In celebration of Global Open Data Day, the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD) pioneered a discussion on Open Research in the Philippines on March 3, 2018, a stocktaking exercise to assess the current research landscape in the country. It was able to gather representatives from the academe, government agencies, civil society organizations, and research institutions to talk about the barriers and opportunities for open research in the Philippines.
Open Data is an international movement of making data available upholding principles of free use, free reuse, and free redistribution. Open Research, the theme of the discussion, is part of these global “open” movements that advocates to widen access of the citizens, knowledge producers, advocates, and other infomediaries to data, research materials, and literature.
The discussants include Michelle Manza of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), JP Acuña of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Vernon Totanes of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) Rizal Library, and Arthur Mariano of the University of the Philippines (UP) Libraries. The discussions were led by the Institute’s Fellow, Richard “Bon” Moya, one of pioneers of Open Data in the Philippines under his stint as Undersecretary and Chief Information Officer of the Department of Budget and Management; and the Institute’s Executive Director Czarina Medina-Guce.
The panelists highlighted efforts and successes of the public and private sectors in making data available to citizens. The PCOO launched in 2016 the electronic Freedom of Information (eFOI) portal that requires government agencies in the executive branch to provide information and documents upon request of citizens. The DICT also maintains Open Data Philippines, a repository of government data and information, while working on bigger platforms to expand the initiative. School libraries serve as infomediaries, taking a step in digitizing their materials and offering selected literature and journals to all sorts of researchers.
While these are significant strides, the panelists also identified challenges in making the programs genuinely work for the public. On the side of the government, the biggest gap still lies in the lack of legal frameworks in information sharing and accessing such as the absence of a FOI law that will expand the scope of information disclosure to local governments and other branches of the government, and the long-standing contentions on the country’s Data Privacy Act. The panelists also stated that the online platforms are normally met with low use from the citizens. eFOI, for example, has only received an estimated 3,500 requests in its portal since its launch. These requests were made from 250 government agencies, which is only half of the total number of participating agencies in the executive branch. This shows, as JP Acuña suggested, a disconnect between the data that are being disclosed by the government to the data needs and demands of the people.
In the academe, similar issues surfaced as existing practices in opening researches are still bound by Intellectual Property (IP) policies. Strict academic sharing practices coupled with hesitations of some contributors also hinder open information exchange among researchers, advocates, and other knowledge producers. Dr. Vernon Totanes also underscored the high-cost collation and subscription fees that academic institutions have to endure in acquiring access to academic journals and databases. Similarly, Arthur Mariano cited that digitalizing and improving information system of libraries also incur costs, which state-funded schools, like UP, may find hard to finance.
This RTD is supported by Open Knowledge International and SPARC. Watch the discussion highlights through the videos below.