN World Data Forum took place in October 2018, bringing together experts from statistics offices worldwide to debate how to advance the publication of data which is deemed essential to meet the SDGs (link to declaration). The EITI could consider joining working groups on open government data to further draw on experience from other actors and share experiences from EITI countries.
Also internationally, new data standards have arisen that relate to information published as part of EITI reporting. The consultation could seek to understand if countries should be encouraged to adopt existing open data standards, which could improve the data collection and increase the analysis of data by others.
In sum, a review of the open data policy is timely. It would consider the developments highlighted above, and also seek additional
 For example, the EITI could consider endorsing the Open Data Charter and join one of its working groups. See also their guide on fighting corruption: https://open-data-charter.gitbook.io/open-up-guide-using-open-data-to-combat-corruption/
 Open by default refers to the expectation that government data is published, and it needs to be justified if it does not get published (for example for security or data protection). https://opendatacharter.net/principles/.
 The International Aid Transparency Initiative has established a data standard on aid data which has been widely adoptedhttps://iatistandard.org/en/. The Open Government Partnership has shared experiences with open data commitments of countries, see https://www.opengovpartnership.org/resources/aligning-supply-and-demand-better-governance-open-data-open-government-partnership
 For example the OGP (see above footnote) and the International Budget Partnership https://www.internationalbudget.org/2018/10/rethinking-fiscal-futures-questions-for-the-field/ and https://www.internationalbudget.org/2018/11/revisiting-fiscal-transparency-accountability-foundational-assumptions/
 To mention two: beneficial ownership data standard (https://openownership.org/the-beneficial-ownership-data-standard/) and open contracting data standard (http://standard.open-contracting.org/latest/en/)