Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
They have mixed feelings on whether or not it will improve governance.
Several cities have rolled out creative ways of using open data in the past few years, and this week, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that they'd be helping 100 more to do the same. But what do Americans really think about their government data sharing initiatives?
According to a new report by the Pew Research Center, they have mixed feelings. While they see the potential of open data, many are still on the fence about whether or not sharing open data with citizens will actually improve governance. This is what the Pew finds:
Generally, people are optimistic that these initiatives can make government more accountable; even though many are less sure open data will improve government performance. And government does touch people online, as evidenced by high levels of use of the internet for routine information applications. But most Americans have yet to delve too deeply into government data and its possibilities to closely monitor government performance.
In general, respondents seemed optimistic about open data's ability to improve transparency and government accountability: 56 percent said that sharing government data could help journalists cover government activities better, and a little over half said government officials would become more accountable as a result of data-sharing.
When asked whether open data will improve the quality of government services, or allow the public to have more of an impact on policy, the respondents were split. Roughly half replied "yes," and the other half "no," to both these questions. But less than half (45 percent) felt that open data will end up actually improving the government's decision-making.
How respondents viewed open data depended to a large extent on how they perceived their federal, state, and local governments, the survey found. Those with more trust in government were more likely to view open data initiatives positively. In fact, an overwhelming 76 percent of these faithfuls said that sharing open data can help make officials more accountable—much more than the overall 45 percent.