Index: Open Data

By Alexandra Shaw, Michelle Winowatan, Andrew Young, and Stefaan Verhulst

The Living Library Index – inspired by the Harper’s Index – provides important statistics and highlights global trends in governance innovation. This installment focuses on open data and was originally published in 2018.

Value and Impact

  • The projected year at which all 28+ EU member countries will have a fully operating open data portal: 2020

  • Between 2016 and 2020, the market size of open data in Europe is expected to increase by 36.9%, and reach this value by 2020: EUR 75.7 billion

Public Views on and Use of Open Government Data

  • Number of Americans who do not trust the federal government or social media sites to protect their data: Approximately 50%

  • Key findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit report on Open Government Data Demand:

    • Percentage of respondents who say the key reason why governments open up their data is to create greater trust between the government and citizens: 70%

    • Percentage of respondents who say OGD plays an important role in improving lives of citizens: 78%

    • Percentage of respondents who say OGD helps with daily decision making especially for transportation, education, environment: 53%

    • Percentage of respondents who cite lack of awareness about OGD and its potential use and benefits as the greatest barrier to usage: 50%

    • Percentage of respondents who say they lack access to usable and relevant data: 31%

    • Percentage of respondents who think they don’t have sufficient technical skills to use open government data: 25%

    • Percentage of respondents who feel the number of OGD apps available is insufficient, indicating an opportunity for app developers: 20%

    • Percentage of respondents who say OGD has the potential to generate economic value and new business opportunity: 61%

    • Percentage of respondents who say they don’t trust governments to keep data safe, protected, and anonymized: 19%

Efforts and Involvement

  • Time that’s passed since open government advocates convened to create a set of principles for open government data – the instance that started the open data government movement: 10 years

  • Countries participating in the Open Government Partnership today: 79 OGP participating countries and 20 subnational governments

  • Percentage of “open data readiness” in Europe according to European Data Portal: 72%

    • Open data readiness consists of four indicators which are presence of policy, national coordination, licensing norms, and use of data.

  • Number of U.S. cities with Open Data portals: 27

  • Number of governments who have adopted the International Open Data Charter: 62

  • Number of non-state organizations endorsing the International Open Data Charter: 57

  • Number of countries analyzed by the Open Data Index: 94

  • Number of Latin American countries that do not have open data portals as of 2017: 4 total – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua

  • Number of cities participating in the Open Data Census: 39

Demand for Open Data

  • Open data demand measured by frequency of open government data use according to The Economist Intelligence Unit report:

    • Australia

      • Monthly: 15% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 22% of respondents

      • Annually: 10% of respondents

    • Finland

      • Monthly: 28% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 18% of respondents

      • Annually: 20% of respondents

    •  France

      • Monthly: 27% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 17% of respondents

      • Annually: 19% of respondents

    • India

      • Monthly: 29% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 20% of respondents

      • Annually: 10% of respondents

    • Singapore

      • Monthly: 28% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 15% of respondents

      • Annually: 17% of respondents 

    • UK

      • Monthly: 23% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 21% of respondents

      • Annually: 15% of respondents

    • US

      • Monthly: 16% of respondents

      • Quarterly: 15% of respondents

      • Annually: 20% of respondents

  • Number of FOIA requests received in the US for fiscal year 2017: 818,271

  • Number of FOIA request processed in the US for fiscal year 2017: 823,222

  • Distribution of FOIA requests in 2017 among top 5 agencies with highest number of request:

    • DHS: 45%

    • DOJ: 10%

    • NARA: 7%

    • DOD: 7%

    • HHS: 4%

Examining Datasets

  • Country with highest index score according to ODB Leaders Edition: Canada (76 out of 100)

  • Country with lowest index score according to ODB Leaders Edition: Sierra Leone (22 out of 100)

  • Number of datasets open in the top 30 governments according to ODB Leaders Edition: Fewer than 1 in 5

  • Average percentage of datasets that are open in the top 30 open data governments according to ODB Leaders Edition: 19%

  • Average percentage of datasets that are open in the top 30 open data governments according to ODB Leaders Edition by sector/subject:

    • Budget: 30%

    • Companies: 13%

    • Contracts: 27%

    • Crime: 17%

    • Education: 13%

    • Elections: 17%

    • Environment: 20%

    • Health: 17%

    • Land: 7%

    • Legislation: 13%

    • Maps: 20%

    • Spending: 13%

    • Statistics: 27%

    • Trade: 23%

    • Transport: 30%

  • Percentage of countries that release data on government spending according to ODB Leaders Edition: 13%

  • Percentage of government data that is updated at regular intervals according to ODB Leaders Edition: 74%

  • Number of datasets available through:

