About Open Data’s Impact Repository

What do we mean by Open Data? Why does it matter? How did we study it? And who contributed?

This kind of analysis adds value... It shows problems about corruption, its consequences and how to fight it.

Antonio Almansa Morales, Diputación Provincial de Málaga

I must admit that the case study is fascinating. I have found interesting insights that we might push for now that we are discussing a new procurement law for infrastructure projects.

Rafael García Aceves, Transparencia Mexicana

A really interesting and informative case study.

Andi Argast, Open Data Institute; Toronto Node

What is Open Data?

Open data is publicly available data that can be universally and readily accessed, used, and redistributed free of charge. It is structured for usability and computability. (extracted from a comparison of open data definitions)

It is important to recognize that this is a somewhat idealized version of open data. In truth, few forms of data possess all the attributes included in this definition. The openness of data exists on a continuum, and while many forms of information may not be strictly open in the sense described above, they may nonetheless be shareable, usable by third parties, and capable of effecting wide-scale transformation. The Open Data’s Impact repository explores case studies that leverage data across this continuum.

Why Does it Matter?


Despite global commitments to and increasing enthusiasm for open data, little is actually known about its use and impact. What kinds of social and economic transformation has open data brought about and what is its future potential? How—and under what circumstances—has it been most effective? How have open data practitioners mitigated risks and maximized social good?Even as proponents extol the virtues of open data, the field suffers from a lack of detailed evidence of the impact of open data, and what contributed to the impact.

The Open Data’s Impact repository seeks to:

  • Provide a more nuanced understanding of the various processes and factors underlying the demand, supply, release, use and ultimately impact of open data.
  • Assess and provide evidence for the premise that open data has the potential to impact society in a variety of beneficial ways;
  • Provide actionable insights to policymakers, civil society representatives, entrepreneurs, researchers and others seeking to release or use open data.

It's very clear. Makes sense - I really liked the "taxonomy of open data impact" visualization/framework piece.

Jamie Van Ymeren, Mowat Centre

The study has made great effort to document impact.

Emmy Chirchir, University of Münster

How Did We Study It?


Part of the reason we know so little about open data is because there have been so few systematic studies of its actual impact and workings. The field is dominated by conjectural estimates of open data’s hypothetical impact; those attempts that have been made to study concrete, real-world examples are often anecdotal or suffer from a paucity of information.

Through this repository the GovLab aims to build a more systematic study of open data and its impact by rigorously examining several case studies from around the world. These case studies are chosen for their geographic and sectoral representativeness. They are built not simply from secondary sources (like news reports and academic papers) but from extensive interviews with key actors and protagonists (see below) who possess valuable and thus far untapped on-the-ground knowledge. In addition, the case studies seek to go beyond the descriptive (what happened) to the explanatory (why it happened, and what is the wider relevance or impact).

In order to provide these explanations, we have assembled an analytical framework that applies across case studies and allows us to present some more widely applicable principles for the use and impact of open data. Impact—a better understanding of how and when open data really works—is at the center of our research. Our framework seeks to establish a taxonomy of impact for open data initiatives, outlining various dimensions (from improving government to creating economic opportunities) in which open data has been effective. In addition, the framework lays out some key conditions that enable impact, as well as some challenges faced by open data projects.

Open Peer Review

In the spirit of openness that defines the field under examination, the GovLab open-sourced the peer review process of our open data case studies and key findings paper. Rather than sharing drafts only with a select group of experts we made our report and each of the case studies openly accessible for review in the interest of gaining broad input on our findings and collaboratively producing a common resource on open data’s impacts for the field.

During the monthlong open peer review process, more than two dozen people from around the world shared their input as Recognized Peer Reviewers through in-line comments and in-depth responses to the ideas and evidence presented in the Key Findings Paper and case studies. Additionally, the paper and case studies were made openly accessible to the public, allowing anyone to share suggestions, clarifications, notes on potential inaccuracies and any other useful input prior to publishing. Much of this input was integrated into the final versions found here.

Who Were the Principal Researchers?

The case studies were conducted by a team at the GovLab under the leadership of Andrew Young and Stefaan Verhulst, and in close collaboration with Laura Bacon of Omidyar Network. In addition, Becky Hogge contributed six case studies focused on the United Kingdom (Full report of Becky Hogge available here).

As an action research center, the GovLab designs, tests and studies technology, policy and strategies for fostering more open and collaborative approaches to governance working with public partners. We work on open data both to the end of advancing research but, first and foremost, to accelerate innovation in the field.

Being unaware of the history of GPS, I thought this paper was a delightful insight to its origins, as well as the tie-ins today that I fight for in my professional life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Julian Singh, Open Data Connect

[The case study of Kawal Pemilu] shows how just a few people with no budget…can change the direction of the country.

Antonio Almansa Morales, Diputación Provincial de Málaga

Who Contributed?

During the development of its case studies on open data’s impact, the GovLab interviewed the following stakeholders and experts:

