Government Open Data and Democratic Participation

Mark Frank - University of Southampton

The Context
The UK and governments round the world have committed to making large amounts of data about central and local government open for the public and third party organisations to view and reuse as a matter of routine. The Data Perspective

Inspection of data Is it comprehensible, meaningful, reliable, up-to-date? How can citizens/third parties use it? The Government Perspective Interviews Who is publishing the data, how and why? What are they doing to support its use and measure success in enabling democracy? The Citizen’s Perspective Focus Groups/Surveys How is the data being used in the democratic process? How could it be used? What would enable it to be used better? Potential Case Studies Crime, Health, Education, Public spending …. Bringing it all together ….

• Increase government accountability • Improve public services through informed consumer choice • Stimulate economic growth through third party applications

A small example
Government survey results published on-line. Data inspection plus focus group with department.

The Research Question
Are open data policies just another political move to increase trust in government or could they be part of a fundamental change in the way UK democracy works?
Counter-democracy : politics in an age of distrust Pierre Rosanvallon, CUP, 2008 Trust in numbers : the pursuit of objectivity in science and public life, Theodore M.Porter, Princeton University Press, 1996 Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful, Beth Simone Noveck, Brookings Institution Press, 2009

Conclusions: • Technically reusable (CSV) file • Visible product of a complex set of transactions and negotiations • Practically meaningless without understanding this background • A by-product not an endproduct

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