Enhancing transparency through open government data: the case of data portals and their features and capabilities | Emerald Insight

Abstract:  Purpose

The purpose of this paper was to draw on evidence from computer-mediated transparency and examine the argument that open government data and national data infrastructures represented by open data portals can help in enhancing transparency by providing various relevant features and capabilities for stakeholders’ interactions.


The developed methodology consisted of a two-step strategy to investigate research questions. First, a web content analysis was conducted to identify the most common features and capabilities provided by existing national open data portals. The second step involved performing the Delphi process by surveying domain experts to measure the diversity of their opinions on this topic.


Identified features and capabilities were classified into categories and ranked according to their importance. By formalizing these feature-related transparency mechanisms through which stakeholders work with data sets we provided recommendations on how to incorporate them into designing and developing open data portals.

Social implications

The creation of appropriate open data portals aims to fulfil the principles of open government and enables stakeholders to effectively engage in the policy and decision-making processes.


By analyzing existing national open data portals and validating the feature-related transparency mechanisms, this paper fills this gap in existing literature on designing and developing open data portals for transparency efforts.

On a Mission to Make Federal Data Sets More Useful and Accessible | SPARC

Although government agencies manage massive amounts of information, there is little known about exactly how it is used and by whom: Turns out, there is little data on federal data.

A new effort is underway to leverage artificial intelligence to better track what research is being done with what data. Ultimately, it could result in a data usage scorecard that could make it easier for researchers to find who else has used datasets in similar research, enabling them to reproduce results, advance science, and support government in the push to evidence-based decision making.

“Currently, the only way to find which databases have been used is to try and figure it out from reading  publications – and there are millions,” said Julia Lane, co-founder of the Coleridge Initiative, a nonprofit started in 2018 as a spin off from New York University, where Lane is on faculty. 

By building a modern machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP) approach to find what datasets are used in what publications, agencies can break down barriers to the access and use of public data. “The approach could demonstrate the value of data as a strategic asset,” she says.

New presidential executive orders push the use of evidence to address health, jobs and economic mobility, social justice and climate change issues. But you can’t make evidence bricks without data straw, Lane says: “What we really want to do is figure out to find how the data are used and then how to make it more useful.”


Accurate, open data is crucial to cross-sector grid planning and disaster prevention – Geospatial World

“A particularly promising example of the kind of collective, cross-sector response needed to address this issue comes in the form of utility companies opening grid data up to competitors and even customers. Western Power Distribution has launched an open-access web portal offering detailed data on everything from consumption to generation across its network. The City of London is also working with utility companies to create a combined on-demand digital map of its subterranean pipes and cables where workers can see nearby underground infrastructure on mobile phones or laptop computers before a dig.

Geospatial data on the location and condition of frozen gas pipes could help to protect other underground infrastructure and avert disasters. Data predicting how vegetation growth might impact electricity lines could help a telecoms network operator anticipate potential interference with millimeter waves from nearby 5G antennae. In another example, we are working to integrate IBM Weather Group’s LIDAR and satellite data with geospatial network information to help electrical utilities predict and prevent encroachment on electric transmission and distribution lines….

The trend towards data sharing requires an industry-wide step-change in the capture and curation of data to ensure all companies have a comprehensive, current picture of their networks and use geospatial information systems built around open design principles. This would ensure a consistent standard of network data is captured and shared across the industry. Rich, real-time, and open data can help foster a utility sector built around cooperation that facilitates a higher standard of network resilience despite the challenging environmental issues we face today.”

Call extended: Special Issue: “Co-creation and Participation Fueled by Open Data” | JeDEM – eJournal of eDemocracy and Open Government


In the past decade, a large diversity of policies made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information worldwide. And not only government are openly sharing their data. Companies, researchers and citizens increasingly share the data they have collected with others. 

