As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. We start our series with a focus on Open Data. To suggest additional readings on this or any other topic, please email email@example.com.
Open data refers to data that is publicly available for anyone to use and which is licensed in a way that allows for its re-use. The common requirement that open data be machine-readable not only means that data is distributed via the Internet in a digitized form, but can also be processed by computers through automation, ensuring both wide dissemination and ease of re-use. Much of the focus of the open data advocacy community is on government data and government-supported research data. For example, in May 2013, the US Open Data Policy defined open data as publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users, and consistent with a number of principles focused on availability, accessibility and reusability.
Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)
- Mark S. Fox – City Data: Big, Open and Linked – a paper exploring the concepts underlying Big City Data and potential for wider impact as more people are given the opportunity to analyze big and small data.
- Muriel Foulonneau, Sébastien Martin, and Slim Turki – How Open Data Are Turned into Services? – a book chapter proposing a means for evaluating the impact of open data initiatives, especially in regard to improving service delivery.
- Brett Goldstein and Lauren Dyson – Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation – a multi-authored book exploring the broad open data landscape from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
- Karolis Granickas – Understanding the Impact of Releasing and Re-using Open Government Data – a paper exploring the open data research field with an eye toward enabling an environment that maximizes the benefits of open data.
- Joel Gurin – Open Data Now: The Secret to Hot Startups, Smart Investing, Savvy Marketing, and Fast Innovation – a book describing the realized and potential benefit, especially related its power to transform business, government, and society.
- Thorhildur Jetzek, Michel Avital, and Niels Bjørn-Andersen – Generating Value from Open Government Data – a paper proposing a new conceptual model for creating value (broadly understood) from open government data.
- Maxat Kassen – A promising phenomenon of open data: A case study of the Chicago open data project – a case study demonstrating the empowering potential of open data through the examination of Chicago’s open data efforts.
- Justin Keen, Radu Calinescu, Richard Paige and John Rooksby – Big data + politics = open data: The case of health care data in England – a paper exploring challenges and assumptions related to open datasets data, technological infrastructure and levels of access through the study of the U.K.’s National Health Service.
- Stefan Kulk and Bastiaan Van Loenen – Brave New Open Data World? – a paper examining the tensions between open data initiatives and European privacy regulations.
- Vivek Kundra – Digital Fuel of the 21st Century: Innovation through Open Data and the Network Effect – a paper describing the impacts to date of open data as well as recommendations for maximizing future impact.
- David G. Robinson, Harlan Yu, William P. Zeller, and Edward W. Felten – Government Data and the Invisible Hand – a paper focusing on the open data movement’s evolving impact on entrepreneurs.
- Barbara Ubaldi – Open Government Data: Towards Empirical Analysis of Open Government Data Initiatives – a report offering a framework for empirically evaluating open government data initiatives.
- Ben Worthy – David Cameron’s Transparency Revolution? The Impact of Open Data in the UK – a paper evaluating the U.K.’s open data efforts in relation to their effects on accountability, participation and better informing citizens.
- Anneke Zuiderwijk, Marijn Janssen, Sunil Choenni, Ronald Meijer and Roexsana Sheikh Alibaks – Socio-technical Impediments of Open Data – a paper describing the socio-technical challenges of opening data based on a review of the literature, workshops and interviews.
- Anneke Zuiderwijk and Marijn Janssen – Open Data Policies, Their Implementation and Impact: A Framework for Comparison – a paper proposing a comparison and evaluation framework for open government initiatives across governments levels.
Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)
Fox, Mark S. “City Data: Big, Open and Linked.” Working Paper, Enterprise Integration Laboratory (2013). http://bit.ly/1bFr7oL.
- This paper examines concepts that underlie Big City Data using data from multiple cities as examples. It begins by explaining the concepts of Open, Unified, Linked, and Grounded data, which are central to the Semantic Web. Fox then explore Big Data as an extension of Data Analytics, and provide case examples of good data analytics in cities.
