Open data policies

The following post is an excerpt from my thesis entitled Linked open data for public sector information.
Principles describe goals that cover what should be achieved. The goals need to be linked to ways how to accomplish them. It needs to be clear how to implement goals and thus translate principles into action.
For this purpose, policies are made. They represent a pragmatic use of principles, prescribing requirements for behaviour and resulting actions. Priciples need to be distilled into policies, in order to provide direct guidance and practical steps to be taken by their implementers. Policies should supplement principles with motivations. They should explain their objectives along with their prospective outcomes. The motivations should be underlaid with benefits to be yielded or sanctions to be imposed on those disobeying the policy.
Another motivation to make public data more accessible and usable was presented in the research paper Government data and the invisible hand [1]. The proposal suggested that there should be a policy requiring public bodies to access their data in the same way the public may access them: “The policy route to realizing this principle is to require that federal government Web sites retrieve their published data using the same infrastructure that they have made available to the public” [Ibid., p. 170].
Compliance with policies must be reviewable. Control mechanisms, such as performance indicators or tests, should be designed in order to determine if sanctions should be applied. A contact person must be designated to respond to people trying to use the data and address the complaints about violations of the principles embodied in open data policies. Open data policies were generally made in the last few years, however, the term “open data” appeared in a policy context several years before. Harlan Yu reports the earliest “open data policy” to be from the 1970s [2, p. 8]. It was a US science policy that insisted on NASA partners to have an “open-data policy comparable to that of NASA [...] particularly with respect to the public availability of data”.
Policies may be issued at different levels of the public sector, either at the level of state government or by local administrations. An example of an open data policy is the Open Government Directive from Barack Obama’s administration in the US, which ordered all agencies in the public sector to publish their non-classified datasets on the Web [3].


  1. ROBINSON, David G.; YU, Harlan; ZELLER, William P.; FELTEN, Edward W. Government data and the invisible hand. Yale Journal of Law & Technology. 2009, vol. 11, p. 160 — 175.
  2. YU, Harlan; ROBINSON, David G. The new ambiguity of “open government” [online]. Princeton CITP / Yale ISP Working Paper. Draft of February 28th, 2012. Available from WWW: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2012489
  3. ORSZAG, Peter R. Open government directive. M-10-06. Memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies. Washington: Executive Office of the President, December 8th, 2009. Also available from WWW: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-06.pdf

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