Governments often justify their efforts to publish open datasets by various arguments ranging from economic effects to broader societal goals, including anecdotal best practice cases. Some countries mainly refer to value creation concerning public participation and co-creation, including Obama’s executive order from 2009. Others stress that opening government datasets is a double-edged sword with rising costs for publishing to be paid by the tax-payer, diminishing public authorities’ possibilities to sell data to generate profits and shift profits to global companies. Companies, researchers and citizens experience various other drivers for sharing their data, although these drivers may also overlap with each other and with those of governments. 

Now, more than ten years after the peak in attention for open data started, the scope of open data research has begun to shift more towards cases of open data use, implementation, and value creation and has slowly shifted towards co-creation and participation. However, much of this co-creation and participation research in the area of open data is anecdotal, and previous research limitedly addresses the topics of co-creation and public participation fueled by open data.  

Special Issue Objectives and Example Topics 

This special issue focuses on selected research that contributes to the theme “co-creation and participation fueled by open data” In this special issue, we consider that more impact can be realized with open data when multiple actors work together to create, provide, and use open data. Especially when the use of open data crosses domains and research disciplines, this might increase the impact of open data. For example, many global societal problems, such as climate change, migration, mobility, and energy transition, require the collaboration of various disciplines to develop appropriate solutions. By combining data derived from multiple thematic areas and combining skills and knowledge from various actors (e.g., researchers, citizens, entrepreneurs, and policymakers), new, innovative insights can be obtained. Examples of this co-creation and participation initiatives fueled by open data are hackathons, innovation contests or joined app development (e.g., Concilio, Molinari, & Morelli, 2017; Juell-Skielse, Hjalmarsson, Johannesson, & Rudmark, 2014; Purwanto, Zuiderwijk, & Janssen, 2019, 2020). 

The special issue will address a broad range of topics that should help readers better understand both the generic and specific aspects of co-creation and participation fueled by open data. It is not merely focused on open government data, but also covers research, business and citizen data. Within this scope, we invite original research papers and theoretical contributions that advance the field of research. We welcome qualitative and quantitative contributions, particularly such that combine rigor and relevance, including critical perspectives. 

Topics may include, but are not limited to: 

Participation and engagement of citizens, companies, and other actors in both open data provision and use; 
Collaborative forms of open data value creation, involving different actors (government, citizens, companies, NGOs, researchers, etc.);  
Governance issues for using open data to address societal problems that cross disciplinary boundaries; 
Quality issues of co-created open data or data collected by citizens; 
Evaluations, models, and frameworks of the political, social, environmental, or economic impact of open data; 
Promising directions and pathways for the improvement of public services utilizing open data through co-creation and participation; 
Evaluations, models, or frameworks addressing the re-usage of open data; 
Assessments of cross-border or cross-domain generic services based on different open data offers;
Best practices, evidence, showcases, and critique of the impact of open data;  
Benefits and challenges of using open data in public services co-creation processes. 

To build an evidence basis for open government data, we invite those interested in the field but unsure whether their work may align with this special issue’s goals to correspond with Anneke Zuiderwijk (a.m.g.zuiderwijk-vaneijk@tudelft.nl). 


August 1, 2021 – extended deadline for submissions  
November 15, 2021 – results from the first round of reviews &  decisions to the authors 
January 15, 2022 – deadline for resubmissions 
February 15, 2022 – edito

Adopt the ODC Principles – International Open Data Charter

“Open data is a tool to enable better and more responsive government—it isn’t an end in itself. Opening data so that anyone can access, use and share it has enabled citizens to better understand how their government is buying services, running elections, and delivering on its commitments, to name just a few examples.

However, all too often open data implementation has happened in a vacuum and as a result is patchy, isn’t always driven by user demand and often depends on the whims of individual political champions. These are the problems that the ODC seeks to tackle.

