One of the remarkable developments over the last three or four years is the opening of data by organizations such as OECD, UNESCO, World Bank, and city, state/province/national governments. Recent funding cutbacks to this movement in the US – see Death of Open Data? – indicate that, in spite of commonsense and democracy, there is nothing inevitable about openness. Hopefully defunding doesn’t spread.
The Open Knowledge Foundation provides a quick overview of open data, including its role in society, contribution to a fair information ecology (where everyone has the opportunity to know and data isn’t confined based on privilege). The benefit of open data derives from what it enables – in itself it has limited value. However, when data is available and people begin to dialogue and debate in the language of data (rather than nebulous and fuzzy beliefs), decision making, fairness, and government accountability are improved.