Open Data Barometer 2015 Report

April 9, 2015 4:00 am PST | Data as a Service

The World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) delivers its second global report card on open government, championing the worldwide right to information. As some countries leap ahead from the 2013 report, others fall further behind, while some maintain steady progress. The report doesn’t just give out grades, though. It also provides information needed for the world’s officials and citizens to create, “a genuine revolution in the transparency and performance of governments.”

What Is Open Data?

Defined as, “data from governments, made available for anyone to access, use, and share,” the concept of open data seems like an obvious winner, and straightforward to implement. But as the Open Data Barometer 2015 shows, obstacles abound. From corruption to lack of literacy to simple stagnation, open data workers around the planet struggle to make progress.

While daunting, these hurdles also signal the promise and full meaning of open data. As the report shows, from legal reform in tiny municipalities and federal governments alike, to burgeoning equal access and broader entrepreneurial opportunity, open data means freedom.

Going Local 

The Open Data Barometer 2015 stresses the need to fan out, beyond not only federal governments, but also past state and provincial agencies. The report shows, “political impacts from open data are greater in countries that have city-level open data activities.” Everyday citizens, in everyday municipalities, need to be empowered with open data.

“To maximise impact, open data needs go local,” the report mandates. Action and access at the municipal level are key success factors, with needed steps of, “contextualizing open data tools and approaches to local needs.

Private Isn’t Public

The report tackles privacy concerns head-on. Along with open data progress, the Open Data Barometer scrutinizes data privacy laws in each nation it evaluates. “By definition, open data should not include private data,” the report states, and emphasizes, “any restrictions on distribution go against the re-usability terms of open data.”

The point of open data is to empower citizens, not to abuse their privacy, the WWWF contends. Its report cites the need to link, “open data regulations and laws designed to increase transparency,” with laws necessary for privacy protection. “Even with these frameworks in place,” the report notes, some datasets pose too great a risk for abuse, and, “cannot be ‘open by default’.”

Grade Check: 86 Countries

The WWWF’s detailed evaluation of, “86 countries, representing a wide range of political, social, and economic circumstances,” results in four tiers of open data progress – or lack thereof: high capacity, emerging & advancing, capacity constrained, and one-sided initiatives.

Some results are expected: the UK rates as a high capacity nation, while Malaysia doesn’t. However, why is Jordan assigned to “capacity constrained”? How did Germany slide backward from its 2013 ranking? The report digs deep into the hows and whys of the countries’ performances, offering crucial, actionable insights in each category.

Next Steps

“There is no single ‘best practice’ for delivering an open data initiative,” explains the report. Instead, “continued innovation and evaluation is needed to find best-fit approaches,” since countries, communities, datasets, and goals differ widely.

Some needs are clear and consistent across user groups, though. For example, the report discusses the Open Contracting Data Standard, and confirms, “work is needed in the open data field to establish and develop other standards.” Other common needs include, “a clear, unambiguous license statement,” for all open datasets. The WWWF also points to basic data housekeeping, highlighting the need for “timeliness and sustainability”: reliable, well-organized data is a must-have for accountability and entrepreneurship.

Download the Data

The WWWF welcomes all to its data, and its invitation to download could double as a rallying vision for the future of all datasets, everywhere: “All the data underlying this report is available for further analysis and re-use,” says the WWWF. “We encourage you to explore, reuse, and remix the data.”

[Editor’s note: This post is the first in a series of articles about the Open Data Barometer 2015. In future posts, we’ll highlight other findings from the report, including changes from the 2013 report to the 2015 report, and much, much more.]

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