Cost of not opening PSI is increasing


(this page is part of my 2011 report on “Open Data: Emerging trends, issues and best practices”. Please follow that link to reach the Introduction and Table of Content, but don’t forget to also check the notes for readers! of the initial report of the same project, “Open Data, Open Society”)

Much has been said on the economic benefits of opening public sector information, and much more remains to be said and studied. One part of this issue that is becoming more evident over time is that Open Data are the simplest, if not the only way, to save Public Administrations from the costs that they have already (and rightfully!) forced themselves to bear, through assorted laws and official regulations. This is explained well in the report from LinkedGov about the economic impact of open data:

_(p. 2) "As the costs of disseminating and accessing information have declined, the transactions costs associated with charging for access to information, and controlling subsequent redistribution have come to constitute a major barrier to access in themselves. As a result, the case for free (gratis) provision of Public Sector Information is stronger than has already been recognised._

Eaves provides a practical example from Canada in Access to Information is Fatally Broken… You Just Don’t Know it Yet: the number of Access to Information Requests (ATIP) has almost tripled since 1996. Such growth might be manageable if the costs of handling each requests was dropping rapidly, but it has more than quadrupled.

Unfortunately, alternatives like charging for access to data or cutting the budget for providing them to citizens remain very common in spite of their negative effects. According to Eaves, the first practice has already caused areduction in the number of freedom of information requests filed by citizens, while budget cuts invariably and greatly delay processing times.

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