The State of Open Data
Open Data Roundtable Assesses Recent Progress and Future Risks
The push for Open Data has made phenomenal progress in the recent years, but are there risks ahead? As part of a series of roundtables on The State of Open Data, organized by the Data for Development Network (D4D), one headline roundtable tackled these questions with special focus on official statistics and the role of National Statistical Offices (NSOs).
In terms of recent progress, the roundtable’s panelists noted many changes in the five years since the International Development Research Centre published the landmark The State of Open Data: Histories and Horizons. Of particular note is that Open Data, originally a bottom-up initiative of the open data community, is now a mainstream element of NSO work and national strategies. Moving from the initial development of portals to now active engagement with both data users and other producers, this has entailed NSOs developing new skill sets, governance rules, and collaborative processes. Much has been learned in a relatively short time, including how to revise legal frameworks that support Open Data principles and how to do data stewardship for the public good in a way that builds public trust.
With the rapid progress come risks for the future. The roundtable panelists discussed ways to mitigate the risk of backsliding. Engagement, for example, is labor-intensive and thus vulnerable to possible budget constraints. Open Data could become a victim of own success — leaving users to navigate how the many newly available datasets relate to each other, putting smaller civic groups at a disadvantage, or causing geographic or sectoral groups to retreat to new kinds of data silos within the more complex data eco-system.
In light of progress and risks, the roundtable looked at challenges for the future to share and strengthen Open Data principles and frameworks, like open data by default and data stewardship, so that they demonstrate the power of openness for and between national programs and encourage collaboration between agencies and groups at both the national and international levels.