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Ranking Open Government Plans: What’s the Point?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  May 12, 2010  |  5 Comments

I need to start this post with full disclosure: I do believe that rankings comparing government technology-intensive initiatives make little sense. I appreciate that this is a bold and generic statement, and one should look at the merit of different rankings. However I have not found one yet that has done any good.

For several years the European Commission has run a comparison across all member states to check how well they had implemented 20 e-government services. Similar rankings have been conducted over time by various organizations, such as the UN, the Brookings Institution, the OECD, Accenture, and others.

Undoubtedly they have served the purpose of making politicians in jurisdictions that were lagging behind in the ranking worrying about how to climb the rankings, In Europe, countries like Portugal and Spain have stepped up their e-government plans with the explicit objective of improving their ranking: one wonders whether the uptake of what they have accomplished justified the effort and investment. Last year I reported about clients in a US state that wanted to know how to climb the (flawed) ranking published by the Brooking Institution. But, as I also said, all these surveys and rankings are fundamentally flawed.

The last of the lot is an audit conducted by OpenTheGovernment.org (including some of the usual 2.0 suspects) about open government plans issues by US federal agencies. The final ranking is available here (with details about individual agencies and their ratings here), the methodology is described here.

No doubt the methodology is clearly explained and is in line with criteria already defined by the White House. However, does it make sense to even compare what completely different agencies do in terms of openness? Isn’t this supposed to be different depending on what their mission is? I am not surprised to find NASA or the Environmental Protection Agency at or near the top the list, nor to find Department of Justice or Department of Defense at or close to the bottom.The former have plenty of cool information to share, the latter are probably less concerned with openness as a critical attribute for their mission. This is something I already observed when looking at the White House own assessment.

So could we please either stop ranking or provide some meaningful context about what gets measured and compared?

Additional Resources

Category: open-government-data  

Tags: open-government  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Ranking Open Government Plans: What’s the Point?


  1. Mark Chidwick says:

    Andrea

    Insightful. Thanks. Of course we can rank technologies according to rigorous metrics. But ranking the implementation between different agencies (or companies) with different objectives is a bit meaningless.

    What people really want to know is if they are doing a good job. But these are the wrong metrics for that.

  2. Kerry Webb says:

    I agree completely.

    I doubt if the people doing these rankings ever look closely at services actually provided (at the state/province/county or city/town level) when producing country comparisons.

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