The global "open" pulse from the 2014 Open Data Index

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Open Knowledge's recent publication of the 2014 Open Data Index shows slow progress by governments in opening up key data. Overall the level of "open" is down to 11% from 15% a year ago.

"The Global Open Data Index measures and benchmarks the openness of data around the world, and then presents this information in a way that is easy to understand and use. This increases its usefulness as an advocacy tool and broadens its impact."

The OKF defines “open” in the context of this report as a data set which adheres to the open definition standard as open. The current definition of "open" per can be summarized as "open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose." In spite of the drop in overall "openness" in 2014, there are some bright spots in the report:

  • The number of places (countries) rose from 60 to 97 since 2013.
  • The number of entries (raw key data sets) rose to 970 from 599 since 2013. And, of those raw data sets, 106 of the 970 are considered open by Open Knowledge standards from 87 of 599 in the same period last year.
  • Overall, the UK scored the highest (what?) in the 2014 Index with an overall score of 96%.
  • The UK also scored the highest (what?) in 2013.
  • Second place is Denmark followed up by France. This was a good year for open data in France as it climbed from 12 to 3 in rank.
  • There was a surge by India from 27 to 10 in rank.
  • Colombia and Uruguay came in 12.

Low scoring countries like Sierra Leone, Mali Haiti, and Guinea came in at the bottom of the index. This is not an indictment on the government but rather a call for lower scoring countries to engage with civil society.

In the US, the country is ranked as 70% open and dropped from second place in the previous year to 8 of the 97 countries surveyed in 2014. Like several other countries, the US saw some of the biggest losses in rank over government spending data. This is not surprising to those that follow news on US Federal spending data. In August, Matt Rumsey from the Sunlight Foundation published a report summarizing the Government Accounting Office review of and found hundreds of billions of dollars in unreported spending. In fact, the GAO estimated that only 2-7% of was consistent with agency records. The 2014 Global Open Data Index ranks the US as being 10% in compliance with the "open" standard and dropped from 4 to 16 in this category since 2013.

Worldwide, Open Knowledge is focusing on the global south for new places to be added to the index. Africa made a strong showing this year in regards to new members. Almost all regions showed improvement in regards to the number of places taking part in the index:

Africa: Burkina, Faso, Kenya, Nigeria, and Rwanda

The Americas: Chile, Paraguay

Asia/Pacific: China, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand

Europe: Czech Republic, Moldova, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Bulgaria, Belgium

Middle East: Israel, Oman, Egypt

The importance of increasing the level of "open" across the globe was summed up by Rufus Pollock, Founder and President of Open Knowledge: "Opening up government data drives democracy, accountability, and innovation. It enables citizens to know and exercise their rights, and it brings benefits across society: from transport, to education and health. There has been a welcome increase in support for open data from governments in the last few years, but this year’s Index shows that real progress on the ground is too often lagging behind the rhetoric."

A recent press release by Open Knowledge says, "With recent estimates from McKinsey and others putting the potential benefits of open data at over $1 trillion, slow progress risks the loss of a major opportunity." Overall, it can be said that 2014 saw mixed results in terms of creating open value across the globe. We have more places, we have more data sets. But, fewer of these places or data sets proportionally are aligning themselves to the global definition of open.

Jason Hare
Two decades experience analyzing user behavior interacting with web applications. Experience includes developing user interfaces using rapid prototyping and an iterative project management style to create award winning, user-centered information portals. Primary interests include Big Data and Open Data applications and community engagement in a public sector environment.

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