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Frustrated with Government Open Data Anecdotes?


March 27, 2013

Me too

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Government open data advocates are shooting themselves in their collective feet. Skeptics suggest that there is little value in some, many or all open data initiatives. These pragmatists and curmudgeons demand to see the Return on Investment (ROI) calculation.

What do they get from open data advocates?

Anecdotes. Often the same anecdotes.

I had intended to review a recent study on open data. But, it’s just a bunch of attractive pictures with anecdotes. Some anecdotes stretch to an entire page and are presented as “case studies”.

A page does not a case study make.

I also got the impression that the information was stretched out to fill the page. Of course, with just enough information to determine that the conclusions are dubious.

Towards Rigour in Open Data Value

What are the dimensions of open data return? This is important because we need a theoretical basis for testing ROI recognizing that the calculations of the past are built on some measures that may be obsolete. I’ve proposed a framework for calculating this primarily for external to government value. My friend Dennis McDonald has proposed a framework more focused on internal government value . And, FreeBalance has created a structure that links back-office and front-office government initiatives to governance value .

I think that it’s time to take these frameworks for a spin. Let’s see what the numbers say. Let’s question and learn. Let’s help early adopters to measure risk and return.

Towards Pattern Recognition

Don’t get me wrong, open data anecdotes are not useless. They provide patterns. The patterns could demonstrate where early market effectiveness is highest by comparing:

  • Local vs. national government initiatives
  • Government-driven vs. citizen driven initiatives
  • Public financial management domains: budgets, procurement, human resources, revenue etc.
  • Information types, standards and accessibility
  • Regions, digital penetration, political systems and human capacity
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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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