[okfn-discuss] Open Data Study from the Open Society Institute

Greg Grossmeier greg at grossmeier.net
Fri May 21 14:16:04 UTC 2010

Apologies if you have already seen this, but this just came to my 

>From that page:
Substantial social and economic gains can be made from opening government 
data to the public. The combination of geographic, budget, demographic, 
services, education, and other data, publicly available in an open format 
on the web, promises to improve services as well as create future 
economic growth.

This approach has been recently pioneered by governments in the United 
States and the United Kingdom (with the launch of two web portals - 
www.data.gov and www.data.gov.uk respectively) inspired in part by 
applications developed by grassroots civil society organizations ranging 
from bicycle accidents maps to sites breaking down how and where tax 
money is spent. In the UK, the data.gov.uk initiative was spearheaded by 
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

This research, commissioned by a consortium of funders and NGOs 
(including the Information Program) under the umbrella of the 
Transparency and Accountability Initiative, seeks to explore the 
feasibility of applying this approach to open data in relevant middle 
income and developing countries. Its aim is to identify the strategies 
used in the US and UK contexts with a view to building a set of criteria 
to guide the selection of pilot countries, which in turn suggests a 
template strategy to open government data.

The report finds that in both the US and UK, a three-tiered drive was at 
play. The three groups of actors who were crucial to the projects' 
success were: 

    * Civil society, and in particular a small and motivated group of 
      "civic hackers";
    * An engaged and well-resourced "middle layer" of skilled government 
      bureaucrats; and
    * A top-level mandate, motivated by either an outside force (in the 
      case of the UK) or a refreshed political administration hungry for 
      change (in the US).

As Tim Berners-Lee observed in interview "It has to start at the top, it 
has to start in the middle and it has to start at the bottom." The 
conclusion to this report strengthens that assertion, and warns those 
attempting to mirror the successes of the UK and US projects not to 
neglect any of these three layers of influence.

Based on these findings, and on interviews conducted with a selection of 
domain and region experts to refine these observations for a developing 
and middle-income country context (where a fourth tier of potential 
drivers towards open data - in the shape of international aid donors - is 
identified) the report presents a list of criteria to be considered when 
selecting a pilot country in order to test this strategy. 

|       Greg Grossmeier |
| http://grossmeier.net |

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