Unleashing the potential of open EITI data

On 31 December 2017, an important provision of the 2016 EITI Standard comes into force. It requires implementing countries to make their EITI data available in open data formats. This is quite easily achieved and an important step in ensuring that EITI data is publicly accessible and contributes to public debate.

In 2016 the EITI Board clarified and reorganised the requirements of the EITI Standard (see an overview here). There were however some important new requirements. The EITI Board adopted an open data policy, with a view to making EITI information more accesible and useful. By 31 December 2016, multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) in implementing countries also had to agree policies on open data. As seen on EITI’s website, 26 countries has done so already. It is now time to implement these policies.

On 31 December 2017, another new requirement comes into force. Implementing countries are required to: “make the EITI Report available in an open data format (xlsx or csv) online and publicise its availability” (Requirement 7.1.c). In this blog we provide some examples of how countries are meeting this requirement. We also provide an update on our work to pull together summary data from every EITI report.

What is Open data?

The Open Data Charter (ODC) defines open data as “digital data that is made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere”. In an EITI context, practicing open data can be as simple as publishing the tables of an EITI Report in an Excel file. Several implementing countries have achieved this by asking the Independent Administrator (IA) that prepares the EITI report to make their data files available once the report is published. This is a low-cost measure, as IAs already have this data available as part of their work. If published under open licenses, as United Kingdom and Zambia have done, it allows users to freely obtain and re-use the information. With accessible tables, charts and graphs of EITI Reports, users can now verify analyses or use the information in new research.

Examples of open EITI data

The EITI website includes a number of examples of how EITI countries are publishing information in open formats. At the time of writing, twelve EITI countries are publishing data on their websites: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Norway, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, and Zambia.

Selected country examples

Mongolia covers a large number companies in their reconciliation reports. EITI Reports became bulky documents as a result; containing valuable information but in an inaccessible form. In 2015, Mongolia launched the EITIM e-reporting system. Through this portal, 922 companies report electronically. The portal includes information on licenses, spatial data, as well as financial and production data. A blog about the efforts changing from PDFs to online portal is available here.

In Norway, the government maintains a site called Norwegian Petroleum containing “Everything you need to know about Norwegian petroleum activities”. The portal provides most of the information required by the EITI Standard, including a wide array of maps and graphs ready for download. In October 2017, the EITI Board decided that Norway EITI can ‘mainstream implementation’ by publishing information through this portal, rather than in an EITI Report. Norway has therefore replaced annual EITI Reports with systematic open data disclosures.

Sierra Leone has made data on mining sector revenues accessible through an Online Repository. It contains all mining licenses and payments, as published directly by the National Minerals Agency. The portal was launched in January 2012 and adopted by SLEITI in early 2014. Users must register to access the information. See this blog for further information.

As highlighted in the previous section, larger and fully interactive data portals may not be suitable for all countries. The United Kingdom publishes Excel files on their government websites covering most of the information contained in their EITI Reports. This is a great example of how simple publications may well be the most effective way of providing EITI data to the public and other interested parties.

Similarly, Zambia EITI (ZEITI) recently published a new website containing a separate data-section. Through it, like the United Kingdom, Zambia uses the simple example of publishing Excel-files containing the information of their EITI Reports. They also publish the 'Summary data' files that ZEITI submits to the International Secretariat.

International open data efforts

The International Secretariat collates summary data from EITI Reports. Summary data files are Excel files, which are filled out by implementing countries as required in the Standard Terms of Reference for Independent Administrators. The national secretariats submit one Excel-file for every fiscal year covered by an EITI Report. The files include classification of revenue streams according to the IMF’s Government Finance Statistics (GFS) Manual 2014 framework. GFS is an international standard for classifying government revenues, making them comparable across different countries and time-periods.

These files are then imported to EITI’s website and hosted on a Google Drive folder which anyone can access. They form the basis for most of the visualisations and information covered on our country pages. After more than ten years of EITI Reporting, the EITI has now published more than 322 fiscal years’ worth of data. This includes 2.27 trillion dollars’ worth of revenues from 52 countries.

* Under review – data has been submitted to the EITI International Secretariat who quality assures the information and ensures that disclosures are standardised.

Improving the use of EITI data

Open data is not an end in itself; the goal is to make the EITI more effective.

When data is made freely available, stakeholders can explore new ways to present it in ways that illuminate public debate. For example, in Trinidad and Tobago the EITI hosted workshops on using open EITI data already in 2013 training software developers, journalists and other innovators in how to use data from EITI Reports. They now host a website and data portal based on the USEITI website which enable access to EITI data in open formats.

In Indonesia, CSOs have dedicated programmes for combining data from EITI and other sources  – this has even resulted in developing a portal and an app named Open Mining. These efforts also facilitate financial modelling, in collaboration with OpenOil – another major user of EITI data. In Ukraine, CSOs have taken EITI data and created an energy map which presents the information alongside an intuitive visualisation of the relevant value-chains. More open data products are also surfacing in Nigeria, where BudgIT and Oil Revenue publish government data on revenue expenditure and budgets – also drawing on EITI data.

For all of the examples above, much work and resources have been spent transposing data from EITI Reports to more workable formats. The implementation of the new open data requirement will make it much easier for stakeholders in other countries to emulate these end-results and to unleash the true potential of open EITI data.

Screenshot of Ukraine’s ‘Energy map’, http://map.ua-energy.org/en

Cover picture: By Jonathan Gray [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Data_stickers.jpg