Public Open Data: The Good, the Bad, the Future | PBS Idea Lab

New technology tools, combined with raised expectations among voters and stakeholders for government transparency, have sparked a movement toward “open government.” Championed by advocacy organizations and a few high-profile elected officials, the trend seeks to promote greater accountability and responsiveness for the systems of representative democracy. An area of particular opportunity — as well as potential concern — is the growing cache of large datasets of public information now available on the Internet. …

The White House under the Obama administration has been a leader in its approach to transparency and launched the website data.gov in 2009. To date, nearly 100,000 datasets are available on the site. Other countries soon followed: the U.K., Kenya, Brazil, India and more than 30 other countries have created portals for public data. The European Union Open Data Portal offers more than 6,000 datasets from its member countries. International organizations from the UN to the World Bank add their own repositories to the surfeit of online information. The trend is growing also at the state and local level. Chicago apparently boasts the most public datasets (950) among cities. San Francisco has an extensive open data policy and is one of the first cities in the nation to hire a Chief Data Officer.