Data to the People

Solutions Journalism Network

By Tyler McBrien, Council on Foreign Relations

Data can be a powerful tool. Access to public education data can help parents and caregivers make informed decisions about schools. Access to easily readable congressional records can arm voters with the information on their elected officials. Access to digestible, transparent data, sometimes called "open data," in general can help citizens make more informed decisions and hold their governments accountable. But often that's just the problem: access.

Any number of reasons can account for a lack of open data. Government may not prioritize it and put their limited resources elsewhere. A simple lack of capacity could also explain why some governments seem to be a black box of data. It is also possible that some governments do not want to empower their citizens with data and actively hide it. 

Whatever the reason, despite a wide acknowledgment that open data can be a benefit to society, good data can be hard to find for the average citizen.  The stories in this collection portray citizen-led quests for open data. From the "guerilla archiving" events undertaken by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative to preserve information that the Trump administration tried to erase, to Ugandan "village budget clubs" that gave residents an opportunity to oversee government budgeting and planning meetings, citizen entrepreneurs around the world are bypassing governments to get the data they need. 

Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on open data.