A “calculus” for open data

Arnaud Sahuguet (The GovLab) and David Sangokoya ( The GovLab) at Medium: “The value, impact and promise of making data publicly accessible have driven citizens, government agencies and businesses to embrace open data as a way to increase efficiency, promote transparency and maximize utility…..While the rise of the open data movement has led to numerous commitments and increasing enthusiasm to unleash the potential of open data, data providers lack a common language for evaluating and weighing the decision to open their own data.

Government agencies and city officials often open their data as a result of top-down pressure to champion efficiency, meet citizen demand or increase transparency through the number of datasets released rather than the impact these datasets may create. They often do not understand the hidden costs associated with opening their data and miss opportunities to leverage knowledge from communities or outside expertise for optimal data sharing.

Corporations are mostly embracing a wait-and-see attitude. While some have begun sharing corporate data for research or policymaking intended for public benefit, others are building business models from public open data. Since data is seen as a business asset holding significant value, companies are cautiously considering why they should take on risks to competition and engage in activity amidst nascent legal and regulatory frameworks.

End users are motivated to share their data. However, they often are not the true “owners” — their data being stored and managed on their behalf by technology and social media companies. Even when they are, the fear of unwanted government surveillance or corporate marketing practices dissuades them from making their data more publicly accessible.

Stories from the field

We briefly start with a few selected examples to highlight the value and impact of open data and the need for a better decision framework when choosing to open data… (More)

A calculus for open data

Our calculus centers around a simple equation:

P × B + D > C


  • P is the probability that opening the data will have some effect,
  • B is the individual benefit of opening the data,
  • D is the global or ecosystem impact, and
  • C is the cost.

Any increase in P, B or D and a decrease in C will make the outcome of opening the data better.

Let’s now revisit each variable one by one and look at concrete factors that influence it….(More)”

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