Open data – the “opening up” of public administration. Developing scopes for action for the benefit of the common good and co-determination
The public administration sector finds itself undergoing fundamental changes. ‘Open data’, a component of the extensive open government doctrine, allows democratisation based on transparency and participation. It is intended to ease the prevailing confidentiality of data in terms of implementation and administration processes. Three primary outcomes have been identified: stronger participation from the public, the endorsement from new business segments and improved efficiencies in the public sector.
Both current policy and empirical research on open data indicate that what has resulted thus far actually falls short of the expectations: the democratic potential has not been fully exploited, civil service employees are poorly prepared for the changes associated with it and additional costs come at the expense of the public sector, a burden hard to bear. In contrast, the exploitation of the data by the private sector shows a more positive development.
There is evidence that by simply supplying data to an interested public the information itself improves, and with it, the willingness of the public to engage in politics. However, this extremely important goal can only be achieved if the public has access to reliable data analysis or has the ability to conduct such analysis on its own.
Yet the framework has only been rudimentarily developed and requires drafting a more consistent approach. Involving public sector employees in this process, which is a complex communication process rather than the mere technical supply of data, is beyond dispute. Their inclusion in the process has long been ignored though it would significantly impact how they work and what kind of work they focus on. Indeed, the employee perspective has been given scant attention in the little empirical research – mostly from abroad – conducted on open data thus far. Furthermore, the experience from the financial administration of a major city suggests that serious organisational problems and the resulting additional financial burden will emerge. With regard to the current considerations of implementation, they primarily impact the public budget, thus impairing the interest of the public service sector to utilize open data. Lacking an empirically sound as well as theoretically supported critical perspective on the developments and changes brought about by open data, both the socio-political as well as the economic goals of a society are in danger of being seriously compromised.
The research project aims to identify and develop the (yet) available scopes for action in terms of the implementation of open data for the benefit of the common good, co-determination and public service employees. Given the lack of robust empirical findings, the research design focuses on a socio-political expert survey as well as a qualitative and quantitative survey on open data at the local administration level of large German cities. The results will be provided via a proven learn and work archive (“Presenter”). The results will then be made available for research and will serve as the basis for monitoring. However, the common good and co-determination can only be ensured and strengthened through a theoretical analysis – closely linked to empiricism – of the changes which have been brought about. Thus, research, in terms of mapping out definitions and formulating analytically sound and normatively compulsory concepts and models, is at the core of this project.