  • Number of datasets classed as “open” in 94 places worldwide analyzed by the Open Data Index: 11%

  • Percentage of open datasets in the Caribbean, according to Open Data Census: 7%

  • Number of companies whose data is available through OpenCorporates: 158,589,950

City Open Data

  • New York City

  • Singapore

    • Number of datasets published in Singapore: 1,480

    • Percentage of datasets with standardized format: 35%

    • Percentage of datasets made as raw as possible: 25%

  • Barcelona

    • Number of datasets published in Barcelona: 443

    • Open data demand in Barcelona measured by:

      • Number of unique sessions in the month of September 2018: 5,401

    • Quality of datasets published in Barcelona according to Tim Berners Lee 5-star Open Data: 3 stars

  • London

    • Number of datasets published in London: 762

    • Number of data requests since October 2014: 325

  • Bandung

    • Number of datasets published in Bandung: 1,417

  • Buenos Aires

    • Number of datasets published in Buenos Aires: 216

  • Dubai

    • Number of datasets published in Dubai: 267

  • Melbourne

    • Number of datasets published in Melbourne: 199


  • About OGP, Open Government Partnership. 2018.  

Here’s What the USMCA Does for Data Innovation

Joshua New at the Center for Data Innovation: “…the Trump administration announced the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade deal it intends to replace NAFTA with. The parties—Canada, Mexico, and the United States—still have to adopt the deal, and if they do, they will enjoy several welcome provisions that can give a boost to data-driven innovation in all three countries.

First, USMCA is the first trade agreement in the world to promote the publication of open government data. Article 19.18 of the agreement officially recognizes that “facilitating public access to and use of government information fosters economic and social development, competitiveness, and innovation.” Though the deal does not require parties to publish open government data, to the extent they choose to publish this data, it directs them to adhere to best practices for open data, including ensuring it is in open, machine-readable formats. Additionally, the deal directs parties to try to cooperate and identify ways they can expand access to and the use of government data, particularly for the purposes of creating economic opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses. While this is a welcome provision, the United States still needs legislation to ensure that publishing open data becomes an official responsibility of federal government agencies.

Second, Article 19.11 of USMCA prevents parties from restricting “the cross-border transfer of information, including personal information, by electronic means if this activity is for the conduct of the business of a covered person.” Additionally, Article 19.12 prevents parties from requiring people or firms “to use or locate computing facilities in that Party’s territory as a condition for conducting business in that territory.” In effect, these provisions prevent parties from enacting protectionist data localization requirements that inhibit the flow of data across borders. This is important because many countries have disingenuously argued for data localization requirements on the grounds that it protects their citizens from privacy or security harms, despite the location of data having no bearing on either privacy or security, to prop up their domestic data-driven industries….(More)”.

Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact

Report by the OECD: This report provides an overview of the state of open data policies across OECD member and partner countries, based on data collected through the OECD Open Government Data survey (2013, 2014, 2016/17), country reviews and comparative analysis. The report analyses open data policies using an analytical framework that is in line with the OECD OUR data Index and the International Open Data Charter. It assesses governments’ efforts to enhance the availability, accessibility and re-use of open government data. It makes the case that beyond countries’ commitment to open up good quality government data, the creation of public value requires engaging user communities from the entire ecosystem, such as journalists, civil society organisations, entrepreneurs, major tech private companies and academia. The report also underlines how open data policies are elements of broader digital transformations, and how public sector data policies require interaction with other public sector agendas such as open government, innovation, employment, integrity, public budgeting, sustainable development, urban mobility and transport. It stresses the relevance of measuring open data impacts in order to support the business case for open government data….(More)”.

Translating science into business innovation: The case of open food and nutrition data hackathons

Paper by Christopher TucciGianluigi Viscusi and Heidi Gautschi: “In this article, we explore the use of hackathons and open data in corporations’ open innovation portfolios, addressing a new way for companies to tap into the creativity and innovation of early-stage startup culture, in this case applied to the food and nutrition sector. We study the first Open Food Data Hackdays, held on 10-11 February 2017 in Lausanne and Zurich. The aim of the overall project that the Hackdays event was part of was to use open food and nutrition data as a driver for business innovation. We see hackathons as a new tool in the innovation manager’s toolkit, a kind of live crowdsourcing exercise that goes beyond traditional ideation and develops a variety of prototypes and new ideas for business innovation. Companies then have the option of working with entrepreneurs and taking some of the ideas forward….(More)”.

Open Data, Grey Data, and Stewardship: Universities at the Privacy Frontier.

