At all levels, the U.S. Government amasses a wealth of data. In recent years, various governments have been embarking on open data initiatives, with goals of becoming more transparent and getting citizens more involved in government.
But the governments’ main clients, we the people, remain starkly divided on the use of this data and whether it can in fact make government better. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, governments still have a lot of work to do — both to deliver on their open data promises and to convince citizens that these efforts are worthwhile.
It seems governments are struggling with a core problem with their data – how to effectively embrace and leverage it – just as many businesses do. Data holds the promise of transforming relationships between businesses and customers, or, in this case, between governments and citizens. But too often, the reality falls short.
Will “Open Data” Improve Government Services?
The results of the Pew Research survey show an even divide between folks who believe that data can improve the quality of government services (49%) and those who believe it can’t (49%). It also found that nearly half of those surveyed say data can help regular people have more impact on government (48%). Menwhile, an equal number (48%) disagreed. Clearly, governments have a lot more convincing they need to do.
People become even more cynical on the question of whether data can help governments make better decisions. Pew Research found that 45% say government data can result in better decisions while 53% say it won’t.
There are some reasons to be optimistic, however. Pushing past the bigger questions, Pew Research found that people overwhelmingly wanted the government to share information on things like restaurant safety, criminal records,and real estate transactions.
People, it seems, are ready to make better use of data if governments can do a better job of making it available. Perhaps that’s the best lessons for businesses to take away from this. When the payoff is clear, customers and partners will change the way they interact and embrace new behaviors.
Image credit: Alper Çuğun