AOSP presentation during the third seminar in the Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) series. The seminars are hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The information collected and the recommendations made will be used to inform and influence government policy via the DST.
OPEN DATA FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC VALUE: ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
Presented by Ina Smith, African Open Science Platform
The African Open Science Platform project aims to understand policies related to open science and open data on the continent. The project also considers infrastructure, capacity building and incentives. Research data inform government policies and decisions, and government data inform research. Access to quality data is increasingly important. Without data, one is just another person with an opinion.
Governments use taxpayers’ money and therefore need to build transparency, accountability and trust, much of which can be achieved through the correct management of open data. An example of this was the follow-up to the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Foreign national health and aid workers came to Africa and collected much data on the outbreak, which they took home with them when they left. Only after the outbreak was under control was there a call for good open data from researchers for use in possible future outbreaks. Collecting data is expensive, so re-using data and building on existing data is essential. Another example was the case of the high incidence of species substitution and mislabelling detected in meat products sold in South Africa. Unfortunately the complete research results were not made available to the public. Citizens have the right to see this type of data in order to make their own informed decisions.
Open data will streamline the dissemination of information, including the sharing of information between government departments. Open access will help democratise the country through the provision of equal access to all, and will provide information for better decision-making by policy-makers. Access to open data enables the targeting of resources, but deep understanding of how to curate valuable data resources is essential. To maximise the usefulness of data, it is essential that it is well curated, as open as possible, and as closed as necessary.
In order to address global challenges, international collaboration and the sharing of government data is very important. Unfortunately South Africa is lagging in this regard. The documents on the South Africa National Data Portal were uploaded in 2015 and nothing has been added since then. The Open Data Institute publishes some government information in their report Supporting sustainable development with open data, and also shows many examples of how data can help countries address socio-economic challenges.
Delegates were encouraged to attend International Data Week in Gaborone, Botswana from 5–8 November 2018. Information on the event is available at www.scidatacon.org/IDW2018/.