Open data: Lost opportunity or unrealized potential?

The promise of open data is grand, but the results are often meager. To resolve this conundrum and make headway in the adoption of effective open data practices, we take a step back and investigate the underlying reasons for investing in open data. Based on survey results, interviews, and complementary evidence from secondary sources, we explore the motives and beliefs about open data investment expressed by open data experts in both public and private organizations. To our surprise, in both public and private organizations we find that open data investments are driven more by legitimacy-seeking than a quest to realize the value creation potential of open data. The results are worrisome, as such motives and beliefs do not necessarily lead to investment in the complementary assets needed to realize the potential associated with open data—instead, open data risks becoming a lost opportunity. Clearly, it’s time to move beyond the open data hype and get down to business. Our paper provides insights for practice and calls on future research to unpack antecedents and mechanisms for value creation, and to identify appropriate complementary investments in open data, for example in terms of technologies, tools, and systems.

Forthcoming in Technovation