Eldis plays host to new Hub partners

8th April 2014

Participants from all corners of the world gathered recently in a wet and windy Brighton, UK to kick-start a new partnership. The organisations represented are joining forces to create a new open platform to increase availability and access to development information – particularly from developing countries. Alan Stanley, who manages the Eldis programme, reports...

Increasing the availability and accessibility of global development research is the core business of Eldis. In recent years we’ve seen the growing “Open Data” movement and accelerating use of open systems for sharing and contextualisation of development information of all kinds – including research (see the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository for example). In 2011 we opened up access to our own content through our Open API because we believe these developments hold great potential for improving accessibility of research evidence and therefore contributing to better decision making.

However the use of these systems also risks widening, rather than diminishing, digital divides in the availability, accessibility and visibility of research evidence – particularly where that evidence is being generated by stakeholders in developing countries. These stakeholders risk being disadvantaged by a lack of resources and technical capacity to engage with these emerging open systems.

Step forward the Global Open Knowledge Hub – a 3 year DFID funded project which, among other things, seeks to bring together three IDS knowledge services, Eldis, BLDS and BRIDGE with like-minded organisations from developing countries to build a new platform for open content sharing and exchange – the Hub. In doing so we also hope to increase the visbility of research evidence, particularly from developing countries, to share wider learning on the technical and editorial challenges of working with these emerging open approaches and, ultimately, to create enough critical mass of capacity and shared learning to operate alongside the big global players in the open data world.

To get things started Eldis selected eight partner organisations and invited them to send technical and editorial representatives to a meeting at IDS. The programme for the meeting focussed partly on getting to know each other and working out how we wanted to work together but also began to process of working out how to go about building the Hub itself. We have our own ideas about how this should happen but we also wanted to give partners the opportunity to share their ideas and to articulate the features of such a Hub that would be important for them.

In this series of short videos the partners introduce themselves and talk about why they are participating in the Hub project.

Reflecting on the meeting it was clear that to share our content effectively there are a number of challenges to overcome. We need to build technical systems that can talk to each other and also develop a shared model and standards for describing the content we have so that we can understand what it is we are sharing. We’ll need to modify our own data to improve its share-ability and design tools to make it easier for third parties to make use of the content we share. We also need to develop new approaches to M&E to track the use of our content through the new open platform and better ways to communicate the value of these new approaches to our stakeholders – partners and donors. You can get one of our partner’s perspectives on these challenges by reading this blog by Radhika Menon of 3ie.

So there’s lots of work to do but what is great is the enthusiasm for addressing these challenges together. From the workshop we’ve created a draft MOU describing how we want to work together as partners and work is already underway on starting to describe that shared content model and building a prototype Hub. It’s still early days but what I’d love to see is this partnership blossom into a truly collaborative consortium of organisations with that critical mass I described that can really help to build the participation of developing country-based organisations in this exciting emerging sector.