How to Manage Open Data

Executing an open data initiative in a government entity in Oman in a sustainable manner requires devising a management structure within the entity.

There are three possible options:

Open Data Committee

The open data initiative is managed by a committee of employees from a variety of divisions.

Pros: Easy to setup and does not require any legal formalities besides a ministerial decision to establish the committee.

Cons: The lack of a dedicated employee for open data makes this difficult to sustain. Committee members might not have the time or expertise required for the open data project.

Individual Open Data Officer

The open data initiative is managed by an employee as part of his primary tasks. The employee is placed in a division that has a general mandate not directly related to open data.

Pros: The existence of a dedicated open data officer will contribute directly to ensuring the sustainability of the open data initiative.

Cons: There might be friction between the objectives of the open data initiative of the entity and the direct objectives of the division in which the open data officer is placed.

Dedicated Open Data Division

The open data initiative is managed by a dedicated division made up on multiple team members and this division that reports to a senior executive office in the entity.

Pros: Entire team working towards specific goal. Existence is clear within the organisation.

Cons: Requires a change to the structure of the government entity and approvals from multiple entities.

The approach taken by a government entity to manage its open data program depends on a number of factors such as the size of the organisation, the amount of data that the entity possess and the amount of data it wishes to publish, and the degree of commitment the organisation is willing to make to put work in open data.

An organisation with a small team that holds a small amount of data is unlikely to require a full-fledged open data division and is likely to be able to launch an open data program using a committee or by dedicated one employee to be responsible for open data.

Open Data Committee

Establishing an open data committee is one of the easiest mechanism that can be used to establish some sort of a formal structure for managing open data within the organisation. The committee structure is also useful for collaborating with various stakeholders from around the organisation in a way that can facilitate obtaining the data that all these stakeholders possess. The committee structure also does not require a ministry to obtain any approval from outside the entity and does not require creating new positions or divisions in the organisation.

The appropriate membership for an open data committee largely depends on the nature of the data that the entity wishes to publish and the existing structure of the organisation. However, it is important for this committee to have a senior member of staff as its chair with the authority to take actions regarding whether certain datasets can be published or not and with the authority to request to have the content of the website of the entity, or the portal on which the entity wishes to publish its data, updated. A reasonable structure for such a committee should include the following:

  • The undersecretary of the entity or a director general as the chair of the committee.
  • Senior representatives of the key data owners within the organisation.
  • A representative from the team responsible for the website of the entity.
  • A representative from the team responsible for the social media presence of the entity if different from those responsible for the website.
  • A representative from the team responsible for statistics.

The committee should be responsible for the following functions:

  • Creating the data inventory of the organisation.
  • Creating and publishing the open data catalogue of the entity.
  • Creating a mechanism for ensuring the protection of the privacy of the subjects of the data the entity holds.
  • Creating an open data engagement plan.
  • Respond to requests from the public to publish open data.
  • Monitor international indicators relevant to the data of the entity.
  • Coordinate with the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and IT in matters relating to open data.

The drawbacks of having a committee to manage the open data program of an entity are the usual drawbacks of having a committee responsible for any project within the government such as committee members might not have the time or resources to dedicate to the open data project.

Individual Open Data Officer