In recent years, momentum has grown for open government data — the global movement to facilitate transparency, accountability, and public participation by making government information available to the public.

This, advocates contend, allows citizens to hold their government accountable for the people’s money it spends and the deals it negotiates. Naturally, governments have resisted, refusing to embrace this culture.

This is not the case with the Philippines.

On January 2014, a website that consolidates data from different Philippine government agencies and makes them available in formats meant for easy downloading and use was launched by the Aquino administration.

Dubbed the Open Data Philippines initiative, the site aims to “institutionalize open, transparent, accountable, and participatory governance” by digitizing hard copies of agency data into computer-readable formats. These files are shareable, and certain portions of the site itself have widgets that share the entire site on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks.

At its hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC), the Philippine government, through the Department of Finance (DOF), pushed the practice of open data to new heights. Throughout the year-long meetings under the APEC Finance Ministers’ Process (FMP), the idea of open data among member economies has been continually discussed.

Open Data in APEC

Last Friday, the Open Data Philippines Task Force published the Reference of Open Data and Fiscal Transparency Practices in the Asia Pacific, a compilation of open data programs among APEC member economies.

APEC member economies that have submitted entries to the Reference include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States. Entries include online resources, milestones or key accomplishments, key challenges, lessons learned, recommendations, and relevant contact information.

Furthermore, the Reference also contains entries of global platforms whose work revolves around open governance, open data, and fiscal transparency. These include the Open Government Partnership (OGP), Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), Open Contracting Partnership, and Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Lastly, the document offers online references that could be of use to aspiring and current open data practitioners, such as links to APEC member economies’ open government data portals, reports and case studies, tools, organizations, and many others.

It is envisioned that this Reference will be updated over time to accommodate updates and new entries and facilitate bilateral or multilateral engagements among members to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

As discussed throughout the numerous APEC FMP meetings, APEC member-economies will benefit in the sharing of domestic open data practices.

Open data cam help build long-term trust The Philippine government has stressed that at a time when governments face a crisis of confidence in public and private governance, open data can help build long-term trust.

Also, now more than ever, the Asia-Pacific region needs this innovation because of the unprecedented challenges it faces: an increasing population with very different demographics in different regions, environmental security, economic stability, growth, and more.

Open data is seen as a crucial part in responding to these challenges.

Quite simply, it has been stressed, open data is an enabler of freedom — freedom to trade, learn, be secure, and to the well-being of individuals, organizations, and countries.

It has also been pointed out that open data can strengthen democratic institutions — from government expenditures, contracts, and salaries of its officials. (PNA)