Challenges of open data: trust

The following post is an excerpt from my thesis entitled Linked open data for public sector information.
Transparency brought about by the adoption of open data affects the trust in the public sector. Current governments experience a crisis of legitimacy [1, p. 58] and lack the trust of citizens. Improved visibility of the workings of public sector bodies established by the open access to their proceedings enables to track their actions in detail and improves the trust citizens put in the bodies. Nevertheless, the release of open data may reveal many fallacies of public sector bodies, which may produce a temporary disillusion, distrust in government, and loss of interest in politics [2].
The initial assumption of most open data advocates is that the data made in the public sector may be relied on. However, the public sector data cannot be treated as neutral and uncontested resource. “Unaudited, unverfied statistics abound in government data, particularly when outside parties-local government agencies, federal lobbyists, campaign committees-collect the data and turn it over to the government” [1, p. 261]. False data may be fabricated to provide alibi for corruption behaviour. For instance, Nithya Raman draws attention to an Indian dataset on urban planning in which non-existent public toilets are present, so that the spending, that supposedly goes for the toilets’ maintenance, may be justified [3]. Another example that demonstrates how false data is contained with the public sector data is the exposure of errors in subsidies awarded by the EU Common Agricultural Policy. The data shows that the oldest recipients of these funds, coming from Sweden, were 100 years old, though both dead [4, p. 85].
In the light of such facts, it is important to acknowledge that “public confidence in the veracity of government-published information is critical to Open Government Data take-off, essential to spurring demand and use of public datasets” [5]. If the data is regarded as manipulated instead of being recognized as trustworthy, the impact of open data will be significantly diminished.


  1. LATHROP, Daniel; RUMA, Laurel (eds.). Open government: collaboration, transparency, and participation in practice. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, 2010. ISBN 978-0-596-80435-0.
  2. FIORETTI, Marco. Open data, open society: a research project about openness of public data in EU local administration [online]. Pisa, 2010 [cit. 2012-03-10]. Available from WWW: http://stop.zona-m.net/2011/01/the-open-data-open-society-report-2/
  3. RAMAN, Nithya V. Collecting data in Chennai city and the limits of openness. Journal of Community Informatics [online]. 2012 [cit. 2012-04-12], vol. 8, no. 2. Available from WWW: http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/877/908. ISSN 1712-4441.
  4. Beyond access: open government data & the right to (re)use public information [online]. Access Info Europe, Open Knowledge Foundation, January 7th, 2011 [cit. 2012-04-15]. Available from WWW: http://www.access-info.org/documents/Access_Docs/Advancing/Beyond_Access_7_January_2011_web.pdf
  5. GIGLER, Bjorn-Soren; CUSTER, Samantha; RAHEMTULLA, Hanif. Realizing the vision of open government data: opportunities, challenges and pitfalls [online]. World Bank, 2011 [cit. 2012-04-11]. Available from WWW: http://www.scribd.com/WorldBankPublications/d/75642397-Realizing-the-Vision-of-Open-Government-Data-Long-Version-Opportunities-Challenges-and-Pitfalls

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