This week, as part of the Serbian open data week, I participated in a panel discussion, talking about international developments and experiences. This is one part of a multi-posting overview of my speaking notes.
On the fragmentation of community, and the withdrawal into sectors
When open data was in the phase where it was mostly about awareness raising, it was also very much an internationally connected network of people involved. They would meet up regularly at various pan-European events, and frequently exchange experiences. It seems to me that has changed, and that broad network has fragmented. I realize this is caused by the need to focus on actual projects and implementation work, and also by open data becoming more common place. That open data has become a more routine part of various other work and initiatives means also open data is becoming a point of discussion in events not centered on open data. It is a sign of increasing maturity, but we’re also losing something.
The fragmentation of the European network of people interested in open data, means we all are generally less aware of what is happening elsewhere, the solutions others find in overcoming organizational barriers to openness, the ways other groups find valuable ways to use open data etc. It can also mean stakeholders don’t realize opportunities or solutions are within their reach, and have already been done elsewhere. This then means a reduction in the agency of those stakeholders, while the stated intent of opening data is to increase that very same agency.
There are many active open data efforts in many countries, and it is now usually a more integral part of how various sectors organise themselves. In the geo sector as well as e.g. in journalism awareness of data is alive and well. Next month e.g. there’s the International Journalism Festival, and at least one panel there focuses on data (Titled “conversations with data”). Within data journalism there is currently more focus on investigative work, and that usually means it’s not focused on openly available data as much. In other sectors we see similar things. In academic research circles that depend on shared infrastructure (think the LHC at CERN in Geneva, or radio telescopes), data sharing is common too. In other research circles data awareness may be less developed yet. Archiving is another sector where attention for data has become commonplace. However all those efforts are less connected to general open data efforts, and less part of a shared understanding or narrative. This reduces the potential re-use of eachother’s insights and experiences and again diminishes the speed of development and overall impact.