Why should we Open Data?

There are a number of reasons to open data as a South African metro or municipality.

Firstly, because

the constitution says we should.

The Constitution of South Africa , in which the Bill of Rights 23 (2) says that Section 32 should be read as

“(1) Every person has the right of access to all information held by the state or any of its organs in any sphere of government in so far as that information is required for the exercise or protection of any of their rights."

Section 195 sub-section (1) of Chapter 10 of the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa describes the principles under which the government should engage with citizens and provide services. These are:

  • A high standard of professional ethics.

  • Public administration must be development oriented.

  • People’s needs must be responded to and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy making.

  • Public administration must be accountable; and

  • Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.

then, there's also bunch of other national government guidance on open data.

The National ICT White Paper

The National ICT White Paper provides, within its objectives, support for open data, as well as laying out some guidelines and next steps for realising and using open data within governance in South Africa:

“Provide the framework for implementing Government’s commitment to open governance and open data.”

Open Government Partnership

South Africa joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011 and was the co-chair in 2015/16. The OGP has the following principles:

  • Transparency: This includes publication of all government-held information (as opposed to only information on government activities); proactive or reactive releases of information; mechanisms to strengthen the right to information; and open access to government information.

  • Accountability: There are rules, regulations and mechanisms in place that call upon government officials to justify their actions, act upon criticisms or requirements made of them, and accept responsibility for failure to perform with respect to laws or commitments. Commitments on accountability should typically include an answerability element, i.e. that they are not purely internal systems of accountability but involve the public.

  • Participation: Governments seek to mobilise citizens to engage in dialogue on government policies or programs, provide input or feedback, and make contributions that lead to more responsive, innovative and effective governance.

  • Technology and Innovation: Governments embrace the importance of providing citizens with open access to technology, the role of new technologies in driving innovation, and the importance of increasing the capacity of citizens to use technology. E-government initiatives are welcome, but in order to be relevant to OGP, action plans should explain how these initiatives advance government transparency, accountability and/or public participation

Countries participating in the OGP develop Country Action Plans and South Africa’s 3rd Action Plan includes the following Commitments:

  • Strengthening Citizen- Based Monitoring in order to enhance Accountability and Performance.

  • Open Budgeting

  • Back to Basics Programme

  • Development an integrated and publicly accessible portal for environmental management information

  • Institutionalisation of Community Advice Offices as part of the wider Justice network Development of Pilot Open Data Portal for South Africa

  • Roll-out Open Government Awareness Raising Campaign: Government Communications and Information Services.

  • Implement South Africa’s action plan on the G20 High Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership Transparency by implementing a register of legal persons

If policy and the constitution is not your thing, we should open data because it can help the city in a number of ways.

The next section explore ways in which Open Data can benefit your city.