Trying to catch up on reading some new reports on open government that have recently appeared. For those whose "to be read" pile is similarly taller than the "already ready" pile. Here's a quick take on one.
Timothy Vollmer of Creative Commons published the State of Play: Public Sector Information in the United States, an excellent report on open data in the United States as part of the European Public Sector Information Platform series on information re-use.
In it he provides a concise and accurate primer (with footnotes) on the legal and policy framework for open government data in the US. He describes the varied uses for public sector data.
For instance, some view the dissemination and re-use of PSI as a means to increase the transparency and accountability of government. Others view PSI as primarily a means for improving internal government communication and efficiency. Some view PSI as a vehicle for promoting economic activity and innovation. Others are exploring ways for PSI to be used as a means for international diplomacy and global information sharing. Some see PSI as civic capital, working to increase citizen participation in government activities.
Citing to work published by the National Academies he highlights, in particular, the economic benefit to be gained from open government data:
it promotes new types of research and avoids duplication of research, enables the development of tools that can aid in search and discovery of information, promotes transparency and validation of government funded information, maximizes the return on investment for government funded PSI, promotes interoperability between different sets of government information, and supports socioeconomic and good governance.
Vollmer ends with an uplifting Carl-Malamudism that underscores the positive, economic externalities. "Public data is “the raw material of innovation, creating a wealth of business opportunities that drive our economy forward. Government information is a form of infrastructure no less important to our modern life than our roads, electrical grid, or water systems.”
We need more empirical research to draw the connection between open government and a thriving economy. I will be talking more about this when I testify before the Canadian Paliament later this week.