Open data is a great social and economic resource, either to promote democratic values or improve the efficiency and transparency of government, as well as to reuse by third parties. However, there is still a long way to go in open data projects with the double aim of promoting its publication and use.
In this context, it is revealed as a capital task the analysis of global trends, pointing out failures and successes, as well as progress in this field. Both to shed light on the way forward and to discover the true prevalence and impact of open data initiatives. A work that, in its fourth edition, made the Open Data Barometer (OBD) on the initiative of the World Wide Web Foundation by Tim Berners-Lee.
General evaluation of the 4th edition of the Open Data Barometer
The general assessment that can be made of the latest Open Data Barometer, in the opinion of the investigator and author of the report, Carlos Iglesias, is not very optimistic.
The global snapshot of this past year’s edition does not reflect progress in the use of open data to innovate, achieve a positive social impact and accountability through greater transparency.
An analysis of observed trends in the publication and use of open data by governments leads to the conclusion that governments’ commitment to data openness is slowing and paralyzing. In some cases, it is even getting worst.
The vast majority of the 115 governments that include the fourth Open Data Barometer, concludes the work, does not implement “the necessary policies”, “nor is sufficient the quantity and quality of the data set published.” Therefore, using data open in a collective way to bring about positive changes in people’s lives “is not yet possible”.
Of course, the report leaves open the possibility that things will improve in the future. In this regard, Iglesias points out that government could improve in the short or medium term in a “drastic” way by carrying out “some relatively simple steps”.
Among others, “adding open licenses to existing data sets would double the number of open data sets,” says the expert. A few steps that, moreover, are also pointed out in the conclusions, as we will see below.
The 5 conclusions of the Open Data Barometer
Beyond this pessimistic general assessment, the document reaches a series of conclusions that focus on different issues that need improvement, pointing to the way to reach it. It does so passively, in particular through a review of trends that need to be corrected or, for example, by pointing to the importance of formally adopt the Open Data Charter , since, “generally speaking, countries that have formally adopted the Charter are making good progress in complying with its principles. ”
Another key recommendation of this fourth edition emphasizes the desirability of investing in the opening of quality data, with special emphasis on those data that people need, carrying out open data projects with clear procedures, meeting deadlines and responsibilities.
Along with these central ideas, the study lists 5 conclusions, which accompanies them with their respective recommendations. They are the following:
- Open government data, an exception: The work states that only one in ten government data sets are open. When, according to the work recommended, a rule should be followed that would turn the situation around, since this data should be opened “by default”.
- Data without quality and incomplete: This second conclusion focuses on the quality of the data, stating that, generally, the government data analyzed are incomplete and of low quality. A trend that must be corrected through the decentralization of open data by governments, ideally in all agencies and departments.
- The importance of political commitment: A political commitment that must be independent of the different mandates, in order to achieve continuity, necessary for its progress. The work concludes that political purpose will ultimately determine the success or failure of the open data projects, while recommending to follow the good practices of the Open Data Charter so that initiatives are independent of changes in government.
- Priority should be given to data that matter to people: Portals do not usually contain the data that people need, mainly because governments do not publish the necessary data to gain public confidence. A qualitative improvement will be achieved, therefore, giving priority to the publication of this type of data, for which it is recommended “to consult the citizens and intermediaries” with the objective of identifying the information demanded
- Improve inclusive policies, target of the open data: There is a need to promote inclusion and equality in an actively way through the use of open data, currently an exception. Doing so on a regular basis should be the goal, says the report, while pointing out that improving this aspect means investing in the use of open data for this purpose.
The conclusions show different aspects, but all come together in a final conclusion, which leads to the fourth Open Data Barometer to ask governments for a greater effort in their open data initiatives. On the one hand, more investment is requested, and on the other a change of focus, in the sense indicated. Both advances are essential to achieve the desired progress, that is, the guarantee that “data are open for all”, durable and accessible, increasing and better, in order to be able to provide truly valuable information.
Only thus, the document concludes, open data projects will help social progress, facilitating “more equitable and effective political decision making”. The action, therefore, is the key to make the data count, as long as it is oriented in the direction indicated.