The main actors in 10 years of open data

Fecha de la noticia: 03-10-2019

Actores open data

Governments, private sector, donors, multilateral organizations ... there are many and diverse actors that have been building the open data movement during the last decade until it reach the current level. Each of them has its own agenda and interests, but in many cases sharing common objectives and constantly building bridges for collaboration.

Next, we will review the main characteristics and actions that have defined each of these actors, as well as the challenges that they have identified for the near future, according to the study on the first decade of data opening carried out in the framework of the project “State of Open Data”.



Civil society

Civil society has played a fundamental role in boosting the movement of open data. In fact, it was mostly a group of civilians who established the fundamental principles of open data more than a decade ago. Civil organizations have also frequently carried out campaigns to encourage the opening of new data, ensuring compliance with the current legislation and data commitments and raising awareness in public opinion so that the demand for data keep growing. In addition, civil organizations have served as a fundamental link between public institutions and communities of end users who have took advantage of this data.

On other occasions, these organizations have also taken care of resolving existing gaps in data availability, generating and publishing new open datasets based on their analysis and research work.


From that already famous first step taken by the Barack Obama administration, which was the initial revulsion necessary for dozens of governments to enter the path of open data, the role of governments within the data ecosystem has evolved from a mere raw material supplier into a more complex role, also working as a holder, facilitator, consumer and integrator. What initially emerges in many countries as an alternative to the need to respond more efficiently to the demands of public information, finally expands to become an integral tool not only for transparency policies, but also for many others such as Planning and innovation A revolution that last just a decade through which governments have totally changed the way they value and manage data.

But, above all, it is worth highlighting the main role that governments are called to take towards the survival of the open data movement, since they will be responsible for carrying out adequate data governance to ensure future sustainability.

Donors and investors

Large donors and other investors have been a key source of resources for open data advancement, as they have greatly provided the funding and support necessary to carry out data openings in countries and regions where the public or private initiative has not found motivations, incentives or resources to do it themselves. Some examples could be the case of the development of global norms and standards or the introduction of open data in less developed countries. Even these organizations have also set an example by opening their own data and thus giving rise to some of the most complete data initiatives.

However, if we can highlight the role of donors in one area, it is undoubtedly the creation and promotion of the large communities and international networks of collaboration that we have today: the Global Open Data Initiative (GODI ), the Partnership for Open Data (POD), the Open Data for Development (OD4D), or even the International Open Data Conference (IODC). In all these activities, donor support and initiative has been decisive when it comes to establish its viability.

Journalism and media

The (to date) brief history of open data has been closely accompanied by the emergence of a new stream of journalism based on evidence and data, leading to a growing community of data journalism, more organized and global. The higher accessibility to data and technology, necessary to work with them, the generalized crisis of the traditional business model of the sector or the increasing loss of confidence in the media have also been key revolutions to develop this new model of journalism that seeks to be again profitable and attractive from the point of view of the consumer, but at the same time has served as a great driver of data opening.

Against this new trend they have overcome difficulties to acquire the skills and abilities necessary to complete the profile of data journalist, as well as the pending challenge of the need to produce and contrast more data with their own means instead of relying mainly on those from "official" sources. That is why, at the moment, only some large media or other smaller, but highly specialized, can actually afford a permanent team of on-staff data journalists such as La Nación Data in Argentina, IndiaSpend in India or Nation Newsplex in Kenya. Even in these cases, teams will have to face other challenges for the future related to the scarcity of the resources they have, such as the proper management and archiving of the data used in their publications.

Multilateral organizations

The history of multilateral organizations has always been linked to the development of society, initially working only with governments, but also involving civil society and other organizations at present. Therefore, it is not surprising that in these organizations the irruption of the open data movement has had a considerable impact, mainly in two areas of the global agenda: on the one hand the improvement of efficiency and sustainability, and on the other hand the development of transparency and accountability.

Thus, the main multilateral organizations have not only been adopting open data as an internal tool for daily work for greater transparency, but they have also introduced data as a very useful tool for the global social and economic development agenda, even becoming part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Fr this reason, these organizations have also been great contributors to the development of national open data initiatives in those countries that have a lower level of development. The next big challenge for them will be to successfully introduce the same concepts in those countries that are particularly conflictive or socially and economically punished.

Private sector

Given the optimistic business forecasts around the open data for the coming years, supported by the multiple reports that emerged during these years from both public and private entities, no one doubts the great value and impact that data openness is having on the private sector. Thousands and thousands of companies have been nourishing this data to improve their businesses, either directly as raw material or as efficiency in their marketing processes, supply management, strategic planning or business intelligence.

At the same time, open data has also become a key innovation tool, giving rise to a multitude of new companies and new business models, and particularly working as a revitalizer of the small and medium-sized business segment. On the other hand, companies have also been playing a very important role as intermediaries of the data chain, offering value-added services on the data that end users demand.

The future in this sector is to strengthen its role as facilitators through new models of collaborative data governance and also as primary data generators and providers.

Researchers and evaluators

The role that research has played in these years of development of open data has certainly been relevant in aspects as important as monitoring the evolution of the movement of open data and the ecosystem around data openness, comparison of different open data management policies in search of the most appropriate formulas, or the clarification of the connection between the opening of data and the multiple benefits attributed to it, either transparency, economic development or social change.

There are also other organizations and projects that play an important role in research and evaluation activities. For example, we have the evaluation carried out by the OECD within its biennial OGD Report, the multiple reports published by the European Data Portal, including its complete study on the maturity of data openness in Europe or the  State of open data carried out collaboratively by hundreds of authors and reviewers coordinated by the OD4D network

On the other hand, one of the great future challenges pending in this area is undoubtedly to be able to continue deepening the knowledge of the multiple variables that come into play in these initiatives and the specific weight or relevance of each of them, and, in particular, to power deepen the impact of open data initiatives more formally and completely, which would greatly contribute to their prevalence over time. A better balance between the resources invested in the investigation of the economic value and those used in the investigation of the social value of the open data is also another of the pending challenges, given the clear dominance of the economic part at present.

The next 10 years

Although each of the actors we have seen have their own particularities, they all share the challenge of connecting the open data agenda with other social challenges that arise at present, such as the management of privacy or the growing inequalities. The need for greater training in terms of everything that surrounds data, increasing efforts in coordinating the data supply and demand, bringing the benefits of data opening to more sectors, improving evaluation of data or greater focus on inclusion are the objectives that these groups have jointly defined as essential for the near future of the open data community.

Content prepared by Carlos Iglesias, Open data Researcher and consultan, World Wide Web Foundation.

Contents and points of view expressed in this publication are the exclusive responsibility of its author.