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?

Objectives

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, developed by the GovLab in partnership with Omidyar Network, 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.

The repository comprises two research collections: The Global Impact of Open Data and Open Data for Developing Economies

THE GLOBAL IMPACT OF OPEN DATA

Under the leadership of Andrew Young and Stefaan Verhulst, and in close collaboration with Laura Bacon of Omidyar Network, The Global Impact of Open Data initiative saw the development of 19 case studies of open data projects launched around the world, and a key findings paper articulating key findings across the case studies. In addition, Becky Hogge contributed six case studies focused on the United Kingdom (Full report of Becky Hogge available here).

This research informed the development of 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 this 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.

All of the research conducted as part of The Global Impact of Open Data initiative is available as a free eBook published by O’Reilly Media.

OPEN DATA FOR DEVELOPING ECONOMIES

In a project commissioned by the Mobile Solutions, Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) program, funded by the Global Development Lab at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in collaboration with the Web Foundation, the GovLab sought to build an evidence base on open data’s use and impacts specifically in developing countries. The Open Data for Developing Economies project comprises 12 in-depth case studies focused on initiatives from low- and middle-income countries, a research report collecting key findings across the case studies, and a new Periodic Table of Open Data – an interactive tool to help donors and practitioners increase the efficacy of open data initiatives.

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?

Methodology

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. The case studies selected across both projects were chosen for their geographic and sectoral representativeness. They were built not simply from secondary sources (like news reports and academic papers) but from extensive interviews with key actors and protagonists (see Contributors page) who possess valuable and thus far untapped on-the-ground knowledge. In addition, the case studies housed in this repository 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

The GovLab works toward opening institutions to the insights and expertise of others to make their processes and outcomes more legitimate and effective. In the interest of “walking the talk,” the GovLab seeks to experiment with innovative and participatory peer review processes for most of our research products. Rather than sharing drafts only with a select group of identified stakeholders – i.e., the ‘usual suspects’ – we make our work openly accessible for review in the interest of gaining broader input on our findings and collaboratively producing common resources for the field.

The GovLab’s open peer review process is a hybrid approach. First, we invite individuals to sign-up to become a recognized peer reviewer and give them access to drafts at an early date. We then open the process to the general public at a later stage, with all drafts openly accessible for review and comment. As such, we not only experiment with the way we review our research but we can also understand more about what works best. We appreciate and acknowledge all the input we receive.

You can find the list of peer reviewers on the Contributors page.

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.

The Global Impact of Open Data case studies were developed in close collaboration with Laura Bacon of Omidyar Network, and independent researcher Becky Hogge contributed six case studies focused on the United Kingdom.

The Open Data for Developing Economies case studies were commissioned by the Mobile Solutions, Technical Assistance and Research (mSTAR) program, funded by the Global Development Lab at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in collaboration with the Web Foundation, including especially researchers Francois van Schalkwyk and Michael Canares.

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

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.