Open Data In The Public Sector

Open data is becoming increasingly important for policy makers around the world.  Indeed, a recent study from the European Data Portal examined the level of ‘open data maturity’ across the EU and Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, who are referred to as the EU28+.  The paper reveals that the 31 countries collectively made significant progress between 2015-2016, with an average progression of 28.6% over the year. Whilst this means that most countries have a basic level of open data by now, the report still highlights significant discrepancies between countries.

A similar project is run on a global scale by the Global Open Data Index (GODI).  The annual benchmarking project is run by the Open Knowledge Network and utilizes a crowdsourced survey to measure the openness of government data around the world.

Both projects highlight the progress that has been made, but also the long way still to go.  A recent paper by the Open Data Institute (ODI) highlights some of this unmet promise.

Open data and the public sector

The public sector is nothing if not complex, but the report argues that open data can be a significant help in delivering nuanced solutions.  It encapsulates the various strands of research undertaken by the ODI, both in understanding the impacts of open data on public services, but also the inherent complexity of delivering them.

The paper mapped open data as an ecosystem to try and discover untapped opportunities in the public sector.  They identified three core uses of open data:

  1. Increasing access – the use of open data to increase access to services for citizens or organizations.
  2. Efficient service delivery – the use of open data to plan public service delivery and make service delivery chains more efficient; direct beneficiaries are commissioners, managers and frontline public service workers.
  3. Informing policy makers – the use of open data to inform policymaking; direct beneficiaries are elected representatives, policymakers and citizens who want to influence policy.

The paper goes on to provide examples of each pattern before outlining a number of practical recommendations to support the greater use of open data in public services.  If you’re working on an open data project in the public sector, or indeed are thinking of doing so, the report makes interesting reading.

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