Oman ranked at 66 on the Global Open Data Index 2015 making it the highest ranking Arab country on the index. The Global Open Data Index is a crowdsourced survey of the performance of governments in the area of open data. It looks at the extent to which governments release their data in a technically and legally open format that permits the public to copy and re-use this data for both societal and business objectives.
Oman has been actively working in the past few years on the ‘government digital transformation’ project, which is spearheaded by the ITA, but the biggest development in the area of open data did not come from the ITA, it came from NCSI. The NCSI launched earlier this year a fully fledged open data portal in which data is published in a technically and legally open manner. This portal publishes statistics relating to Oman in a variety of areas under machine-readable formats that users are permitted to copy and re-purpose.
It is also great to see that the Omani legislation dataset, which is published by MOLA, ranks 16 globally. This score is probably due to the legal requirements for legislation to be published in the official gazette within a maximum of two weeks and the exemption of legislation from the protection of copyright under Omani law (making it legally open). MOLA is very quick in updating the legislation on its website and announces its weekly updates on both Twitter and Facebook. The benefits of the availability of the legislation dataset are not hypothetical: I personally participate in a project that takes advantage of the fact that legislation is an open dataset in Oman.
Oman is definitely moving in the right direction when it comes to open data, but it has the potential of moving even higher up on the index by making small tweaks to its existing websites. For example, the Company Register at MOCI has digital records of all the information needed for the data index, but currently displays a limited amount of data on its search engine results. Allowing users to view small additional details, such as the address and list of shareholders, could make Oman satisfy the requirement for this dataset. This change will not require any serious financial investment because the data is already available to MOCI in a digital format in their system, all they need to do is display it on the search results.
The Omani government should take note of the Global Open Data Index to evaluate its performance and figure out new ways to make its data more open and consequently more easily accessible to the public. The Global Open Data Index is an easy indicator to understand and can give ideas for practical improvements that could actually be implemented.