Open Data and Civic Engagement: Mechanisms for the Promotion of Political Participation

How effective are open data initiatives in encouraging civic engagement in policy-relevant domains?

Contact:

Dr Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon

Tel: +44 (0)1865 287233

Email: sandra.gonzalezbailon@oii.ox.ac.uk

Overview

Research on political participation suggests that citizens are alienated from mainstream politics: declining voting turnout rates and party membership are signs of this disenchantment. However, citizens are not less passionate about politics, as the recent wave of protests taking place in several western liberal democracies has manifested with exceptional strength. Contentious politics is part of the repertoire available to citizens to communicate with their representatives, and digital media have become indispensable for the coordination of these mass mobilisations; yet sustainable political participation requires the consolidation of more normalised channels of communication.

Open data initiatives (like data.gov.uk and PublicData.eu) aim to facilitate avenues for better communication between government departments and citizens. The question this project aims to consider is: How effective are these initiatives and the uses of open data to encourage civic engagement in policy-relevant domains?

This project aims to survey the open datasets made available through the data.gov.uk website and determine how many of these sources are being used to develop applications that can improve citizen-government interaction. Our aim is to identify the landscape of applications developed under the umbrella of open data initiatives and gauge interest on both the supply and demand side of the market (i.e. developers and users).

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