- Fox concludes that we can develop the tools that will enable anyone to analyze data, both big and small, by adopting the principles of the Semantic Web:
- Data being openly available over the internet,
- Data being unifiable using common vocabularies,
- Data being linkable using International Resource Identifiers,
- Data being accessible using a common data structure, namely triples,
- Data being semantically grounded using Ontologies.
Foulonneau, Muriel, Sébastien Martin, and Slim Turki. “How Open Data Are Turned into Services?” In Exploring Services Science, edited by Mehdi Snene and Michel Leonard, 31–39. Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing 169. Springer International Publishing, 2014. http://bit.ly/1fltUmR.
- In this chapter, the authors argue that, considering the important role the development of new services plays as a motivation for open data policies, the impact of new services created through open data should play a more central role in evaluating the success of open data initiatives.
- Foulonneau, Martin and Turki argue that the following metrics should be considered when evaluating the success of open data initiatives: “the usage, audience, and uniqueness of the services, according to the changes it has entailed in the public institutions that have open their data…the business opportunity it has created, the citizen perception of the city…the modification to particular markets it has entailed…the sustainability of the services created, or even the new dialog created with citizens.”
Goldstein, Brett, and Lauren Dyson. Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation. 1 edition. (Code for America Press: 2013). http://bit.ly/15OAxgF
- This “cross-disciplinary survey of the open data landscape” features stories from practitioners in the open data space — including Michael Flowers, Brett Goldstein, Emer Colmeman and many others — discussing what they’ve accomplished with open civic data. The book “seeks to move beyond the rhetoric of transparency for transparency’s sake and towards action and problem solving.”
- The book’s editors seek to accomplish the following objectives:
- Help local governments learn how to start an open data program
- Spark discussion on where open data will go next
- Help community members outside of government better engage with the process of governance
- Lend a voice to many aspects of the open data community.
- The book is broken into five sections: Opening Government Data, Building on Open Data, Understanding Open Data, Driving Decisions with Data and Looking Ahead.
Granickas, Karolis. “Understanding the Impact of Releasing and Re-using Open Government Data.” European Public Sector Information Platform, ePSIplatform Topic Report No. 2013/08, (2013). http://bit.ly/GU0Nx4.
- This paper examines the impact of open government data by exploring the latest research in the field, with an eye toward enabling an environment for open data, as well as identifying the benefits of open government data and its political, social, and economic impacts.
- Granickas concludes that to maximize the benefits of open government data: a) further research is required that structure and measure potential benefits of open government data; b) “government should pay more attention to creating feedback mechanisms between policy implementers, data providers and data-re-users”; c) “finding a balance between demand and supply requires mechanisms of shaping demand from data re-users and also demonstration of data inventory that governments possess”; and lastly, d) “open data policies require regular monitoring.”
Gurin, Joel. Open Data Now: The Secret to Hot Startups, Smart Investing, Savvy Marketing, and Fast Innovation, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014). http://amzn.to/1flubWR.
- In this book, GovLab Senior Advisor and Open Data 500 director Joel Gurin explores the broad realized and potential benefit of Open Data, and how, “unlike Big Data, Open Data is transparent, accessible, and reusable in ways that give it the power to transform business, government, and society.”
- The book provides “an essential guide to understanding all kinds of open databases – business, government, science, technology, retail, social media, and more – and using those resources to your best advantage.”
- In particular, Gurin discusses a number of applications of Open Data with very real potential benefits:
- “Hot Startups: turn government data into profitable ventures;
- Savvy Marketing: understanding how reputational data drives your brand;
- Data-Driven Investing: apply new tools for business analysis;
- Consumer Information: connect with your customers using smart disclosure;
- Green Business: use data to bet on sustainable companies;
- Fast R&D: turn the online world into your research lab;
- New Opportunities: explore open fields for new businesses.”
Jetzek, Thorhildur, Michel Avital, and Niels Bjørn-Andersen. “Generating Value from Open Government Data.” Thirty Fourth International Conference on Information Systems, 5. General IS Topics 2013. http://bit.ly/1gCbQqL.
