Open data policy is the governance instrument on making data publicly available, accessible, and usable in a simplified format. It is a growing advocacy tool for effective policy and evidence-based engagement.
Open data facilitates greater transparency, efficient services delivery, and encourages greater public and commercial use and re-use of government and companies’ information for the benefit of the citizenry; it helps them in making informed decision. Open data is an important instrument in the anti-corruption sector and other sectors that need the use of data.
Open data is also an important stepping-stone towards EITI mainstreaming. This is about opening up mining sector revenue and receipt system by the government and companies by entrenching the EITI’s disclosure requirements into routine reporting. In addition, it is the collaboration with relevant stakeholders to ensure that data/information supplied is used by the many.
The EITI Principles declare that “a public understanding of government revenues and expenditure over time help public debate and inform the choice of appropriate and realistic options for sustainable development” (EITI Principle 4). The EITI Standard, therefore, requires EITI Reports that are “comprehensible, actively promoted, publicly accessible, and contribute to public debate” (EITI Requirement 7.1).
The EITI is always introducing a range of new reporting requirements such as the production volume, coverage of social payments and upcoming beneficial ownership reporting and open contracting etc. Some of the areas that the EITI have used data is on the issue of improved mandatory disclosure and timely reporting
Some key advantages of open data policy as a form of policy engagement include; citizens empowerment, to help civil societies and government and to create value in some other positive, constructive way. Added to this the Open data is only a waypoint on the road to improving reporting of other extractive sector value chain. It can also be adapted to other forms of government engagement. With this improvement in transparency and accountability, the citizenry will also benefit from improving education, improving government and other stakeholder’s governance and service. It is also a building tool to solve other real-world problems.
There are numerous arguments in support of open data as a tool in governance. Some of these include that most of the data being sort should be made available for citizens to interrogate and use for public good. In addition, data is required for the smooth process of running human activities and socio-economic development.
For the extractive sector, data helps in increasing transparency of government and business activities: awareness about how countries’ revenues from natural resources are used, and how extractive revenues are spent by the government. This would also ensure a better extractive sector management and utilization. In addition, it is a viable tool that promotes good governance, fight against corruption and enhanced public debate on extractive issues and other social issues. For the government, it aids in improving an effective policy-making process, proper planning and utilization of resources.
In general, open data ensures free access to and subsequent re-use of data that are of significant value to society and the economy. The use of mandatory disclosure laws from listed companies in EU, Norway, UK and Canada can be a good change to transparency and accountability in Africa and Nigeria in particular. These countries require oil, mining and gas companies listed or headquartered in those jurisdictions to publish their payments at every level of government for every project and in every country in which they operate.
For PWYP Nigeria through the Publish What You Pay data extractors program, we have used data from the program as advocacy tool towards ensuring transparency and accountability in the Shell payment to Nigeria government national oil companies and other covered entities in the 2015 payment.
NEITI and some other agencies through the FOIA and their Open data policy are trying to make the availability of data to comply with the open data policy. NEITI has the mandate for extractive data availability. They have equally aligned with the FOIA to ensure the disclosure of data. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Nigeria ensures the better request for information and obligation by the agencies and organs of government to disclose information. The proactive disclosure of data and the availability of NEITI data through the audit reports have increased the compliance to open data policy. In Nigeria, we need to encourage the different stakeholders and government agencies to adopt the open data policy. This will ensure the availability of data that satisfies the supply and demand part of the bargain.
The extractive business is generally considered one of the world’s most opaque. Initiatives like the Open Government partnership, open contracting and others are viable initiatives to ensure transparency. We are entering the era of Big Data, which will extend to the oil and mining industries.