Promote the Open Data Concept and Delivering the Benefits to Citizens Through ICT (LK0006)
Action Plan: Sri Lanka National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure
Support Institution(s): Information and Telecommunication Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and CSOs involved in ICT
Policy AreasAccess to Information, Capacity Building, Open Data, Public Participation
The necessity of Open Data for both Government and citizens has been well defined under the OGP. However, the Concept of Open Data is yet to be conveyed to a wide range of stakeholders by the strategic usage of ICT. Further, there is a need to define the boundaries of government’s openness, hence a standard mechanism for data classification, which must be mandatorily backed by a government policy directive. The benefits of OGP, in return should reach citizens through innovative ICT tools, as successfully demonstrated by other countries of this partnership. Issues to be Addressed: Citizens’ lack of opportunities to effectively access government held data and improving the accessibility of the same. Main Objective: Promote Open Data using ICT platforms and ensure citizens get its benefits using similar technologies
IRM End of Term Status Summary
6. Promote Open Data
Promote the Open Data Concept and delivering the benefits to Citizens through ICT
The necessity of Open Data for both Government and citizens has been well defined under OGP. However, the Concept of Open Data is yet to be conveyed to a wide range of stakeholders by the strategic usage of ICT. Further, there is a need to define the boundaries of government’s openness, hence a standard mechanism for data classification, which must be mandatorily backed by a government policy directive. The benefits of OGP, in return should reach citizens through innovative ICT tools, as successfully demonstrated by other countries of this partnership.
Promote Open Data using ICT platforms and ensure citizens get its benefits using similar technologies.
- 1 Revamp website http://www.data.gov.lk with already available data sets of different government agencies (by ICTA Project #24).
- 2 Survey on citizens’ demand on government data sets (through Nenasala / Smart Social Circles).
- 3 Open consultation on Data and Services Classification (with Open Data/Data Sharing Policy) based on the draft prepared by ICTA.
- 4 Enhance the current 89 data sets of various government institutes and increase it to 200 by end of 2016 and 500 by July 2018 (by ICTA).
Responsible institution: Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure
Supporting institution: Information and Telecommunication Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA)
Start date: July 2016............ End date: July 2018
Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full text of the commitment, see the Sri Lanka National Action Plan 2016–2018 at http://bit.ly/2wv3jXR.
This commitment aimed to promote the concept of “open data,” facilitating public access to data and databases on topics of public importance. Stakeholders propose that unrestricted access to such data will support and enable citizens to access, and act upon, information on government policies. They also envision that this access will enable civil society to pursue rational debate and advocacy, and allow decision makers to engage in evidence-informed policy making. 
To do this, the commitment specifically set out to:
- Revamp the Open Data website portal (www.data.gov.lk) with available datasets;
- Conduct a survey on citizens’ demand for government datasets;
- Hold an open consultation on data and services classification, based on a draft data-sharing policy prepared by the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA); and,
- Enhance the current 89 datasets and increase it to 500 by July 2018.
For more information, please see the 2016–2017 IRM midterm progress report.
The commitment achieved limited completion by the midterm. In May 2017, ICTA revamped the online web portal, which contained over 80 datasets (Milestone 6.1).  As part of the revamp, new features were introduced. These included a user option to suggest new datasets;  tags attributed to datasets for easier navigation; and linkage of the web portal to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  While this represented a notable development, other milestones under this commitment remained outstanding.
Although the MTDI commenced the process of procuring a consultant to carry out the survey, it did not complete the citizen demand survey by the midterm (Milestone 6.2).  Similarly, government and civil society stakeholders confirmed that the MTDI had not yet organised a consultation on data classification (Milestone 6.3). The ICTA had developed a draft data-sharing policy and published it, in English, on the online data portal. 
As of December 2017, the online portal contained 89 multiform datasets under nine broad thematic areas (Milestone 6.4). With no increase toward the targeted 500 by July 2018, the ministry noted that new datasets were being identified for publication on the portal. 
