A dual valuation of openness

This article visits the origins of much of the current cultural expectations around the role of open government data. Beginning with the United States’ Freedom of Information Act, the article then traces the influence of U.S. electronic government records legislation and norms that developed during the eighties and nineties. In particular, the concept of “value-added” from the financial sector reconfigured government records as “raw data” that could be enhanced and made operable through software interfaces. The Reagan administration and commercial vendors viewed “value-added” software as a proprietary venture that used strict licenses and copyright to wrench profit from government records while closing them off to wide public access. Open data, in contrast, reconciles government transparency with private sector expansion through open licenses and formats. In the rhetoric of open data, the monitory struggles against monopolistic electronic information technologies that took place in the eighties today align with the free market values of innovation and entrepreneurship touted by Silicon Valley.