Tag Archives: open data

Open Data impact: more questions than answers

Last week, I posted about the work I’m doing this year to get to the bottom of the impact open data policies have had on people’s lives to date.

Well, I’m about a month into that work, and I’m already thinking about revising my goals. By which I mean, if I can’t get to the bottom of this, maybe I can get about halfway down…?

My first post sparked some fun debate on Twitter, notably between Global Integrity’s co-founder and former director Nathaniel Heller and Development Gateway’s Josh Powell, and with Friedrich Lindenberg from Code4Africa and Open Knowledge Germany.

So, given how open (ahem) people appear to be to helping me think through this stuff on air, I thought I’d throw out the template set of questions I’m reaching out with to various open data scholars and practitioners in the coming months.

I hope they’ll spark even more engagement from anyone out there who feels they’ve got a dog in this fight. And just in case 140 characters don’t quite accommodate your thoughts on this, trackbacks and comments are also welcome (you can also email me, if you’d prefer).

  1. Can you name your top three examples of where you think open data has had a positive impact?
  2. How conscious do we have to be of the potentially negative impacts and unforeseen consequences of releasing open data sets or of open data policies in general? Are there stories to tell here too?
  3. Are there any particular sectors or spheres where you think open data is more likely to have a positive impact?
  4. Is open data more likely to have positive economic impacts than it is political, social or environmental ones? Or are economic impacts simply easier to quantify? Or both?
  5. What approaches have you seen to thinking and talking about open data impact that you think are valuable?
  6. Is it too soon to get a good idea about impact? Has open data been given enough of a chance to prove its worth?
  7. Where around the world (and not just US/UK) do we see open data sets that pre-date the recent Open Government Partnership commitments, and where we might therefore expect to see measurable impact?
  8. Do you subscribe to the theory that open data growth will be subject to network effects, and that we might not see impact at scale until it’s travelled a bit further along the power law curve?
  9. What are your favourite examples of measuring social/political/environmental impacts from other fields? Can they be applied to open data?
  10. Given one of the cited advantages of open data is that it allows many possible benefits, including unanticipated benefits, and given that research designed to evidence impact generally needs to be specific to a target or goal, is it harder to evaluate the impact of open data policies than it might be for other types of policies?

Too much information: week ending 13 May

…with props to David Sasaki for the new title.

Syrian Facebook users face cyber-attacks
The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports on allegations that the Syrian Telecom Ministry has been launching crude attacks on Facebook users, attempting to gain access to and control over their Facebook accounts.

Impeached Ex-President blocks Brazilian freedom of information law
Freedom of Information expert Greg Michener analyses some of the background issues to Brazil’s proposed Freedom of Information legislation, and reports on how current senator and former president, Fernando Collor (impeached for corruption) is blocking the bill’s passage into law.
Report | Background

Russian campaigner faces criminal investigation
Prosecutors in Moscow have launched a criminal investigation into Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner and blogger dubbed “the Russian Julian Assange”. The Guardian reports that Navalny has brushed off the case, calling it “rubbish” and saying it is the state “taking revenge for his exposés of alleged fraud at Russian state companies”.

Colombia: Following the “Lleras” Law
Global Voices’ Juan Arellano continues his coverage of opposition to the proposed “Lleras Law” in Colombia, which would place the burden of online copyright enforcement on internet service providers. A group calling itself the Colombian chapter of Anonymous has responded with cyberattacks on government websites.

US: Revised ‘net censorship bill goes even further than controversial predecessor
Techdirt report that the newly-proposed PROTECT IP Act, a revision of the controversial Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) that failed to progress through the US legislative process last year, goes even further in restricting ‘net freedoms than its predecessor. The law would allow non-state actors to seek court orders to take down websites accused of copyright infringement, and force search engines to remove such websites from their indexes.

Index on Censorship to join the Global Network Initiative
The Global Network Initiative report: “Index on Censorship, Britain’s leading organization promoting free expression, will become the first non-founding NGO to join the multi-stakeholder organization.”

Have computers taken away our power?
This Guardian feature previews a provocative new documentary by filmmaker Adam Curtis on the key role network theory has played in damaging our ability to imagine a better world. Curtis: “These are the limitations of the self-organising system: it cannot deal with politics and power”.

How to study lobbying with crowdsourced open data
French campaigning NGO Regards Citoyens detail their attempts to extract data from official documents produced by the European Parliament in order to quantify lobbying activity there.

What is open? Control and the Chinese internet
Ethan Zuckerman reports from a recent lecture by political scientist Shirley Hung. Hung explains how the Chinese authorities still believe their internet is open, despite the many layers of control under which it operates: “From [the Chinese] perspective, the US is trying to export their view of the internet, while China is asking for each country to determine its own priorities and future”.

Lessons learned too well: the evolution of internet regulation
Center for Democracy and Technology fellow Malcolm Froomkin combines a useful overview of the history of internet regulation with a strong narrative of the forces that shaped it.

The spectrum of our freedoms
La Quadrature du Net publish this compelling political case for open access to spectrum.

Open Education Resources you may not know about (but should)
A list of ten open education and open courseware resources to celebrate the open courseware movement’s 10-year anniversary.