[RESEARCH] Open data policies and practice: an international comparison

As part of our research efforts, here’s the first update on the most important research on FOI and open data all over the world, by our intern Alexandre Salha, a researcher who worked on access to information in his native Lebanon. We start with a paper by researcher Tim Davies, describing policies and practices of Open Data across 6 countries with Open Government Data Initiatives (OGD).

OpenDataBarometer
Italy in the Open Data Barometer (CC-BY-SA)

Davies’ analysis starts with two main points: first, that governments have different agendas on which they developed OGD initiatives; and second, an international cooperation between technical experts and government is required to implement open data polices.

Based on the Open Data Barometer (2013), results appear to define transparency and accountability as the most discussed topic related to open data.
However, this requires on one side information disclosure, in bulk; and on the other side government’s collaboration and citizens’ involvement. Plus, many governments are adopting open data policies, but do so with no impact on transparency and accountability, and especially with no results in terms of citizens’ participation in policy making.
This is why open data needs transparency, participation and collaboration.

As a matter of fact, Davies noted that the concept of open data is driven by different political agendas and is applied accordingly. Thus, he highlighted the shift from policies emphasized by democratic justifications towards more managerial and economic reasons.

Looking at the profiles on OGD initiatives, Denmark and India launched their initiatives based on improving government handling of information. At the moment, Denmark is focusing on innovation and government efficiency (OGP Action Plan 2012 – OGP Action Plan 2013/2014), while India is more focused on the private sector and commercial data re-use.
In the Philippines and Kenya, and even in early stages in the UK and USA, open data was a core component of democracy, participation and accountability. Nevertheless, it evolved and became a tool in the UK and USA in response to the consequences of the global economic crisis; a tool to empower citizens and support a growing technology sector in Kenya (OGP Action Plan, 2012); and a mean to improve public understanding of government in the Philippines (OGP Action Plan 2013-2015).

According to Davies,

“two organizations stand out as instrumental in the dissemination of the idea of adopting open data policies: The Open Government Partnership, and the World Bank”.

Those organizations provide new technologies to promote the dissemination of information among State departments and the public. They develop an international cooperation process in order to draft new policies based on good practices, and support the government in their process of implementing them.
However, he concludes that two main issues are yet to be dealt with:

  • The time at which certain policy elements first emerge across any of the policies studied;
  • The connections between certain policy elements and stated goals in different countries, and at different points in time.

 

More info (referenced in the paper)