Open Data… right or not?
Open data is a straightforward term, but it’s an issue whether it’s a right for citizens or not. Open data as Pollock defines it, the data that is open to everybody and being free to use, reuse and redistribute data (2006). This issue builds a wall around the truth, and prevents all people from knowing and having the access to all the information. Open data increases the democracy of the government. It provides transparency and strengthens the relationship between citizens and the government.
The open data advantages are enormous and help citizens reach the truth and have access to the governmental information. Open data aims to democratize the ability of producing information and knowledge. To clarify, it provides transparency and makes the decisions clear to citizens. Second, open data creates accountability and provides citizens the right to participate in making decisions. This strengthens the relationship between the citizens and the government, which increases the productivity in making decisions. As Ottawa in 2005 states that open data reduce transaction costs, increases sustainability, and inform citizens. Also it increases the educational, economical, business projects, thus increases the job vacancies.
In Lebanon, statistics and data are under high privacy system. Statistics relating to human development in Lebanon are in a deplorable state as Tabbara states (2016), but it’s also outdated and not exists. While open data remains the promise that all politicians promise to show and all the citizens waiting for. First, many plans were done to distribute electricity in 24/24 in all the regions of Lebanon, but till now we don’t know where the funding of these plans go if the electricity is worth than the previous years! In fact, the electricity issue remains undiscovered and the mystery part according to the Lebanese citizens, but showing the data from the ministry of power makes this issue clear. While in most regions in Lebanon, citizens are obliged to pay more money to the private companies to provide them with the electricity, and the government doesn’t show the data and the path that each plan takes. Opening data concerning the electricity problem shows the deficit of the government in providing electricity in all Lebanon.
Many issues in the country miss data, which weakens the relationship between citizens and government. To exemplify, data related to the management waste in the ministry of finance is from the more undiscovered part of data. Lebanon is deprived balancing from many years and there is no available data shown concerning the financial conditions in the country. Why the taxes are increasing? Where the governments invest the taxes and the citizens’ money? How the taxes increase such as TVA without improving the services from the government? Here we can notice the major role of open data in informing citizens, and answer the question that each Lebanese person asks: how can I know where my money and paid taxes go? How many millions were taken by the politicians to their private accounts in the banks? To add, the internet problem was a major issue in the last months. So why the ministry of telecommunication doesn’t provide the citizens with the internet data, explain to the Lebanese citizens about this problem and the high prices of communication bills? Where are the contacts between the government and the only two telecommunication companies, ALFA and MTC? Why the whole country is related and ruling by only two companies? Where are the tenders that show other companies? Also where are the companies other than sukleen concerning the trash problem? What is the number of deaths in the civil war in Lebanon? Who is the killer if there is no one enters the jail to be punished? Where are the missed people that each day in the life is a hope to their families? Lebanon government benefit from the war in 2006 and to hosting refugees like Palestinian and Syrian refugees through high funded aids, but there is no data to show where are these aids and how the government improves the conditions using these aids? Many other questions show how the data in Lebanon is and explain the recent conditions in Lebanon. But there is no government that answers these questions, since there is no data to show and open to the citizens.
On the other hand, opening data to all people, in some situations, is harmful, since opening data isn’t the only solution to reach credibility. To illustrate, data about politicians in Lebanon and especially their wealth before and after their political life will damage Lebanon and return the civil war to the country. While concerning the civil war data, concealing this data is to avoid civil problems and returning the civil war to Lebanon. So concealing open data from all people is to avoid the mistaken thinking. But this cause doesn’t prevent the government from making data available, since data can be attached with reports that shows the right thinking. Also each ministry can talk about their data and then show them to the people.
As a conclusion, although open data is a debatable issue and is a sword by its positive and negative sides, but it still a right to the citizens that facilitate their work and understanding. Surrounding data by copyrights, laws, and political beliefs lead to the detention of the truth, thus making the citizens unbelievable with the government decisions. However law and government must help the citizens to reach the peak of success by showing data. Preventing open data is preventing citizens from the use, reuse and redistribution of data. To conclude, data must be available for all people but in a designed way where either government or citizens is harmed.