Yes, Open Data will not fix everything quickly. So what?

A. Swartz does not see how claims that open data will “make government transparent and accountable” are justified, because:

  • people hide their crimes. If you install a webcam (meaning any kind of control) where they used to exchange bribes they will move ten feet away and do business as usual
  • When you have time to prepare, it’s pretty easy to disguise the data. It’s always been investigative journalism, not data mining, that’s revealed big scandals.
  • lawmakers aren’t interested in availing themselves of your wisdom
  • most people already think that politicians are corrupt, so how could even seeing corruption happen live on TV change much?

Well, duh. Of course all those things are true. My point is, so what?

  • Is this a reason not to make it much harder to exchange bribes?
  • Is it bad if everybody (not just people connected to big traditional media) gets the data to do ever more investigative journalism?
  • do we really care if the majority of the current generation of lawmakers is not interested? Should we?

First of all, Open Data is not always, or necessarily, about “offering our wisdom”. I am well aware that law making on many topics is a complex process that requires lots of time and special skills. Open Data is about knowing what the government is actually doing and why.

Secondly, sure, we know that’s how it is today. If things were working, there would be no need or excuse to try something different. We want to change the system. We are not doing this to have something else to watch on TV.

Finally, yes: it will take time. There will be lots of errors, or simply nothing meaningful happening for months, if not years. Partly, this is due to the simple fact that most citizens have low numeracy skills, so they see little usefulness in demanding Raw Data Now. I and, I hope, the great majority of other activists are well aware of all this. Still, this is no reason to not demand a shift towards Open Data. Please read the whole story here (and here’s why I think you should)