Open Data, Big Data, Open Government: is this about technology or democracy? Open data are known as being accessible to everyone and can be used by quoting the source, keeping the data bank always open. Open Data stands in the discipline of Open Government, following which public administration must (or should) be available and accessible to all citizens. This should allow an ample spread of information and broader participation in public life.
The idea underneath open data is clear and intuitive: anyone can use, reuse or distribute data, whatever their final (legitimate) goal. Besides the technological complexity, a long array of rules and permits define the operating methods. This is where enabling technologies come into play, enabling the processes and giving them an institutional direction.
At the very core are data, whose access is fundamental. Data are a common good, and Public Administration is the leading actor in taking care of this. But even businesses and citizens can and should play an essential role in this, for example, to diffuse good practices on accessing data. Open Government cannot be apart from Open Data as the main playground to establish a fruitful dialogue between citizens, businesses and Public Administration. Data are a common good. Citizens and companies must stimulate Public Administration to improve their access.
Therefore, the challenge is social, cultural, organisational and entrepreneurial because open data requires solid reorganisation work and the capability to use informatics systems. Here comes the weak point: a common ‘data culture’ requires time, knowledge and political will. If, from one side, there are laws protecting anonymity (think about privacy issues), we must also pay attention to the understanding of data: managing them, manipulating them and transforming them into useful information is a very complex process.
A famous article by Tim Davies, a member of the Open Government team in Great Britain, quotes that there are five crucial passages:
- Being followed by the demand.
- Place data in context.
- Support conversations upon data.
- Create capacity, competencies and network.
- Collaborate on data as a shared resource.
If data are a public information heritage, we need to plan all necessary tools to gather people, stimulate discussions, create new ideas and spread valuable competencies. There’s a long way to go. We at Energee3 took up this challenge.