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Press release: Open Data Barometer

Berners-Lee tells world leaders: deliver transparency by backing open data policies with action


New research by World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data Institute shows that 55% of countries surveyed have open data initiatives in place, yet less than 10% of key government datasets across the world are truly open to the public


London, UK. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has called on world leaders to back talk on transparency and accountability with action - by ensuring that important data which may be politically sensitive is not excluded from open data initiatives.  According to Berners-Lee, this is essential to ensure that Open Government Data programs deliver their potential, which includes fighting poverty, accelerating industry and innovation, and reducing corruption.  


Sir Tim’s call to action came ahead of a speech at the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London, where he is unveiling a new report - the Open Data Barometer. This 77-country study, which considers the interlinked areas of policy, implementation and impact, ranks the UK at number one. The USA, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark and Norway (tied) make up the rest of the top five. Kenya is ranked as the most advanced developing country, outperforming richer countries such as Ireland and Belgium in global comparisons.   


The Barometer reveals that:

  • 55% of countries surveyed have formal open data policies in place.

  • Valuable but potentially controversial datasets - such as company registers and land registers - are among the least likely to be openly released. It is unclear whether this stems from reluctance to drop lucrative access charges, or from desire to keep a lid on politically sensitive information, or both. However, the net effect is to severely limit the accountability benefits of open data.

  • When they are released, government datasets are often issued in inaccessible formats. Across the nations surveyed, fewer that than 1 in 10 key datasets that could be used to hold governments to account, stimulate enterprise, and promote better social policy, are available and truly open for re-use.


The research also makes the case that:


  • Efforts should be made to empower civil society, entrepreneurs and members of the public to use government data made available, rather than simply publishing data online.

  • Business activity and innovation can be boosted by strong open data policies.  In Denmark, for example, free of charge access to address data has had a significant economic impact. In 2010, an evaluation recorded an estimated financial benefit to society of EUR 62 million against costs of EUR 2million.


Commenting on the Open Data Barometer,Sir Tim said:


“It is important that efforts to open up data and information are meaningful and lead to real change.  Governments and companies must not shy away from publishing contentious datasets if they contain information that could be used to dramatically improve people's lives.  The open data movement has made a promising start, but many Open Government Data initiatives are presently resting on shallow foundations, at risk of falling backwards if political will or pressure from campaigners subside.

José M. Alonso, Open Data Program Manager at the World Wide Web Foundation said:

‘The aim of the Open Data Barometer is to ensure open data initiatives deliver real improvements to people’s lives. This in-depth research highlights that even in developed countries, much more must be done to deliver on the true potential of open data. The Barometer also helps identify why developing countries are lagging behind, how the gap can be closed, and how open data can be used to bring about positive change in developing countries, learning from some of the mistakes made in the past.


Gavin Starks, CEO of The Open Data Institute said:


“It’s great that the UK is ahead on the global league tables for open data -- but there is much more to do. We see many countries making progress towards opening up their data. Harnessing the collective energy of the international community will unlock social, economic and environmental benefits, for everyone. Just this week, we announced the ODI will be collaborating with 13 international partners to catalyse open data development.”


Full data set available at: www.opendatabarometer.org




Notes to Editors


1) The full report, ‘Open Data Barometer – 2013 global report’ is available to view here:www.opendatabarometer.org.  All the data, and methodologies, underlying this report will be available under an open license at www.opendatabarometer.org - shared to support further analysis, deeper discussion of open data research methods, and deeper exploration of the global state of open data policy and practice.


2) Established by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web Foundation (webfoundation.org) seeks to establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right, creating a world where everyone, everywhere can use the Web to communicate, collaborate and innovate freely. Using a combination of research, advocacy and networking, the World Wide Web Foundation tackles difficult issues such as affordability, online freedoms and transparency head-on, informing debates and driving progress that will unlock the true potential of the Web.  


3) The Open Data Institute ((http://theodi.org) was founded by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, Limited by Guarantee company. Catalysing the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value, the ODI unlocks supply, generates demand and disseminates knowledge to address local and global issues.


4) Details about the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit are available to view here:http://www.opengovpartnership.org/get-involved/london-summit-2013

Over 1,000 delegates from over 60 countries will come together in London from 31 October to 1 November 2013 for the summit.



Contacts:  Dillon Mann, Senior Communications Adviser, World Wide Web Foundation

dillon@webfoundation.org / + 44 203 289 7261 / Twitter: @dillonmann


Gabe Trodd, Communications Adviser, World Wide Web Foundation


gabe@webfoundation.org / +44 20 7193 8042  / Skype: gabe784