Why We Opened Afghanistan’s Election Data


2 min read

Last week we launched Afghanistan Open Data Project, opening data to improve the quality and transparency of elections in Afghanistan. We hope to build a tradition and community around using data to improve the quality of all future elections in Afghanistan.

Data is the infrastructure on which we build better elections

During Afghanistan’s 2009 and 2010 elections, Development Seed and NDI worked together to open up data in order to understand and describe those elections. That work was important in that it showed the extent and character of electoral fraud. We will continue this important work with NDI during 2014 elections.

Afghanistan Open Data Project is different. It is an effort to use data in advance of elections in order to improve them. We laid the first tracks, opening and visualizing data to show how it might be used in election planning and protection. Can this data make the election more inclusive? More efficient? More fair? Can better data lead to to a better distribution of polling stations? Can it power more targeted and effective efforts to improve participation by women? Can it provide political parties with data about vote patterns that rewards parties willing to actually go out and engage with voters?

We believe so.

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*Breakdown of 2014 polling stations by gender*

Some donors and implementers still fundamentally misunderstand “open”

As we described the project to colleagues, most responded with support and enthusiasm. But we also received skepticism. One comment was that some other group was already “doing open” for these elections, as if someone had cornered the market of opening up information around elections, rendering our efforts duplicative.

That’s not how Open works. It takes a community of organizations and individuals — each with unique motivations and contributions — to begin to reap many of the benefits of Open. This is just as true of open data as it is of open source software. We need more Open, not monopolies of Open.

This project is open. All the data is open for reuse and the project as a whole is open for contributions. If you are working in Afghanistan and have data, need data, or know how to work with data, please contribute to the effort.

What we're doing.