Mapping Open Data Infrastructure in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

A new study commissioned by Internews maps out the open data infrastructure in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The mapping provides insight into the available open data resources on socio-economic issues and serves as a practical resource for data journalists.

Data journalism is proven to create impact and lead to change through public interest stories that measure and communicate the most urgent challenges facing society, the citizens most affected, the root causes, and potential solutions to growing inequality. To support the growth of the data journalism communities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Internews commissioned an open data mapping study on socio-economic issues tailored for journalists in these two countries.

This study produced two databases of open datasets in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in Excel and Airtable for public use and explanatory guidance for data journalists.

  • See the database for Kyrgyzstan here. The report on Kyrgyzstan is located here in English and here in Russian.
  • See the database for Tajikistan here. The report on Tajikistan is located here in English and here in Russian.

Open data is essential for supporting evidence-based reporting on socio-economic development. Still, journalists face delays in getting quick access to essential datasets despite an abundance of open data in Kyrgyzstan. Data journalists in Tajikistan have an added difficulty in the absence of a centralised state open data repository, where state entities could accumulate datasets.

To facilitate access to information for journalists working with data on socio-economic issues, Internews collaborated with Zerkalo Analytics, a research group based in Central Asia, to identify open data sources in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and put together comprehensive databases.

Using a two-stage desk research approach, the research team examined 1,986 hyperlinks to 131 websites, holding relevant datasets for Kyrgyzstan, and 1,032 hyperlinks to 68 websites, holding relevant datasets for Tajikistan. As a result, 411 datasets on socio-economic themes were identified and included in the database for Kyrgyzstan and 309 datasets for Tajikistan, exceeding the initially set target of a minimum of 50 datasets per country.

The mapping showed the institutions and organisations that hold most datasets in the two countries. It also revealed that most datasets are embedded in PDF files, making them difficult to use for data analysis. To address this challenge, the mapping includes an annex with tips on PDF conversion. The mapping also includes other practical resources for data journalists, such as a checklist on how to work with open data, a data request letter to help journalists request information from authorities clearly, and information on three top visualisation tools.

Thanks to this mapping, data journalists in Tajikistan can access datasets on banks and finances (52 datasets), income (19), trade (18), taxes (28), regional development (13), and other areas related to socio-economic issues. Data journalists in Kyrgyzstan can use the database to access open datasets on agriculture (75), employment (53), economic forecasting (39), banks and finance (24), prices (20), budget (19), business (11), regional development (17) and other areas.

Taken together, the study found that the amount of open data available to the community of data journalists in Kyrgyzstan is growing, while for data journalists to emerge as a community in Tajikistan, collaborative work and accessible data are crucial.

The study revealed a number of challenges with open data, including:

  • Scarcity of open government data and the governments’ lack of capacity to produce high-quality granular data that is disaggregated, shows repeated measurement over time,  and is available on a micro-level with geolocation information;
  • Such a dearth of data means that journalists lack opportunities to consult, practice with and get better at incorporating data to tell a compelling story;
  • Journalists in developing countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rarely have the skills and know-how to use the latest data tools for proper data analysis;
  • Media outlets lack the resources to invest in data journalism as producing impactful data stories requires time and effort.

These challenges are shared by data journalists worldwide, who report that access to quality data, time pressure, lack of adequate knowledge and data analysis, and ensuring data reliability are among their top difficulties.

Key recommendations:

  • Media outlets should prioritise the allocation of sufficient resources for data journalism;
  • Journalists should regularly request updates of data from authorities (for example, using the data request letter template annexed to the mapping reports);
  • Governments should continue implementing the open data programmes, offering data free of charge, online, in formats suitable for data processing and analysis;
  • Governments should build their capacity to consistently collect and publish information, release sector-specific data, and respond to requests for data updates in a timely manner;
  • Donor organisations should a) support the governments with hands-on training on effective data publishing in a format suitable for data analysis, and b) support data journalism and data literacy training for journalists;
  • Media organisations should offer targeted training for potential data journalists focusing on how to start research on a data-related topic, conduct basic data analysis and exploration, and write data-driven stories;
  • Donor organisations could support Tajikistanwith a pilot open data initiative for the city of Dushanbe;
  • In Kyrgyzstan, which has a more developed data environment, donor organisations could support efforts to build the capacity of civil society organisations to produce data.

This publicly available database with open datasets is a big result for Tajikistan. Until today, there was no unified data register where journalists could find the necessary data. We had to search on different sites, which has often been unsuccessful since there is a lack of up-to-date data. Also, usually, the available data is published in a non-machine-readable format. The main advantage of this database is that journalists who want to write data-driven articles now have access to a set of datasets ready for use. Data journalism is just developing in Tajikistan, and beginners are often intimidated by the difficulty of finding data. Anyone can supplement this database, and if it is supplemented occasionally by the data journalism community or experts, I am sure that over time the resource will become very popular and in demand among journalists. Certainly, we will continue receiving data upon requests, and if the requested data is further added to this database, then perhaps many will not duplicate questions, and government agencies will not have to waste time responding to similar requests from journalists. Therefore, the database can be of great benefit not only to journalists,” – said Bakhmaner Nodirov, Editorial Director, “Asia-Plus” Tajikistan

Internews thanks the School of Data of Kyrgyzstan for providing their expertise in reviewing the mapping findings.

This study was produced under the Pillar 2: “Civil Society for Accountability: Activating Civil Society to Demand Inclusive, Evidence-Based Economic Growth in Central Asia” project, within Effective Governance for Economic Development (EGED) programme implemented in Central Asia. This project supported by funding from the UK Government and implemented in cooperation with ACTED.

The Open Data Mapping reports and databases were produced by Zerkalo Analytics, commissioned by Internews, and funded by UK aid from the UK Government; however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies.