The authorities should open opportunities to businesses, to communities and their own officials, as this would help them to make better decisions.
Ukrainian city councils made some progress in publishing open data over the past year, according to research “Data of Ukrainian cities: open data in progress”. The research was made by the NGO “Civil network OPORA” within its project “Apps4Cities”. “Comparing to the previous research, we saw some progress. For instance, more cities issued regulations on implementation of Provision No.835 on open data and defined officials responsible for this. As usual, these are directors of city councils sub-units and IT-departments. Only five cities had these regulatory documents in the previous year, now they are twelve,” said Nadiya Babynska, analyst of “Apps4Cities” project, presenting the report in Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The research covers 24 regional centers, including Mariupol in the Donetsk region and Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region instead of temporarily occupied Donetsk and Luhansk. According to the results, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Lutsk, Odesa, Kharkiv and Poltava are in the lead, while Zhytomyr, Severodonetsk, Cherkassy and Chernigiv are laggards in this process.
16 regional centers now have registered in Open Data portal. Ten cities publish open data in a particular section on their websites, however, rather often the format is not “open” (requires processing before use). Lviv, Poltava and Kharkiv launched their own open data portals. Vinnytsia, Lviv and Odesa included into their annual programs a number of measures for IT development and the necessary financial resources.
Meanwhile, a half of regional centers did nothing to start publishing open data. Regulatory documents which have already been issued in 12 cities do not always prescribe requirements on data format, frequency of updates and the responsible. It turned out that the city councils often see no difference between open data and openness of information as such. For instance, a half of published data are in doc(x), odt, rtf and txt. No one among the city councils has made audit of information at their disposal.
The majority of city councils did not have consultations with the public on what data is the most interesting for them. “We have remarks on openness as well, because a number of authorities refused to provide us information on the grounds that it is for official use only,” added Nadiya Babynska. The most positive examples are Lutsk, where the city council launched an enquiry, and Lviv, where there were public meetings and hackatons to find out what databases should be a priority.
“The research clearly illustrated that local authorities have not developed open data policy. […] It is important not only to teach the officials how to arrange the data, but also to change their attitude to this work, to explain them what will be the positive impact of publishing information as open data,” stated Iryna Shvets, coordinator of “Data Academy”, civil network OPORA.
“We should give up using obsolete forms and procedures. The ones who owns the information, owns the world; the one who owns data, owns opportunities. And the authorities should open these opportunities to businesses, to communities and their own officials, as this would help them to make better decisions,” stressed Nadiya Babynska.
To improve awareness among the officials, OPORA experts with support of Techsoup developed a guideline, based on the guideline by “Sunlight Foundation” with adaptation to Ukrainian peculiarities. “We were not reinventing the wheel – we used the accumulated knowledge of open data community worldwide in order to bring the best possible outcome,” said Paulina Sobeshuk, project manager at TechSoup Europe. In addition, OPORA will organize a series of trainings for officials who work with open data.
The first recommendation from experts is to prescribe in regulatory documents the required format of open data and unified standards for databases. “When the data is being collected and arranged at the local level, every city council does it in its own way. It is important to have a unified standard that would allow to easily combine different databases,” explained Andriy Gazin, journalist and analyst at Texty.org.ua. The second recommendation is to allocate finances for these projects within local IT development programs. The third recommendation is to define the responsible for arranging and publishing databases. According to Olena Gunko, project manager of “Open Data Lviv”, a ticket to success is to have a specific team that would work on this project.
Ruslana Velychko-Tryfoniuk, “Apps4Cities” project director, added that it is very important for city councils to share their experience with colleagues from other cities.
Smaller cities were not included into the research. However, according to Ruslana Velychko-Tryfoniuk and Sergiy Karelin, budget policy expert at “Eidos” Center, there are many positive cases there, especially in small towns of Lviv region.