Anyone should be able access, track and analyse all fiscal data they are interested in easily. With that goal in mind, Open Knowledge International developed the Fiscal Data Package, a simple specification for publishing fiscal data. And OpenSpending is our free, open and global platform which implements the Fiscal Data Package to provide easy ways of searching, visualising and analysing fiscal data in the public sphere.

Opportunity

Government data on budgets and expenditures is one of the most useful resources to help citizens, civil society and the media keep elected officials and others in power accountable. We believe that governments’ budget and spending data should be made available to all, so that anyone can see how their taxes are spent and what priorities their governments choose to focus on. The ability to swiftly access and analyse this data makes it easier for anyone to gather insights, track money flows for issues - such as corruption - and drive positive social change.

Open Knowledge International and partners worked to speed up this process by developing the Fiscal Data Package specification,  a lightweight and user-oriented format for publishing and consuming fiscal data connected to our OpenSpending platform to enable users to easily generate data visualisations.

Fiscal data packages are made of simple and universal components, are extremely flexible, can be produced from ordinary spreadsheet software and used in any environment. They make it easier for everyone from government producers of data to members of the public to create, find, view, visualise and understand budget data.

How we helped

Fiscal data comes in many forms and, when creating the Fiscal Data Package specification, Open Knowledge International sought to model a large variety of datasets in the simplest terms possible by working with a wide range of engaged parties and organisations to inform and develop the format.

Originally known as the Budget Data Package, the Fiscal Data Package was first developed between 2013 and 2014 in collaboration with multiple partners including the International Budget Partnership, Omidyar Network, Google.org, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), the World Bank, and others.

Since then, we have continued to work on a wide range of technical implementations and pilots with civil society, government, fiscal data and open data partners across the world to test the format and improve its flexibility and extensibility.  By aligning this work with our Frictionless Data initiative, we ensured that the wide range of tools developed there can be used with the fiscal data published in the Fiscal Data Package specification. This work resulted in the release of version 1 of the specification in May 2018. We have continually updated our existing tools - such as OpenSpending - and built new tools to support this specification and provide integrations for other systems.

Impact/results

Anyone can now publish fiscal data easily by using the OpenSpending Packager. Via a comprehensive user interface, users are guided through the process of mapping the data files to fields in the specification. Thanks to our partnership with GIFT, governments including Croatia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic have piloted this tool for their budgets.

For more advanced fiscal data files or for those who want to regularly publish new fiscal data files, we developed fiscal data pipelines. With GIFT’s support, we helped the Federal Government of Mexico publish their 2017 federal budget and publish monthly updates using the Fiscal Data Package specification as well as uploading 10 years of their budget data to our OpenSpending platform.  

Once the data has been published on OpenSpending, there are several ways to use it. For example, the Mexican government’s transparency website and the Dominican Republic’s citizen budget site integrate the views from the OpenSpending viewer. Civil society organisations create their own visualisations and integrate the budget data directly from OpenSpending API. For example, OffenerHaushalt by Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland shows regional budget data from the sixteen German states. And in South Africa, OpenUp developed Vulekamali, an online budget data portal directly integrating data from OpenSpending. Finally, the specification has also been adopted or utilised by a range of other organisations working on budget transparency initiatives including OpenGov (USA) and TechSoup Europe.

We continue to engage with governments and bodies interested in publishing their data in line with the specification as well as exploring other opportunities such as connecting the Fiscal Data Package to the Open Contracting Data Standard to compare fiscal data with public procurement data. We are also working with those who see fiscal transparency and open data publication as a stepping stone to more participatory budgeting in their countries.

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