Special Issue on Transparency and Open Data Policies: Guest Editors' Introduction

By Zuiderwijk, Anneke; Gascó, Mila et al. | Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Special Issue on Transparency and Open Data Policies: Guest Editors' Introduction


Zuiderwijk, Anneke, Gascó, Mila, Parycek, Peter, Janssen, Marijn, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research


Literature e.g., [27], [33], [46], [56], [70] and policy reports e.g., [18], [19]-[21], [49], [50], [62] suggest that open data can be used as a tool to enhance transparency. However, several researchers have challenged the idea that the release of government data will result in increased transparency [3], [34] and the idea that transparency automatically leads to more trust in the government [28]. Moreover, transparency may have undesired effects [60]. Limited research has been conducted on these sometimes conflicting findings and challenges, and on how open data policies should deal with this. It is not clear what encompasses an effective open data policy and how this influences transparency. The papers in this special issue contribute to this area. In the introduction of this special issue we present the state-of-the-art with regard to definitions, developments, research, challenges and barriers related to open data transparency and open data policies. Finally, a summary of the papers included in this special issue is provided.

This special issue forms a series of two special issues on open data. In the previous special issue Innovation Through Open Data: A Review of the State-of-the-Art and an Emerging Research Agenda the state-of-the-art with respect to understanding the context of open data innovation, developments, challenges and barriers was discussed. Moreover, the previous special issue gave an overview of open data research and outlined emerging research directions [73]. The first issue emphasized research on the relationship between innovation and open data [73], while this second issue focuses on transparency and open data policies.

Open Data Transparency

In this section we first discuss various definitions of transparency. Subsequently, developments, research, barriers and challenges related to open data transparency are described.

Defining Transparency

Transparency is an intuitively appealing term, yet it is hard to operationalize in practice. The concept of transparency is complex and multidimensional [31] and what can be transparent for one person is not necessarily transparent for someone else. A condition for transparency in the context of open data is that data can be accessed, processed and presented easily. Yet, whether something is easy to access, process or present partly depends on the capabilities of open data users. As such, transparency should always address the interplay between those who provide open data, the functionalities of the system that enable access to the data and the open data user.

Transparency has been a major characteristic of information technology already since the 1980s [43]. Meijer makes a distinction between pre-modern and modern transparency, since transparency nowadays is much influenced by the effects of new technologies. He refers to modern transparency as computer-mediated transparency. He therefore views transparency as a cultural manifestation that should be positioned within a wider perspective of broad trends in society [43]. Birkinshaw [8] pp. 189-191 and Grimmelikhuijsen [29] p. 175 also take a broad view and define transparency as the conduct of public affairs in the open or otherwise subject to public scrutiny. This implies that citizens watch agencies from the outside [29]. In line with this, Lindstedt and Naurin [39] define transparency as the release of information about institutions that is relevant for evaluating those institutions p. 301.

Meijer et al. [44] point at the importance to not just see open government as openness in informational terms, but, also, to see openness in interactive terms. Governmental information should not just be put on the internet, but participation and interaction are important to create opportunities for engagement. The authors state that, based on [15], "citizens need information to see what is going on inside government and participation to voice their opinions about this" [44]. p. 11. …

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