New Project: Open Data Impact Studies

slide-open-data-projFinding out how open data is making a difference around the world

The GovLab is pleased to announce the launch of a new project –  Open Data Impact Studies – a series of international case studies sponsored by Omidyar Network and to be developed this summer. These impact studies are designed to help us better understand the demand-use-impact cycle of open data.

Despite global commitments to and increasing enthusiasm for open data, little is actually known about its use and impact. What kinds of social and economic transformation has open data brought about and what is its future potential? How—and under what circumstances—has it been most effective? How have open data practitioners mitigated risks (e.g, to privacy) and maximized social good?

Even as proponents extol the virtues of open data, the field suffers from a mismatch between the supply (or availability) of data and its actual demand (and subsequent use). This mismatch potentially limits the impact of open data, and inhibits its ability to produce social, economic, political, cultural and environmental change. Thus, a more nuanced understanding of the various processes and factors underlying the demand, supply, release, and use of open data is crucial.

At the GovLab, we are working to address these information shortcomings through a number of projects and research initiatives. This important new collaboration with Omidyar Network will allow us to address important questions about the availability of open data, how it is used, and what lessons might be drawn to inform the actions of policymakers, activists and others. We are working closely with Becky Hogge (@barefoot_techie), an independent researcher, who is developing an additional six case studies for Omidyar Network – mainly focused on UK and US. Our joined goal is to test the assumptions that permeate the field, and to deepen our understanding of open data’s broader impact.

We are eager to co-develop the case-studies in a user-focused way – seeking to address those questions that matter most to the global open data community, and leveraging the collective intelligence present within the community to curate examples.

Questions: We are currently developing a frame of analysis that can guide how we approach and examine case-studies. What would you like to learn from case studies on open data? What’s missing in current collections on open data impact and use?

Examples: We are also compiling a list of potential examples to serve as an empirical foundation for further case-studies. What examples should we focus on? Ideal cases are those that are:

  • Representative: encompassing a variety of geographies and different use cases. In particular, we are eager to source case studies from the nonprofit sector and from the developing world.
  • Illustrative and explanatory: seeking not only to describe what has happened but also why and how it has happened. Therefore, it is important that there exists sufficient information or documentation to enable in-depth research.
  • Inspirational and replicable: offering actionable guidance for other open data projects around the world. Part of our goal in assembling these case studies is to better understand what works and what does not, and under what conditions to enable others to replicate.

We would love to hear your ideas. Please include them in the comments section below or drop us an email at [email protected] or share your example through #ODIS.


  1. The Impact of Open Data – Initial Findings from Case Studies | Open Data Aha! - November 11, 2015

    […] GovLab’s co-founder and chief of research Stefaan Verhulst will share insights gained from our current collaboration with Omidyar Network on a series of open data case studies. These case studies – 19, in total […]

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