Why the G20 should act on Open Data

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By Alan Hudson — June 20, 2014. 

The C20 Summit – the key civil society gathering in the run-up to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November – is currently taking place in Melbourne, Australia. Top of the agenda at the C20 Summit are four sets of issues: Inclusive growth and employment; infrastructure; climate change and sustainability; and, governance.

Over the last six months the C20 has hosted conversations and developed proposals on each of these issues to inform and shape the G20 agenda. The C20’s Summary Paper on Governance includes recommendations on beneficial ownership, tax and corruption, including in the extractives sector. These are key issues – promoting transparency and tackling corruption should be at the heart of efforts to ensure that public and private resources are used effectively. On each of these issues, the G20 should build on progress that has been made by its members in recent years.

The C20 Summary Paper on Governance also argues that the G20 should make a commitment to data that is open and can be easily combined (aka is interoperable) as a common thread across the G20 Agenda. This should be a no-brainer. As a recent paper by Lateral Economics, on the business case for open data argues, open data can make a major contribution across the G20 Agenda, unlocking perhaps a 1% gain in the G20’s GDP. That’s more than 50% of the G20’s growth target! Open data can also help to ensure that the efforts of anti-corruption campaigners and governments keen to crack down on corruption add up to more than the sum of their parts. As Martin Tisné of Omidyar Network (they commissioned the Lateral Economics paper) puts it, we need open data so that we can find Mr. Smith, identifying individuals and organizations who are at the heart of complex multi-sectoral networks of corruption. Open data is a big win-win.

Further progress in promoting greater transparency about company ownership, about tax and about the extractives sector is much needed. But transparency is not enough. The challenge is to provide data that can be easily accessed, analyzed, shared, compared and combined across countries and sectors. To make real progress on meeting this challenge, the G20 should adopt the principles of the G8 Open Data Charter and adopt specific open data targets across its agenda, including on beneficial ownership and extractives. By taking these steps, the G20 will help to ensure that businesses, governments and citizens have the information they need to spend their resources wisely, to play their part in opening governance and to drive progress towards sustainable development across the G20 and beyond.

Photo Credit: Open Data Australia

Alan Hudson
Executive Director

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