January 25, 2017
The Drum BeatHarnessing and Opening Data for Development - The Drum Beat 727
January 25 2017
In this issue:

Open development has been defined as making data freely available and searchable, encouraging feedback, sharing information, and promoting transparency and accountability. Openness removes specific barriers to access and suggests inclusivity. Among the organisations working on harnessing and opening data for development through research and communication is Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), one of The Communication Initiative (The CI)'s long-time supporters. With the exception of "see also" items, this edition of The Drum Beat features initiatives that were implemented and/or funded by the IDRC. The below selections represent neither an endorsing nor a critical lens on the openness philosophy but, instead, offer descriptive details of work that is being done in this area.
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  • 1. Strengthening Information Society Research Capacity Alliance (SIRCA) White Paper Series

    Digitally enabled openness is characterised by greater transparency and collaboration made possible through digital technologies such as the internet. It has recently emerged as an organising concept across socio-economic sectors, including government, business, health, education, and science. Examples include open access to publications to make research available to a greater number of people and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to address government corruption and inefficiencies. These strategic applications of digital openness to achieve development aims can be grouped under the term 'Open Development'. From the interdisciplinary Strengthening Information Society Capacity Alliance (SIRCA III) research network, these white papers are the first step in cross-cutting, interdisciplinary open development theory building. [2016]

  • 2. Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development

    by Matthew L. Smith and Katherine M. A. Reilly
    "The emergence of open networked models made possible by digital technology has the potential to transform international development." This book explores open network structures that allow people to come together to share information, organise, and collaborate. The book's premise is that open development requires new theoretical tools that focus on real-world problems, consider a variety of solutions, and recognise the complexity of local contexts. This volume focuses on one particular source of opportunities and threats: the emergence of open networked models predicated on digital network technologies, often involving information and communication technologies (ICTs). [Dec 2013]

  • 3. Open Data Barometer (ODB) - 3rd Edition

    Produced by the World Wide Web Foundation as a collaborative work of the Open Data for Development network (OD4D), the ODB aims to uncover the prevalence and impact of open data initiatives around the world. It analyses global trends and provides comparative data on countries and regions using an in-depth methodology that combines contextual data, technical assessments, and secondary indicators. The premise of the ODB is that open data, accessed through a free and open Web, can enhance transparency, allowing citizens to participate more fully in the democratic process and hold leaders to account. It can highlight inefficiencies and uncover solutions, allowing governments and development workers to tackle tough challenges more effectively. It is accompanied by a website featuring an interactive data explorer and regional reports. [Apr 2016]

  • 4. Research into Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D)

    ROER4D aims to provide evidence-based research from a number of countries in South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia in an effort to improve educational policy, practice, and research in developing countries by better understanding the use and impact of OER. For the first project objective, building an empirical knowledge base on the use and impact of OER in education, ROER4D has engaged in a wide variety of research communications activities. This includes sharing open access literature and/or reference lists and sharing draft versions of works produced within the network - such as via the ROER4D website. The resources on this page are organised by the 6 strategic areas outlined in the design of the ROER4D project: (i) to develop the knowledge base of OER researchers in the Global South; (ii) to develop the research skills and competencies of OER researchers; (iii) to demonstrate Open Research by sharing project planning and management documents throughout the research process; (iv) to communicate ROER4D's findings, processes, and insights throughout the course of the project; (v) to evaluate the operation of the project during the research process in order to intervene effectively when problems arise; and (vi) to organise, store, and curate project outputs to ensure long-term accessibility. Final reports will be released in 2017 for public review.

  • 5. Leveraging Mobile Network Big Data for Developmental Policy: Research papers from the project

    "Many developing countries lack the capacity and resources to collect and analyze data for evidence-based policy-making. Is big data, which involves large and complex data sets, an opportunity to meet this challenge? Or will it become difficult for developing countries to adopt for solving problems?" - IDRC. The Sri Lankan think tank Learning Initiatives on Reforms for Network Economies Asia (LIRNEasia) has been exploring the possibility of using big data to inform public policy since 2012. LIRNEasia is using mobile network big data (MNBD) to: improve transportation planning in urban centres in Colombo; model the spread of infectious diseases; and uncover fine-grained indicators of economic activity. LIRNEasia's research is being disseminated through online forums, conferences, lectures, and person-to-person exchanges. LIRNEasia regularly meets with policymakers around the world to discuss their research.

