Open Data in the Arab World

I recently wrote a report examining the status of open data in the Arab World with Sadeek Hasna. As today is the Open Data Day, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about it.

Our report uses the data of the Global Open Data Index to examine the extent to which Arab countries have released their data in an open manner. We decided to focus on a limited number of datasets, namely the annual budget, legislation, election results, and the company register, and looked at how Arab countries succeed or fail in releasing these datasets.

Our report found examples of some good initiatives by Arab governments relating to our chosen datasets such as the website of the Emirati Ministry of Finance (which releases the government annual budget in Excel format making it easy for analysts to process this data), Al Meezan – the legislation website of the government of Qatar (which provides all laws in full text format and adopts a creative commons licence), the Egyptian Presidential Elections Committee website (which provides its election data in Excel format), and the website of the Bahraini Company Register (which provides an excellent search engine to look up company data).

Even though Arab governments have done well in some specific cases, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. Many government websites release their data as scanned PDF files that are extremely difficult to use, and very few websites give the explicit permission for the users to copy and re-use the data. We could not identify any website that enabled the bulk download of of the datasets in question.

You can read the report on Open Data in the Arab World here.

Image credits: ‘Map of Arabic-speaking countries by Illegitimate Barrister – Licensed by CC Attribution 3.0

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