Qatar considering new ‘open data’ policy to promote transparency

files

Paul Goyette/Flickr

With reporting from Ankita Menon

In a move that would prompt a drastic overhaul of how many local ministries operate, Qatar has announced its intention to release a large quantity of government-held, non-personal data to residents.

According to the government’s information technology ministry, ictQatar, the information would help increase civic engagement, encourage knowledge sharing and kick-start new technical innovations and businesses.

IctQatar is currently seeking residents’ views on its proposed new Open Data policy, which representatives told Doha News could be implemented within the next three months.

Adopting an open data policy would mean that the government is committed to making a variety of different data – including, for example, live traffic reports, lists of local parks and facilities, and certain crime stats – openly available to individuals and businesses in an easy-to-read format.

In its consultation document, ictQATAR explains that the policy would support Qatar’s National Development Strategy (NDS) 2011-16, which states that the country needs “a transparent culture where knowledge bases are kept current and easily accessible” in order to further the country’s aim of becoming a knowledge-based economy.

It continues:

“While we note that this is not the first government initiative in Qatar aimed at making data available to the public, e.g. Ministry of Planning and Statistics has been providing good quantities of important statistics and information the public, this untapped potential of Open Data can only be unleashed if a wide-scale initiative is launched in the government sector to open up government data per best practices.”

Benefits

In an email to Doha News, a ministry representative highlighted some of the key benefits of adopting an open data policy:

  • Transparency and accountability: Open data enables better governance through transparency of government activities that encourage “due process and fairness.”
  • Citizen engagement: Open data gives the general public a chance to take an active role in the provision of services, because they have more understanding of how current services are being delivered. It also allows them to conduct their own independent research into their own areas of interest, like education and health, “benefiting society in many ways,” ictQatar said.
  • More efficient government services: By opening up data, efficiency will be improved due to better infrastructure and improved coordination between departments.
  • Innovation and economic growth: By releasing non-personal government-held data like census data, traffic data, weather data and environmental data, ictQatar said that the government will “catalyze economic growth” by encouraging local entrepreneurs and businesses to innovate.

Regional policies

Qatar is not the first country in the region to adopt such an open data policy. Oman, Bahrain, and the UAE have all already made government data readily available to the public.

Similarly, neighboring Saudi Arabia launched an Open Data portal in 2011 – although critics claim a significant amount of data is still being withheld.

The government’s consultation document can be read here or below. Feedback will be accepted until April 17.

Thoughts?

Please read our Comments Policy before joining the discussion. By commenting, you agree to abide by it.

Some comments may not be automatically published. This is not action taken by us, but instead, depending on whether or not you have verified your email address, or if your post triggers automatic flags.