The Open Algorithms project (OPAL) is led by the DataPop Alliance with partners Orange, World Economic Forum, Agence France du Developpement, PARIS21, and SDSN. OPAL demonstrates a pathway to harness private data for the public good while maintaining the datasets’ privacy, security, and proprietary value. By developing a mechanism for querying telecommunications data behind the company’s firewall, using publicly accessible and open algorithms, OPAL’s potential for success comes from “taking the code to the data, not the data to the code.” This technology has broad implications not only for the telecom sector, but for many private corporations who actively or passively collect data that would be of high use to the public sector if available in a ready and reliable fashion.
Two pilots of the OPAL project are underway in Senegal and Colombia. SDSN has supported the development of a methodology for participatory governance design, first in Senegal in January 2017, and then in Colombia in June 2017. SDSN’s support enabled the OPAL group to foster critical partnerships in various sectors in both regions, to perform a user needs study with key stakeholders in Senegal and Colombia, and to design and implement a workshop discussing user needs and governance in Dakar and Bogotà. Each governance workshop aimed to bring together stakeholders from across the private and public sectors — particularly the mobile phone providers Sonatel and Telefonica.