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Who Does it Best When it Comes to Open Data?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, October 29 2013

Screenshot of 2013 Open Data Index

To coincide with the Open Government Partnership Summit in London—which Susannah Vila and Christopher Wilson of engine room are live-blogging for techPresident this week—the Open Knowledge Foundation has released the 2013 Open Data Index, the first major assessment of open government data worldwide. The Index is based on community surveys in 70 countries, and ranks countries based on availability and accessibility of data in ten categories, including government spending, election results and pollution levels. The United Kingdom came out on top, followed by the United States; Cyprus is way behind, scoring a mere 30 points compared to the United Kingdom's 940.

Some countries are surely much worse when it comes to open data than even Cyprus but were not assessed “because of lack of openness or a sufficiently engaged civil society.” Among those countries omitted from the Index are 30 members of the Open Government Partnership.

Even countries that rank relatively high fall short at making data not only accessible, but available to re-use and redistribute.

“Less than half of the key datasets in the top 20 countries are available to re-use as open data,” according to the press release, “showing that even the leading countries do not fully understand the importance of citizens and businesses being able to legally and technically use, reuse and redistribute data.”

In September, techPresident covered what might be a new era of open data in the United Kingdom. (Even if it's not a “new era,” judging by the Open Data Index, the United Kingdom is doing something right.) A key part of the initiative is asking what data is most important to UK citizens—determining “core departmental data.”

TechPresident has also previously addressed that it is not always what data is released but how. Ideally data sets should be clean, well organized, complete, and in a machine readable format that makes it easy to reuse and republish.

Another area in which many of the countries in the Index fall short is company data:

There is a very disappointing degree of openness of company registers across the board: only 5 out of the 20 leading countries have even basic information available via a truly open licence, and only 10 allow any form of bulk download. This information is critical for range of reasons - including tackling tax evasion and other forms of financial crime and corruption.

In this category, governments are being shown up by OpenCorporates, which has launched a platform for collecting, organizing and visualizing corporate data.

For more detailed information on specific countries, check out the full Open Data Index.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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