Open data for public sector information

The following post is an excerpt from my thesis entitled Linked open data for public sector information.
Like data in general, public sector information seems to be predisposed to be opened. The key argument in favour for opening up public sector information is that this information belongs to the public. Joseph Stiglitz, a noted economist, writes: “[...] Who owns the information? Is it the private province of the government official, or does it belong to the public at large? I would argue that information gathered by public officials at public expense is owned by the public – just as the chairs and buildings and other physical assets used by government belong to the public” [1, p. 7]. Collection and maintenance of public sector data is paid for from public funds derived from tax incomes. Therefore, the data should be treated as a public good, which enables equal levels of access and use not only to the public sector officials, but to every citizen as well. In other words, paraphrasing an Internet meme, “All your data are belong to us” [2, p. 241].
The public owns the public sector data and demands it to be openly available [3]. In 2010, survey by Socrata showed that there was a strong support for open data in the public sector [4]. It showed that 92.6 % of civil servant would commit to open data and that 67.2 % of citizens agreed with opening up of public sector data. The interest of citizens in data from the public sector may also be illustrated by the existence of community alternatives to public sector data [5]. For example, the demand for geo-spatial data may demonstrated by the projects like OpenStreetMap, for which volunteers are “re-engineering” the data that should have been provided by the public sector.
Given the predispositions of public sector information to being opened, the demand for it, and the technologies that make it possible to be opened, one may expect an increase in activity in this domain. Open data in the public sector went from being a niche cause to being pervasive in the whole world. Now, there is over a hundred initiatives opening up data in the public sector world-wide [6], building up to a global, networked data infrastructure.


  1. STIGLITZ, Joseph E. On liberty, the right to know, and public discourse: the role of transparency in public life. Oxford Amnesty Lecture. Oxford (UK), 1999. Also available from WWW:
  2. LATHROP, Daniel; RUMA, Laurel (eds.). Open government: collaboration, transparency, and participation in practice. Sebastopol: O'Reilly, 2010. ISBN 978-0-596-80435-0.
  3. ARTHUR, Charles; CROSS, Michael. Give us back our crown jewels. Guardian [online]. March 9th, 2006 [cit. 2012-03-09]. Available from WWW: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/mar/09/education.epublic
  4. Socrata. 2010 open government data benchmark study [online]. Version 1.4. Last updated January 4th, 2011 [cit. 2012-04-07]. Available from WWW:
  5. 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/
  6. DAVIES, Tim; BAWA, Zainab Ashraf. The promises and perils of open government data (OGD). 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/929/926. ISSN 1712-4441.

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