Open data or what?

August 14, 2011

Another recent paper on #opendata, this time from the Public Policy & Governance Review, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 2011, by Justin Longo entitled “#OpenData: Digital-Era Governance Thoroughbred or New Public Management Trojan Horse”. This paper (following my previous post –Open, and better, data) also presents an alternative view of ‘open data’, identifying a further downside. Since I think it’s important that we don’t keep seeing ‘open data’, social media or whatever as the latest silver (blank) bullet to follow e-government, it’s another paper I’d like to bring to wider attention.

The paper identifies three main benefits to open data, in that it can permit third-party developed services, that it opens the evidence base to public view and improves transparency and accountability of both politicians and public servants. However, the paper takes pains to warn us that ‘open data’ for some advocates may be a way of bringing back elements of New Public Management (NPM), which is now more widely  accepted as a mistake, although there are still plenty of supporters amongst those managers who were brought up to believe in its values. In contrast, NPM is accepted by many to have made government increasingly complex, less efficient and stifled innovation within the public sector, whilst the use of ‘open data’ can be employed to increase competition, along with citizen involvement, and to demonstrate performance issues, some of the ideals of NPM supporters.

I suggested in a post in 2009 that NPM might return in another guise – “Au revoir NPM“, and this more recent paper indicates that this may be happening, but may result in a conflict with the more current model of Digital-Era Governance.