Open Government and Open Data

Open government doctrine holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. In its broadest construction it opposes the use of “national interest” arguments to routinely restrict public access to information and legitimize extensive state secrecy. Open government concepts date from the European Enlightenment debates about the proper construction of the newly emerging democratic society.

Open data is data that is made freely available to everyone in one or more open and accessible (generally digital) formats.  Open data should be available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright or other mechanisms of control. It does not usually include personal information subject to privacy law or protection.

The rationale behind open government data can be considered as twofold. First, advocates contend that making government data available to the public in open formats increases government transparency and accountability. Second, open data should enable third parties to leverage the potential of government data through the development of applications and services that address public and private demands.

Open data is sometimes confused with or merged into the idea of open government. In fact, it is only one aspect of open government, albeit a very important one.

An interesting recent development in open government discussion is the theory of open source governance. It aims to expand application of democratic principles to enable interested citizens to get more directly involved in the legislative process through the free software movement.