4

We've rounded up some of the reasons governments cite for not releasing data to the public. We're asking for help now in refuting those reasons. You can read more in this blog post: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/09/05/reasons-not-to-release-data/

We're especially interested in how you refute statements like these:

It’s expensive / We don't have the budget

1.  It requires expensive software
2.  It would be costly to provide copies of data in open formats
3.  It would require a lot of staff time
4.  It would require new processes and staff training
5.  Keeping everything updated would be costly 

What's the best response when a government says it can't release data due to cost concerns?

2

For point one, I would probe more. Custom programming to get data out, a portal, what?

For point two, I try to make sure if it's actually true. Try to get the details of the software they are using and then figure out what the capabilities of the software are. Talking directly to the vendor is often the best next step. This excuse is often given by people who are not well informed about what is technically possible, so I would also attempt to talk to the whoever is responsible. Assuming it is true, then ask them to release the data in whatever format they can. If the data is interesting enough, then the community will figure out how to make an obscure data format open, a la http://treasury.io/.

For point three, they are likely already spending substantial staff time responding to FOIA requests. If they make their most common FOIAed documents open by default, they can save staff time.

For point four, yes. They will have to do some different things.

For point five, this really depends upon their current information management practices. If they have good, computerized systems in place for managing their data internally, it should be easy to automate public data releases. If they don't have those internal systems, then, you might be in for a longer effort which involves finding an internal champion for better internal systems and supporting that effort.

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