New Horizons

An Introduction to the 2nd Edition of the State of Open Data by Renata Avila and Tim Davies: “The struggle to deliver on the vision that data, this critical resource of modern societies, should be widely available, well structured, and shared for all to use, has been a long one. It has been a struggle involving thousands upon thousands of individuals, organisations, and communities. Without their efforts, public procurement would be opaque, smart-cities even more corporate controlled, transport systems less integrated, and pandemic responses less rapid. Across numerous initiatives, open data has become more embedded as a way to support accountability, enable collaboration, and to better unlock the value of data. 

However, much like the climber reaching the top of the foothills, and for the first time seeing the hard climb of the whole mountain coming into view, open data advocates, architects, and community builders have not reached the end of their journey. As we move into the middle of the 2020s, action on open data faces new and significant challenges if we are to see a future in which open and enabling data infrastructures and ecosystems are the norm rather than a sparse patchwork of exceptions. Building open infrastructures to power social change for the next century is no small task, and to meet the challenges ahead, we will need all that the lessons we can gather from more than 15 years of open data action to date…Across the collection, we can find two main pathways to broader participation explored. On the one hand are discussions of widening public engagement and data literacy, creating a more diverse constituency of people interested and able to engage with data projects in a voluntary capacity. On the other, are calls for more formalisation of data governance, embedding citizen voices within increasingly structured data collaborations and ensuring that affected stakeholders are consulted on, or given a role in, key data decisions. Mariel García-Montes (Data Literacy) underscores the case for an equity-first approach to the first pathway, highlighting how generalist data literacy can be used for or against the public good, and calling for approaches to data literacy building that centre on an understanding of inequality and power. In writing on urban development, Stefaan G. Verhulst and Sampriti Saxena (Urban Development) point to a number of examples of the latter approach in which cities are experimenting with various forms of deliberative conversations and processes…(More)”.