On March 3, data enthusiasts and advocates convened in Nepal’s historic Durbar Square to mark Open Data Day. Celebrated in many cities across the globe, the day highlights the importance of freely accessible and usable data. Hundreds attended the public event in Kathmandu-from students to curious bystanders and representatives of the open data community-and participated in lively discussions and activities designed to showcase the benefits of open data, to encourage innovations and supportive policy surrounding data, and to increase public demand for open data.
Although Nepal has made important progress in terms of openness of data, it still ranks 83rd out of 114 countries on the Global Open Data Barometer falling within the bottom 25 percent of terms of readiness, implementation, and impact of open data initiatives. Despite this challenging environment, various members of the open data community are taking the lead in making data more open and accessible with independent web portals featuring data on issues like population changes, agriculture, earthquake recovery, and expenditure. Open Data Day rode on this momentum and trend toward data-driven solutions. The event was unique in that it was jointly organized by different members of the Open Data Community in Nepal with the support of Data for Development Program, implemented by The Asia Foundation in partnership with Development Initiatives with funding by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which aims to support local partners with funding, guidance, and expertise to drive improvements in the sharing and use of data.
Ahead of Open Data Day, the Data for Development Program supported a series of events including a Data Poster Competition by local social innovation hub Bikas Udhyami to encourage and teach young people how to visualize data through infographics and charts.
In addition, a Data-a-thon, organized by Open Knowledge Nepal and the Centre for Data Journalism with the support of the Program, brought local journalists together with technology students for a workshop on data-driven story telling.
Starting on Open Data Day, a two-day exhibition of data-infographics featuring a range of data visualizations from different organizations was on display at Patan Durbar Square explaining what open data is and why it is important.
Open Knowledge Nepal showcased infographics on what open data is and how to work with open data, the Center for Data Journalism displayed infographics on current events in the news, Kathmandu Living Labs presented on integrated participatory and collaborative digital mapping to enhance disaster resilience, Local Interventions Group presented about their Reliefgap Atlas, and Nepal in Data covered issues like federalism and socio-economic development. Many people said it was the first time they had ever been exposed to data in this way, and the infographics triggered a lot of questions and reactions. One young spectator said: “After coming here, and looking at all these pictures, I have ideas on things that have happened in Nepal, how data is produced and where data comes from in Nepal.”
The day also included a map-a-thon organized by Kathmandu Living Labs to introduce open street maps (OSM) to participants, and to train them on how to become reliable contributors of OSM to ensure the sustainability and high data quality of the maps, starting with Kathmandu Valley.
Bikas Udhyami organized a data treasure hunt for children to generate their interest in data.
Around 50 energetic students were divided into eight groups, who went around Patan Durbar Square area with their maps, solving data-related puzzles and games that taught children about data on issues such as Nepal’s federal structure and the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the afternoon, a panel discussion featuring speakers from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Finance Comptroller General Office, the National Reconstruction Authority, the Gender & Adolescence: Global Evidence Program, and Teach for Nepal, highlighted the role and importance of data in terms of the national budget of Nepal. Panelists provided perspectives from both government agencies and civil society regarding the use of data in the upcoming budget-making process.
After the panel discussion, Dr. Rurik Marsden, head of DFID-Nepal, spoke about the importance of data for good decision-making and the work that DFID is supporting to open data in Nepal noting that “Data is the currency of good decision-making.”
The chief guest, former vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr. Swarnim Wagle, spoke about the government’s efforts to make data open and highlighted the need for “re-orientation of our society should be towards an open society based on facts.”
The afternoon was also filled with short presentations by data organizations in Nepal. Open Knowledge Nepal gave a presentation about how open data can inform the general public on critical issues that impact their lives and communities. Bikas Udhyami presented its Nepal in Data portal and geo-profile, an open data and statistics portal making development data and statistics on Nepal accessible and enabling users to visualize, compare and analyze data.
Kathmandu Living Labs showcased their efforts to track the post-earthquake reconstruction efforts through the National Earthquake Reconstruction Portal they developed with the NPC, while Local Interventions Group presented their work on tracking earthquake reconstruction financial flows through their Relief Gaps Atlas. These different portals make data and information on critical aspects of Nepal’s development available and accessible to citizens, decision-makers, journalists, civil society, and development agencies to inform their decision-making, reporting, and programming.
Freedom Forum discussed the openness of the Nepali budget through the latest Open Budget survey results, and the Center for Data Journalism shared about their work on data-driven journalism in Nepal. Demonstrating the use of citizen-generated data on solid waste management, Clean Up Nepal gave a dynamic presentation about their Nepal Waste Map website and app that aim to improve solid waste management services in Kathmandu. The panel discussion and the presentations highlighted the importance of data in Nepal, while illustrating the exciting data-driven projects being run by local organizations in Nepal.
The day closed with a concert by local band Nattu and the Team.
Open Data Day Nepal 2018 was jointly organized under the banner of Open Nepal by Accountability Lab, Bikas Udyami, Center for Data Journalism, Freedom Forum, Kathmandu Living Labs, Local Interventions Group, Open Knowledge Nepal and the Data for Development (D4D) Program implemented by The Asia Foundation in partnership with Development Initiatives and funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development.