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Why Open Government Data Would Not Be a Good Idea for Yemen

BY Lisa Goldman | Thursday, July 5 2012

In an insightful and counter-intuitive argument, Global Integrity's Nathaniel Heller responds to Yemeni journalist Walid Al-Saqaf's article in the Guardian, in which he calls for open government data in his country, in line with the ideals of the Arab Spring.

While Heller agrees that open government data is desirable in principle, he explains why the unique set of circumstances in Yemen make open data "incredibly tricky and laden with difficult trade-offs in a post-conflict, low-income context."

His argument, in part:

... [U]nless I am mistaken (and I'd love to be wrong here; please correct me if I am), Yemen has little to no indigenous "civic hacker" culture and/or internet-focused community. This is not Kenya or the Czech Republic or Argentina. When's the last time you bought an app designed by a Yemeni coder or heard of a Yemeni hackathon? So a push for open data in Yemen likely tees things up for a vast oversupply of data met by little to no demand. We need key infomediaries, including programmers and a robust independent media, in order for open data to work its magic. I'm just not sure it's there in Yemen.

Personal Democracy Media is thankful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.