The purpose of this paper is to analyze the promising potential of open data in Kazakhstan to boost public sector innovations and trace the emergence of the related civic engagement initiatives in order to understand how it affects the democratization of political communication processes in a typical developing country.
This is a case study research which begins with a brief history of the official open data project and then investigates various political and socioeconomic drivers, corresponding regulatory acts, the leading role of the key stakeholders and policy entrepreneurs in the diffusion of the open data movement as well as the main challenges associated with the advance of the open government concept in Kazakhstan, while various independent open data-driven projects provide a rich empirical basis for the analysis.
Open data provides new opportunities to promote civic engagement and e-participation but does not affect the fundamentals of the political system nor advances democratic institutions in a typical developing country. The traditional directives could paradoxically be effective in advancing open data even in a less collaborative political culture. The unitary administrative context is conducive for the development of the ICT-driven public sector initiatives as a single platform. The existence of independent developers is crucial in promoting various open data-driven projects and sharing related expertise. The open data movement creates a favorable atmosphere for the participation of the non-governmental sector in the sphere.
This case study is primarily focused on the analysis of the open data movement at the national level of government, taking into account the unitary structure of the public administration system existing in Kazakhstan, which apparently has a crucial fundamental effect on the realization of any e-government system in this country. In this respect, the main limitation of the research is that the possible existence of various open data-driven projects at the local levels that hypothetically may have a different set of political and socioeconomic drivers and challenges was excluded from the final equation, which provides a new window for the future research in the area.
The results of the research could be used by e-government practitioners and policymakers in evaluating and improving the operation of the open data-driven projects in many developing countries.
The author of the paper tried to develop a universal framework of the case study research that could be used in investigating the open data phenomenon not only in Kazakhstan but also in the context of other developing and transitional countries, especially in analyzing the apparitional emergence of the unique networking activities among the key stakeholders of the open data movement, i.e. policymakers, NGOs, businesses, developers, mass media and citizens. In addition, the results of the analysis could be used in testing the political and socioeconomic implications of the highly centralized e-government approach in the realization of the open data concept in a number of other typical unitary states.
In scientific works, the open data phenomenon is usually analyzed in the context of the most developed and democratic countries of the world with a vast majority of case studies being focused only on North America and Europe, forgetting that it is a global trend. In contrast to the traditional trends in the academic literature, the author of the paper studies the realization of the concept in an unusual context, resorting to the case study of a typical emerging and post-totalitarian nation such as Kazakhstan and focusing on the analysis of the key drivers and challenges in the diffusion of the open data concept in an attempt to answer the ultimate question: whether it is really harnessed by the members of civil society to promote civic engagement and e-participation.
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