Impacts of open data: accountability

The following post is an excerpt from my thesis entitled Linked open data for public sector information.
Transparency feeds into accountability. “In the world of big data correlations surface almost by themselves. Access to data creates a culture of accountability” [1]. Open data enables to hold politicians accountable by comparing their promises with data showing how are their promises put into practice. For example, unfavourable audit results based on open data may cause a politician not being reelected.
Public scrutiny of governmental data may reveal fraud or abuse of public funds. Given the availability of public data everyone may check out, we may see a rise of the so-called “armchair auditing.” In the same way, it improves the function of “watchdog” institutions, such as non-governmental organizations dedicated to overseeing government transparency. In this way, open data increases civic engagement leading to a more participatory democracy and better democratic control.
Open data enables to apply crowdsourcing to monitor institutions and their performance, which is described in the data. Rufus Pollock illustrated the opportunities of leveraging citizen feedback by saying that “to many eyes all anomalies are noticeable,” in which he paraphrased the quote “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” by Linus Torvalds. Accordingly, releasing data to the public allows to get the data verified or inspected for quality for free.


  1. Data, data everywhere. Economist. February 25th, 2010. Also available from WWW: http://www.economist.com/node/15557443

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