Fri Feb 12 23:10:20 GMT 2010
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
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'
* Civil society, and in particular a small and motivated group of
* An engaged and well-resourced "middle layer" of skilled government
* 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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