Open Data COVID19 Transparency of Data

We’ve all seen live statistics and charts about COVID-19 cases that are based on open data. The perception and appreciation of open data has changed enormously over the year 2020. What kind of role will open data play in the future?

We believe that open data has never been so thriving, as it has been during COVID-19 pandemic. We have all seen how organisations, from large news corporations to local media houses, use and display information from open data sources to their audiences. These open data sources have been often established by municipal, provincial and national level governmental bodies and tremendous level of work has been put into them.

Now that these open data sources have been presented to the public with an extraordinary level of exposure, will the appreciation of these forms of datasets increase?

Trustworthy Open Data and Trust Deficit

With the COVID-19 spread, it quickly became clear that data has to be as trustworthy. Scientists, medical emergency services, policy makers and several other stakeholders have to rely on data provided to them, in order to make effective decisions. However, even if the data is correct, there still might be a trust deficit among the users of the data.

Trust deficit can harm the usage of the data, since when decisions are being made without trust, the delivery of those decisions might not be as powerful. When you trust the data you are basing your decisions on, you will most likely push those decisions to greater lengths.

Open data is known for being very transparent and usually very reliable. Once organisations open their processes for the public to see what is happening “under the hood”, it usually generates trust and reliability for the data. 

Open Data amids COVID-19 and What Comes After?

The expression “flow of information” has been discussed lately, and we think that open data is something that directly connects into that. Free flow of information translates into transparency, public service improvements and economical value according to the World Bank. We totally agree, as we have done studies of open data and its economic impact.

Read more: What is the economic value of spatially enabled services?

During and after the pandemic the world could use some economic boost, as a heavy toll has been paid so far for the crisis. So could open data help to get a “cure” to this crisis? Or at least some parts of it?

Bloom or Doom for Open Data?

The benefits mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. The positives outweigh the negatives by several magnitudes, but still not everyone everywhere is in favour of open data. While writing this article the news about the U.S. Whitehouse concentrating all COVID-19 data to Washington over CDC, caused some concerns. CDC has done a great job publishing all COVID-19 data as transparent as possible, but can the current Whitehouse administration do the same? 

This pandemic has shown that open data can also do harm for certain stakeholders, if the data doesn’t support their agenda. Behaviour of i.e. Russian and Brazilian governments prove this point.  
But maybe there is still a chance for open data to prevail? Citizens around the world want more information, and companies & organizations are eager to utilize open data for the benefit of all. Heck, even profits (which also benefit whole societies) can be made with open data! The year 2020 can possibly be remembered as the year, when open data flourished or perished. It is up to all of us to make sure that we utilize open data for good purposes. The positive impact is proven, so let us use it wisely!