The beginning of an open friendship: Belarus, Latvia and Sweden have been collaborating for a year

Open Knowledge Sweden together with the NGO Mana Balss (My Voice in English) in Latvia and with Belarusian partners has concluded the project Open data for civic participation

The goal of the project was to exchange knowledge and experiences between NGOs in Sweden, Latvia and Belarus about the availability and the use of the open data for civic participation, and ultimately to make civic activism more informed and effective.

During the project, Open Knowledge Sweden conducted research, awareness raising, and engaged stakeholders in discussions about the situation with open data in Sweden in order to understand what is needed to enable further data openness. We have interviewed different types of actors working in the open data field in Sweden representing academia, public sector, journalists, and experts in open data. As a result we have published a Brief and an Open Letter addressed to public officials and policy makers with recommendations about the way forward in the field of open data in Sweden.

The project has also delivered case studies on open data readiness and use for civic participation in Sweden, Latvia and Belarus. The key takeaway from the Swedish case studies is that the open data field can grow in a sustainable way if everyone cooperates: the public and private sectors, as well as civil society. The project case studies from the three countries have fed into the Digital Transformation Toolkit aimed at civic activists, public sector representatives and policy makers. 

In Latvia, the project emphasis was on the open data in municipalities and their usefulness for civic participation purposes. After research, stakeholder meetings and consultations, the final report “Open data for municipalities for civil participation: The current situation with recommendations” (here in Latvian) was published and disseminated to stakeholders. The conclusion is that the lack of consistent data is not only a risk for corruption but also a brake on the economy and the strengthening of civil society in municipalities. For municipalities data represent an opportunity to make evidence-based decisions, rather than decisions based on opinions. Reasoned and data-based municipal decisions and policies might gradually strengthen public confidence in local authorities and encourage people to become more open to constructive civic participation.

As a final result of the project, pulling together all of the partners’ knowledge and experience, we have jointly drafted a strategic document to map out the framework for further cooperation. Presently, we are in the process of putting together project concepts and proposals. 

If you would like more information about the project or if you would like to join us in the work on open data in Sweden, contact Alina Östling (OKS co-chair): [email protected]  

The project received support from the Nordic Council of Ministers’ funding programme for NGO co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region.

Photo (above) by Calvin Hanson on Unsplash