Data and securityCanada challenges the UK for global open data leadership

Canada challenges the UK for global open data leadership

A decade since the movement for open data in government began, leading governments have opened fewer than 1 in 5 datasets — says new study.

On 20 September, the World Wide Web Foundation, founded by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, launched the Open Data Barometer – Leaders Edition. It measures 30 governments that have made specific commitments on open data, the report looks at how governments are performing a decade into the movement to make government data available to the public.

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.

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, who has consistently led the way 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.

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.”

Open data is defined as 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. 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.

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute commented on the findings that: “While the use of data for artificial intelligence and creating more ethical use of personal data are of growing importance, open data – from both the government and the private sector – is still crucial to the foundation of the data infrastructure that every sector of our societies rely on.

“Countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, France and South Korea recognise this. They are learning how to integrate open data into their overarching national data strategies so that they both build strong foundations and deliver greater transparency, accountability, productivity and innovation. These data strategies and open data’s role in them need political support and investment to avoid wasting the momentum the open data movement has generated.”

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.

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.

Iglesias sums up the importance of open data, stating: “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 http://opendatabarometer.org/. The report is also available to download as a PDF in English and Spanish.

 

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