Transparency in government is often credited with generating government accountability and allowing citizens of a democracy to control their government, reducing government corruption, bribery and other malfeasance. Some commentators contend that an open, transparent government allows for the dissemination of information, which in turn helps produce greater knowledge and societal progress.
Open government is the governing axiom implying that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow effective public oversight. In its broadest construction, it opposes reason of state and other considerations, which have tended to legitimize extensive state secrecy. The roots of open government arguments can be dated to the time of the â€˜European Enlightenmentâ€™: to debates about the proper construction of a then nascent democratic society.
The contemporary doctrine of open government finds its strongest advocates in those non-governmental organisations keen to counter what they see as the inherent tendency of government to lapse, whenever possible, into secrecy. Prominent among these NGOs are bodies like Transparency International or the Open Society Institute. They advocate the implementation of norms of openness and transparency across the globe and argue that such standards are vital to the ongoing prosperity and development of democratic societies. Public and private sector platforms provide an avenue for citizens to engage while offering access to transparent information that citizens have come to expect.
Open data segues into and is the easiest tool for an open government setup. It is tangible, useful and advocates tout free government data as one of the worldâ€™s great resources for catalyzing innovation and economic growth. Â Providing people with raw and unfettered data shows not only what government is doing but on what data is valuable in the decision making process. Releasing data also provides people access to data.
According to theÂ Open Data BarometerÂ that aims at uncovering the true prevalence and impact of open data initiatives around the world, Â Open data is still in its infancy. Less than five years after major Open Government Data (OGD) portal went live, hundreds of national and local governments have established OGD portals, joined by international institutes, NGOs, businesses- all exploring as to how open data system can unlock latent value, stimulate innovation and increase transparency and accountability.
The report, which also marks the first large-scale research collaboration between the Open Data Institute and the World Wide Web Foundation states that at the end of the last decade few governments had engaged with the idea of open data and the number of OGD initiatives could be counted on one hand. By mid-2013 the concept of OGD has spread across the globe. There are now OGD portals and projects to be found on every continent, and in an increasing number of cities and international institutions. Open data has made it into strategies and actions plans at the highest levels, from Open Government Partnership National Action Plans, to the G8 Open Data Charter, and from initiatives on open data in Aid, Extractives and Agriculture to the UN High Level Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which calls for a â€˜data revolutionâ€™ incorporating a move towards open data.
However, amongst this dramatic progress, diffusion of the open data idea has not been equally experienced across geographies and sectors; nor have the potential benefits of open data been locked-in. There is still a long way to go before the democratic, social and economic potentials of open data can be fully realised in every country.
Back home, Indiaâ€™s Open Government Data initiative has built upon the introduction of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), and has led to the launch of the data.gov.in portal. The initiative is notable for publically announcing â€˜data controllersâ€™ for government ministries and departments, offering citizens and entrepreneurs a direct channel to data holders in various departments, rather than routing all communications with government through a central portal.