  • 6. Impact of Information Society Research in the Global South

    by Arul Chib, Ed., Julian May, Ed., and Roxana Barrantes, Ed.
    This 2-part volume explores theories and methodologies that can be used to yield research findings about the potential of ICTs to make a positive difference in people's lives. It emerges from SIRCA II, which sought to enhance the research capacity of 15 emerging information society scholars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The second part of the volume sets out how research in the global South is contributing to our understanding of the information societies in these regions, asking what is the evidence of the impact of ICTs on society (i.e., the end objectives of socio-economic development). One theme highlighted in these chapters is the value of collaborative effort that provides mentoring for researchers and supports their initiatives through dialogue with each other and with interested others. [2015]

  • 7. Implementing Agenda 2030: Unpacking the Data Revolution at Country Level

    by Shannon Kindornay, Debapriya Bhattacharya, and Kate Higgins
    This final report from the Post-2015 Data Test initiative offers research-based reflections on how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be effectively and universally applied, as well as measured, across countries with different sustainable development challenges and priorities. The report seeks to provide clear guidance on where and how country-level investments in the data revolution could be made, particularly with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data now underway. It gives prominence to the issue of data quality and, through a set of case studies, tests out a methodology to assess, in a comparative way, how well countries are doing in providing the kind of data needed to review and follow up on their commitments toward selected goals and targets. One finding: "Scarce technical capacities for data generation, quality assessment and analytical use in developing countries are located in their research institutes and think tanks. These institutions should be extensively engaged by the national governments, regional entities and global community to address data challenges emanating from the operationalisation of data revolution at country level." [Jun 2016]

  • See also:
    Open Data, Transparency and Accountability
    The Global Impact of Open Data: Key Findings from Detailed Case Studies Around the World
  • 8. Catalyzing Broadband Internet in Africa - Ensuring Economic and Social Inclusion

    This project aims to inform policies in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria that help marginalised groups in Africa, such as women and the economically poor, to take advantage of the social and economic opportunities of broadband internet. The South-Africa-based think tank Research ICT Africa (RIA) is managing the project and conducting research in an effort to: determine the policy challenges related to providing affordable broadband services; influence policy processes with reliable evidence and evaluate policy outcomes; mobilise African research networks focused on broadband to identify innovative ideas and solutions that help to reduce inequality and poverty; and build African researchers' and policy leaders' capacity to undertake rigorous research that informs pro-poor broadband policies. The RIA research agenda formalises an evidence-based approach to policy making through 3 key stages: data collection - e.g., via individual and household surveys; analysis - modelling, structuring, and organising data to tell a clear narrative and to identify the best points of policy intervention; and generalisation - using the intersection of data collection and analysis to provide tools for effective policy implementation that is applicable beyond individual countries and can be adapted to a broader range of countries.

  • 9. Information Networks and Social Inclusion in Latin America

    The Diálogo Regional sobre Sociedad de la Información (DIRSI) network is working to generate research to inform policymakers and practitioners about the development impact of new ICTs in Latin America - and how to make them more socially inclusive. The research team explores how and how much economically poor and marginalised groups - especially women and youth - are participating in and receiving the benefits of the new levels of connectivity across the region. These benefits may include increased employment and livelihood opportunities, for example. The Digital Poverty 2.0 survey re-examines digital poverty, assessing how the economically poor are using ICTs to participate in a variety of online activities across social domains, and how increased access to such networks is catalysing positive development changes.

  • 10. Toward a Networked Economy in Myanmar

    This research project is an effort to help Myanmar (Burma) transition to an inclusive, networked economy that advances its social and economic goals, giving citizens access to technology and services. The think tank LIRNEasia (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), Yangon, Myanmar are undertaking the research and project activities in collaboration with the Centre for Internet & Society (CIS), India. The research team hopes that, as a result of this project, Myanmar's citizens will gain: greater access to mobiles and internet services, better public services through digital content and applications, and improved digital literacy. The project will also inform policies that help citizens take advantage of the social and economic opportunities resulting from an improved ICT infrastructure. MIDO, government regulators, and other stakeholders will hopefully gain the skills and knowledge they need to develop and implement inclusive, growth-oriented policies.

