From Data to Development: Exploring the Emerging Impact of Open Government Data in Developing Countries

Releasing freely accessible, standardized, and easily readable government data can increase transparency and accountability. This open government data movement can foster greater civic participation and promote new business opportunities.

Worldwide, governments have posted an estimated one-million datasets on the Internet. A small fraction of these datasets comes from developing countries, but this is changing rapidly. Citizens in Brazil, Nepal, and Nigeria can now use publicly available government budget data to track and fight corruption. Developers and entrepreneurs across Latin America, Africa, and Asia can create Web and mobile applications using government data on education, health, and crime to promote smarter and more efficient local public services.

In the developed world, open government data has delivered economic benefits. The re-use of public sector data in the Eurozone generated EUR32 billion in 2010. A UK study valued the economic impact of open government data at GBP6 billion per year. Qualitative evidence shows that open data can stem corruption and increase accountability. Much less is known about its impact in the developing world.

Open government data offers the potential for greater government accountability, efficiency, and transparency in the developing world. It can also create new economic opportunities for all segments of society. However, rigorous evidence on the use, outcomes, and impact of these objectives remains scarce. Those responsible for funding and implementing these programs must understand emerging best practices. They must also have insight into the varying impacts of open data in strikingly different social, economic, and cultural contexts.

This project will help create a research network to explore the implications of releasing government data. More specifically, it will aim to:

-generate research on the emerging impacts of open data interventions
-deliver policy and practice findings that can inform local and global debates
-build research capacity worldwide to explore the emerging impacts of open data.

The World Wide Web Foundation will administer the proposed research network. The organization promotes and supports an Internet that is open, usable, and valuable for everyone, particularly developing countries. It will include 18 partners in Latin America, Africa, and Asia who will undertake case studies to assess existing initiatives, challenges, emerging outcomes, and impacts.

The research will address key issues and gaps in knowledge. For example, well-intentioned open data initiatives may cause adverse effects by exacerbating social or economic inequalities. They can favour well-resourced groups that are more capable of extracting value from the data for their own economic and political gain. Commercial elites in Bangalore, for example, have used the digitization of land records to find gaps in title and errors in documentation to gain ownership of land occupied by poor communities.

The project will also develop data collection instruments to help explain if and how open data is bringing change to developing countries. It will engage policymakers at global and local levels to foster robust evidence-based practice in this emerging policy area.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, February 1, 2013

End Date

Monday, February 1, 2016


30 months

IDRC Officer

Perini, Fernando

Total funding

CA$ 1,977,100


Argentina, South America, Brazil, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Nepal, Far East Asia, Philippines, Uruguay, South Africa, North of Sahara, South of Sahara, North and Central America, Central Asia, South Asia


Networked Economies

Project Leader

José M. Alonso


World Wide Web Foundation

Institution Country

United States

Institution Website