Making Open Data a vital investment
By Akrom Sultanov*
The Republic of Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991, after 67 years under the former Soviet Union, and began its transition to a market economy. Independent Uzbekistan was faced with the task of objectively assessing its history — the development of a young independent state, studying the accumulated experience, analyzing the successes achieved and identifying measures for the beginning of democratic reforms.
Following the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as the President in December 2016, the Action Strategy for Five Priority Development Areas in 2017–2021 has shaped a new stage in the country’s development. It marked a qualitatively new approach to the system of strategic planning of the state and social development of the country, where special attention was paid to ensuring openness and transparency of public administration as a key factor in strengthening the image and investment attractiveness of Uzbekistan on the world stage.
Although Uzbekistan’s first Open Data Portal was launched in 2015, the level of development in the field was at a rather low level until recently. This was evidenced by the country’s low indicators in international ratings, such as the Open Data Inventory (ODIN) where the country ranked 169th by the end of 2018. This also negatively affected the credibility of our country’s data from the international community. The number of open datasets on the Portal was less than 4 thousand, and the relevance and quality of this data left much to be desired.
To improve the situation, in April 2019, the President of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution for additional measures to ensure openness and transparency of public administration, as well as increasing the statistical potential of the country. In accordance with this resolution, the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Statistics (UZSTAT) was authorized to coordinate the activities of state bodies and organizations in terms of work on the formation, maintenance and updating of the list of open datasets and the timely reflection of relevant information on the Open Data Portal of Uzbekistan.
In 2019–2020 UZSTAT, with the support of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan and the World Bank, spearheaded the tremendous effort to develop open data in Uzbekistan.
In particular, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan assisted to obtain international experience in development of open data based on best international practices and experience in this area. Competent experts and key industry specialists were involved in elaboration of the Open Data Development Concept, revision of the Regulations on the Open Data Portal and drawing up updated Terms of Reference for the Portal. In order to strengthen the capacity of government data officers, 10 national instructors on open data underwent training, who, in turn, trained almost 400 data officers in 2 years.
To popularize open data and assist in the formation of a community of data users, a fruitful cooperation was established with the Technological Park of Software Products and Information Technologies (IT Park) of Uzbekistan. A vivid example of such cooperation is the Open Data Challenge hackathon, an annual competition for the development of ICT solutions based on open data technology, in which more than 600 projects took part in 2020. In addition, thematic conferences and seminars like Open Data Week Uzbekistan and Open Data Day Tashkent were held regularly.
Moreover, the English version of the Open Data Portal was launched in 2019. It currently contains data on 19 spheres (including Economy, Education, Health, Population, Transport, ICT, Business, Ecology) in three languages (Uzbek, Russian and English). The number of the datasets in the Portal has exceeded 10 thousand. Much attention is paid to the study of international methodological standards, recommendations, relevance, reliability and quality of data posted on the Portal.
Based on the results of the work during the past two years, Uzbekistan open data work has widely received international recognition:
- The Open Data Portal received the Silver level certificate from the Open Data Institute, and the official website of UZSTAT reached the Platinum one (the highest), which means that its open data is an exceptional example of information infrastructure.
- Uzbekistan became the first country in Central Asia to be included in the most comprehensive list of open data portals in the world DataPortals.org.
- According to the UN E-Government Survey 2020, Uzbekistan is among the 41 countries in the world with the highest indicator (Very High OGDI) according to open data in the Open Government Data Index
- Uzbekistan ranks 6th in the world in terms of the number of open data sources.
- Uzbekistan scored 63 points and moved 125 positions up to rank 44th in the world and 1st in Central Asia in the Open Data Inventory (ODIN) released in December 2020.
The path forward with Open Data Charter’s Principles
A solid foundation is being prepared for further improving the openness and transparency of data in Uzbekistan. In late December 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution on measures for the further development of the open data sector.
This resolution approved the Open Data Development Concept of Uzbekistan for 2021–2025, which defines the strategic directions and principles for the development of open data for the next 5 years, improving the legal and regulatory framework of open data, providing methodological support for data openness, organizational and informational-technological support of data openness.
Recognizing its leading role in the development and implementation of the best standards on open data, the resolution sets to join the Open Data Charter. The process was completed in a few weeks, since the basis for the adoption were formed over the past years through the systematic implementation of ODC’s principles and strict adherence to them in the implementation of the work described above.
Once a member, Uzbekistan intends to continue cooperation with the ODC in order to further improve the openness, transparency and availability of data, as well as to ensure openness and transparency of public administration to strengthen the country’s image and investment attractiveness on the world stage.
Akrom Sultanov is the Head of the Department for Monitoring and Coordination of the Open Data Portal of Uzbekistan within the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Statistics.