The incredible agency of #opendata

The way we phrase our conceptions is both a simple thing and a complex, layered thing. I’m spending today at CITRIS for a conference of leaders, practitioners and vendors focused on the topic of:

Can “Open Data” Improve Democratic Governance?

This questions is proposed frequently amongst the circles pushing for open data from our governments. But I think we’re making a mistake at the outset, we’re assigning agency to a lifeless, purely digital concept. We need to be smarter than this.

Can Open Data do anything, let alone improve democratic governance?

Hell No.

Open Data can not do anything as it’s just data, numbers, whatever, sitting lifelessly on a sever in the magical cloud somewhere.

What is actually important here? It’s in OPENING data that we do things. What is important is that governments and agencies actually OPEN their data. That act, possible through the agency of the government officials (real people who can make this decision) is what can improve democratic governance.

Let’s not get caught up in vendor speak that some inanimate thing can actually do anything. People need to open their data, and other people must animate and utilize it.

So yes, Opening Data can do much.