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New Data.Gov.Ph Site Lowers Barriers to Gov't Data in Philippines

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, January 16 2014

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A presidential spokesperson launched the new Open Data Philippines site on Thursday. This is a big step in the direction of transparency for the Philippines, which was chided in a Sunlight Foundation report last October for erecting unnecessary barriers to public data.

Presidential spokesperson and chair of the Open Data Task Force Edwin Lacierda said, “We in the Aquino administration believe that: By making government data accessible, understandable, and shareable, we set the fundamental conditions to further enable our people to be more effective partners in advancing good governance.”

He added that there are 650 data files available on the site now and that that number would continue to grow.

Although it is a new site, some are already offering suggestions on how to improve it. At the Rappler, Victor Barreiro Jr. writes:

The website still needs some work, but the information that will be placed there will be valuable for maintaining transparency and accountability.

Aside from the issue with the Apps page, one major improvement that should be taken into account by the developers would be the usability of the site and its information pages. The site needs tutorials or a Frequently Asked Questions page to address potential or common concerns regarding site use, such as how to properly use the dashboards and what free programs can be used to read particular file types like .csv files.

The community section, particularly its forums, may also be better served in the future by having a code of conduct and someone to enforce it. Should the site reach a critical mass and become popular, someone has to make sure the site forums remain helpful rather than empty or, worse yet, hostile.

The Open Data Barometer 2013 Global Report, released last year, ranked the Philippines at 47 (out of 77)—tied with Peru and Ghana.

In the analysis, the authors offered additional observations:

Indonesia and the Philippines are both at the early stages of developing OGD initiatives, with significant work to do to increase the availability of structured, machine-readable data. As Sunlight Foundation have recently argued, whilst the Philippines has good legally mandated disclosures of contracting information, as well as having strong incentives for local government units to publish information online, the absence of machine-readable open data makes searching through all this information challenging, and limits public engagement in the transparency and accountability process.

One hopes the site will go a long way towards remedying those problems.

Disclosure: TechPresident's Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry are senior advisers to the Sunlight Foundation.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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