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A decade into open data, leading governments struggle to make it a reality

Web Foundation · September 20, 2018

The Open Data Barometer — Leaders Edition, published today, finds that 10 years into the movement to make government data open, leading governments have opened fewer than 1 in 5 datasets.

Today, we launched the Open Data Barometer — Leaders Edition, measuring how leading governments are performing, a decade into the movement to make government data available to the public. The report looks specifically at 30 governments that have made concrete commitments to champion open data — either by adopting the Open Data Charter or, as members of the G20, by signing up to the G20 Anti-Corruption Open Data Principles.

Putting their leadership to the test, the report finds that although these 30 governments are improving more quickly than the rest of the world, overall progress remains slow and only 19% of all datasets measured are truly open. Not a single government has adopted all the changes necessary to make open data in government the norm, rather than the exception.

Early leaders are faltering

While some countries, including Mexico, South Korea and Ukraine, continue to see rapid improvement, the report shows that some early open data leaders are faltering. The UK, long the leader in open government data, has stalled and is now tied with Canada at the top of the Barometer. The USA, another early leader, has dropped 11 points and can no longer be considered an open data champion.

10 years on, open data still in beta

Open data — data that is freely available for all to use — can improve public services, spark the creation of new businesses and make governments more accountable to citizens. Yet, despite years of promises from governments to open up information to the public, they have yet to emerge out of the beta phase of open data. According to the report, open data initiatives are still being treated as experimental side projects. As a result, governments have not reached the scale required for open data to meaningfully improve people’s lives.

The report says that to reverse this stagnation, these leading governments must move beyond isolated initiatives and start focusing on open data governance — ensuring that open data becomes a norm across all government departments. This means investing in the technical infrastructure, skills and cultural change required to transform their approach to open data. Without significant reform, promises of an “open by default” future — where data is published as it is created — will remain undelivered.

Governments must publish with purpose

The report also recommends that, while leaders undertake the reforms necessary to implement open data across all of government, they should, in the meantime, engage with citizens and civil society to prioritise the datasets that people most need and want.

Commenting on the Barometer findings, Senior Researcher and report author Carlos Iglesias said:

While they may be open data leaders, these governments are failing to deliver real change. To move beyond marginal improvement, they must invest in making open data a reality throughout the whole of government. Transformation is hard, but it’s what governments must do to show true leadership and deliver for citizens in the 21st century.”

Adrian Lovett, Web Foundation President & CEO said:

“The chief measure of success on open government data is whether it makes people’s lives better. In this Barometer, we’re starting to see evidence that open data is making an impact. But so far these impacts are small — the possibilities are so much greater. Governments that make the necessary investments now, will see great returns as they use open data to better engage and serve citizens.”

Access the full report and data explorer online at The report is also available to download as a PDF in English and Spanish.

Get updates and analysis from the Web Foundation on Twitter at @webfoundation and at the hashtag #ODBarometer.

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