Deploying open data tools and standards to support UNICEF global public indicators

What is open data? 

‘Open data’ refers to data that are freely available without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The practice is derived from the larger concept of global public goods, where data is considered a ‘good’. In our contemporary context, where data-driven decision-making acts as a key driver in reaching desired outcomes, the ability to easily leverage relevant data is a basic requirement.

How are UNICEF data considered global public goods? 

Knowledge is a classic example of a global public good. As part of its mission to protect children’s rights and well-being, UNICEF designs, collects, analyses and publishes indicators on the state of children and women around the world. These data play a vital role in informing national, regional and global policy decisions, while also directing international assistance.

What is required to make data truly ‘open’? 

While publicly sharing data in hard copy reports does in a sense make them open, the idea of open data movement seeks to go much further. The movement embodies an additional set of principles that work to maximize data’s utility. For data to be fully open, they must not only be public in a legal sense, but also easily accessible worldwide and use standard interfaces. The data must be structured using shared standards and their lineage must be auditable.

What is UNICEF doing to make our data open? 

UNICEF’s Helix project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is implementing public, web-based open data services that share our global public indicators on the state of children and women. These services implement data standards such as SDMX (Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange) together with internationally shared classifications to provide globally accessible data for use by all.

What is the timeline for providing open data on our indicators?  

An initial set of UNICEF indicators are already available: The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) data was recently made available utilizing best practice open data standards via childmortality.org.  The Sustainable Development Goal indicators will follow shortly, and we will be adding other indicators to open data services throughout 2019.

Where can UNICEF’s open data services be accessed? 

Any SDMX-aware client can access the data services at: api.data.unicef.org/sdmx. UNICEF’s Data and Analytics Team is working to facilitate the data discovery process within these services.

Currently, users can access the IGME data using the following data structure: api.data.unicef.org/sdmx/Rest/dataflow/UNICEF/CME_DF/1.0/?references=all .

Access is also available for associated data sets using standard SDMX requests such as api.data.unicef.org/sdmx/Rest/data/UNICEF,CME_DF,1.0/.MRY0T4._T.269../?startPeriod=2017&endPeriod=2018.

Are there examples of these open data services being used to power user-friendly websites? 

Yes, please see childmortality.org.