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GSDRC - Open data, transparency and accountability

Open data, transparency and accountability

Open data involves the release of data so that anyone can access, use and share it. The Open Data Charter (2015) describes six principles that aim to make data easier to find, use and combine:

- open by default
- timely and comprehensive
- accessible and usable
- comparable and interoperable
- for improved governance and citizen engagement
- for inclusive development and innovation


One of the main objectives of making data open is to promote transparency.

Transparency is a characteristic of government, companies, organisations and individuals that are open in the clear disclosure of information, rules, plans, processes and actions. Transparency of information is a crucial part of this.

Within a development context, transparency and accountability initiatives have emerged over the last decade as a way to address developmental failures and democratic deficits.

Data release and transparency are parts of the chain of events leading to accountability. For open data and transparency initiatives to lead to accountability, the required conditions include:
- getting the right data published, which requires an understanding of the politics of data publication
- enabling actors to find, process and use information, and to act on any outputs, which requires an accountability ecosystem that includes equipped and empowered intermediaries
- enabling institutional or social forms of enforceability or citizens’ ability to choose better services, which requires infrastructure that can impose sanctions, or sufficient choice or official support for citizens

Source: GSDRC

Carolan, L. (2016). Open data, transparency and accountability: Topic guide.
Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.

Read the full Topic Guide