- In this paper, the authors “developed a conceptual model portraying how data as a resource can be transformed to value.”
- Jetzek, Avital and Bjørn-Andersen propose a conceptual model featuring four Enabling Factors (openness, resource governance, capabilities and technical connectivity) acting on four Value Generating Mechanisms (efficiency, innovation, transparency and participation) leading to the impacts of Economic and Social Value.
- The authors argue that their research supports that “all four of the identified mechanisms positively influence value, reflected in the level of education, health and wellbeing, as well as the monetary value of GDP and environmental factors.”
Kassen, Maxat. “A promising phenomenon of open data: A case study of the Chicago open data project.” Government Information Quarterly (2013). http://bit.ly/1ewIZnk.
- This paper uses the Chicago open data project to explore the “empowering potential of an open data phenomenon at the local level as a platform useful for promotion of civic engagement projects and provide a framework for future research and hypothesis testing.”
- Kassen argues that “open data-driven projects offer a new platform for proactive civic engagement” wherein governments can harness “the collective wisdom of the local communities, their knowledge and visions of the local challenges, governments could react and meet citizens’ needs in a more productive and cost-efficient manner.”
- The paper highlights the need for independent IT developers to network in order for this trend to continue, as well as the importance of the private sector in “overall diffusion of the open data concept.”
Keen, Justin, Radu Calinescu, Richard Paige, John Rooksby. “Big data + politics = open data: The case of health care data in England.” Policy and Internet 5 (2), (2013): 228–243. http://bit.ly/1i231WS.
- This paper examines the assumptions regarding open datasets, technological infrastructure and access, using healthcare systems as a case study.
- The authors specifically address two assumptions surrounding enthusiasm about Big Data in healthcare: the assumption that healthcare datasets and technological infrastructure are up to task, and the assumption of access to this data from outside the healthcare system.
- By using the National Health Service in England as an example, the authors identify data, technology, and information governance challenges. They argue that “public acceptability of third party access to detailed health care datasets is, at best, unclear,” and that the prospects of Open Data depend on Open Data policies, which are inherently political, and the government’s assertion of property rights over large datasets. Thus, they argue that the “success or failure of Open Data in the NHS may turn on the question of trust in institutions.”
Kulk, Stefan and Bastiaan Van Loenen. “Brave New Open Data World?” International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research, May 14, 2012. http://bit.ly/15OAUYR.
- This paper examines the evolving tension between the open data movement and the European Union’s privacy regulations, especially the Data Protection Directive.
- The authors argue, “Technological developments and the increasing amount of publicly available data are…blurring the lines between non-personal and personal data. Open data may not seem to be personal data on first glance especially when it is anonymised or aggregated. However, it may become personal by combining it with other publicly available data or when it is de-anonymised.”
Kundra, Vivek. “Digital Fuel of the 21st Century: Innovation through Open Data and the Network Effect.” Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard College: Discussion Paper Series, January 2012, http://hvrd.me/1fIwsjR.
- In this paper, Vivek Kundra, the first Chief Information Officer of the United States, explores the growing impact of open data, and argues that, “In the information economy, data is power and we face a choice between democratizing it and holding on to it for an asymmetrical advantage.”
- Kundra offers four specific recommendations to maximize the impact of open data: Citizens and NGOs must demand open data in order to fight government corruption, improve accountability and government services; Governments must enact legislation to change the default setting of government to open, transparent and participatory; The press must harness the power of the network effect through strategic partnerships and crowdsourcing to cut costs and provide better insights; and Venture capitalists should invest in startups focused on building companies based on public sector data.
Noveck, Beth Simone and Daniel L. Goroff. “Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data.” The Aspen Institute Philanthropy & Social Innovation Publication Number 13-004. 2013. http://bit.ly/WDxd7p.
- This report is focused on “obtaining better, more usable data about the nonprofit sector,” which encompasses, as of 2010, “1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States with $1.51 trillion in revenues.”