  • 11. Public Access ICT across Cultures: Diversifying Participation in the Network Society

    by Francisco J. Proenza (ed.)
    This book includes contributions exploring public access venues - most often, internet cafés in cities and state-run rural telecentres - which are places where people can use computers and the internet. By presenting the findings of 10 research teams that worked between 2009 and 2012 in 10 countries in South America, Asia, and Africa, the book documents the impacts of public access, both positive and negative, on individuals, society and networks, and women, and examines the policy implications of the findings. For example: "...the benefits of shared public access go far beyond simply providing affordable access to the infrastructure. Public access venues are also places for learning, sharing, working, finding opportunities, empowering, and solidarity." [Jun 2015]

  • 12. Mobile Phones, Internet, and Gender in Myanmar

    by Helani Galpaya and Ayesha Zainudeen
    LIRNEasia's nationally representative baseline survey of the ICT needs and usage of over 12,000 respondents in Myanmar showed that women in March 2015 were 29% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. However, there is a negligible difference between the number of men and women who own smartphones (or "touchphones"): men at 65% compared to women at 64%. Together with GSMA's Connected Women programme, LIRNEasia explored the reasons behind this gender gap in ownership through a series of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions held in Yangon (urban) and Pantanaw (rural) among 91 men and women in July 2015. Further questions on mobile internet awareness and use, as well as barriers to use, were explored. [2015]



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  • 13. Towards A Safer City: Sexual Harassment in Greater Cairo: Effectiveness of Crowdsourced Data

    by Amel Fahmy, Angie Abdelmonem, Enas Hamdy, and Ahmed Badr
    In this report, the Cairo, Egypt-based HarassMap examines the use of crowdsourcing (information collected through social media platforms and text messaging) for collecting data and reporting incidents of sexual harassment. A volunteer-based initiative founded in late 2010, HarassMap utilises both geographic information system (GIS) and SMS (text messaging) technologies to record where incidents of harassment occur across the country. Map reports and information are displayed via an open source platform. The Map serves multiple functions, such as: providing testimony by those who experience or witness sexual harassment as to the seriousness of the problem, serving as data for understanding how sexual harassment is evolving in Egypt, providing HarassMap with information that can be used to tailor communication campaigns and research programmes, and serving as a tool for community outreach teams to motivate the public to stand up against sexual harassment.

  • 14. Growing Women-Owned Businesses: WEConnect

    This research project is working to help women-owned businesses connect to global markets and enhance their growth prospects to support socioeconomic development and gender equality. The pilot project first focused on India, where researchers collected and maintain data on female-owned enterprises in India. WEConnect also conducted an analysis of a sample of businesses to understand the data gaps. This work is designed to strengthen WEConnect's eNetwork, which allows multinational firms that have committed to using their purchasing power to support women's economic empowerment to identify women-owned suppliers as potential vendors in their supply chains. The project also aims to provide tools for business and the wider community of practice. The aim is to eventually roll out a data platform that serves and promotes women entrepreneurs from 17 other countries.

  • 15. Women and ICT in Africa and the Middle East: Changing Selves, Changing Societies

    by Ineke Buskens and Anne Webb (eds.)
    This book offers a selection of articles that look at the link between ICT and women's empowerment, and how ICTs can facilitate the pursuit of a world that is grounded in social justice and sustainability. The articles highlight the work of the Gender Research in Africa and the Middle East into ICTs for Empowerment (GRACE) Network. They are based on 21 research projects conducted in 14 countries during the period 2008-2012. [2014]

  • 16. Achieving Impact at Scale through ICT-Enabled Extension Services (AIS)

    Launched in November 2015, the AIS project is designed to support the Government of Ghana's food security and agricultural policies by demonstrating how ICT-enabled extension systems - namely, mobile phones and radio campaigns - can accelerate adoption of innovations and improve inefficiencies in the agribusiness supply chain. Researchers from Farm Radio International (FRI), the Grameen Foundation, and Digital Green are working with industry partners to establish the conditions for the scaling up, profitability, and long-term sustainability of a private-sector led ICT-enabled extension service in Ghana. They are also looking at adapting the models to the nutrition and health sectors. The aim is to reach over 300,000 smallholder households (SHH) in 5 regions in Ghana and encourage them to adopt these new farming technologies and develop sustainable farming practices with regard to 3 crops: maize, rice, and soybeans.

