Why the wealthiest countries are also the most open with their data

Emily Badger in the Washington Post: “The Oxford Internet Institute this week posted a nice visualization of the state of open data in 70 countries around the world, reflecting the willingness of national governments to release everything from transportation timetables to election results to machine-readable national maps. The tool is based on the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Data Index, an admittedly incomplete but telling assessment of who willingly publishes updated, accurate national information on, say, pollutants (Sweden) and who does not (ahem, South Africa).

Oxford Internet Institute
Tally up the open data scores for these 70 countries, and the picture looks like this, per the Oxford Internet Institute (click on the picture to link through to the larger interactive version):
Oxford Internet Institute
…With apologies for the tiny, tiny type (and the fact that many countries aren’t listed here at all), a couple of broad trends are apparent. For one, there’s a prominent global “openness divide,” in the words of the Oxford Internet Institute. The high scores mostly come from Europe and North America, the low scores from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Wealth is strongly correlated with “openness” by this measure, whether we look at World Bank income groups or Gross National Income per capita. By the OII’s calculation, wealth accounts for about a third of the variation in these Open Data Index scores.
Perhaps this is an obvious correlation, but the reasons why open data looks like the luxury of rich economies are many, and they point to the reality that poor countries face a lot more obstacles to openness than do places like the United States. For one thing, openness is also closely correlated with Internet penetration. Why open your census results if people don’t have ways to access it (or means to demand it)? It’s no easy task to do this, either.”