The cost(s) of geospatial open data

Author(s): Peter A. Johnson, Renee Sieber, Teresa Scassa, Monica Stephens, Pamela Robinson
Transactions in GIS 21(3): 434–445 (June 2017), published online 23 June 2017 (open access)

Abstract: The provision of open data by governments at all levels has rapidly increased over recent years. Given that one of the dominant motivations for the provision of open data is to generate ‘value’, both economic and civic, there are valid concerns over the costs incurred in this pursuit. Typically, costs of open data are framed as internal to the data providing government. Building on the strong history of GIScience research on data provision via spatial data infrastructures, this article considers both the direct and indirect costs of open data provision, framing four main areas of indirect costs: citizen participation challenges, uneven provision across geography and user types, subsidy of private sector activities, and the creation of inroads for corporate influence on government. These areas of indirect cost lead to the development of critical questions, including constituency, purpose, enablement, protection, and priorities. These questions are posed as a guide to governments that provide open data in addressing the indirect costs of open data.

Key words: open data; open government; spatial data infrastructures; technology adoption; technology impacts