The following paper was presented at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society in September 2011.
Over the past few years, the steady increase in the number of government open data websites has led to a call for appropriate evaluation tools. While some (Noveck, 2009) have expressed optimism as to the potential of government open data, others (Coglianese, 2009; Hindman, 2009) have been more hesitant. This paper therefore aims to answer the following question: how does one evaluate the success of open data websites in reaching democratic objectives? In doing so, it explores past academic studies and examines the researcher’s experience with interpretive inquiry. Using Data.gov as an example, it argues that survey-based research, a common tool in information systems analysis, may not be suited to open data websites. Instead, it suggests a content analysis methodology, which hopes to inform future research on the subject.