Building people-centric and responsible data governance in Türkiye

January 3, 2024
Photo: UNDP Türkiye

Authors: Alper Gucumengil (Data Project Specialist, Chief Digital Office) and Alena Klatte (AI & Data Manager, Digital Programmes, Chief Digital Office) 

In an increasingly digital world, data has the potential to transform industries, better inform policy-making, and ultimately improve people’s lives. For instance, more timely and precise weather data can significantly improve agricultural outputs and farming practices, helping to alleviate hunger. Like this example, there are many opportunities across different areas of life, but how might countries such as Türkiye responsibly harness data to deliver society-wide benefits? 

A look at Türkiye

In Türkiye, data is playing an increasingly important role. However, while more and more data is being generated across sectors, it is often not standardized and is not always easily accessible for all stakeholders, not least those working within government. Given this challenge, there is an emerging need for a data approach that promotes interoperability and eliminates data silos. In addition, clear rules and regulations are needed to better ensure responsible data sharing, both within the country and across borders. This has motivated the Government to develop a holistic data governance framework that can be adopted across society.

Leveraging UNDP’s support  

In collaboration with the Digital Transformation Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye (DTO), UNDP’s Türkiye Country Office and Chief Digital Office (CDO) initiated efforts to research and outline recommendations towards designing a data governance framework.  

Using a participatory approach, UNDP and DTO held consultations with diverse actors, including from government institutions, the private sector, academia, and civil society organizations. These consultations provided critical insights to better understand the needs and demands (existing and future ones), with respect to the data ecosystem, key actors, policy, and technical infrastructure.  

The insights were then synthesized, in close analysis with best practices that were gleaned from case studies examined. Encompassing primary recommendations and suggested action points, a report is being produced to offer strategic guidance and contextual understanding towards developing the data governance framework.  

Key components of the data governance framework 

The recommendations were structured around five pillars:

  1. Policies, Legislation, and Regulations: Focusing on Türkiye’s readiness to comply with international data legislation/regulations. 
  2. Institutions, Mechanisms and Processes: Analyzing the organizational structure, identifying key actors, and establishing processes for effective data governance.
  3. People: Building capacity within government institutions, the private sector, academia, civil society organizations to enable people-centric and responsible data governance practices.
  4. Technology and Infrastructure: Assessing the technical infrastructure and identifying technologies required for data flow, interoperability, and security.
  5. Partnerships: Encouraging collaboration and partnerships among stakeholders to facilitate data exchange and collective efforts.

The recommendations also take on a future-looking lens, particularly towards leveraging Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) -- a novel approach aimed at improving service delivery at scale through digitalization. With data exchanges, data processing and analysis at its core, DPI involves a range of interoperable platforms, protocols and networks. As evidenced with emerging benefits, robust data governance naturally underpins the functioning of these digital building blocks.  

In this light, the recommendations put forward for Türkiye’s data governance framework also point to the importance of data infrastructure, such as data registers, catalogues, APIs, and cloud-based solutions. The deployment of toolsets for data management and data analytics, with a focus on self-service applications, and the use of open data and emerging data sources is also paramount. This is especially true given the uptick in AI models nowadays that rely on data to function and can benefit from diverse datasets for more inclusive outputs.

The path ahead

Putting in place a robust data governance framework can be the first step towards ensuring a future where data serves everyone, everywhere. If done right, such a framework can enable efficient, secure and rights-based data exchanges domestically and between countries. Altogether, it can help nurture a data-driven culture that prioritizes people-centric and responsible use, leading to better policies and better digital services / products.  

Once the recommendation report is finalized, a multistakeholder workshop will be organized to present the key takeaways and next steps to consider for implementation. This will also be an opportunity to discuss emerging lessons and best practices from other case studies, and gather learnings from other countries leading on the data front. Importantly, the recommendations are intended to inform the development of Türkiye’s National Data Strategy in 2024, and concurrently the technology choices made by the public sector.  

Today, data is becoming the lifeline of many sectors, and it is important to build an understanding of what data access, usage, and data sharing may mean in different contexts. Therefore, building awareness and strengthening capacity on data governance amongst national stakeholders ought to be a priority moving forward. Efforts might include unpacking case studies on data governance, for instance by leveraging the Data to Policy Navigator that features practical examples and perspectives that could prove useful for stakeholders aiming to integrate data into policy and programme development.