In April of this year, the Pew Research Center published a report titled Americans’ View on Open Government Data. This very interesting study provides a measure of how the public views federal, state and local governments’ efforts to become more open and transparent through the dissemination of their data. The report is based on a late 2014 survey of 3,200+ individuals. The study examined:
- how aware the public is of governments’ data-sharing initiatives,
- if these initiatives are actually resulting in people using the data to monitor government performance,
- public’s view of whether these efforts have been – or have the potential to be – successful in making government perform better or become more accountable, and
- how the public is using this data.
Some of the study’s key findings:
While most (65%) of the individuals surveyed are using the internet to find government information/data; they are using it to perform simple tasks such as finding out public library hours or paying a traffic ticket (Figure 1)
- Just a minority of respondents indicated they paid much attention to how governments share data – and only a relative handful said they were aware of instances where government had done a good or bad job of sharing data.
- Less than one-quarter of those surveyed use government-generated data to track the performance of services such as hospitals, healthcare providers, school systems, etc.
People were divided on whether the sharing of data has the potential to improve government transparency, accountability and performance – it’s also not clear to them that this will even happen (Figure 2).
- Only 23% of respondents indicated that they trusted the government to do the right thing – at least most of the time. Of this group – the “Trusting Minority” – roughly three quarters believe open government data is beneficial and contributes to better government (Figure 3)
The study found that smartphone users (68% of the individuals surveyed) have embraced apps that are based on government-generated data or capabilities, such as weather and GPS – what I call government-enabled applications:
- 84% have used weather apps
- 81% have used map apps
- 66% have used apps that provide information about nearby stores, bars or restaurants
- 31% have used apps to get public transit information
- 14% have used apps to hire transportation such as Über or Lyft
Interestingly enough – but not surprising, I suppose – only 9% of all survey respondents believed that government-provided data helped the private sector “a lot” to develop new products and services (41% felt it helped “somewhat”).
I found the results of this study to be consistent with the findings of Dr. Donald Norris and Dr. Christopher Reddick: Citizens will use government data when it fulfills a need and won’t when it doesn’t.
Note: all figures Copyright 2012, Pew Research Center. All rights reserved.