Open data in action: Millennium Challenge Corporation’s data catalog

The Millennium Challenge Corporation recognizes that transparency, aid effectiveness and accountability are all linked, which is why it has made a commitment to open data. Photo credit: Jake Lyell/Millennium Challenge Corporation

We’ve been talking about open data a lot lately. In my interview with Oluseun Onigbinde, he told you why open budget data is important for Nigerians, and before that,  I explained why the new Executive Order expanding the US government’s open data policy is so important. And open data is a key ONE Campaign ask at the upcoming G8 Summit.

Now, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has announced that its open data catalog (http://data.mcc.gov/) will contain metadata and microdata from its program evaluations in partner countries. The MCC is already one of the more transparent US programs, ranking first among the US programs assessed in Publish What You Fund’s 2012 Aid Transparency Index, and ninth globally.

Transparency in development programs helps to make sure that resources are being used effectively, that they’re achieving the desired results, and provides information to partner governments critical for planning their own development.

Expanding the Open Data catalog is part of the MCC’s Open Government Plan, which is founded on the principles of transparency and results. So far, metadata is available from agriculture programs in Armenia, Ghana, El Salvador and the Philippines. By allowing the public to download data in an open format, MCC is giving citizens, companies, and governments a valuable tool.

MCC hopes that this data will not only provide more and better ways to stay accountable for their development programs, but will also inspire entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery in the field of development and beyond.” MCC has said that the catalog is only the beginning – that we can look forward to more data releases.

Opening data is not always easy to do. The government-wide implementation of the open data policy will take some time. Making public new data sets takes a trifecta of political will, time and resources.

Often, agencies wait until these changes are forced upon them. It is refreshing to see the MCC out ahead of the open data curve, and we hope other agencies will follow their example as they face the challenge of making their databases “open” to the world.

Tell G8 leaders it’s time to prioritize transparency – it can save millions of lives. Sign our petition here.