Quote of the week
“If only we had more exposure leading to more users that eventually paid for the premium version.”
A study done by the Social Science Research Network looked at the success of cities promoting the citizen use of open data by way of apps.
The summary is that while the promise was strong, the implementation met with limited success.
Overall, the challenge was that many of the city apps created had no guarantee of value-capture either for the city or the citizen. Also, most were not available from the Apple Store or from other services.
Of particular interest to public servants are the internal challenges faced by civic organizations trying to move forward on practical applications of open data.
One reason the initiatives fail is that they are often driven not by the involved department within the city but by IT or some kind of innovation branch. This means that the key department has little stake in – and sometimes little understanding of – the desired outcome and supposed benefits of the open data approach and the app creation.
The report adds that many of the apps created in so-called hack-a-thons actually used very little of the available data. Sometimes this was because developers didn’t really understand the full civic context and the opportunities it presented.
The authors note, though, that a key issue was getting the data in the first place: it can be a challenge for overworked, understaffed departments to seek out and provide the data needed by developers.
One solution? Organizations promoting the development of open data products like apps need to manage the process better, rather than just handing it off to hack-a-thons.