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When does open data become closed?
January 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm #238260
Open data sites have been popping up in governments across the globe to promote transparency and better public services. The benefits of open data for the government stretch far. However, the debate is ever evolving. Proponents argue that facts cannot have a copyright and therefore should be accessible by all, including researchers attempting to accelerate groundbreaking research in medical, environmental, and other fields. On the other hand, skeptics wonder where the line should be drawn? When does open government data become a liability or threat to the nation?
Govdelivery recently acquired NuCivic, a company that lends a helping hand to governments and non-profit organizations that are utilizing open data to better engage with the public. This seems silly to someone that has grown up during the Internet revolution. Have we not already been able to access any and all information by just “googling” it? Apparently not. This is the very reason innovators at NuCivic are pushing for wider public knowledge on open data. The public should understand what open data is and how it is necessary to enhance public service by the government. But what information should not be open? Will closed data need to be better identified as well?
One of the biggest issues inherent for all government systems is grey area. Nothing can be black and white, which leads to conflict over where lines should be drawn. At this point, open government data is instrumental for advancements in technology, medicine, and the environment. NuCivic CEO, Andrew Hoppin worked hard to bring open data to New York State while the CIO of NY State Senate. He is determined to further expand open data to generate optimism, accountability, and trust among the government and citizens. However, it is likely that the debate over open vs. closed data will become more apparent in the near future.
What do you think the future holds for public open data in government? Where should the line be drawn between open and closed data, if any line at all? Voice your opinions below!
- This topic was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by Megan Dotson.
January 28, 2015 at 9:41 am #238311
Shannon, I think this is an incredibly important topic.
On a state and local level, a state’s laws tend to draw the line as to what is public, and therefore potentially open, versus what is not public. However, as you point out, just because something public doesn’t necessarily mean it should be open – potentially. It’s hard to say. Some standards need to exist. Likewise the federal government has laws regarding what is public versus classified or limited due to security reasons (or other reasons).
Perhaps the biggest issue here is in who is defining the line, the process for defining it, and the need for that discussion to be far more open that it currently is. Here in Ohio, a state senator, because of his position of being in charge of a certain responsibility, was allowed to change rules related to the gathering of garage pass entry and exit data (it won’t be collected in the future – here’s one article about it http://ohiopolitics.blog.daytondailynews.com/2015/01/08/widener-orders-garage-passes-that-would-limit-public-accountability/).
That seems like a move away from open and transparent government, but the more intriguing part is that he was allowed to make that decision without any public engagement at all beyond the media finding out about it. So there’s the question of what the definitions are and where the line is, and then there’s the issue of who is making those distinctions.
As you suggest, this is going to be an ongoing topic!
January 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm #238458
Thanks Jill for the further insight!
I totally agree that who is drawing the line is an important question. One of the biggest points of open data is transparency. So if we don’t know who is making the decisions and their reasoning behind it, doesn’t that lose transparency and accountability?
So many questions! Only time will tell….
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