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8. Conclusion Open Data

8. Conclusion Open Data portals are an essential part of our data infrastructure. They connect data holders with data users, who in turn create services that citizens benefit from and rely on. They perform a wide range of functions – as platforms for publication, discovery, open government and engagement, and policy compliance/monitoring – which portal owners have to balance. With discovery of data on the web still in its infancy, Open Data portals will continue to perform these roles for some time, though how they do so may change. If they function better, the benefits that they have for citizens will increase. Despite their critical role, most Open Data portals were not set up with sustainability in mind. They were mostly created quickly as part of an emerging political movement without feasibility studies, business case, strategy or user research. To move from setup to sustainability, Open Data portals need to embed models and processes that allow them to best meet their goals, and respond and adapt to the challenges they face. Portals need robust governance frameworks that allow them to continue to operate effectively, even as political priorities may change. Senior advocates, such as Chief Data Officers, can play a crucial role as intermediaries between portals and data and budget-holders. To secure political support, portal owners must have clear goals and set out what their portal will achieve. They can leverage further support by demonstrating quick impacts in sectors that are prime for Open Data use. Portal owners need to build strong relationships with user communities to identify these sectors. Limited funding is a problem for many portals. To overcome this, portals owners should look for multiple funding sources for different priorities such as training, support for publishers and user engagement. They should develop evidence of the impact that funding has to support future petitions. By clearly and openly explaining what they will achieve – and developing evidence to back it up – portals can embed sustainable governance and financing models. Portal owners can design their portals for sustainability by using open source software, linking data from other catalogues and making data portable between catalogues – by developing standard APIs, for instance – in order that it is most useful to users. Design decisions must balance the competing functions a portal has, between being a platform for publishing and discovering data, for example. Portal owners should be clear about their priorities and how these inform their decisions, as this will help them to manage relationships with publishers, users and funders. To create services that benefit citizens, data users need a reliable and consistent data supply. In order to provide this, portal owners should adopt routine processes such as creating reports about quality, responsiveness, accessibility, systematic issues and general operational processes. Many portals operate with legacy systems and structures that were not built to be scalable. In assessing their operational processes, portal owners should decide whether these are fit for purpose and petition to fund updates if they are not. 70

Implementing change depends on the ability to monitor and evaluate progress. For Open Data portals, metrics provide crucial insights into where to focus attention. Yet barriers remain to maximising their effectiveness. Portal owners need to develop methods for measuring things that are difficult to capture – such as user profiles, user demand and preferred formats. Whether open source platform providers can play a greater role in this is an important question for future research. As portals scale up, portal owners also have to develop a wider range of automated metrics. These lessons apply to portals at all levels, from regional to national to supranational. The demands that portals at different levels face are not the same. Small regional portals may be challenged to find hosting solutions for storing data, whereas large national or supranational catalogues may have to develop scalable processes for harvesting metadata. But the principles that underpin sustainability, set out in this report, provide a framework with which to tackle different demands. They draw directly on portal owners’ knowledge and experience of what has worked to propose common solutions to embed sustainability. This research will be reiterated at the end of 2017. We will be interviewing portal owners to keep track of emerging patterns and developments and to test the usefulness of our recommendations. If you would like to participate, or have any feedback, please get in touch. Next Steps: This report is the first of two which will look at the sustainability of Open Data portals. The second, which will be published in late 2017, will draw on a wider research sample, surveying a larger number of countries and comparing results. It will build on the findings set out here - what countries are doing and how they are doing it - to provide more detailed and practical strategies for how countries can become sustainable. As part of this, we will test the usefulness our recommendations with portal owners, and update them based on the feedback we receive. More specifically, the second report will explore several areas in further detail, including: how portals can tie the separate initiatives and measures described here into coherent approaches to sustainability what portals can learn from updates others have made what funding models and approaches portals (operating in different national contexts) can adopt to ensure long-term sustainability what impact different funding sources have on sustainability what efforts are or could be made to measure the reuse and impact of open data automatically, and the technical and financial feasibility of setting up such metrics. If you have any questions or comments on this report, or would like to be involved in the next iteration of the research, please email 71

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