Sustainable Value of Open Government Data: Uncovering the Generative Mechanisms of Open Data through a Mixed Methods Approach

December 06, 2016 by Thorhildur Jetzek

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The impact of the digital revolution on our societies can be compared to the ripples caused by a stone thrown in water: spreading outwards and affecting a larger and larger part of our lives with every year that passes. One of the many effects of this revolution is the emergence of an already unprecedented amount of digital data that is accumulating exponentially. Moreover, a central affordance of digitization is the ability to distribute, share and collaborate, and we have thus seen an “open theme” gaining currency in recent years. These trends are reflected in the explosion of Open Data Initiatives (ODIs) around the world. However, while hundreds of national and local governments have established open data portals, there is a general feeling that these ODIs have not yet lived up to their true potential. This feeling is not without good reason; the recent Open Data Barometer report highlights that strong evidence on the impacts of open government data is almost universally lacking (Davies, 2013). This lack of evidence is disconcerting for government organizations that have already expended money on opening data, and might even result in the termination of some ODIs. This lack of evidence also raises some relevant questions regarding the nature of value generation in the context of free data and sharing of information over networks. Do we have the right methods, the right intellectual tools, to understand and reflect the value that is generated in such ecosystems?