open data (Syda Productions/

U.S. slips in worldwide open data rankings

When it comes to open data, the United States ranks fourth in the world, down two notches from last year, according to the latest Open Data Barometer from the World Wide Web Foundation.

Released May 23, the fourth edition of the barometer shows how governments in 115 countries used open data for accountability, innovation and social impact in 2016. The United States got an overall score of 82, up slightly from its score of 81.89 last year, but it fell to a readiness score of 96 from 97 and an implementation score of 71 from 76.

“Overall, this year’s barometer shows that governments are slowing and stalling in their commitment to open data,” according to a report accompanying the statistics. “In some cases, progress has even been undone.”

When considering the type of open data that exists, the United States gets green across the board for categories including map data, detailed census data, government budgets, public contracts, national election results, international trade data and crime statistics. But not all of that data is being opened. For instance, on a scale of zero to 100, the United States scores a 15 when it comes to government budget data, but a 95 for map data.

The category with the most red marks – 13 out of 15 datasets – looks at whether data identifiers are provided for key elements in the set. Land ownership and detailed government datasets get the most reds – seven out of 10 implementation categories. Notable dings include data availability in free, machine-readable and reusable formats, regular updates of the data, ease of finding the data and openly licensed data.

“It’s frustrating to see virtually no improvement since last year, and some early leaders turn their backs on the open agenda,” senior researcher and report author Carlos Iglesias said in a statement. “[W]ith some relatively simple steps, governments could drastically improve their scores. For instance, adding open licenses to existing datasets would double the number of open datasets.”

In the previous edition of the barometer, which measured scores for 2015, the United States ranked second with a readiness score of 97 and implementation at 76. This was behind the United Kingdom, which got scores of 100 in all areas. For 2016, the United States also trailed Canada, which scored 90, and France, which got an 85.

Overall, this year’s report found that nine out of 10 government datasets are not open, and of those that are open, only 7 percent are fully open, one of every two sets is machine-readable and one in dour has an open license. To alleviate the problem, the report recommends that governments adopt the Open Data Charter, a framework they can use to promote and embed openness.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.


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