Sustainable Value of Open Government Data

Phd Thesis from Thorhildur Jetzek: “The impact of the digital revolution on our societies can be compared to the ripples caused by a stone thrown in water: spreading outwards and affecting a larger and larger part of our lives with every year that passes. One of the many effects of this revolution is the emergence of an already unprecedented amount of digital data that is accumulating exponentially. Moreover, a central affordance of digitization is the ability to distribute, share and collaborate, and we have thus seen an “open theme” gaining currency in recent years. These trends are reflected in the explosion of Open Data Initiatives (ODIs) around the world. However, while hundreds of national and local governments have established open data portals, there is a general feeling that these ODIs have not yet lived up to their true potential. This feeling is not without good reason; the recent Open Data Barometer report highlights that strong evidence on the impacts of open government data is almost universally lacking (Davies, 2013). This lack of evidence is disconcerting for government organizations that have already expended money on opening data, and might even result in the termination of some ODIs. This lack of evidence also raises some relevant questions regarding the nature of value generation in the context of free data and sharing of information over networks. Do we have the right methods, the right intellectual tools, to understand and reflect the value that is generated in such ecosystems?

This PhD study addresses the question of How is value generated from open data? through a mixed methods, macro-level approach. For the qualitative analysis, I have conducted two longitudinal case studies in two different contexts. The first is the case of the Basic Data Program (BDP), which is a Danish ODI. For this case, I studied the supply-side of open data publication, from the creation of open data strategy towards the dissemination and use of data. The second case is a demand-side study on the energy tech company Opower. Opower has been an open data user for many years and have used open data to create and disseminate personalized information on energy use. This information has already contributed to a measurable world-wide reduction in CO2 emissions as well as monetary savings. Furthermore, to complement the insights from these two cases I analyzed quantitative data from 76 countries over the years 2012 and 2013. I have used these diverse sources of data to uncover the most important relationships or mechanisms, that can explain how open data are used to generate sustainable value….(More)”