So, we had in the last year or so a trend towards opening up public data. Data portals and initiatives flourished at international, national and regional level. My perception is that this is becoming one of this typical technology trends: benefits are not clear, but an open data portal is now a must have for any institution who wants to appear progressive. According to some tweets, even the EU is going to launch a data.eu portal next year. As my partner Cristiano Codagnone writes, it’s a typical case of institutional isomorphism.
Now what evidence to we have about impact?
Well, the US data.gov portal is the only one publishing metrics. And they’re quite good (25K downloads per week). Actually, all data.gov portal should publish these numbers if they’re serious about transparency.
And of course we got plenty of competitions to build apps based on open data. But it’s not clear if anyone is using those applications. According to my conversations with civic hackers, not many.
Yet we have clear evidence about an impact. There has not been a strong backlash effect. Even when delicate data like public spending were published, like the COINS database in the UK, no big scandal has emerged. And most certainly, we have not seen an increase in demagogic or conflictual discussions about those data.
So while we don’t have evidence yet to prove the benefits of opening up data, I think we can say that the risks have proved not to be excessive. Which is one of the main argument AGAINST opening up data for less innovative public administrations.