End of term: Limited
Completion of this commitment remained limited at the end of term.
Milestone 6.1: Completed.
Milestone 6.2: The MTDI had still not conducted the citizen survey on citizen demand by the end of term, citing time and resource constraints. 
Milestone 6.3: The MTDI and ICTA had still not conducted an open consultation on data and services classification by the end of term. 
The draft national data-sharing policy continued to be available on the online data portal, but the minister of telecommunications and digital infrastructure had not yet published it in the official gazette. The MTDI noted that the policy will serve as an annex to the updated e-Government Policy of Sri Lanka, and be made available for public review. 
Milestone 6.4: The government also fell short of introducing 500 new datasets on the open data portal. According to the MTDI, 118 datasets were published under 11 categories, as of 12 June 2018.  The MTDI further noted that government officers responsible for open datasets were nominated and, although no further evidence was provided, the MTDI reported that it internally set up an Open Data Committee to review the quality of available datasets. 
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Marginal
Civic Participation: Did Not Change
This commitment led to marginal improvement in access to information and open government overall. It did not, however, noticeably improve civic participation.
At the outset of the action plan, Sri Lanka had little, if any, experience in promoting the idea of open data. Specifically, key stakeholders, including the ICTA, acknowledged that public engagement with data was limited and citizens had, therefore, insufficiently leveraged the potential benefits of open access to data.  This commitment aimed to address this by undertaking measures to promote the use of “open data.”
Through this commitment, MTDI and ICTA published new or enhanced datasets on the open data portal. This—according to all stakeholders—not only increased citizen access to more data, but also provided opportunity for citizens to engage with the portal. In addition, civil society suggested that ICTA efforts to revamp the open data portal with a range of new features helped enhance the interface between data holders and data users.  However, government or civil society stakeholders did not provide statistics on the number of website visits, and the MTDI did not conduct a survey on citizen demands. The MTDI also fell well short of introducing 500 new datasets on the portal (only 118 datasets had been published as of 12 June 2018). As a result, the commitment only marginally improved access to information.
Civil society recognised that an open consultation on data classification was a good opportunity to facilitate civic participation in the decision-making process.  However, as the ministry or ICTA did not hold any public consultation on data classification, this commitment did not improve civic participation. 
Sri Lanka’s second action plan was not released at the time of this report. However, the IRM researcher recommends that this commitment is carried forward into the next action plan. In particular, the researcher maintains that a dynamic, accessible data portal; a comprehensive collection of datasets that meet citizen demand; and clear, formal classification and delineation of shareable data constitute the foundation of a robust and effective open data regime.
In the 2016–2017 IRM midterm progress report, the IRM researcher proposed recommendations toward strengthening the impact of this commitment. These include: facilitating meaningful civic participation in open data policy making; and generally encouraging deeper public engagement with government data and the data portal.
 Waruna Sri-Dhanapala (Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure), interview by IRM researcher, 16 October 2017; Isura Silva (Sarvodaya Fusion), interview by IRM researcher, 16 October 2017 (taken from the multistakeholder interview involving representatives from the Information and Communication Technology Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Sarvodaya Fusion).
 Asanka Suraweera (ICTA) and Thilina Piyumal (ICTA), interview by IRM researcher, 16 October 2017 (taken from the multistakeholder interview involving representatives from the Information and Communication Technology Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Sarvodaya Fusion).
 Sri-Dhanapala, interview; Silva, interview.
 Sri-Dhanapala, interview.
 Waruna Sri-Dhanapala, interview by IRM researcher, 26 September 2018; Isura Silva (Sarvodaya Fusion), interview by IRM researcher, 13 September 2018.
 Sri-Dhanapala, interview.
 Sri-Dhanapala, interview; Suraweera and Piyumal, interview.
 Sri-Dhanapala, interview; Silva, interview.
 Silva, interview.
 Sri-Dhanapala, interview; Silva, interview.
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