Usually, when we find someone reluctant or unsure about Open Data, it’s because they’ve bought into one or another popular misperception.
Maybe they think it’s too expensive, or that no one really cares about Open Data, or that there are no solid reasons for investing in a data portal. We don’t know where these 5 myths came from, but here’s how we answer them:
1. Open Data is expensive and difficult. Sure, anything can be expensive and difficult. But Open Data doesn’t have to be. With today’s cloud-based platforms, an Open Data portal can be established without a big hardware investment, and there’s no reason to pay for thousands of development hours. By using an existing, off-the-shelf framework, a portal can go from concept to implementation in a matter of weeks.
2. There’s no return on investment. Where’s the ROI? Let us count the ways. If your measuring stick is increased civic engagement and greater transparency, it’s hard to argue there’s no ROI from Open Data. There’s measurable ROI in efficiency and cost savings in handling public records requests. And if economic development is what you seek, check out a recent McKinsey & Company study that found Open Data can unlock $3 trillion to $5 trillion a year in economic value.
3. Nobody cares about my city’s data. Maybe datasets of 311 calls, animals in the public shelter or tree locations seem mundane to you, but somebody out there cares. It’s true that not every dataset will appeal to every constituent. However, you’ll be surprised by the ingenious uses your constituents and third-party application developers will find for your data.
4. Mapping is the only use for Open Data. Maps are fun, no doubt, but they’re only one way Open Data is becoming invaluable in public life. For example, Santa Clarita, Calif., is using an Open Data portal to encourage awareness and participation in elections. Citizens can follow election results in real time, viewing raw vote totals or totals by precinct. Palo Alto, Calif., provides visualizations of 311 call data so residents can track problems in their neighborhoods in 15 different ways. Uses for Open Data are limited only by the imagination.
5. Open Data is only for large government organizations. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Off-the-shelf, cloud-based platforms today offer a way to deliver the benefits of Open Data – transparency, civic engagement, greater efficiency, innovation and growth – that is comprehensive and scalable, yet simple and affordable. That’s why small and midsize cities fared so well recently in the Open Data Census published by Code for America, Sunlight Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation.
Don’t believe the myths. Open Data today is for everyone.