Many countries have committed to open data. The latest edition of the Open Data Barometer focuses on these governments to analyze if they are really taking the necessary measures and if real progress is being made in this area. Next, we analyze this latest report published by the World Wide Web Foundation.
Year after year, the World Wide Web Foundation, a foundation founded by Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, devotes a report to analyzing the current state of open data around the world. 2018 was an important year for this organization as it marked the tenth anniversary since they met to establish the eight essential principles for the opening of government data.
Since then, the foundation has been working closely with governments to open their information to the general public and offer citizens new ways to participate in their community.
The Edition of the Leaders
The last edition of the Open Data Barometer, published in September 2018, is entitled “Barometer of Open Data – Edition of Leaders”, as it focuses on the performance of leading governments (thirty, in total) throughout of this decade and establishes basic guidelines to continue on the right path.
It has been named leaders in this report to these thirty governments because they assumed some commitment to open data, either by signing the Open Data Charter or by adhering to the Open Data Principles for the fight against Corruption of the G20.
This does not imply that these governments have made great progress in this matter, since none of them has yet carried out the organizational changes necessary for open data to be the norm.
Even so, these commitments have been shown to be important and make a difference. The Leader Edition scores are two to three times higher than in the Fourth Edition (we analyzed it in depth at the time), which had 115 countries in total.
The conclusions of this edition are quite encouraging for the leading countries, but they are not exempt from worrisome trends that the report points out. To begin with, two-thirds of governments have made two-figure progress in more than five years and more than a third have increased their score by more than 50%.
However, as we said, not all is good news and the report points out several issues that need major improvements. For example, less than 1 in 5 datasets are open, which is a disservice to the opening of government data.
In addition, governments that were once leaders are no longer leaders, such as the United Kingdom. This country, formerly number one in this aspect, has been reducing its score over the last five years. The United States is another of the countries highlighted as being unable to maintain its position as leader. Its score has fallen eleven points.
Classification of leaders
In this latest edition of the Open Data Barometer, Canada and the United Kingdom are in the first position with a total score of 76, followed by Australia (75), France (72) and South Korea (72). Although the United Kingdom is in a privileged position, its score since the first edition has decreased by four points, while Canada has won eighteen in these years.
In general, this edition is characterized by progress in the opening of data and greater approval and improvement of open data policies and practices, although there are still differences in rhythms.
Mexico is the fastest growing country, increasing by 33 points in just five years. There are also other countries with an enviable rate of progress such as South Korea, Colombia, Ukraine, Japan and Uruguay, with more than 20 points since the first edition.
However, there are also other countries that are not in such a good position and there has not been remarkable progress in recent years. The United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Chile and Costa Rica are some of the governments that have retreated or have improved very slightly. Keep in mind that all these executives have committed to opening the data.
The most negative conclusion that the report leaves us is that governments still do not consider open data as a priority, but as a secondary project. That is why more investment is needed in the governance of open data and not simply promises that end in broken bag. The subtitle of this year’s report refers to this very thing: “From the promise to progress”.
In view of this current situation on open data, the report concludes that the most important action for governments to make the necessary progress is to invest the necessary resources to create the policies, practices and infrastructure that will serve as the basis for the promotion of the opening of data.
The foundation has also issued three specific recommendations for improvement. To begin, carry out a plan that has the default opening, which must be supported by a series of plans, guidelines and procedures that make it possible to share this data proactively.
The construction and consolidation of infrastructures is also necessary, thus improving the quality and interoperability of open data. Finally, the publication of the data must have a purpose, so it is necessary to collaborate with groups of citizens to identify the problems that open data are capable of solving. Once published the relevant sets, you must analyze what has been its impact and whether it has met the desired objective.
Lessons learned from past editions
The five years in which the Open Data Barometer has been published have offered a lot of interesting information that helps us to have a general idea of the situation, both because of its temporal and geographic scope.
Although open data has become “relatively popular”, the actual opening has not occurred, as shown by the fact that less than 10% of the analyzed data sets are open. In addition, even in cases where data is available, they are often incomplete or not of sufficient quality.
Political will can be decisive for the opening of data is a success or a failure. The most complicated moment is in the allocation and investment phase. In some cases, it is committed to a false opening, through which the information is published selectively without taking into account the principles of open data and with the sole purpose of offering a better image.
Despite the fact that leading governments have committed themselves to creating a solid infrastructure and a community around them, these promises do not become real and do not materialize into a tangible investment.
As for the legislative part, the open data is not receiving much support in recent years. In the absence of strong legislation on the right of access to information, citizens cannot demand results from governments and they do not need to be held accountable.
Finally, it is not acting correctly in the analysis phase, so we do not have enough information to know the real impact and benefit of open data. Most programs do not have a post evaluation and the few studies that exists focuses on anecdotal parts.
One more year, the Open Data Barometer helps us to know the real situation of open data around the world. In this Edition of Leaders, we are left with the remarkable progress that some countries have made in this matter, although a real commitment on the part of the governments to create a solid infrastructure, with sufficiently large investments, is not yet perceived.