Open data in Ukraine has progressed significantly in recent years. This progress 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 in 55th position. Three years on, Ukraine is now ranked 17th in the Leaders Edition of the Open Data Barometer. This means that Ukraine has achieved the second biggest historical rate of improvement since the Barometer’s inception and makes the country an open data pioneer.
Impact of eGovernance
Recent improvements are largely down to Ukrainian reforms in eGovernance led by the State Agency for eGovernance of Ukraine (SAEG). These reforms aim to increase public sector transparency and accountability in order to reduce or eradicate corruption, while at the same time stimulating economic value from data use and innovation. As part of these reforms, the State Agency for eGovernance has created, and is committed to maintaining, an effective and sustainable open data program under which central government and city governments across Ukraine publish data following an ‘open by default’ approach.
To help support the Ukrainian government with these reforms, the Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS) program 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 program, Ukraine’s national government now publishes open data on a regular basis, while individual cities are making their first steps towards publishing open data at the local level. Strong leadership has played an important role in supporting the development of this initiative, while 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, the Ukrainian government has also adopted an Open Data Charter and is embedding its principles and best practices in order to implement resilient open data policy throughout the country. This involves developing partnerships between agencies, data journalists and civil society to make sure Ukraine is publishing data with purpose, so that the information made available actually meets user needs. Strengthening these relationships within the data ecosystem has been an important factor in making open data work for Ukraine.
The promotion of open data principles in Ukraine is also beginning to gain recognition for its potential economic value. Research carried out by the Kyiv School of Economics estimates that open data currently contributes between USD 746 million and USD 903 million to the Ukrainian economy. Based on the existing economic data and current trends, this figure could increase to USD 1.4 billion by 2025, or just under one percent of the country’s GDP. This is an appealing prospect but it is not a foregone conclusion. Realizing the maximum economic value of open data to Ukraine’s economy will require sustained investment and continued high-level political support.
Open Data Cities
In an effort to emulate the positive changes taking place at the national level, several individual Ukrainian municipal authorities have committed to publishing open data. Some have also adopted the country’s Open Data Charter. Data that city authorities publish is often particularly useful to members of the local community on a day-to-day basis including startups, small-to-medium enterprises and the wider civil society, as the data made available tends to be directly relevant to people who live in that municipality. To help foster innovation through the practical application of this open data, the TAPAS program runs a nationwide Open Data Challenge, which offer participants the opportunity to win further funding in exchange for developing open data solutions that create a tangible social or anti-corruption impact.
Winning innovations have included Monitor.Estate, a service that analyzes the legal risks involved with purchasing and leasing properties. Users can access real-time compliance documentation about real estate developers. Fellow winner Greenval is an application that allows farmers to compare registered pesticides and agrochemicals in Ukraine, in order to make informed purchases that reflect their particular needs and product safety. Transparent Infrastructure is another open data initiative to earn Open Data Challenge recognition. This platform allows users to monitor infrastructure projects 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. Then there is LvivCityHelper, a chat-bot that gives Lviv residents the opportunity to ask their local city council questions and quickly receive answers. The bot is also able to answer frequently asked questions such as when a particular street will undergo repair work or how much money a municipality has allocated to a particular school.
Ukraine’s recent successes in the open data sphere create further opportunities for the State Agency for eGovernance to create impact. These opportunities exist across national and local government agencies, business and civil society. Raising awareness throughout government with regard to the value of open data while working to improve 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 already appearing in the public domain while making it easier to harmonize local government data policy. 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 most valuable, where the gaps are, and whether it is possible to build new eServices that can 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 so far. This means continuing to do the hard work of measuring impact while also telling stories like these about the economic value of embracing open data as a policy principle.