Digital government

Open data in action: initiatives during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for access to timely, relevant, and quality data.

This demand has been driven by several needs: taking informed policy actions quickly, improving communication on the current state of play, carrying out scientific analysis of a dynamic threat, understanding its social and economic impact, and enabling civil society oversight and reporting.

This report, prepared by the OECD Digital Government and Data Unit and the NYU’s The GovLab, assesses how open government data (OGD) was used to react and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic during initial stage of the crisis (March-July 2020) based on initiatives collected through an open call for evidence. It also seeks to transform lessons learned into considerations for policy makers on how to improve OGD policies to better prepare for future shocks.


Key findings from the report

Governments were active in releasing and re-using Open Government Data (OGD)

During the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments were active in promoting open government data (OGD), both in terms of releasing data and re-using them to build different types of data products.

Public health was the main priority

Most activities targeted public health: almost three-fourths of all OGD projects addressed health communications and informative charts rather than pressing economic or social needs.

OGD was important for communication efforts

There is limited evidence that OGD drove concrete actions beyond public communication efforts during this phase of the pandemic. Evidence indicates that many of these projects were data repositories or dashboards, with data analysis conducted most often in the form of data visualisation such as maps or charts.

Focus was on response, not recovery

In line with the large focus on health needs and situational awareness, a large majority of initiatives during the initial stage of the pandemic concentrated primarily on immediate response. Few initiatives targeted recovery and reform stages.

Read the report