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Faces of Open Government: Ania Calderon

Rostros del Gobierno Abierto: Ania Calderon

Ania at IODC 2016
Ania Calderon|

Ania Calderon is the Executive Director of the Open Data Charter, a collaboration between governments and organizations working to open up data and embed open data as a central ingredient to achieving better solutions to the most pressing policy challenges of our time.

What is the relation between open data and open government? 

The open data and open government movements share the idea that openness is a fundamental principle needed to achieve just and fair outcomes. You can’t have one without the other, and if done well, public services reach the people that need them most, and accountable and inclusive institutions can listen and respond to the needs and demands of their citizens. Open governments that generate and use well-managed data can help children get better books and equipment at school, spread diseases less quickly, and increase voter turnout during elections. 

As data becomes more pervasive in our societies, open governments need to do more to ensure people are protected and have agency over how data about them is collected and used – and what and how it should be made open. The intrinsic relationship between open data and open government is reinforced where we see data institutions with a clear mandate for data to serve people, that are accountable, participatory, and open to scrutiny by others. 

 

Is opening data enough to open up the government? 

An open government intentionally takes action for people to maximise access to all their rights, including being able to participate in political life, having equal and inclusive opportunities, and protecting the environments where we live. Opening data is certainly not an end goal; instead, it should have the purpose of helping people exercise these rights.  

Similarly, having strong privacy legislation and measures in place should be a prerequisite for the successful implementation of any open data policy. Yet, privacy should not be used as an excuse to prevent people from accessing public information.

We need to move away from the narrative that publishing information is the same as being open. Understanding that there are different gradients to transparency is a start. Opaque transparency is an increasingly common tactic used by unscrupulous governments and powerful companies as a smokescreen to avoid being watched or regulated. 

 

March 8 marks International Women’s Day. As we reflect on the impact of open government to advance gender issues, how do the challenges in open data translate to gender inequality and challenges in how gender is approached in public policy? 

We are over 99 years away from achieving gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum, with persistent gaps in the economy significantly more extensive than those in health and education. Gender pay inequality is in the spotlight and getting worse. Where data is available, it tells us that women continue to lag behind men in what they earn. This gap is due to a combination of different forms of discrimination, which in turn reinforce the structural disadvantages faced by women and girls both in the labour force and within society at large. Policies to address this either do not yet exist or are not working. 

Better data on pay gaps and its intersectionalities would almost certainly help. The Open Data Charter partnered with the Center for Global Development to understand how publishing and using data on various dimensions of the gender pay gap could stimulate private and public sector efforts to close it. 

Here, the same challenges we face in doing open data well apply – who gets to decide what data is made available and how can we account for potential risks and harms in its release, such as publishing disaggregate data while safeguarding privacy. As outlined in our Breaking open pay data blog, that “objective” quantitative data derives from a series of human choices about what to measure and how. Those choices, therefore, risk being embedded in unconscious bias unless they are informed by the dynamics of gender inequities in the workplace. To be inclusive of all women, especially the most vulnerable, we need to work towards a better understanding of gender income and compensation gaps, broadening our view past pay issues to workers in every workforce.

 

What are organizations like Open Data Charter doing to address some of these challenges? What can the open government community do?

At the 2019 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit in Canada, we co-hosted a workshop with the Center for Global Development and with support from IDRC. Here we explored how increased data access related to gender pay gaps could improve women’s compensation and tackle epistemic gender inequalities in both the formal and informal workforce. Based on feedback from partners, we are working to harness OGP’s Feminist Open Government initiative to promote meaningful gender inclusion commitments in their instrumental action plans.

Drawing on this work, we will conduct research that synthesizes evidence of existing efforts to narrow gender pay gaps and identify promising approaches through increased data access, which can be replicated or adapted elsewhere. The open government community is well placed to accelerate action with reformist governments for pay transparency reforms in contexts ripe for influence, piloting the co-design of gender pay gap commitments in action plans with local actors, multi-stakeholder forums, and women in the workforce. 

 

March 7 is Open Data Day! Why are global events like these important?

The annual Open Data Day is a time to celebrate the strides that this field has made on a global scale. Local events all over the world will gather people to share their ideas and expand the use of open data in their communities. It is an opportunity to showcase the tangible benefits and ways that open data can help improve people’s lives and take stock of remaining challenges that we can address collectively.

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