A guest post from Sherwin Ona, reflecting on the Emerging Impacts of Open Data panel.
The panel discussion highlighted two main points namely: a) the difficulty of measuring open data impacts and b) the opportunities on how to measure its impacts.
According to the discussions, the difficulty of measuring open data impacts can be traced to the following: its different definitions, its nature and its application areas. Various disciplines have contrasting views and context in their use of open data, thus contributing to a multitude of meanings. Another reason is the nature of data itself. Frequently regarded as intangible resources, measuring data impacts now becomes a part of its perceived effects. If measured using its effects, quantitative (e.g. Time, satisfaction index, etc.) and qualitative factors (e.g. Perceived benefits, relevance, etc.) come into play. This results to complexities caused by the lack of models and frameworks that can guide its measurement.
Nevertheless, the panel presented possible opportunities in evaluating impact. Using a developing country perspective, the panel proposed that measuring open data impacts can be linked to development issue such as hunger, education, health, among others. The idea of linking impacts to development issues is further connected to the delivery of services. Although practical, this may oversimplify the meaning of impact and trivialize the role of open data. I think that caution must be exercised when performing this.
Mechanisms must be set in place to ensure that impact measurements go beyond statistics and should focus on development outcomes such as improvement in the quality of life, transparency, participation and collaboration. Furthermore, the idea of viewing open data as infrastructure is an innovative and bold proposition. In my opinion, this may contribute to a change in paradigm regarding the use of data in addressing socioeconomic and political challenges.
Indeed the panel has unpacked many issues regarding open data impacts. Today the challenge for open data advocates is to directly confront these concerns. I believe that the 17- country ODDC case studies mentioned in the discussion provides an excellent opportunity to identify the possible impact factors. Certainly, these are challenging, but exciting times for open data and its stakeholders.