Open Data do fight inequality and discrimination. If...


If they are the right data to answer the right questions, that is.

Open Data do fight inequality and discrimination. If... /img/the-big-question-of-open-data.jpg

Already back in 2011, Mike Gurstein was worried because:

  • “what these nerdy revolutionaries are pursuing is not, as with previous generations - justice, freedom, democracy - rather it is “openness” as in Open Data
  • he saw no discussion of “who the ultimate beneficiaries of this openness would be, and what ultimate uses this open data was being designed towards”

The bad, or not-so-good news

Confirmation that Gurstein’s worries were concrete abound. Here are three examples, to give just a very quick, general idea of what the problems are:

On the other hand…

In the last decade, we have also seen many encouraging real-world examples that:

As usual, if one asks the wrong questions, the answers don’t matter

Open Data do fight inequality and discrimination. If... /img/opendata-word-clouds-small.jpg
Quick! Find the missing words!

The unsurprising conclusions are that, almost ten years after the beginning of the movement:

  • in general, the positive potential of Open Data is like the future according to W. Gibson: “already there, just not evenly distributed”
  • “the data problems of today can be traced to the social ordering practices of the 19TH CENTURY”. But that is no reason to not demand more Open Data, everywhere.
  • Problems happen when the “nerdy” focus on Open Data as such “distracts from the real show, which is always about power (and/or money). The most important Open Data are those who shine light on powerful people (including, I would say, showing how they stay powerful through structural discrimination)

I mean, have you noticed that in none of those “Open Data” word clouds above terms like inequality, equal opportunities or poverty are big enough to be visible?

Image source: image search for Open Data word clouds, and “Does the Open Data Create Any Public Value?”

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