On my first week at Bantay Kita - PWYP Philippines back in June 2015, I was tasked to create primers using subnational data from the Philippine EITI report. Open data was on its early days then. To be able to analyze the data, I had to… manually encode the data from the paper report. That task took so much of my time and I even got some data wrong. Fast forward to 2020 and we are now drowning in datasets with plenty of online portals publishing even more data. How far has our movement gone?
Open data used to be the exception but has now become the norm backed by policies and legal frameworks. We have made extractives data more accessible to the public. We have organized dozens, if not hundreds, of capacity-building activities at various levels and platforms. We have published numerous reports and pieces using open extractives data. Without a doubt, we as an international community scored big wins. Here are three of my favorites:
Firstly, we got more countries to commit to open extractives data. The EITI Standard 2019 now requires all of its 53 implementing countries to publish data in open format. And of course, we also have the European Union's Mandatory Disclosures Policy and Canada's ESTMA. We made open extractives data the talk of the town. But still, commitment is different from implementation. According to the Open Data Index 2017, there remains a wide disparity among EITI countries when it comes to disclosing broader open datasets and I think this is one area where we can do better in.
Secondly, we got more relevant datasets out and accessible. Many years ago, the focus has mostly been country-level payments data. Today, these datasets remain at the top but it now shares that spot with other important and relevant disclosures on beneficial ownership, state-owned enterprises, local content, project-level payments, and social and environmental impacts. As more datasets became available, so did online portals providing us easier access to these disclosures. The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) launched international and national portals and with EITI's push for systematic disclosure, implementing countries are now opting to disclose data online rather than in paper reports
Most importantly, we have built active communities of practitioners who uses extractives data. Publish What You Pay's Data Extractors Program, which started in 2015, is one of those programs that paved the way for more uses of open extractives data alongside the many capacity-building initiatives of NRGI, EITI, and OpenOil, to name a few. I was among those fortunate data extractors to receive guidance and support from the network. For me, this is the biggest win we have had so far. Because no matter how much datasets are put out in the open, they'd be just spreadsheets if nobody uses them. In the last few years, the network pulled together time and resources and invested in a generation of advocates who not only knows the issues but are also highly capable of accessing, analyzing, applying, and advocating for open extractives data. And I think that's very powerful.
Four years and eight months ago, I had to manually encode data from our EITI report just to be able to analyze the data. Today, we have online portals and datasets that are published in open format by default. We are in a much better place now than we were five years ago thanks to the many years of hard work rendered by many people from the extractives transparency movement. We have definitely come a long way and this sentence won’t be complete without me saying 'yet we still have a lot more to do'. But I'll save that for another post.
To end this piece, allow me to quote an old piece I wrote four years ago:
"Globally making data available and open is often seen as the end in itself. Making data available, open, and relevant is different in that it makes the whole advocacy on data work for local communities as well."
I look forward to that day when more and more open extractives data actually shape resource governance reforms, hold institutions to account, and benefit communities impacted by extractives - today and tomorrow.
To my fellow advocates from civil society, government, and industry, a Happy Open Data Day 2020 to us all! May we all continue the good fight.
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Hey there! I'm Marco from the Philippines. I write mostly about natural resource governance, open data, and good governance.