Paper by Christine L. Borgman: “As universities recognize the inherent value in the data they collect and hold, they encounter unforeseen challenges in stewarding those data in ways that balance accountability, transparency, and protection of privacy, academic freedom, and intellectual property. Two parallel developments in academic data collection are converging: (1) open access requirements, whereby researchers must provide access to their data as a condition of obtaining grant funding or publishing results in journals; and (2) the vast accumulation of “grey data” about individuals in their daily activities of research, teaching, learning, services, and administration.

The boundaries between research and grey data are blurring, making it more difficult to assess the risks and responsibilities associated with any data collection. Many sets of data, both research and grey, fall outside privacy regulations such as HIPAA, FERPA, and PII. Universities are exploiting these data for research, learning analytics, faculty evaluation, strategic decisions, and other sensitive matters. Commercial entities are besieging universities with requests for access to data or for partnerships to mine them. The privacy frontier facing research universities spans open access practices, uses and misuses of data, public records requests, cyber risk, and curating data for privacy protection. This Article explores the competing values inherent in data stewardship and makes recommendations for practice by drawing on the pioneering work of the University of California in privacy and information security, data governance, and cyber risk….(More)”.

To turn the open data revolution from idea to reality, we need more evidence

Stefaan Verhulst at apolitical: “The idea that we are living in a data age — one characterised by unprecedented amounts of information with unprecedented potential — has  become mainstream. We regularly read “data is the new oil,” or “data is the most valuable commodity in the global economy.”

Doubtlessly, there is truth in these statements. But a major, often unacknowledged problem is how much data remains inaccessible, hidden in siloes and behind walls.

For close to a decade, the technology and public interest community has pushed the idea of open data. At its core, open data represents a new paradigm of information and information access.

Rooted in notions of an information commons — developed by scholars like Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom — and borrowing from the language of open source, open data begins from the premise that data collected from the public, often using public funds or publicly funded infrastructure, should also belong to the public — or at least, be made broadly accessible to those pursuing public-interest goals.

The open data movement has reached significant milestones in its short history. An ever-increasing number of governments across both developed and developing economies have released large datasets for the public’s benefit….

Similarly, a growing number of private companies have “Data Collaboratives” leveraging their data — with various degrees of limitations — to serve the public interest.

Despite such initiatives, many open data projects (and data collaboratives) remain fledgling. The field has trouble scaling projects beyond initial pilots. In addition, many potential stakeholders — private sector and government “owners” of data, as well as public beneficiaries — remain sceptical of open data’s value. Such limitations need to be overcome if open data and its benefits are to spread. We need hard evidence of its impact.

Ironically, the field is held back by an absence of good data on open data — that is, a lack of reliable empirical evidence that could guide new initiatives.

At the GovLab, a do-tank at New York University, we study the impact of open data. One of our overarching conclusions is that we need a far more solid evidence base to move open data from being a good idea to reality.

What do we know? Several initiatives undertaken at the GovLab offer insight. Our ODImpactwebsite now includes more than 35 detailed case studies of open government data projects. These examples provide powerful evidence not only that open data can work but also about howit works….

We have also launched an Open Data Periodic Table to better understand what conditions predispose an open data project toward success or failure. For example, having a clear problem definition, as well as the capacity and culture to carry out open data projects, are vital. Successful projects also build cross-sector partnerships around open data and its potential uses and establish practices to assess and mitigate risks, and have transparent and responsive governance structures….(More)”.

The New York City Business Atlas: Leveling the Playing Field for Small Businesses with Open Data

Chapter by Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young in Smarter New York City:How City Agencies Innovate. Edited by André Corrêa d’Almeida: “While retail entrepreneurs, particularly those operating in the small-business space, are experts in their respective trades, they often lack access to high-quality information about social, environmental, and economic conditions in the neighborhoods where they operate or are considering operating.

The New York City Business Atlas, conceived by the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) and the Department of Small Business Services, is designed to alleviate that information gap by providing a public web-based tool that gives small businesses access to high-quality data to help them decide where to establish a new business or expand an existing one. e tool brings together a diversity of data, including business-fling data from the Department of Consumer Affairs, sales-tax data from the Department of Finance, demographic data from the census, and traffic data from Placemeter, a New York City startup focusing on real-time traffic information.

The initial iteration of the Business Atlas made useful and previously inaccessible data available to small-business owners and entrepreneurs in an innovative manner. After a few years, however, it became clear that the tool was not experiencing the level of use or creating the level of demonstrable impact anticipated. Rather than continuing down the same path or abandoning the effort entirely, MODA pivoted to a new approach, moving from the Business Atlas as a single information-providing tool to the Business Atlas as a suite of capabilities aimed at bolstering New York’s small-business community.

