The ideological function of open data

I was at an interesting symposium on Big Data hosted by Sage earlier this year where a number of participants discussed the limitations on implementation of the government’s open data initiative: data is often published in an unhelpful or even outright unusable format. A number of people suggested that there were structural reasons for this, from a lack of awareness of the data they have through to a lack of expertise in the civil service.

But reading Shadow State, by Alan White, it strikes me that these structural impediments must be read in an ideological context. Open data is bound up in the marketisation of public services under the sign of ‘transparency’. From loc 4050:

The government will tell you that this is part of an ongoing process to ‘push’ all the data out to the public: the former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said he wanted to remove the need for Freedom of Information by using open data. His successor, Matt Hancock, has argued that open data not only gives more transparency and accountability, but can be used to improve the performance of public services, citing the way that publishing contract data allowed one of his officials to spot ‘£4 million in savings in just ten minutes’.


Categories: Digital Sociology

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