Data still being locked away, experts report

The World Wide Web Foundation has launched its fourth Open Data Barometer, reporting that open data leaders are stalling, and even backsliding in their delivery of open data.

The Open Data Barometer, which covers 115 counties across the world, provides a global snapshot of how governments are using open data for accountability, innovation and social impact. Open data is data that is available for everyone to use and reuse, and allows citizens to hold governments to account for the decisions they take and the money they spend.

The UK government has been ranked number one on the list for releasing open data, despite ‘worrying changes’ in policy, while the scores of high-ranking Nordic countries and the United States has fallen this year.

Globally, fewer than one in 10 datasets studied are fully open, showing that most countries are failing to make any progress on delivering vital public information. Data on key accountability metrics such as government spending, public contracts, company ownership and land ownership are among the least open and often poor quality.

The report argues that leaders must focus on opening up the data that can help solve people’s most pressing problems, while also making sure that these benefits are for everyone, through dedicated efforts to involve marginalised groups and ensure they can take advantage of the data available.

Craig Fagan, Web Foundation policy director, said: “The case for open data is clear. Citizens have a right to access the data their taxes pay for, and use it to engage in public decisions and improve their lives. Governments need to stop dragging their feet and make government data open by default.”

Also commenting on the findings, Carlos Iglesias, senior researcher and report author, said: “It’s frustrating to see virtually no improvement since last year, and some early leaders turn their backs on the open agenda. This failure to progress is a missed opportunity for governments to be transparent with citizens and win back trust. Yet, with some relatively simple steps, governments could drastically improve their scores. For instance, adding open licences to existing datasets would double the number of open datasets.”

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