Open data refers to the idea of having certain data freely available for people to republish and use as they wish (Open Government Data, n.d). There are no restrictions like patents, mechanism control, or copyright placed on the person using the data. Open data is mainly aimed at allowing governments to share their information with the public. This brings about Open Government Data that refers to any data commissioned or produced by a government that can be freely used, redistributed, and reused by anyone. For data to be considered open, it should be readily available and the person requiring the data should not have to make a request (Bedini et al.). The advancement of the internet and World Wide Web has pushed for open government data. The advancements made on the internet have allowed people from across the world to access data without having to visit any government office physically. Open data allows citizens to download, fill out forms, and submit the forms online (Sheridan & Tennison, 2010). This reduces the amount of time-wasted visiting a government office. The premise of open data is that a person should get the data when they want or need it without having to visit a government office and make a request. There is increased transparency and accountability when government data is made available.
When open data is usable, useful, and used, it becomes open knowledge. Some of the key features that indicate openness of data are reuse and redistribution, universal participation, and availability and access. Austria launched its open government data in 2011, while Germany launched theirs in 2013. Austria discovered earlier on that the only way to ensure that its data was freely accessible was to implement a creative commons license, which only required the person redistributing the data to attribute the government (Park, 2011). This way anyone could use the data provided they acknowledged the source of the data. Germany, on the other hand, has been faced with problems, as its data is not as open as expected. There are some data that people have to request or pay for before they can gain access. This goes against the spirit of open data.
The type of data found in the open data repositories
According to the open knowledge foundation, there are different kinds of data that a government could make available for use and redistribution. With a restriction on any data that would violate a person's privacy. Any personal data should not be included in open data. Any data considered to be of a sensitive nature should not be readily available under open data. This would guard against the misuse of such data. The data recommended and suggested to be included in open government data is cultural, finance, statistics, environment, weather, science, and transport data. Cultural data will contain all the data regarding the cultural works and artifacts within a country. It will also include galleries, museums, and archive locations. Financial data includes revenue and expenditure accounts for the government. Financial market data could also be included under financial data. Data regarding the performance of a country's stock market should be provided and updated daily to reflect the current market rates for bonds, stocks and shares. Statistical data will consist of any statistical data produced by the different government bodies. Census data, traffic statistics, and socioeconomic indicators are just some examples. Environment data is vital as it provides information regarding the environment. Information regarding the quality of rivers, lakes, and seas and the level of pollution in different areas would be beneficial to the citizens. Scientific data is any data produced from scientific research. Transport data will include routes, time schedules for the different transport systems, transport statistics, and modes of transport. It could also include data regarding tourist locations and how to get there.
In Austria, the data that is currently open in the open data repositories is population, finance, geographical, health, culture, environment, sports, transport, administration, economic, and community data. The Austrian government has tried to provide as much information as possible, and it endeavors to open up more data. The data provided on the open government portal is updated regularly and change logs provided. There is also an archive that allows anyone to search and link to it from external applications. Making as much information available to everyone has ensured that the Austrian government proactively releases information. The government is considered to be proactive since it has made the data available before anyone requests for the data. Currently the data provided by the Austrian Government is only available in one language that is German, but there is a possibility that an English version would be developed (Vienna City Administration, N.D,). Having the portal in only one language is a hindrance as only German speaking people could use the data provided. Accessibility is the key principle for open data. Although the government has made vast amounts of data readily available, there are restrictions as only citizens have complete access. The Austrian portal has combined data from different cities, which has ensured that a person has access to data from any city in Austria. Combining the different city data repositories on one location has made it easy for a person to search and access the data they seek.
In Germany, the data currently available is grouped in the following categories population, education and science, social, health, culture, leisure, sport, politics and elections, public administration, budget and taxes, geography, geology, infrastructure, construction, law, and justice. The categories do cover all the recommended types of open data suggested by open knowledge foundation. A vast majority of the data is freely accessible, but there is some data that the government charges. For certain data, one has to make a formal request before they can gain access to the data (Chimeblu, 2013). These restrictions have made the data be less than open as had initially been thought. Compared to the Austrian open data portal, the German portal makes use of many licenses, which place more restrictions on the people accessing the data. Restrictive data policies and licenses have made the portal less open, which goes against the principle of ease of access. Placing barriers to data access beats the logic of having the information online. It was better if the German government did not publish the information. The German open data portal has made use of creative commons license for some of the data. This license is similar to the one used by the Austrian government. Requiring that users attribute the sources of the data promotes the portal and encourages sharing of the data. Attribution is not a hard thing since it is not restrictive in any way.
The open data portal should encourage voluntary publishing of data. Authorities are not forced to publish any data, but rather they are only encouraged to do so by the federal government. Encouraging the authorities to publish data in a manner that is accessible, open, and searchable is what the government is doing. The city of Hamburg is doing it differently. The city has implemented a law that mandates all the authorities to publish data in an open, accessible, and searchable manner (Chimeblu, 2013). Hamburg is the only city in the world that has opted to use this method. All other cities encourage voluntary publishing of data. Enforcing laws would lead to resistance and lack of compliance by some or all authorities. The validity of the data would also be questioned, since the authorities would publish data as a requirement and not for the sale of the public.
Germany has also been adding the number of data providers with each passing day. This way their portal is constantly increasing and they are able to remain proactive in most of their aspects. The German portal was launched as a prototype. There are still numerous aspects developers are working on, and the portal would be considered under development. Suggestions are still being made, but majority of the net activists withdrew their support after they realized that the government would charge for some of the datasets. This they felt was going against the principles of open data since the data would not be freely accessible and open.
Germany should borrow from Austria considering that Austria has opened their data for longer. Using the same licensing agreement that Austria is using would ensure that Germany does provide truly open data. Reducing the number of restrictions would provide the citizens with less hurdles and would encourage them to make use of the portal. The portal should also have English support. Currently the portal is only available in German, which denies non-German speakers and readers from accessing the portal. Language packs are vital to ensure that different people from different locations can access the data published on the portal. The essence of having an online portal is encouraging visitors from different parts of the world. With this in mind, the developers should ensure that they…