Uncertain risk: assessing open data signals

Anne L. Washington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Open data resources contain few signals for assessing their suitability for data analytics. The purpose of this paper is to characterize the uncertainty experienced by open data consumers with a framework based on economic theory. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on information asymmetry theory about market exchanges, this paper investigates the practical challenges faced by data consumers seeking to reuse open data. An inductive qualitative analysis of over 2,900 questions asked between 2013 and 2018 on an internet forum identified how a community of 15,000 open data consumers expressed uncertainty about data sources. Findings: Open data consumers asked direct questions that expressed uncertainty about the availability, interoperability and interpretation of data resources. Questions focused on future value and some requests were devoted to seeking data that matched known sources. The study proposes a data signal framework that explains uncertainty about open data within the context of control and visibility. Originality/value: The proposed framework bridges digital government practice to information signaling theory. The empirical evidence substantiates market aspects of open data portals. This paper provided a needed case study of how data consumers experience uncertainty. The study integrates established theories about risk to improve the reuse of open data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-637
Number of pages15
JournalTransforming Government: People, Process and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 17 2020


  • Analytics
  • Information asymmetry
  • Open data
  • Risk
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems and Management


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