  • Neil AckroydChief Operating Officer, Ordnance Survey
  • Kim AlexanderPresident and Founder, California Voter Foundation
  • Robert AndrewsHead of Corporate Communications, Ordnance Survey
  • Jay BhallaDirector, Open Institute
  • Uuf BrajawidagbaLecturer of Indonesian Politics, University of Wollongong
  • François BrouardFounding Director, Sprott Centre for Social Enterprises, Carleton University
  • Iain Campionformer Application Team Leader, Environment Canterbury
  • John CarpenterDirector of Strategy, Ordnance Survey
  • Daniel CarranzaCo-Founder, DATA Uruguay
  • Julian Carverformer Chief Information Officer, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority
  • Pablo ClarkAnalyst, Mexican Institute for Competitiveness
  • Izabela CorrèaFormer Coordinator for the Promotion of Ethics, Transparency, and Integrity, Brazil’s Directorate for Corruption Prevention
  • Jeff de La BeaujardiereData Management Architect, NOAA
  • Leodelma de Marilac FelixFormer Head of the General Auditing Coordination, Ministry of Finance, Brazil
  • Vivien DepardayDisaster Risk Management Specialist, Open Data for Resilience Initiative Operational Deployment Lead, Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction, World Bank
  • Patrick DuFourFormer Senior Web GIS Developer, U.S. Department of State, Humanitarian Information Unit
  • Ee-Peng LimCo-Director of Living Analytics Research Center, Singapore Management University
  • Carl ElmstamTransparency Manager, Sida
  • Peter ElsonCommunity Development Researcher, Mount Royal University and University of Victoria
  • Felipe EstefanAssociate, Investments, Omidyar Network
  • Aidan EyakuzeExecutive Director, Twaweza
  • Stephen FerrisGIS and Data Manager, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority
  • Christian FischerSenior Advisor, Septima
  • Mike Flowersformer Chief Analytics Officer, Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, New York City
  • Rafael García AcevesOpen Data Project Coordinator, Transparencia Mexicana
  • Zachary GoldsteinChief Information Officer, NOAA
  • Hanna HellquistFormer State Secretary for International Development, Sweden
  • Thorhildur JetzekDepartment of IT Management, Copenhagen Business School
  • Al KagsFounding Trustee, Open Institute
  • Jason KimSenior Advisor, National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing
  • Verena Luise KnippelSenior Governance Specialist, World Bank
  • Daniel KreissAssistant Professor, University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Media
  • David LasbyDirector of Research, Imagine Canada
  • Michael LencznerChief Executive Officer, Ajah.ca
  • Morten LindSenior Advisor, Danish Geodata Agency
  • Andrew LovelessCommercial Director, Ordnance Survey
  • Lindsey MarchessaultSenior Manager for Data & Engagement, Open Contracting Partnership
  • Arnold MindeFounder, Shule.info
  • Lindsay MollineauxDirector of Analytics, Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, New York City
  • Oscar MontielDirector of Community Engagement, Code for Mexico
  • Otávio Moreira de Castro NevesCoordinator for Open Government and Transparency, Brazil
  • Ainun NajibCo-Founder, Kawal Pemilu
  • Bitange NdemoChairman, Open Institute
  • Bo OvergaardDirector, Septima
  • Tim OwenChief of Climate Information Services Division, NOAA
  • Allan ParnellPhD, Vice President, Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities
  • Ed ParsonsGeospatial Technologist, Google
  • Maria Patterson PhD, Scientific Lead, Open Science Data Cloud, University of Chicago, Open Cloud Consortium
  • Hilary PearsonPresident, Philanthropic Foundations Canada
  • Karl PetersonProject Manager, Aid Transparency, Sida
  • Florent PeyreChief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Placemeter
  • Peter RableyDirector, Investments, Omidyar Network
  • Tara RamchandaniAttorney, Relman, Dane, & Colfax PLLC
  • Ira RubinsteinResearch Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law, New York University
  • Fabrizio ScrolliniChairman, DATA Uruguay
  • Diah SetiawatyProgram Manager for Election Application Programming Interface, Perludem
  • Rupert SimonsFormer Advisor to the African Governance Initiative; CEO, Publish What You Fund
  • Singapore National Environment Agency
  • Gabriel SiposDirector, Transparency International Slovensko
  • Diego SoriaMinistry of Health, Uruguay
  • Allison Soussi-TananiDigital Strategy Lead and Web Committee Co-Chair, NOAA
  • Javier TeranStatistician, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Humanitarian Data Exchange
  • Samhir VasdevICT Sector Unit, World Bank
  • Eva VozárováWeb & IT Lead, Fair-Play Alliance
  • Neil WestonChief Scientist, National Geodetic Survey, NOS, NOAA
  • Alyssa WrightPresident of U.S. Board, OpenStreetMap
  • Alexandra Zapata HojelCoordinator of Education Projects, Mexican Institute for Competitiveness

Who Reviewed?

Special thanks to the following individuals who provided invaluable input during the open peer review process:

  • Karin AhlinAkrodata
  • Antonio Almansa MoralesDiputación provincial de Málaga
  • Andi ArgastOpen Data Institute; Toronto Node
  • Jos BerensUniversity of Leiden
  • Keitha BoothLand Information New Zealand
  • J. Albert Bowden IISunlight Foundation
  • Mark CardwellUSAID
  • Corinne CathOxford Internet Institute
  • Emmy ChirchirUniversity of Münster
  • Rafael García AcevesTransparencia Mexicana
  • Erik HolmlundAlberta Data Partnerships Ltd
  • Brendan KennyBlackwell Burke P.A.
  • Alessia LefebureColumbia University - Alliance Program
  • Ulrich MansLeiden University
  • Valerie MoyeSocrata
  • Dr. Alina ÖstlingCentre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom
  • Giuseppe RealeUniversity of Catania
  • Fathima RifaaThe Boeing Company, USA
  • Julian SinghOpen Data Connect
  • Rayna StamboliyskaRS Strategy/Open MENA
  • Julian TaitOpen Data Manchester
  • Jamie Van YmerenMowat Centre
  • Mario VelascoCoplade, Oaxaca
  • Niki ViraniCity of Houston
  • Johanna WalkerWeb Science Institute, University of Southampton
  • Andrew WellerUniversity of Washington
  • Ian WhiteTBD Co
  • Raymond Yeeunglue.it
  • Maria ZuffovaUniversity of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Contact Us

We’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the below form to provide feedback on Open Data’s Impacts, or to share other examples of open data having an impact on the world.