Tracking the state of open government data
The Global Open Data Index was the first major assessment of the state of open government data in the world. Launched by Open Knowledge Foundation in 2013, the index brings together a global community of open data advocates and experts to provide a comprehensive snapshot available of the state of open government data publication.
In 2013, the open data community was advocating for the publication of more open government data. But without having a clear picture of how much data had been published so far, it was a struggle to make strategic advances. Many datasets were also being released under restrictive licenses which did not satisfy the principles of openness set out in the Open Definition first published by Open Knowledge Foundation in 2006.
The community needed international coordination to bring more attention to the benefits of open data as well as to improve findability and analyse the availability and usefulness of datasets released by governments to ensure that transparency and open data publication promises were being kept.
Open Knowledge Foundation created the Global Open Data Index to help the community shed light on how much open data is published in any country and to allow national communities to advocate for openness on a country level.
The index is based on peer-reviewed submissions from community members in dozens of countries. It measures the openness of data in key areas, including those essential for transparency and accountability (such as election results and government spending data), and those vital for providing critical services to citizens (such as maps). Submissions are made using Open Knowledge Foundation's open-source Open Data Survey tool which can be easily deployed to assess and compare the open data released by any authority or organisation.
The index recognises that progress in open government initiatives is not just about the number of datasets released. Therefore the index follows a methodology to assess the if government datasets include key information, how granular they are and whether they are published openly in due course and in machine readable formats.
Building on our connections as part of a strong global community of open data and transparency campaigners, Open Knowledge Foundation enlisted the help of dozens of volunteers and expert reviewers to create comprehensive annual rankings of open government data publication across the world.
Growing from 60 countries in 2013 to cover 94 in 2016/17, the index and its rankings generated meaningful public dialogue between government officials, international non-governmental organisations and community activists as well as receiving significant media coverage. It galvanised efforts across the world - notably in countries such as Taiwan, Colombia and Mexico - to move towards more open data publication by providing a list of key datasets and publication criteria which authorities could use as a guide.
Governments from the UK to Australia, Norway to Jamaica have used the index rankings to demonstrate their commitments to open data publication with our research finding that the index “drives change primarily from within government”. Results from the index have also helped sustain political commitment to openness in the absence of formal open data policies and communicated more clearly what a good open dataset looks like.
Our work on the index has also lead to close collaboration with the Web Foundation who run the Open Data Barometer, another international measure of government data publication, as well as generating research sharing key lessons learned about the challenges of open licensing.