Open Gov / Open Data initiatives are more relevant in a national context than at an international level. This was the motion for the third debate that took place on 21 May 2013 during Diplo’s E-Participation Webinar.
The recording of this debate is available here.
Opposing the motion, Tim Davies (Open Data Research Network) argued that:
Open data is key to solving global problems such as climate change, fair taxation and the Millenium Development Goals. This is where we will see the greatest benefit of open data and where we should be focusing our attention.
To understand climate change we need data from a variety of different actors, including international institutions, governments and the private sector.
Open standards have already facilitated transparency of international aid by combining data from a large number of donors.
National initiatives are good but insufficient - for example, budget data for one country might be represented in a very different way to budget data from another, with different classification, categories, etc.
Global standards allow a wider range of actors to get involved. We need to support a true multi-stakeholder approach rather than delegating the problem to international institutions such as OECD or the World Bank.
Open data is already being driven at the International level by G8, World Bank and Open Government Partnership. It is important to have plurality of actors and data.
Supporting the motion, Jovan Kurbalija (Diplo) argued that:
Too much hype and international exposure can raise unrealistic expectations. This was the case with the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. The failure of this conference set climate-change negotiations back three years.
Open data is currently linked to national context and is operating in a bottom-up manner. If open data is brought prematurely into the international arena it could lose its cultural context and suffer negative consequences. An example of this was cited in a study on openly available crime statistics. When residents realized that high reported levels of crime were depressing property prices in their neighbourhoods they dramatically curtailed the crimes that were reported.
International organisations have specific dynamics and culture. Governments are highly sensitive to their reputation and standing. There is a need to get government buy-in on a national level before moving to the international level.
Some comments from the Live-chat:
The open government and open data initiatives are relevant in a national context as well as in international level, because the relevance based on national context keeps the same brightness at the international level
How can you aim to have an impact of opengov/open date in the global context when there are significant shortcomings on the local and even national level - should we build step-by-step?
On the question of step by step, i think all levels should weigh in. Let local/national levels play out alongside international. Why? Although they all inter-relate, they have different needs/approaches
true, but wasn't it the development of open gov data initiatives in certain countries that led to more national efforts and can't international efforts help address ethical issues around the use of open gov data. success lies in community use of it, so I think the 2 can still complement each other.
The result of the vote was as follows:
In summary, the debate was very close with neither side being able to swing it in their favour. The high number of undecided voters suggest that more information is needed on the topic.
We look forward to more discussion and case studies on open data at the E-Participation Day on 19 June 2013. Panelists will talk about open-data initiatives, the World We Want campaign to crowd-source post-2015 Development Goals and present a variety of citizen engagement projects.