The activities to retrieve and use open data include not only how data are technically integrated into applications, e.g. via bulk download, dynamic integration, etc., but also what the wider context of these activities is.

On a technical level, users face difficulties to dynamically retrieve and integrate data where URI point to html-web pages on which data sets in various formats are offered, instead of the specific data sets itself. However, a larger problem seems to pose uncertainties around the terms of use, laid out in licensing terms. Here, a distinction seems necessary between professional large-scale corporate users of open data on the one hand and hobby-users on the other hand. The latter appear not to be overly concerned with intricate legal questions around open data, but seem content with any standardised license. Quite the opposite, professional users appreciate the problem and raise strong concerns about liabilities and other legal repercussions. This might be attributed to a more thorough understanding of the legal context, with legal departments involved in corporate decision making; another reason seems to be a more complex use of data, e.g. mashing up data from different sources. This amplifies the licensing problem, when sticky licenses and incoherent, sometimes country-specific licenses are used that are incongruent and incompatible.

The use of the data varies considerably and is so far little understood. It always appears to involve extensive work with the data itself, cleaning it, checking its quality. The kind of work depends on numerous aspects, such as the purpose, technologies and on the kinds of data, e.g. whether it is static data, rarely updated or real-time data. Understanding these activities requires further research which is, however, not within the scope of this deliverable.

More important for the purpose of this research appears to be the context in which open data is used. Users of open data, except occasional lay-users who are out of the scope of this deliverable, appear to be frequently engaged in or at least in contact with advocacy groups, such as the Open Knowledge (Foundation), OpenKratio etc. To reveal and illustrate the benefits of open data, these advocacy groups commonly use event-driven approaches (e.g. „hackathons“). For example the Open Knowledge Foundation frequently organises projects like “Stadt Land <Code>” (loosely translated to “City State <Code>). This project was structured as a competition, where contestants could present their ideas for applications in the field of public transportation, utilities, infrastructure, politics, and civil society in general. The competitors with the best ideas were given the means and resources to realise their idea. That way, the Open Knowledge Foundation demonstrated the importance of civic apps and Open Government Data as its foundation. Another major project by the Open Knowledge Foundation, which is also internationally renowned, is “apps for country XYZ” (cp. Apps4Finland, Apps für Deutschland etc.). Together with two other advocacy groups, the Open Data Network and government 2.0, the Open Knowledge Foundation organised “Apps for Germany” also as a competition for the best civic apps which are based on open government data. In this case, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior even operated as a patron for the project. Also common are “hackdays”, during which over the course of a few days groups of users develop applications for open data. The results often showcase the application of data, sometimes even imaginary, simulated, idealised data, since actual data do not meet the requirements or are not available. However, even when actual open data is used, the sustainability remains questionable, since open data users frequently abandon the endeavour which is thereupon not updated or built upon. Despite the fact that open source platforms to jointly develop and sustain artefacts (e.g. GitHub) are used frequently, transfer, forking or maintenance appear to be rare.


Stakeholders and their exemplary interests in data retrieval and use

Stakeholder Exemplary Interests
Professional large-scale corporate users of open data Collect and use harmonised, standardised, high- quality, reliably provided data sets with no, minimal or foreseeable strings attached
Hobby-users Collect and use interesting data sets
Advocacy groups Showcase   benefits   of   open   data   based   on applications

References can be found here: OpenDataMonitor Project – Shared References