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.