In many countries across the world, discussions, policies and developments are actively emerging around open access to government data. It is believed that opening up government data to citizens is critical for enforcing transparency and accountability within the government. Open data is also seen as holding the potential to bring about greater citizens' participation, empowering citizens to ask questions of their governments via not only the data that is made openly available but also through the interpretations that different stakeholders make of the open data. Besides advocacy for open data on grounds of democracy, it is also argued that opening government data can have significant economic potential, generating new industries and innovations.
Some open government data initiatives are being led by governments. Others are taking a grassroots approach, collecting and curating government data in reusable digital formats which can be used by specific communities at the grassroots and/or developing macro datasets that can be used/received/applied in different ways in different local/grassroots contexts. INGOs, NGOs and various civil society and community-based organizations are also getting involved with open data activities, from sharing data they hold regarding aid flows, health, education, crime, land records, demographics, etc, to actively sourcing public data through freedom of information and right to information acts.
The publishing of open data on the Internet can make it part of a global eco-system of data, and efforts are underway in technology, advocacy and policy-making communities to develop standards, approaches and tools for linking and analysing these new open data resources. At the same time, there are questions surrounding the very notion of 'openness', primarily whether openness and open data have negative repercussions for particular groups of citizens in certain social, geographic, political, demographic, cultural and other grassroots contexts. In sum then, what we find in society today is not only various practices relating to open data, but also an active shift in paradigms about access and use of information and data, and notions of "openness" and" information/data". These emerging/renewed paradigms are also configuring/reconfiguring understandings and practices of "community" and "citizenship". Therefore, in this issue we seek to engage with the critical questions that are emerging from these paradigm shifts as well as the related policy initiatives, programmatic action and field experiences.
The Journal of Community Informatics. ISSN: 1712-4441