The rationale behind open government data can be considered as twofold. First, advocates contend that making government data available to the public in open formats increases government transparency and accountability. Second, open data should enable third parties to leverage the potential of government data through the development of applications and services that addresses public and private demands.
Several national governments have created web sites to distribute a portion of the data they collect. It is a concept for a collaborative project in municipal Government to create and organize Culture for Open Data or Open government data. Some prominent examples of Government Opendata portals include:
- data.gov.gh – Ghana Open Data Initiative – Ghana government open-data website, GODI. Launched in February 2012.
- data.go.jp – Japanese Government open data website, launched in Dec 20, 2013.
- data.gov.uk – United Kingdom Open data portal.
- us.gov – the United State Open data portal.
- data.edostate.gov.ng – The indigenous Edo state open data port (Africa’s first sub-national portal )
Additionally, other levels of government have established open data websites. There are many government entities pursuing Open Data in Canada. Data.gov lists the sites of a total of 31 US states, 13 cities, and > 150 agencies and sub-agencies providing open data; e.g. the state of California, US.
Arguments for and Against Opendata
The debate on Open Data is still evolving. The best open government applications seek to empower citizens, to help small businesses, or to create value in some other positive and constructive ways. Open government data is only a way-point on the road to improving education, improving government, and building tools to solve other real world problems. While many arguments have been made categorically, the following discussion of arguments for and against open data, highlights that these arguments often depend highly on the type of data and its potential uses.
Arguments Made on Behalf of Opendata
- Facts cannot legally be copyrighted.
- Sponsors of research do not get full value unless the resulting data are freely available.
- Restrictions on data re-use create an anti-commons.
- Data are required for the smooth process of running communal human activities and are an important enabler of socio-economic development (health care, education, economic productivity, etc.).
- In scientific research, the rate of discovery is accelerated by better access to data.
Arguments Against Making all Data Available as Open Data
- Government funding may not be used to duplicate or challenge the activities of the private sector.
- Privacy concerns may require that access to data is limited to specific users or to sub-sets of the data.
- Collecting, ‘cleaning’, managing and disseminating data are typically labour- and/or cost-intensive processes – whoever provides these services should receive fair remuneration for providing those services.
- Sponsors do not get full value unless their data is used appropriately – sometimes this requires quality management, dissemination and branding efforts that can best be achieved by charging fees to users.
- Often, targeted end-users cannot use the data without additional processing (analysis, apps etc.) – if anyone has access to the data, none may have an incentive to invest in the processing required to make data useful (Examples include Education, Budget, Health, Environmental data).
Several mechanisms restrict access to or reuse of data. They include:
- Making data available for a charge.
- Compilation in databases or websites to which only premium registered members or customers can have access.
- Use of a proprietary or closed technology or encryption which creates a barrier for access.
- Copyright forbidding (or obfuscating) re-use of the data.
- Patent forbidding re-use of the data.
- Restriction of robots to websites, with preference to certain search engines.
- Aggregating factual data into “databases” which may be covered by “database rights” or “database directives” (e.g. Directive on the legal protection of databases)
- Time-limited access to resources such as e-journals (which on traditional print were available to the purchaser indefinitely)
- Political, commercial or legal pressure on the activity of organisations providing Open Data.
Making government data available to the public in open formats is a process that requires certain levels of authentication to access data, so governments adoption of the initiative is key to a successfully implementation. Open data is a function of an open government, every government that practice open government, certainly will open government’s data as this can and will drive innovation giving rise to smart-cities.
- Brito, Jerry. “Hack, Mash, & Peer (2008): Crowdsourcing Government Transparency”. Colum. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 119.
- EU Open Data Portal; open-data-europa.eu
- “Big Data for Development: From Information- to Knowledge Societies”,