Through problem- and user-centered efforts, the Business Atlas is now making important insights available to stakeholders who can put it to meaningful use—from how long it takes to open a restaurant in the city to which areas are most in need of education and outreach to improve their code compliance. This chapter considers the open data environment from which the Business Atlas was launched, details the initial version of the Business Atlas and the lessons it generated and describes the pivot to this new approach….(More)”.

Causal mechanisms and institutionalisation of open government data in Kenya

Paper by Paul W. Mungai: “Open data—including open government data (OGD)—has become a topic of prominence during the last decade. However, most governments have not realised the desired value streams or outcomes from OGD. The Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), a Government of Kenya initiative, is no exception with some moments of success but also sustainability struggles. Therefore, the focus for this paper is to understand the causal mechanisms that either enable or constrain institutionalisation of OGD initiatives. Critical realism is ideally suited as a paradigm to identify such mechanisms, but guides to its operationalisation are few. This study uses the operational approach of Bygstad, Munkvold & Volkoff’s six‐step framework, a hybrid approach that melds concepts from existing critical realism models with the idea of affordances. The findings suggest that data demand and supply mechanisms are critical in institutionalising KODI and that, underpinning basic data‐related affordances, are mechanisms engaging with institutional capacity, formal policy, and political support. It is the absence of such elements in the Kenya case which explains why it has experienced significant delays…(More)”.

The UK’s Gender Pay Gap Open Data Law Has Flaws, But Is A Positive Step Forward

Article by Michael McLaughlin: “Last year, the United Kingdom enacted a new regulation requiring companies to report information about their gender pay gap—a measure of the difference in average pay between men and women. The new rules are a good example of how open data can drive social change. However, the regulations have produced some misleading statistics, highlighting the importance of carefully crafting reporting requirements to ensure that they produce useful data.

In the UK, nearly 11,000 companies have filed gender pay gap reports, which include both the difference between the mean and median hourly pay rates for men and women as well the difference in bonuses. And the initial data reveals several interesting findings. Median pay for men is 11.8 percent higher than for women, on average, and nearly 87 percent of companies pay men more than women on average. In addition, over 1,000 firms had a median pay gap greater than 30 percent. The sectors with the highest pay gaps—construction, finance, and insurance—each pay men at least 20 percent more than women. A major reason for the gap is a lack of women in senior positions—UK women actually make more than men between the ages of 22-29. The total pay gap is also a result of more women holding part-time jobs.

However, as detractors note, the UK’s data can be misleading. For example, the data overstates the pay gap on bonuses because it does not adjust these figures for hours worked. More women work part-time than men, so it makes sense that women would receive less in bonus pay when they work less. The data also understates the pay gap because it excludes the high compensation of partners in organizations such as law firms, a group that includes few women. And it is important to note that—by definition—the pay gap data does not compare the wages of men and women working the same jobs, so the data says nothing about whether women receive equal pay for equal work.

Still, publication of the data has sparked an important national conversation. Google searches in the UK for the phrase “gender pay gap” experienced a 12-month high the week the regulations began enforcement, and major news sites like Financial Times have provided significant coverage of the issue by analyzing the reported data. While it is too soon to tell if the law will change employer behavior, such as businesses hiring more female executives, or employee behavior, such as women leaving companies or fields that pay less, countries with similar reporting requirements, such as Belgium, have seen the pay gap narrow following implementation of their rules.

Requiring companies to report this data to the government may be the only way to obtain gender pay gap data, because evidence suggests that the private sector will not produce this data on its own. Only 300 UK organizations joined a voluntary government program to report their gender pay gap in 2011, and as few as 11 actually published the data. Crowdsourced efforts, where women voluntary report their pay, have also suffered from incomplete data. And even complete data does not illuminate variables such as why women may work in a field that pays less….(More)”.

Long Term Info-structure

Long Now Foundation Seminar by Juan Benet: “We live in a spectacular time,”…”We’re a century into our computing phase transition. The latest stages have created astonishing powers for individuals, groups, and our species as a whole. We are also faced with accumulating dangers — the capabilities to end the whole humanity experiment are growing and are ever more accessible. In light of the promethean fire that is computing, we must prevent bad outcomes and lock in good ones to build robust foundations for our knowledge, and a safe future. There is much we can do in the short-term to secure the long-term.”

“I come from the front lines of computing platform design to share a number of new super-powers at our disposal, some old challenges that are now soluble, and some new open problems. In this next decade, we’ll need to leverage peer-to-peer networks, crypto-economics, blockchains, Open Source, Open Services, decentralization, incentive-structure engineering, and so much more to ensure short-term safety and the long-term flourishing of humanity.”

Juan Benet is the inventor of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS)—a new protocol which uses content-addressing to make the web faster, safer, and more open—and the creator of Filecoin, a cryptocurrency-incentivized storage market….(More + Video)”