The ODC’s goal is to embed the culture and practice of openness in governments and autonomous agencies in ways that are resilient to political change. Adopting the ODC Principles brings the following benefits:

Provides a common framework. The ODC principles are the international best practice for how to do open data well. They ensure consistency and ambition within and across different countries, as well as signalling that a government or an autonomous agency is committed to achieving the highest international standards.
Supports government implementing open data projects. Adopting the ODC principles is a statement that a government or autonomous agency seeks to be open and responsive to its citizens. The ODC can connect officials to expertise and the tools they need to help implement open data projects.
Connects with different sectors to turn high level open data principles into practical action. To date, the ODC has worked with experts on anti-corruption, climate change and agriculture to develop guides for how to use open data to help solve the problems these sectors face.
Champions high level commitments for open data in key international fora. The ODC works with governments, autonomous agencies, and institutions such as the G20 and OECD, to build support and political cover for public officials and provide consistency around open data policies….”

Open data, le désenchantement – Un blog pour l’information juridique

From Google’s English:  “The decree publishing the open data calendar for court decisions has just been published in the OJ  [ 1 ] . The French pro-open data movement can triumph, even if the calendar dates were predictable for a long time …

This step in the advance of open data  [ 2 ] in France inspires me with mixed feelings….”

GPO and Libraries Set Goal to Make Every U.S. Government Document Accessible

“The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) is undertaking a massive effort to capture and make publicly accessible every U.S. Government document through the National Collection of U.S. Government Public Information (National Collection). GPO will do this by digitizing documents and making them accessible on govinfo and the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), as well as partnering with Federal depository libraries who serve as stewards for all tangible materials. The National Collection includes all public information products of the U.S. Government. To achieve its vision, GPO will identify, acquire, catalog, disseminate, digitize, make accessible, authenticate, and preserve all Government publications….”

Coleridge Initiative – Show US the Data | Kaggle

“This competition challenges data scientists to show how publicly funded data are used to serve science and society. Evidence through data is critical if government is to address the many threats facing society, including; pandemics, climate change, Alzheimer’s disease, child hunger, increasing food production, maintaining biodiversity, and addressing many other challenges. Yet much of the information about data necessary to inform evidence and science is locked inside publications.

Can natural language processing find the hidden-in-plain-sight data citations? Can machine learning find the link between the words used in research articles and the data referenced in the article?

Now is the time for data scientists to help restore trust in data and evidence. In the United States, federal agencies are now mandated to show how their data are being used. The new Foundations of Evidence-based Policymaking Act requires agencies to modernize their data management. New Presidential Executive Orders are pushing government agencies to make evidence-based decisions based on the best available data and science. And the government is working to respond in an open and transparent way.

This competition will build just such an open and transparent approach. …”

Open Data for Our Shared Future. ODC 2021–2022 Strategy and Work Plan | by Open Data Charter | opendatacharter | Mar, 2021 | Medium

“We at the ODC continue to hope and move toward that shared future, by articulating the norms needed to shift power and abandon the destructive narratives that perpetuate injustices. We already recognise that diversity is a super power that goes hand in hand with principles of openness and we hope our shared future acknowledges this as a default. We are taking steps towards this through our work in targeted policy areas: data rights, anti-corruption, pay equity and climate action. Continuing with our 2020–2021 strategy, we have developed an internal work plan for 2021 with focus and with continued collaborations and, we hope, with new alliances. If strength is in numbers, then it is only with our partners that we can carry out our vision of a shared future with open data….”

Senior Program Manager – Open Data Watch

“Open Data Watch (ODW) is a nonprofit organization promoting open and high-quality development data. ODW works with national statistical offices, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations to increase the availability and impact of development data. ODW monitors and reports on the degree to which countries and agencies have succeeded in implementing open data policies and disseminating their data. Its Open Data Inventory (ODIN) is a widely used measure of the openness of official statistics.

ODW also conducts research and provides guidance to strengthen countries or agencies’ data management and dissemination practices and supports or coordinates partnerships leading to improvements in statistical capacity and support for statistics. ODW has a rich and growing work program on improving the quality and use of gender data as well as civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).

