What went wrong with the open data movement

It's what you do with the data
Photo: Code of America

Kin Lane offers insightful commentary on what went wrong with the open data movement, and why it failed to live up to initial exuberance and expectations.

Particularly pointed are his comments on open data portals, which haven’t innovated much on user experience since the first iterations created by private and nonprofit organizations. Kin doesn’t talk about the poor experience of data portals, but I think a substantive part of this failure is open data movement’s inability to capture the imagination and interest of the design community.

“Today, there are plenty of open data portals,” writes Kin. “The growth in the number of portals hasn’t decreased, but I’d say the popularity, utility, and publicity around open data efforts have not lived up to the hype.”

Secondarily, a truly sustainable, open community of open data leaders never materialized. Harvard’s Civic Analytics Network and GovEx are available, but largely inaccessible to the broader community.

Kin’s opinions are a little more anti-entrepreneurial and punk rock than mine, but it’s hard to have experienced the energy of bright technologists at the early stages of the open data movement and — seeing where it stands today — not think it’s all now extremely incremental in realizing its true potential.

Hopefully, those who consider themselves open data leaders will take the time to meditate on Kin’s thoughts and use them to reinvigorate the next iteration of the movement.

Read more: Why the Open Data Movement Has Not Delivered as Expected

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

1 Response

  1. Open data and their portals are the Field of Dreams of local government citizen engagement: “If You Build It, They Will Come”. Unfortunately, as you point out, there wasn’t the same rose outcome.

    Data at government has been “Open” for some time. These portals were meant to make them more accessible, and they did that, but that isn’t a strong enough pull to get citizens and developer to flock in droves. Instead, you’ve got basically a digital version of a library stack of information. There’s lots of information and data there, but you’ve got to have a really strong personal desire to dig through it.

    Perhaps in the future the data will be more seamlessly integrated into the experience. For example, “Thanks for reporting your graffiti instance, based on the past 237 issues reported over the past 4 weeks we’re currently repainting these within an average of 26.5 hours”. In that case, at least having it surfaced will be more contextual and interesting to the residents.


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