Open data = keys to transparency of the state and IT growth

28 January 2015, Kyiv School of Economics hosted 93 IT experts and entrepreneurs, activists, startup practitioners and data journalists to discuss the reasons for opening state data, building open data storage platforms, stimulating open data startups and creating an enabling environment for data production, reification and consumption.

The event was organized by SocialBoost civil society organization with support from UNDP and in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine. Such open data get-togethers are already becoming a good tradition, and are part of the open government data evangelization strategy that is fueled by Ukrainian IT activists and social entrepreneurs.

The discussion took off from the popular standpoint of governance transparency and integrity in the digital age. “Accountability and transparency have been UNDP priorities over the years achieved, amongst others through support to social initiatives based on open government data”, noted Maksym Klyuchar, UNDP Ukraine governance expert. Yet, the level of data openness in Ukraine is still at a relatively low level and could be dubbed fledgling at best. In spite of this, the last couple of years were characterized by dynamic, mostly bottom-up achievements. Thus, for instance, the portal was recently launched with the first batch of 100 test datasets for healthcare, environment protection, economy, energy, finance, security, transportation and others.

At the same time, one of the more advanced data portals in neighboring Moldova has 787 datasets and the United Kingdom, a globally recognized leader in the open data movement, hosts over 23 000 datasets in the public domain. Wealth of data, their regular updates (some of them close to real-time) enable construction of socially-important applications through a process called “mashing” where the imagination of the IT developer allows to creatively superimpose data from different sources to produce added value to the user. The UK open data portal hosts 364 applications based on open data, ranging from the more conventional tools that allow a passenger to determine what the fastest route would be from point A to point B, keeping in mind traffic congestion and transport schedules to the more exotic ones: that allow one to forecast flooding of their home or advise you to avoid certain streets due to high crime rates at certain times of the day.

newWhile open data has not yet become the “default standard” for publication of state information, Ukrainian startups have been consistently working to receive, rectify and make good use of the public data to add social value to raw numbers. This process is going to continue, emphasizes Denis Gursky, founder of SocialBoost: “The EU-28 countries are expected to receive additional 206 billion Euros from big and open data by 2020, or close to 2% of GDP, according to a recent study by the Warsaw Institute for Economic Studies” ( While Ukrainian developers, such as Anton Moyseenko, founder of CityTransport ( are not yet hoping to produce such volumes of added value, they are already well advanced in their thinking regarding both producing helpful online / smartphone services and generating income from use of these tools. The service, existing for both iOS and Android platforms, as well as through the online tool, allows one to calculate the shortest and most time-efficient routes between stations of rapid city rail, high-speed trams and the subway trains. All this became possible due to open data on schedules and estimates of peak use of transport hubs at rush hours.

At the same time, such successes also highlight the systemic deficiencies that the Ukrainian open data ecosystem is facing. Mykhaylo Shmeliov, Microsoft Ukraine chief technical officer, emphasized such pitfalls as absence of unified standards for open data in Ukraine coupled with dissipated, poorly structured and machine-unreadable information. Despite the progressive essence of Ukraine’s access to information legislation, it fails to provide for proactive information disclosure instead of reactive response to freedom of information queries. The new draft law elaborated by civic experts and e-governance specialists is called to address some of these deficiencies by incorporating a definition of open data into the Law on Access to Public Information and explicitly opening some of the existing public registers. “The data shall be disclosed proactively, be available for public use and re-use and updated automatically. Adoption of the ‘open data law’ is also seen as catalysis for the public agencies and government structures to automate their internal processes and digitize data production” – emphasized Mr. Shmeliov.

One of the most proactive discussions throughout the tech-evening rotated around the availability of the channels to upstream civic and tech-community demands for certain datasets to the government structures, since the success of open data instruments and tools will ultimately depend on the demands for them on the user market. Citizens “vote with their devices” when they download certain open data applications and confirm readiness to pay for the added value created from raw data by ingenuous developers.

May other questions were left undiscussed and just marked as themes for upcoming get-together, such as open data and e-services, data for transparency and visualization services and many others. It is expected that such community discussions may stir ideas and disseminate the “open data bug” amongst developers, social activists and, ultimately, government stakeholders for a better open data ecosystem to come in the nearest future.

The tech-evening at the Kyiv School of Economics was conducted in the framework of the Democratization and Human Rights Programme implemented by UNDP Ukraine with the support of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.