Niti Foundation’s Open Hydro Portal was created with the belief that open access to data leads to more transparent and effective development projects. We believe that data pertaining to hydropower development should be easily accessible, in a readable format, and licensed for anyone to access, use or share it. Granting access to data allows citizens, civil society, and private sector actors to stay informed and thus partake in important decision-making processes, shape policies, and hold authorities accountable. Open public-sector data is an attribute of a strong democracy, whereas withholding information is a characteristic of an all-controlling state. The availability of open data creates opportunities for all kinds of organizations, government agencies and not-for-profits to come up with new ways of addressing society’s problems. Collaborations between multiple partners can help convert open data from insight into action.
Hydropower is critical to Nepal’s economic growth, yet data on hydropower projects is often hard to access because it is housed in platforms of various government agencies responsible for developing and regulating this sector. The resulting information vacuum, or information asymmetry (i.e. some actors have lots of information, while others – especially citizens and civil society – have very little) makes the process of hydropower development all the more contentious and slower. To help address this problem, Niti Foundation developed the Open Hydro Portal under the “Improving the Sharing and Use of Data as Evidence for Development in Nepal” project, supported by The Asia Foundation and Development Initiatives. This project helps to bridge the gap in information by collating data from the Department of Electricity Development, Independent Power Producers Association Nepal and other government agencies, with a user-friendly interface.
The interactive web map graphically displays information about the location and status of hydropower projects. Users can browse by river basin and administrative location and find information such as the hydropower project promoter’s identity and contact information and other socio-economic, physical, biological, periodic and other data relevant to the project.
Users of the map have the ability to do background research and thus understand and comment on hydropower decisions. This helps address the information asymmetry problem. When local communities are trusted with information, this may actually reduce local misgivings about projects.