Open Data as Tool to Hold Government Leaders Accountable

This is what the open government advocacy organization California Forward stated last week on their website. The California open government movement has been on the fast track. California Forward has covered efforts to increase transparency in cities around the state, from Palo Alto to Santa Ana. Read further how the public sees transparency.

According to California Forward, “the public seeks transparency not for the sake of transparency, but as a tool to hold their leaders accountable to results. Conversely, governments may pursue openness as a means to increase efficiency by promoting inclusion and civic participation, which in turn fosters innovation. Citizens want to know their tax dollars are being spent wisely and officials want to restore the public’s faith in government.”

Open Data IntelligentHQ

Open Data IntelligentHQ

Transparency is an ongoing commitment, not a onetime deal. The one time publication of information doesn’t deserve a round of applause, for that’s only the beginning. If not properly managed and updated, open data initiatives may end up eating up more resources than initially anticipated without ever achieving the desired results. And as states, cities, and districts are tightening their budget belts, every penny counts.

Senior program associate at CTG and lead author of the report, Natalie Helbig, said in a statement:

“If public leaders want to pursue opening government, particularly through the use of new technologies and information-driven activities, they need a good understanding of how the process works.”

There is growing interest at all levels of government to increase access to and use of government data in support of good governance. As a result, public agencies are under pressure to create new capabilities to achieve this goal. What often happens to achieve this goal is to simply supply more data freely in more formats that will lead to more use. But supplying more and more data does not necessarily produce the results that entities want to achieve.

This is exactly the challenge, to achieve and make new projects succesful, it’s not only the understanding of new technologies and distributing data, it are the processes, the culture, skills, everything. With big data initiatives, it’s certainly more focussed on processes, culture, purposes and what more.

The report, The Dynamics of Opening Government Data, analyzes the value generated by open data, it’s a very interesting report, do read it!

The report presents an approach to analyze and model open data initiatives based on two key ideas: context and dynamics. Read on page six the elaboration on the two key ideas.

The holistic approach enhances the understanding of how open data initiatives can play out in and affect rapidly changing contexts. In addition, the concepts and analytical tools can be used to:

  • Identify and understand stakeholders and how their interests are impacted by opening government data.
  • Help planners and decision makers anticipate stakeholder changes so that government can build
  • capability to deal with the power, expectation, and performance changes.
  • Aid planners in developing hypotheses for how interactions, relationships among stakeholders, and
  • value will likely change over time.

The report examined two open data cases:

The first examines public access to restaurant health inspection data in New York City, USA and changes over several years. It deals primarily with the changes in information flows, governance relationships, and stakeholders as a result of technological disturbances.

The second case, from the City of Edmonton, Canada, examines in some detail the early life of an open data initiative to increase public access to street construction projects data. The case focuses more on the capabilities of the agency, as well as the data management practices, business value, the selection process, and relationship with an external application developer.

Based on the analysis of the two cases they present a set of considerations for agencies:

  • Release government data that are relevant to both agency performance and the public interest.
  • Invest in strategies to estimate how different stakeholders will use the data.
  • Devise data management practices that improve context in order to future-proof data resources.
  • Think about sustainability.

Open Government Data Hub

If you’re interested to learn more about open government data, visit the hub for the Open Government community around the world here.

Want to have an introduction to what open data is?

World Map of Open Government Data Initiatives


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