Shifting from Old Open Government to New Open Government: Four Critical Dimensions and Case Illustrations

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Entering the 2000s, the open government movement along with open data policy gradually has taken over NPM, a long-standing global government reform for more than two decades. Despite the distinctive characteristics of recent open government initiative, it is arguably considered to be an extension of the conventional open government movement for right-to-know represented by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 in the U.S. However, we argue new open government is different from old open government in terms of four dimensions: policy focus, nature of information, primary value, and role of citizens. New open government initiatives have shifted their policy focus from simple right-to-know to open data; the nature of information from traditional paper-based forms of information to machine-readable and reusable data; primary values from transparency to citizen participation and networked collaborative governance; and role of citizens from passive informed and service recipients to active co-producers of public services and users of open data. These points are specifically illustrated in this paper with selected open government initiatives undertaken by the Korean government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-559
Number of pages25
JournalPublic Performance and Management Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 May 3

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017S1A3A2067636).

Funding Information:
Making continued efforts to disclose public information by increasing the number of participating public organizations and broadening the scope of disclosed public information, the Korean government has also made efforts to provide more open data in a reusable form for potential applications for public services and business opportunities. The Promotion Act for the Provision and Utilization of Public Data was enacted in 2013 to ensure citizens’ right and businesses’ opportunities to use public data (Korean Government, 2016 ). The Act mandates public organizations to appoint chief information officers and staffs for the provision and management of public data as well as for timely registration of the data in an open public data portal ( ). As the result of the act, the government established the Open Data Strategy Council, which is co-headed by the prime minister and a civilian chair to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate open data policies and strategies as well as promote digitalized and reusable public open data. The Ministry of Interior is the leading agency to organize and implement national open data policy with the technical support by the Open Data Center which is established under the National Informatization Society Agency. The Open Data Strategy Council also established the Open Data Mediation Committee and Open Data Forum. The former is responsible for mediating disputed cases of refusal or termination of open data, while the latter is responsible for promoting the public-private collaboration for utilization of open public data for public services, business opportunities, and job creation. The council stresses the prioritization principle of “high demand and high-value data first” in its open data decision. Thanks to its efforts for public open data, the South Korean government has made 20,810 open data files and 2383 open APIs available to the public in its official portal as of August, 2017 ( ). Many of these open data files and APIs are in the areas of widest public interest, such as culture and tourism and general administration. Detailed statistics by functional area are summarized in Table 4 . Table 4. Open Data including Open Data Files and Open APIs (as of August 18, 2017). Functional area Open data file Open APIs Education 1179 122 Land management 939 123 General administration 3562 260 Public budget and finance 400 59 Industry and labor 1505 242 Social welfare 1468 102 Food and health 360 28 Culture and tourism 3661 437 Public health 1493 94 Disaster and safety 1581 95 Transportation & distribution 1692 242 Environment & weather 1193 132 Science & technology 772 169 Agriculture & fishery 806 188 National security & diplomacy 167 76 Law 32 14 Total 20,810 2,383 Source: Data compiled based on information found in the official open data portal of the Korean Government ( ). In addition to its achievement in offering a large amount of open data, the Korean government has made great efforts to improve the quality of the data by increasing the proportion of open data with open format. It announced a bold plan to increase the proportion of open-format data from 38.9% in 2015 to 70% by 2017 (Korean Government, 2016 ). To achieve this goal, the government encourages public organizations to register their data after converting it to open data. This helps to improve the quality of data because public agencies will be evaluated by their performance in terms of registered open data with open format. The government also provides automatic data conversion tools (e.g., from XLS to CSV) in its official open data portal in order to help public organizations to disclose their data with open format (Korean Government, 2016 ). It should be noted that there is still much room for improvement although the South Korean government has made good progress in making more public data available in an open and reusable format. As discussed, the quality of public open data is becoming more important than the simple quantitative growth of public open data in terms of the amount and kinds of public open data. The South Korean government is still reluctant to open politically sensitive data such as government officials’ registered wealth. The government in fact initially opened the public officials’ registered wealth data as a PDF form and not in an open format, which made it inconvenient for citizens or civic organizations to analyze or make apps with. In fact, civic groups had to transform the PDF-based data to open-format data to develop an app through which citizens can check and monitor the change of wealth of specific public officials. This is potentially a negative ‘chilling effect’ of open data initiative which might be caused by bureaucratic resistance and reluctance to open government initiatives (Worthy & Hazell, 2013 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management


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