ODW is hiring a Program Manager to work closely with management, team members, partners, and clients on the activities described below. The Program Manager will be responsible for overseeing the achievement of strategic organizational goals, coordinating efforts between different projects, and helping to lead the overall program with strong attention to strategy, implementation, and delegation….”

A reproducible picture of open access… | Wellcome Open Research

Abstract:  Background: Open data on the locations and services provided by health facilities have, in some countries, allowed the development of software tools contributing to COVID-19 response. The UN and WHO encourage countries to make health facility location data open, to encourage use and improvement. We provide a summary of open access health facility location data in Africa using re-useable R code. We aim to support data analysts developing software tools to address COVID-19 response in individual countries. In Africa there are currently three main sources of such open data; 1) direct from national ministries of health, 2) a database for sub-Saharan Africa collated and published by a team from KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and now hosted by WHO, and 3) The Global Healthsites Mapping Project in collaboration with OpenStreetMap.     

Methods: We searched for and documented official national facility location data that were openly available. We developed re-useable open-source R code to summarise and visualise facility location data by country from the three sources. This re-useable code is used to provide a web user interface allowing data exploration through maps and plots of facility type.

Results: Out of 52 African countries, seven currently provide an official open facility list that can be downloaded and analysed reproducibly. Considering all three sources, there are over 185,000 health facility locations available for Africa. However, there are differences and overlaps between sources and a lack of data on capacities and service provision.

Conclusions: These summaries and software tools can be used to encourage greater use of existing health facility location data, incentivise further improvements in the provision of those data by national suppliers, and encourage collaboration within wider data communities. The tools are a part of the afrimapr project, actively developing R building blocks to facilitate the use of health data in Africa.

Balancing Privacy With Data Sharing for the Public Good – The New York Times

“This data protection agency could be combined with Data.gov, a government website created in 2009 that assembles and hosts hundreds of thousands of data sets for public use. Together they could form a kind of federal data library, democratizing knowledge for the digital age.

Just as traditional libraries curate and organize their collections, so could a digital library, adding new data sources and cleaning and assembling them for public use. A federal data library could also take the lead in developing and using new tools such as differential privacy, a technique designed to preserve important features of data while protecting individual identities.

Data’s increasing value as an economic resource requires a new way of thinking. Strict privacy protections are needed to make socially valuable data available for the public good.”

About Open Data | data.gov.au – beta

“Quite simply, open data is information that anyone can find, explore and reuse.

A vast amount of this data is collected during the course of normal government activities, including service delivery, research or administration.

Open data, by definition, should be freely available, easily discoverable, anonymous, accessible and published in ways and with licences that allow reuse.

By releasing this information in a central location – on data.gov.au – it’s now easy to find, explore and reuse.

Examples of how open data is used include creating an app, doing research, in support of evidence-based decision making, developing a business plan for creating goods or services, or simply to improve knowledge and understanding of social, economic and environmental trends.

Government open data does not hold any private or sensitive information as the data is anonymised prior to release.  This is done to ensure the highest privacy standards are met, and security is not breached….”

The SHRUG; Development Data Lab

“The Socioeconomic High-resolution Rural-Urban Geographic Platform for India (SHRUG) is a geographic platform that facilitates data sharing between researchers working on India. It is an open access repository currently comprising dozens of datasets covering India’s 500,000 villages and 8000 towns using a set of a common geographic identifiers that span 25 years….”

Development Data Lab

“Data limitations are a major constraint on good policy in developing countries. The sample surveys conventionally used for development policy and research are sparse, geographically imprecise, and weakly integrated. We collect many new kinds of data, including measures of well-being generated from satellite images, data exhaust from government programs, and archival administrative records not previously used for policy design. Our open data platform (the SHRUG) seamlessly stitches these data sources together, making it one of India’s first high-resolution geographic frameworks for socioeconomic analysis.

Our research uses cutting edge econometric and machine learning tools to generate policy-relevant insights that would be difficult to arrive at using other data sources. We focus on understanding how people born into poverty can live fulfilling and productive lives—and which policies and programs can help them do so….”