Open Data Study – New Technologies
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Political power, information and rights issues have been energised in the US and UK by the pioneering introduction of open data. Making information about services, education and other data has been made publicly available on the web in both countries to help improve services and contribute to future economic growth. But can this approach be replicated to support progress in middle-income and developing countries?

This paper explores the feasibility of applying a similar approach to open data in middle income and developing countries and identifies the factors behind the success in the US and UK and the pivotal strategies adopted in these contexts which helped bring together civil servants and ‘civic hackers’ to release government data.

The report finds that 3 key groups or ‘layers’ were crucial to the successful introduction of open data. An influential and active civil society provided the ‘bottom up’ pressure for change through traditional advocacy and by setting up innovative websites demonstrating how open information could be used. Civil servants and state and federal administrators who saw open data as a way of improving efficiency provided the ‘middle layer’. Finally, high-level political leaders including Heads of States and Ministers provided the third layer.

By analysing the strategies adopted by these three groups in the US and UK, the report asks regional experts to examine whether similar initiatives could work in their respective political settings and cultures. The opinions of these specialists, working on a range of issues from freedom of information to budgetary monitoring, are also revealed.

The report proposes a set of criteria for those considering introducing open government data in middle-income or developing countries. The checklist encourages campaigners to consider certain issues before embarking on an open data campaign. These include: the status of Freedom of Information in the country; current levels of government data availability and issues around freedom of the press who are key potential end-users of open data.


Report insights + takeaways

Open data is a challenge because sometimes the data doesn’t exist and sometimes because people understand just how important that data actually is.
Without existing and meaningful activity around open data on all three tiers of public life, funders could be at risk of seeding a kind of cargo cult