Is there any connection between how governments manage their Open Data policies and the political and social context in which they work? This question is the central thesis of a paper titled “Opportunities and Differences of Open Government Data Policies in Europe”, which was published in the Athens Journal of Social Sciences in July 2014.
Written by Giuseppe Reale (University of Catana), the article tries to identify correlations between the social and political context of a country or a region and the way governments open, or fail to open, public data.
The author has worked on a comparative analysis of different surveys, like The Open Data Barometer and an OECD survey. His analysis revealed several interesting findings. Typically, since 2013, 56% of OECD countries have a national strategy on Open Data, the document said. But 42% have adopted Open Data in only a few areas, while 4% “currently lack a strategy about Open Data”.
Liberal market economies are considered by the author as the “first movers” towards the openness of data, and the number of open datasets is higher in those countries. However, the rate is lower in Mediterranean countries.
Among other findings, citizen participation through the Web (online consultation and voting) is less developed in some European countries, with the majority of them below the OECD average (according to Eurostat 2013 figures). The author said that “European civil society is less prepared for Open Data policies and for a new relationship with public administration 2.0”. But on the contrary, based on the 2013 Open Data Barometer, Europe has the highest rank in the number of Open Government initiatives and in government support for Open Data.
Mediterranean vs liberal economies
The analysis also shows a gap between liberal market economies and Mediterranean countries regarding Open Data policies and eParticipation, but this can be explained by the context and the cultural background. “The liberal market economies like the UK seem to have an institutional advantage for Open Government Data (OGD) initiatives thanks to a higher level of computer literacy and a higher level of development of the ICT sector, together with a strong tradition of consumerist movement and a high level of consumer protection”.
On the other side, “the overall shortage in the performance of all the Mediterranean countries in the continent” is linked to the internal structure of the countries, the author said. Within this context, the article mentions “a familistic welfare system and a familistic management of companies, an economic system based more on low productivity sectors”, a “lack of transparency”, and “the high level of political ambiguity in these areas”.