- Toward that goal, the authors propose liberating data from the Form 990, an Internal Revenue Service form that “gathers and publishes a large amount of information about tax-exempt organizations,” including information related to “governance, investments, and other factors not directly related to an organization’s tax calculations or qualifications for tax exemption.”
- The authors recommend a two-track strategy: “Pursuing the longer-term goal of legislation that would mandate electronic filing to create open 990 data, and pursuing a shorter-term strategy of developing a third party platform that can demonstrate benefits more immediately.”
Robinson, David G., Harlan Yu, William P. Zeller, and Edward W. Felten, “Government Data and the Invisible Hand.” Yale Journal of Law & Technology 11 (2009), http://bit.ly/1c2aDLr.
- This paper proposes a new approach to online government data that “leverages both the American tradition of entrepreneurial self-reliance and the remarkable low-cost flexibility of contemporary digital technology.”
- “In order for public data to benefit from the same innovation and dynamism that characterize private parties’ use of the Internet, the federal government must reimagine its role as an information provider. Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user need, it should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that ‘exposes’ the underlying data.”
- This working paper from the OECD seeks to provide an all-encompassing look at the principles, concepts and criteria framing open government data (OGD) initiatives.
- Ubaldi also analyzes a variety of challenges to implementing OGD initiatives, including policy, technical, economic and financial, organizational, cultural and legal impediments.
- The paper also proposes a methodological framework for evaluating OGD Initiatives in OECD countries, with the intention of eventually “developing a common set of metrics to consistently assess impact and value creation within and across countries.”
Worthy, Ben. “David Cameron’s Transparency Revolution? The Impact of Open Data in the UK.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, November 29, 2013. http://bit.ly/NIrN6y.
- In this article, Worthy “examines the impact of the UK Government’s Transparency agenda, focusing on the publication of spending data at local government level. It measures the democratic impact in terms of creating transparency and accountability, public participation and everyday information.”
- Worthy’s findings, based on surveys of local authorities, interviews and FOI requests, are disappointing. He finds that:
- Open spending data has led to some government accountability, but largely from those already monitoring government, not regular citizens.
- Open Data has not led to increased participation, “as it lacks the narrative or accountability instruments to fully bring such effects.”
- It has also not “created a new stream of information to underpin citizen choice, though new innovations offer this possibility. The evidence points to third party innovations as the key.
- Despite these initial findings, “Interviewees pointed out that Open Data holds tremendous opportunities for policy-making. Joined up data could significantly alter how policy is made and resources targeted. From small scale issues e.g. saving money through prescriptions to targeting homelessness or health resources, it can have a transformative impact. “
Zuiderwijk, Anneke, Marijn Janssen, Sunil Choenni, Ronald Meijer and Roexsana Sheikh Alibaks. “Socio-technical Impediments of Open Data.” Electronic Journal of e-Government 10, no. 2 (2012). http://bit.ly/17yf4pM.
- This paper to seeks to identify the socio-technical impediments to open data impact based on a review of the open data literature, as well as workshops and interviews.
- The authors discovered 118 impediments across ten categories: 1) availability and access; 2) find-ability; 3) usability; 4) understandability; 5) quality; 6) linking and combining data; 7) comparability and compatibility; 8) metadata; 9) interaction with the data provider; and 10) opening and uploading.
Zuiderwijk, Anneke and Marijn Janssen. “Open Data Policies, Their Implementation and Impact: A Framework for Comparison.” Government Information Quarterly 31, no. 1 (January 2014): 17–29. http://bit.ly/1bQVmYT.
- In this article, Zuiderwijk and Janssen argue that “currently there is a multiplicity of open data policies at various levels of government, whereas very little systematic and structured research [being] done on the issues that are covered by open data policies, their intent and actual impact.”
- With this evaluation deficit in mind, the authors propose a new framework for comparing open data policies at different government levels using the following elements for comparison:
- Policy environment and context, such as level of government organization and policy objectives;
- Policy content (input), such as types of data not publicized and technical standards;
- Performance indicators (output), such as benefits and risks of publicized data; and
- Public values (impact).
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