Exploring the extent of openness of open government data – a critique of open government datasets in the UK

Victoria Wang, David William James Shepherd

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The claim of the open government data (OGD) movement is that it would add considerable value to the political, economic and social development of nations. Thus, during the past few years, governments around the world have been under increasing pressure to release data to encourage citizen participation in government. In the UK, the government publishes its data on the data.gov.uk website for the public to find, view, download and interrogate. In this paper, we evaluate the extent of openness of OGD in the UK – a recognised global leader in the OGD movement – by examining a sample of 400 datasets listed on this website. The examination uses an ‘ordinary citizen’ test, which is developed based on the original eight Sebastopol principles of open data. Our examination discovers that existing prevalent measures of openness of data are inadequate. Our findings demonstrate that the majority of the published government resources on the website are informational rather than granular data. In fact, only a small minority of these advertised as open data are actually open, which severely limits their open government utilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101405
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalGovernment Information Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Open government data
  • open data
  • open government
  • data.gov.uk
  • ordinary citizen
  • granularity
  • RCUK
  • EP/N27825/1


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