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Research project: The quality of civic data in India and the implications on the push for Open Data

In recent years, the push for open data has become an important rallying call all over the world, including a small but vocal community in India. However, there has been very little research done on the context of data, data usage, and open data in developing countries, including in India. The experiences of Transparent Chennai with data at the municipal level in India suggest that the quality of data is unreliable, especially data about the urban poor. In this context, opening up and relying on existing data for better urban management may actually lead to further marginalization of already vulnerable communities. The project is structured around examining three kinds of municipal data: data on slums and informal settlements, access to water and sanitation, and public health. Structured as a case study of data in each of these sectors, the project documents the way data is collected by relevant government agencies and departments, how the data is used in planning and policymaking, the availability of data to the public, the accuracy of the data, and the implications of poor data quality on citizens.


Presentation Research poster - Still Open Ended (2014) S. Shekhar; V. Padmanabhan (Download)

Project updates

Transparent Chennai study on civic data in water, sanitation and health


This is a report on civic data in water, public health and sanitation (toilets) in the city of Chennai.

The report examines data availability, quality, processes of creation and use of data, and impact of data quality using a methodology of unstructured and semi-structured interviews, surveys, physical and digital mapping methodologies, public consultations and focus group discussions to answer the following questions:


Putting Toilets on the Map- August 2013

The Corporation of Chennai lacks adequate data on public toilets in the city. The municipality does not maintain a central repository of data on the number of public toilets, their locations and their facilities. This data is housed at zone-level offices and often even with different public-service agencies. As a result, the municipality does not collect the data it needs to plan for new toilets and enforce maintenance.

The three case studies - July 2013

As part of our research on open data, we are examining the quality of civic data collected by the local government on three of its services – water, public toilets and health.  Not surprisingly, data on each of these services is of varying quality and quantity, and not presented in formats that allow comparison and analysis. Our mentor, Michael Gurstein stressed the importance of documenting the processes by which the local government collects stores and shares data.