Aranita Brahaj | Open Data in Europe and Central Asia

Aranita is Executive Director of the Albanian Institute of Science.
Executive Director of the Albanian Institute of Science
Executive Director of the Albanian Institute of Science

1.Why did you start working with open data?

We first started to work with Open Data Albania in 2010, inspired by the promises of President Obama in his first electoral campaign for transparency through Governmental Data. It was four of us in the first working group. We all had different professional profiles, including an Information Technology Engineer, an expert in Public Finances, and me, graduated in law, but with an extensive working experience as a journalist. T

he will to work for opening data corresponded with the fact that in countries in transition like Albania, with fragile models of democracy, good governance, and accountability, people always tend to speak based on their personal opinions.

There is always something personal in public debate, parties tend to identify their opponents with negative clans and always avoid objective facts. Open data are facts, and we started to work to open, compare, and analyze such data. A society with open data is a different society. Data are power.

 

2.Tell us of one accomplishment from your work that you are particularly proud of?

Every Government data opened for the first time through our well-structured datasets has made us proud.

We felt proud when we saw that the level of reuse of the data published by Open Data Albania was 99%. We felt good about our statistical comparative data referring to our neighboring countries, including Kosova, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece, encouraged civil reaction.

Recently, the data opened by our State Treasure Dataset were used by a parliamentary committee for lifting the mandate of a Member of the Parliament for conflict of interest and violation of the Constitution.

The open data are also of interest, when they turn into linked data. In this way they help users compare and monitor various processes. We are equally proud about having broken some long-standing mentalities/myths through our open data, including the myth about Albania having more women than men. The same applies to the publication of our data, which are directly useful both for the citizens and consumers. The publication of the level of pollution in the coastal areas of Albania, or the publication of the number of unaccredited schools helped the Albanian citizens make a better choice about where they will spend their holidays, or to which schools they will send their children.

 

3.What is the next thing and what’s your vision for open data in Albania?

Every municipality, as a local government unit in Albania, must provide its citizens with a catalogue of open data. All their websites offer at the moment are Mayors’ speeches, well-cured public events, but what the citizens need to find is open data about public works, services, payments made with taxpayers’ money, and contracts and programs for public-private partnerships. Such data are useful for the citizens, as they first help them receive public services in a more efficient manner. Secondly, they provide transparency and an accountable communication.

In five years, we have worked to open Government data at the central level. In 2015, we will have only 61 administrative units, and we would like to create an open data model for the local government units.