Why does the index look at places and not countries?



Hi all,

Since we get this question a lot, we wrote a post about it! Thoughts are welcome! https://blog.okfn.org/2017/05/09/the-global-open-data-index-as-a-national-indicator-so-why-do-we-have-northern-ireland/

It also explains why we choose to show Northern Ireland. Let us know what you think!


Humz, so basically it is an experiment…Are you considering doing the same with Wales, Scotland and England ? Regions and autonomous provinces ?

On the one hand, this is great for the regions, on the other hand it will also raise some questions on how to do the benchmarking:

  • resources: does OKFN have enough people to review a potentially large number of submissions from parts / regions, and to do the corrections, follow-up etc ?

  • does it mean that next year there will be no more “countries” in the list (so no more “global” score for UK, only for the parts of it) ?

  • will they still be ranked in the usual ex aequo ranking ? (let’s say that the 16 states of Germany are also on next year’s list, and that they all do exceptionally well and become number 1… this would mean that another slightly less ‘open’ place would be number 17 or ‘lower’, which is a huge psychological difference)

I know it’s already the case when drilling down in the datasets separately, but for communication / social media etc… it’s probably a bit strange to say that place X is indeed very open but not in the top 15 at the same time…


@barthanssens- all great points!

So, as you can see in the post, NI has a unique place compare to Scotland or Wales since the UK data act is not valid in their case, and a lot of UK datasets (like maps) are actually lacking NI. Case here now is that UK and NI have diffrent score, but NI open data initiative is a lot younger than the UK one…

Notice that we never classified places as countries, always called them places. This helps us to evaluate places with problematic political status like… Taiwan! (Which leads the index). So we are just trying to understand how much can we (and if we can actually) expand the scope.


Ah, could you perhaps elaborate a little bit on this UK data act, which is - if I understand it correctly - rather a GB data act that applies to England/Scotland/Wales but not to N-Ireland ? Perhaps a link to the act itself would make it easier to explain (the blog post does not seem to include a direct link).

What will be the requirement for a separate GODI-entry for a sub-nation ? E.g: when a separate act is legally required ? Or could it be based on bottom-up / voluntary initiatives ?

If a separate act would be the criterion, the EU Public Sector Information Directive - which is a trigger for open data and has to be transposed by the Member States - required 4 somewhat related acts in Belgium.
Not only there is a Law at the federal (“national”) level to deal with data collected by the federal level, but there is also a Decree in each of the 3 Regions (and in fact the Flemish region published their Decree/act before the Federal Law was passed). I assume the UK had to go through the same process ?

Perhaps Germany, Spain and/or Italy could share their thoughts (and how they dealt with PSI)


Thanks so much @barthanssens for your comments.

We would love to hear more about other countries. This is indeed a far-reaching topic and we would like many more governments to join the conversation. If any government official follows the conversation - please feel welcome to tell us your views and experiences on this topic.

The devolution of power and administrative autonomy are in fact two very important issues of national open data assessments. Some data is directly held by national/federal government units, in other cases we see that administrative sub-units have their own procedures to implement open data policy, or to collect and share data. This impacts who holds what data, and who shares data with whom.

Our rationale to look at NI separately
We base our decision on four factors:

  • government agencies/organisations operate independently from British agencies
  • the number of government agencies not sharing any of our tested data with GB significantly outweighs the number of those agencies who do share their data
  • In addition, no data sharing agreed or practiced, indicating that data.gov.uk cannot host Northern Irish data
  • separate open data policy needed to mandate the publication of open data by Northern Irish agencies

We see that the Northern Irish government has its own organisations/agencies which are distinct from those in Great Britain. Ordnance Survey of Great Britain does not cover Northern Ireland. A completely separate organisation Land & Property Services provides all Ordnance Survey surveying and mapping data for NI. Public procurement is done through entirely own procedures in GB and NI. The agencies operate independently, and policy is necessary to implement open data in this region.

The only two data categories of GODI that are in the remit of Westminster are company registers and weather data (which are excepted matters). Other than that, officials from the Northern Irish government informed us that most agencies operate largely autonomously.

We consider that the degree of power devolution is special in the case of Northern Ireland. Please do comment on this if you think these criteria apply to other federations too. @barthanssens is this similar to the situation in Belgium?

How we want to proceed
If an administrative sub-unit operates autonomously we face a problem because GODI wants to be a fair and actionable assessment for government. We do not want to penalise federal states for producing or managing their data decentrally in many agencies. There are at least two alternatives

  • looking at a sample of regions that are representative for the population. We check if our data is provided in these regions. This could significantly increase the workload, and make an assessment unmanageable.
  • looking whether national government entities provide the data (or an aggregated version thereof). Here we might miss a lot of detail how data publication plays out in regions

Together with our colleagues from the Open Data Barometer we are developing a research project dedicated to this topic - every help, from providing more information to volunteering for an interview, is very welcome. Any government official interested in this topic should get in touch. Or share their experiences in this thread!


Maybe @francescadechiara can help for Italy?


Thank you, that explains it.

For the currently selected datasets, Belgium is not really similar to UK (because of the 15 GODI 2016 datasets, 75% - 85% of the datasets is national), it could be a different story if the focus would shift to education, sports, tourism, mobility, culture … because that is almost completely at the regional level in .be


@barthanssens this is great - and frustrating - to hear.

Great, because your feedback seems to underline why our approach is sensible in the case of NI.

It is frustrating because it still leaves some questions open:

  • When do we draw a line to regard one administrative unit separately from other units? Is our rationale replicable in other contexts?
  • Should we shy away from measuring open data implementation of certain sectors on a national level because each method would have its drawbacks?
  • What are existing lessons learned from people working in government / experts in the field?

@barthanssens I like your point about the PSI directive, great question to look into. Maybe other people can share their viewpoints? @gonzaloiglesias, @gustavo_uy, @ania_calderon, @Wagner_Faria_de_Oliv, @herrmann, @Stephen, @steven_decosta, @jpmckinney


I don’t quite understand the references to a “UK data act”. The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations, which implement the EU Public Sector Information Directive, apply to all countries of the UK including Northern Ireland. Beyond that there isn’t much statutory basis for open data in the UK (or in NI), unfortunately.

The distinction is mainly in policy responsibility: open data follows from other government functions, many of which are devolved in the case of Northern Ireland. This meant that many open datasets covering Great Britain were not available for NI and there was a sound rationale for treating NI separately in the Index.

Ironically NI has made great progress in the past year, so much of the data is now open both in Great Britain and NI. (Data.gov.uk does catalogue many Northern Ireland datasets, but NI also has its own open data portal.)

However I can see that it might be difficult to apply the same principles to other countries because there will be a wide range of different systems of responsibility and it probably requires careful examination and judgement in each case.


In the case of Malaysia, big data is the current policy. Often, big data and open data are used interchangeably. Big data policy needed to be used to push for accountability and transparency in open data.

I don’t know if both of these government linked agencies function & operate autonomously or not. No information available online that validates this. However, I would suggest for you to approach to both agencies to understand the governance model for government data in Malaysia.

Other resource(s):


Hi @owenboswarva,

I agree that the separation of NI and GB was indeed an unusual case as outlined above. I think the case of Northern Ireland can teach us a lot about what indicators are designed for.

If GODI shall be an audit to measure government performance we have to ask ourselves which government do we address. In the end this is again a broader question how the Index can be an actionable and relevant measurement to promote better open data publication (as discussed here, here, here, and here).

The question who we audit is an important one, and Northern Ireland is very useful to bring this question back to our minds.