  • 17. Partnership for Canada-Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation (ParCA)

    ParCA is a 5-year (March 2011 - March 2016) interdisciplinary project that integrated climate change science and local knowledge in 4 study sites across Canada and the Caribbean. The research project used a community-based vulnerability assessment (CBVA) framework to integrate scientific and local knowledge from comparative "learning sites": Jamaica, Tobago, Nova Scotia, and Price Edward Island (PEI). The project sought to advance the CBVA approach by: integrating the critical role of institutions and governance networks; expanding the field of adaptation to climate change in coastal areas by training graduate students and researchers; creating a Caribbean Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice (CarA-Cop); and disseminating findings through a number of channels, including academic journals, conferences, and multi-media.

  • 18. Water Resource Management and the Changing Climate in Angola's Coastal Settlements

    Convinced that meteorological data is critical for assessing the potential and likely impact of climatic hazards and yet noting a critical lack of climate data in Angola, the Water Resource Management under Changing Climate in Angola's Coastal Settlements project was an effort to fill climate data gaps and undertake vulnerability assessments. By mapping areas and populations at risk, the Development Workshop (DW) Angola team provided evidence and information needed by planners and local governments in developing municipal plans and upgrading social infrastructure. The hope was that, as a result of the project, academics and researchers working on climate and environmental issues in Angola would have better access to baseline climate and socio-economic information. Research findings from the project have helped in the design of technical and policy adaptation options, as well as the publication of peer-reviewed articles.

For selected (non-IDRC, non-CI) external perspectives on these and related topics, see:
  • Reflections from Tim Davies on the meaning of "Open Development".
    Thoughts from Merl Tech, a community-driven conference: "New technologies are opening great possibilities for improved monitoring, evaluation, research and learning (MERL). From on going feedback and crowd sourced input to more structured digital data collection and visualization, to remote data gathering in conflict settings, to the ability to manipulate gigantic data sets and incorporate real­ time data into adaptive management of development processes, the field is changing quickly....The use of new tools for MERL can seem daunting or distracting to those working in low resource settings or large traditional bureaucracies, especially if there is little experience to draw from or low capacity with these new tools and approaches. It can be difficult to know which of these tools and approaches genuinely contribute to MERL."
  • Blog posts from ICTworks:

  • 19. Centre of Excellence for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Systems

    Housed at IDRC, the Centre of Excellence is being established to serve as a global resource hub that actively works with expert groups to support national efforts to develop, strengthen, and scale up civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems. Establishing a Centre of Excellence is a recognition of what is perceived as the importance of CRVS systems for development, and an example of a collective effort to bring about improvements. Its role is to facilitate access to technical assistance, global standards and tools, evidence, and good practice. A key audience of the project is stakeholders working in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), mostly in Africa and Asia, with inadequate CRVS systems. The purpose is to ensure that decision-makers have access to reliable, real-time vital statistics for improved planning, policymaking, and progress monitoring - ultimately resulting in more effective services for citizens.

  • 20. Modelling and Controlling Infectious Diseases

    This is a bilateral Canada-China collaboration in infectious disease modelling and management designed to get information (data) in the hands of policymakers. Drawing on research and surveillance data from China's National Center for AIDS/STD [sexually transmitted disease] Control and Prevention, the research team created disease models, focusing first on HIV. "Mathematical modeling provides an appropriate framework to integrate data coming from different sources. This, together with computer simulation and interdisciplinary collaboration between data scientists and domain experts, provides in-depth understanding of the complicated medical-socio-economic processes behind big data and subsequent evidence insights for decision making and program development and implementation." The overall objective was to enhance China's national capacity for analysing, modelling, and predicting transmission dynamics of infectious diseases through joint research, training young scientists, and building collaborative relationships.

This issue of The Drum Beat was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.
The Drum Beat is the email and web network of The Communication Initiative Partnership.

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ANDI, BBC Media Action, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Breakthrough, Citurna TV, Fundación Imaginario,Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI),
Heartlines, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), MISA, Open Society Foundations, Oxfam Novib, PAHO,The Panos Institute, Puntos de Encuentro, SAfAIDS, Sesame Workshop, Soul City, STEPS International, UNAIDS, UNICEF,Universidad de los Andes, USAID, World Health Organization (WHO), W.K. Kellogg Foundation

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The Editor of The Drum Beat is Kier Olsen DeVries.
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