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Exploring the past, present and future of data portals and citizen engagement

Introducing a rapid review of issues, evidence and ideas influencing that might influence data portal development

Published onDec 08, 2021
Exploring the past, present and future of data portals and citizen engagement

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a short series of articles exploring the past, present and future of (open) data portals. This comes as part of a piece of work I’m doing for the Open Data Institute on ‘Data Platforms and Citizen Engagement’.

The work starts from the premise that data portals have been an integral part of the open data movement. Indeed, for many (myself included) the open data movement was crystallised with, or first discovered through, the launch of platforms like Data.gov and Data.gov.uk. However, we are going on to ask whether, a decade on, portals still have a role to play? And if so, what might that role most usefully be? Ultimately, we’re asking if, and if so, how, portals might be (re-)shaped as effective platforms to support ongoing ambitions for open data to support meaningful citizen participation in all its forms.

Over the course of a short rapid research sprint in November I’ve been pulling at a couple of threads that might contribute to that inquiry. The goal has been to carry out some groundwork to support the next stage of the project: whether that takes the form of design excercises, deeper conversations, or further research. I overshot my initial plan of spending five days ‘catching up’ with what’s been happening in the portal landscape since I last looked, not least because the simple answer is - a lot’s been happening. And, at the same time, if you compare a portal from 2012 with the same one today, the answer often also seems to be, not very much. The breadth and depth of work constructing and critiquing portals across the world is both impressive, and oppressive. It seems that, collectively, we know there are problems with portals, but, there is much less consensus on the way forward.

Each post in this series tries to look at ‘the portals problem’ from one specific perspective, aiming to provide some shared context that might assist in future conversations. Here’s what’s coming up (I’ll link each one as they are published)

Terminology: When is a portal not a portal?

Technology: A genealogy of data portals

Research: The pressure on portals: an hourglass approach

Academia: Evidence and insights: other findings from research

Experiments: Selected examples of data portals

Organisational: The people and processes behind the portals

Engagement: Portals and participation

Speculation: Focussed futures: the portal as…


(CC photos from https://pixabay.com/)

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