Open Data and Its Institutional Ecosystems: A Comparative Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Open Data Platforms

By Kassen, Maxat | Canadian Public Administration, March 2018 | Go to article overview

Open Data and Its Institutional Ecosystems: A Comparative Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Open Data Platforms


Kassen, Maxat, Canadian Public Administration


Introduction

Several case studies that investigate open data in an empirical and comparative manner are well-cited in the academic literature (Hossain, Dwivedi, and Rana 2016). Conceptually, open data or, open government data, is defined as a combination of various formats and types of datasets publicly available in special government depositories. An equally important operational definition is an open data platform, defined as a special public digital repository that publishes various government datasets in machine readable formats, which could be used by independent developers for third-party mobile applications and online collaborative and participative startups. However, related research with some exceptions (Zuiderwijk, Janssen, and Davis 2014; Dawes, Vidiasova, and Parkhimovich 2016; Styrin, Luna-Reyes, and Harrison 2017) rarely studies surrounding institutional aspects of the phenomena in its systemic integrity. The hypothesis guiding this study was that the implementation of open data could be indirectly shaped by surrounding institutional contexts which, regardless of different socioeconomic nuances, could be classified and categorized accordingly, pointing to the existence of different ecosystems.

This research note is a tentative attempt to explore and demonstrate, in an illustrative manner by means of a comparative cross-jurisdictional analysis of open data platforms in more than 30 countries, consistent institutional aspects in their development. The research relied on an online content analysis of local, sub-national, national and supranational open data platforms, conducted in 2016-2017. This research heavily relies on analysis of rich empirical data derived from diverse administrative contexts that could be observed today in many countries. The findings suggest new agendas for further research.

Open data and institutions

This research is informed by institutional theory, accepted conceptual approach widely used by academic communities, especially when investigating various institutional interactions between various levels of government, whether horizontal (Lindquist 2004; O'Flynn, Blackman, and Halligan 2013), vertical or multi-level (Bache and Flinders 2004). The theory and its related conceptual variations have been utilized well in investigating open data, especially with the active propagation of its key public values and practical aspects such as new cost-effective solutions in various public sector reforms (Janssen, Charalabidis, and Zuiderwijk 2012; Kitchin 2014), e-participation, transparency of governance, e-democracy and trust in government (Zuiderwijk et al. 2012; O'Hara 2012).

The key proponents of institutional theory argue that it is important to study the phenomenon in its close relationship to surrounding multilevel contexts (Meyer and Hollerer 2014; Martin 2014). They indirectly affect how related technology-driven public reforms are adopted by various institutional stakeholders, especially within established organizational structures, models and traditions of decision-making and bureaucratic mechanisms (Najafabadi and Luna-Reyes 2017), hidden political, socioeconomic and institutional barriers. All of these also play roles in these processes equally at federal or central (Mergel 2014; Zhang and Chen 2015), local and even cross-national levels of governance.

Methodology

This cross-jurisdictional comparative study relies on institutional analysis of open data strategies adopted by various nations to understand political, socioeconomic and technological implications of surrounding institutional contexts which directly or indirectly affect decision-making. The research is based on the analysis of rich empirical data obtained from different administrative contexts and reflected in the observation of actual open data projects in different countries.

Thirty country cases were selected representing respectively 12 federal and semi-federal jurisdictions (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States) and 18 unitary jurisdictions (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Belarus, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and Sweden). …

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