Sarah Barns
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Essays and other writing

Recent news and views across urban data strategy, creative programming and digital place-making. 

Appyland or Geekistan? The open questions of open data

It’s hard not to get excited by the promise of a more enriched and open digital ecosystem that makes the way we digitally interact with governments a whole lot better. But as we stand at the cusp of this open data-driven transformation, we should also take a deep breath and consider how “openness” is being used to drive public sector change.

Belarusian Evgeny Morozov, author of To Save Everything, Click Here, is not convinced the benefits of the open data agenda extend much beyond the “Kingdom of Geekistan”. He worries the level of political debate around terms like “open government” and “open data” has sunk to such a level that “just carrying your phone around might be an act of good citizenship”.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with the way “openness” is treated in the Gov 2.0 agenda is that it’s never quite clear whether “open” is a means or an end. Morozov suggests the “information-processing imperative” has become so dominant it’s now synonymous with a “single, inevitable trajectory of forward progress”.

While the influence of the “open innovation” agenda grows ever stronger, still the value and promise of “openness” remains an open question. As our public servants and policy makers embark on this new phase of service design, reinventing government websites as platforms for co-creation, digital entrepreneurship and innovation, let’s not forget that citizen engagement is more than a double-click away.

You can read more from my piece on open data in The Conversation (December 3 2013) here. 

 

smart citiesSarah Barns