The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for access to timely, relevant and quality data. This demand has been driven by several needs: taking informed policy actions quickly, improving communication on the current state of play, carrying out scientific analysis of a dynamic threat, understanding its social and economic impact, and enabling civil society oversight and reporting.
Based on an open call for evidence, this report assesses how open government data (OGD) was used to react and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic during initial stage of the crisis (March-July 2020). It also seeks to transform lessons learned into considerations for policy-makers on how to improve OGD policies to better prepare for future shocks.
- Governments were active in releasing and re-using OGD: During the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments were active in promoting open government data (OGD), both in terms of releasing data and re-using them to build different types of data products.
- Public health was the main priority: Most activities targeted public health: almost three-fourths of all OGD projects addressed health communications and informative charts rather than pressing economic or social needs, with a predominant emphasis on providing situational awareness rather than assessing or predicting impact.
- OGD was important for communication efforts: Despite its significant potential for crisis response, there is limited evidence that OGD initiatives drove concrete action beyond public communication efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence indicates that many of these projects were data repositories or dashboards, with data analysis conducted most often in the form of data visualisations such as maps or charts.
- Focus was on response, not recovery: In line with the large focus on health needs and situational awareness, a large majority of initiatives during the initial stage of the pandemic concentrated primarily on immediate response. Few initiatives targeted recovery and reform stages.