Why Start local with Open Data

(this page is part of my Open Data, Open Society report. Please follow that link to reach the introduction and Table of Content, but don’t forget to check the notes to readers!)

If we accept that data openness is good, the next question becomes where and how to start opening data. Intervention from above is necessary (see next chapters) in order to make the whole process happen in the fastest and most efficient way. This said, our observation is that opening PSI can bring very good results even if it only happens, at least initially, at the local level.

Sometimes the reason is that this simply is the only way to go. In federal states like Germany, for example, many of the official registers so important for PSI are run on an entirely local basis. So for instance there are over 5,000 Population Registration Register. The Cadastre is also essentially a local responsibility.

In any case, opening and using PSI in cities or regions is the best way to stimulate local businesses as soon as possible and also to educate and engage citizens. Incentives for citizens to use Open Data, that is in analyzing PSI, reusing it and contributing to government, may be much greater and easier to achieve at the local level than at national or super-national levels. Starting local, but as soon as possible, can also be the best way to experiment cheaply, before expanding some initiatives at a national level.

These assumptions are strengthened by the Communication “A Digital Agenda for Europe”, Brussels, 19.05.2010, which states that the success of the Digital Agenda will require a sustained level of commitment also at the regional level, and by the “Regional Dimension of Open PSI” article:

_"Regional and sub-regional entities and Public Administrations are repositories of massive amounts of data, some of which produced or mostly useful and relevant locally. may be more detailed and more up to date, particularly if the institutional design gives responsibility to local institutions"_.