World Bank – Knowledge Sharing and Learning Event 8.11.2011
Opening remarks by Ms Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
World Bank Vice President Axel van Trotsenburg and the World Bank staff,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you all to this learning and knowledge sharing event on the World Bank open data systems, organized together by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the World Bank.
I visited the World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington earlier this autumn. During that visit I met with several members of the World Bank´s senior management. In many of these meetings we discussed questions such as democracy good governance and transparency. All of this these questions are very much interlinked.
The World Bank as a key global developing actor has in recent years come a long way towards greater institutional transparency. Important steps in this respect are the new Access to Information Policy and practical tools such as Open Data and Aid Flows, that we will learn more about today.
The World Bank is also in a strong position to promote transparency and civil participation in developing countries. This is an agenda where Finland and the World Bank already collaborate quite closely and we see a lot of opportunities for the future.
At my meetings in Washington, and here today, I encourage the Bank to continue efforts on this path at all levels. I also want to encourage all of you to take part and to make good use of this valuable work.
Open data is an important trend in modern and democratic societies. Openness of data is emphasizing the fact that also the information that is used in decision making must be open for the public. In fact, the implementation of open data in practice has just begun in many developed countries with governments finally starting to renew legislation related to public data and release data extensively through the Internet in an effort to promote transparency.
While we start to understand ourselves the impact of the openness of data in our own countries, there have not been sufficient tools in development co-operation to promote, transparency, efficiency and trustworthy of governance and public service delivery. In many developing countries the basic information systems are not in place in public institutions, and the data stored in these systems is not always trustworthy. Also the use of Internet for publishing public data is only starting in many developing countries.
Many of the practical challenges in development co-operation are related to inappropriate collection and storage of government data, and lack of transparency in the public decision making as well as service delivery processes. This may increase risks for inefficiencies, misuses and corruption. At the same time, governments and government agencies in developing countries are publishing more information on the Internet. They usually speak about e-Government, and in many cases, avail some e-services through the Internet. However, the question remains how we can trust this information, and how this information makes the governance processes more transparent for the public.
Sharing public data enables greater transparency; delivers more efficient public services; and encourages greater public and commercial use and re-use of government information. However, if the data is not accessible, usable or trustworthy, this effort might not serve the purpose.
We also have to remember that while opening public data, we need to protect the privacy and rights of all citizens. Efficient legislation is needed also in this aspect.
While Finland is promoting the openness of public data in development co-operation, we would also like to emphasize that the governments themselves should be the drivers in opening their information to their own citizens. Instead of giving them readymade technical solutions developed by donor agencies and serving the needs of the donor community, we should support their capacity to implement their own open government data systems and related legal frameworks.
In 1766 the King Adolphus Frederick of Sweden (and Finland) issued His Majesty’s gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press. The King declared “that all Our loyal subjects may make use of a complete and unrestricted freedom to make generally public in print everything that is not found to be expressly prohibited”. This was a long time ago, but still a lot remains to be done.
Once more, I would like thank the World Bank representatives for being here in Helsinki to discuss and present the practical features of these tools, which can be seen as one important vehicle to promote transparency of the aid.
Now, Mr. Axel van Trotsenburg, the Vice President for Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships at the World Bank will shortly introduce today´s agenda from the World Bank point of view. After his presentation we will move on to the practical demonstrations of the World Bank Open data programs.
Last but not least, I encourage all of you to take actively part in the presentations and to give also your immediate feedback and questions regarding the programs to the World Bank staff around. They are the best possible experts to answer your questions.
Vice President van Trotsenburg the floor is yours.