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The future of open data and the openness agenda

Web Foundation · November 15, 2017

This post was written by Carlos Iglesias, Web Foundation Senior Research Manager and lead researcher on the Open Data Barometer.


This month I’ll be at the Open Government Partnership Latin American regional summit joining discussions about the future of the open government data agenda. One decade into active work on open data, the field continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As researchers, we need to be flexible and adapt to these changing realities.

Open data is increasingly recognised as an essential part of transparent and effective government and better government service delivery. It is also heralded as one of the building blocks for innovation – with a growing number of governments and companies using this data to offer new services or products to citizens.

While the global open data community has made a lot of progress, it remains far from the original end goal of openness: data for everyone; the data people need and data people can easily use.

Governments are stalling on open data

Our last Barometer found that nine out of 10 government datasets are not open yet, the data people really want and need is still missing, and the data that is available is usually low quality and incomplete. At the same time, we’ve seen a worrying trend, that the “openness agenda” is being rolled-back in some countries with governments uninterested in pursuing openness and civic participation agendas. In other countries, many in the Middle East and Africa, open data progress has stalled or has yet to take hold.

The bottom line is, despite some progress, we’re a long way from realising open data’s potential. Open data is still hard to find and use for policy, social good or inclusion. The community continues to struggle to demonstrate the positive impact of open data on good government.

The open data community needs to work together like never before to address these challenges and rethink the way we work. We need to flag common areas of concern that threaten our field and agree on how we can move forward with viable solutions and approaches.

A changing Barometer to meet changing needs

The Open Data Barometer (ODB) team, with guidance from its Expert Advisory Group, has decided that some significant changes to the Barometer are necessary; adjusting who, how and what we are measuring to assess progress. We aim to keep improving the Barometer as a policy and advocacy tool, while ensuring its usefulness and sustainability. To do this, we will:

  • Extend the time period between surveys to between 18 and 24 months in order to (1) capture greater variance in government policies and implementation and (2) have the necessary time to maximise the use of the results for policy engagement.
  • Streamline our methodology across the three measurement pillars (policy, implementation, impact), strengthening them while ensuring comparability with past ODB versions.
  • Make sure the methodology, scoring and outputs continue to be 100% transparent and well communicated.
  • Work on alliances with regional and sectoral partners interested in developing specific extensions of the Barometer. This first of these will be a pilot in Africa in collaboration with the OD4D network and Open Knowledge International to provide data for the next African Data Revolution Report.

As part of this shift, we are producing an interim version of the Barometer that profiles those countries that have made an explicit commitment to open data through the adoption of global open data principles (as outlined in the Open Data Charter and the G20 principles).

As we explore these proposed changes in the coming months, we look forward to your ideas for additional adjustments as we move towards a revamped Open Data Barometer.


The Open Government Partnership will hold its Latin American regional summit on November 21-22. Follow Carlos on Twitter at @carlosiglesias and the Web Foundation at @webfoundation for live updates.

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