The multiple meanings of open government data: Understanding different stakeholders and their perspectives

December 06, 2016 by Felipe Gonzalez-Zapata, Richard Heeks

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As a field of practice and research that is fast-growing and a locus for much attention and activity, open government data (OGD) has attracted stakeholders from a variety of origins. They bring with them a variety of meanings for OGD. The purpose of this paper is to show how the different stakeholders and their different perspectives on OGD can be analyzed in a given context. Taking Chile as an OGD exemplar, stakeholder analysis is used to identify and categorize stakeholder groups in terms of their relative power and interest as either primary (in this case, politicians, public officials, public sector practitioners, international organizations) or secondary (civil society activists, funding donors, ICT providers, academics). Stakeholder groups sometimes associated with OGD but absent from significant involvement in Chile – such as private sector- and citizen-users – are also identified. Four different perspectives on open government data – bureaucratic, political, technological, and economic – are identified from a literature review. Template analysis is used to analyze text – OGD-related reports, conference presentations, and interviews in Chile – in terms of those perspectives. This shows bureaucratic and political perspectives to be more dominant than the other two, and also some presence for a politico-economic perspective not identified from the original literature review. The information value chain is used to identify a “missing middle” in current Chilean OGD perspectives: a lack of connection between a reality of data provision and an aspiration of developmental results. This pattern of perspectives can be explained by the capacities and interests of key stakeholders, with those in turn being shaped by Chile's history, politics, and institutions. Overall, stakeholder analysis and perspectives analysis are shown from this case to be workable techniques for OGD that add value by exposing the identity, power, motivations, and worldview of key actors. They provide a necessary foundation of knowledge for both researchers and practitioners who need to understand the different meanings of OGD in any particular context.