Paying for open data?


A businesswoman and government official chat over a coffee…

Can you release this open data?

Yes, of course, but we’re resource constrained so it will take a while.

I’ll pay you.

OK but we’ll publish it openly.

Could you put a 6 month embargo on it?

what would you say next?


Who is putting on the 6m embargo? Is the idea the businesswoman is getting the data for 6m before it is openly available to everyone else?

Personally, as long as the 6m embargo was stuck to, and from then on the data was openly available to everyone and this was the way to get things moving I think it would be a reasonable deal to make.


Yes the businesswomen in return for her payment gets 6 months use before it’s open to everyone.

If the businesswomen decides to open it up earlier after they have got their benefit - great.

The only awkward part is when some knows that the data is available or requests the data from the government. The government (who may have an open by default policy) needs an explanation that will be publicly acceptable and not cause a stink in the media.


In my opinion it is strong No.
First, you make a precedent that confirms that private money can control the openness of public data.
Second, you are giving probable competitive advantage to random company using public data. Public data should not be used for this purpose. Even if it is, there is no equal chance for every interested subject, like public tender procedure.

Third and most important, this is false dilemma and it is based -as many others- on the absence of the sound and comprehensive theoretical framework for government opening.
The government have the money to collect the data and to sustain its complex organisations, but when it comes to making this data public there is no money?
Obviously, the structure of this governing body is wrong, because it is not giving the outputs that it should (and openness is one of them) by itself, in its own standard procedures.
And that is what should be fixed.

Openness is not a small change, an upgrade, a hack - it is the profound change in the system design.


It’s a complicated question. I think if the department had identified 10 new datasets to go live this year and business opportunity (user pay) model allows for an 11th dataset to be made accessible it’s worth considering
I think in this scenario - you aren’t paying for open data - you are contributing to get your open data set to the top of the queue. Though you could argue that given we have a demand and use case - we could/should prioritise this dataset anyway.

There are tough questions that need to be addressed

  • how much is a business prepared to pay - how do you establish this figure? Is the fee really going to help - or is it creating more issues. A fee for one department might make the difference - but for another not be worth the paperwork?
  • how long is a useful embargo - who sets the embargo?
  • does the dataset get added to the Open Data Portal with the embargo dates so there is at least transparency from the beginning of the process?

There are a range of public/private partnership models in libraries (worldwide) where libraries have identified the inability to deliver mass digitised content and partner with a private database provider. The provider takes responsibility for digitising the content and generally provides the library with a copy of the content to be used onsite with limited membership base for an agreed embargo period. Its different in that this model still allows for content to be made accessible to users.

Maybe for Open Data the embargo period could be defined as only available on demand (not via the portal) for a very limited period - against the tenet of open data

I can’t decide