Viewpoint: Stanford, Princeton professors reply to “The New Ambiguity of ‘Open Government'”


Stanford University professor Jeremy Weinstein and Princeton University professor Joshua Goldstein, write an article, “The Benefits of a Big Tent: Opening Up Government in Developing Countries" (PDF/163KB), as a reply to Harlan Yu and David Robinson’s The New Ambiguity of “Open Government” (PDF/292KB).

The abstract says:

Bringing open data and open government under a single banner, Yu and Robinson argue,leads to conceptual muddling that ultimately impedes progress for both projects. They express a concern that superficial commitments to open data “can placate the public’s appetite for transparency.” Drawing on our experiences with the Kenya Open Data Initiative and the Open Government Partnership, we argue that this need not be the case for three reasons. First, a commitment to open data involves reorienting the production of information in a public bureaucracy in ways that have the potential to institutionalize a commitment to openness.Second, an open data campaign can accelerate demand for information and generate a public conversation about what kind of data matter for accountability. Finally, the two movements may be stronger together. The open data movement helps open government advocates focus on the end user’s needs and the possibilities of new technologies, while open government campaigners challenge open data advocates to focus on how transparency and technology can be leveraged for civic accountability. While it is too early to tell how these movements will play out, we believe that bringing these movements under the same big tent, coherently aligning their strategies, goals, and priorities, might ultimately be helpful for citizens interested in promoting openness in their own countries.