Usability evaluation of open data portals. Evaluating data discoverability, accessibility, and reusability from a stakeholders’ perspective

Date21 May 2018
Published date21 May 2018
AuthorRenáta Máchová,Miloslav Hub,Martin Lnenicka
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information management
Usability evaluation of open
data portals
Evaluating data discoverability, accessibility,
and reusability from a stakeholders
Renáta Máchová, Miloslav Hub and Martin Lnenicka
Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Pardubice,
Pardubice, Czech Republic
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to conduct a usability evaluation of governmental data portals and
provide a list of best practices for improving stakeholdersability to discover, access, and reuse of these online
information sources.
Design/methodology/approach The developed methodology was based on the comprehensive literature
review that resulted in a benchmarking framework of the most important criteria. A usability testing
method was then applied with accordance to unique requirements of open data portals. This approach was
demonstrated by using of a case study.
Findings The main found weakness was a lack of support for active engagement of stakeholders. The list
of best practices was introduced to improve the quality of these portals. This should help to improve the
discoverability and facilitate the access to data sets in order to increase their reuse by stakeholders.
Social implications The creation of appropriate open data portals aims to fulfill the principles of open
government, i.e., to promote transparency and openness through the publication of government data, enhance
the accountability of public officials and encourage public participation, collaboration, and cooperation of
involved stakeholders.
Originality/value This paper proposed a new approach for the usability evaluation of open data portals
on national level from an ordinary citizens point of view and provided important insights on improving their
quality regarding data discoverability, accessibility, and reusability.
Keywords Case study, Usability evaluation, Best practices, Benchmarking framework,
Engagement of stakeholders, Open data portals
Paper type Case study
In recent years, there can be seen an increasing interest in transparency, openness, and
accountability of public sector agencies and institutions. It has been driven by government
efforts to reform the public sector toward open government. In response to this pressure, the
engagement of stakeholders has undergone a major transformation. It now underpins their
participation, collaboration, and cooperation in policy and decision making through
information and communication technologies and various communication and delivery
channels for open data. It together provides new opportunities to work with online
information. In this context, a stakeholder is a person, group or organization that has an
interest in, or is potentially impacted by, the operations of the public sector and its agencies
or institutions.
While initially e-government referred to the simple presence of government on the
internet, mostly in the form of an informative portal, the concept has since evolved (Attard
et al., 2015). With the introduction of the open government concept, related initiatives are
considered to be an extension of e-government that has become a key enabler of public
sector transformation for transparent, open, and accountable governance (Attard et al., 2015;
Geiger and von Lucke, 2012; Veljkovićet al., 2014). One requirement for realizing these goals
Aslib Journal of Information
Vol. 70 No. 3, 2018
pp. 252-268
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/AJIM-02-2018-0026
Received 4 February 2018
Revised 20 April 2018
Accepted 26 April 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
is the free access to government data (Geiger and von Lucke, 2012) that are important
because of their scale, breadth, and status as the canonical source of information on a wide
range of subjects (Kučera et al., 2013; Van der Waal et al., 2014). A more specific definition
was given by Geiger and von Lucke (2012) asserting that open government data are all
stored data of the public sector which could be made accessible by government in a public
interest without any restrictions for usage and distribution.Janssen et al. (2012) then
added the aspect of funding sources and define them as non-privacy-restricted and
non-confidential data which are produced with public money and are made available
without any restrictions on its usage or distribution.In this regard, an access to some data
sets may be restricted for national security reasons because data may contain personal
information or other sensitive data, and thus they cannot be made publicly available
(Janssen et al., 2012; Kučera et al., 2013).
An ability to easily discover the relevant data is a prerequisite to unlocking the potential
of open data (Kučera et al., 2013). To solve the problem of data discoverability, accessibility,
and reusability, in the last few years, an increasing number of governments have set up
open data portals, specialized websites where a publishing interface allows data sets to be
uploaded, being equipped with high-quality metadata, and being organized into a
searchable catalogue (Kubler et al., 2016; Kučera et al., 2013; Lourenço, 2015; Máchová and
Lněnička, 2017; Van der Waal et al., 2014). Open data portals usually provide information
about a data set in the form of a description with metadata and allow for direct access to
data sets via download and additionally via application programming interface (API).
They help users search for relevant data sets or browse data sets by categories, tags,
organizations, or formats. There are free and open data management systems such as
Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN), Drupal Knowledge Archive Network
(DKAN) or Open Government Platform that have been adopted by many governments.
Some portals provide extra features, APIs or SPARQL endpoints, lists of applications built
with a certain data set, discussion and comment features, and built-in tools to visualize data.
A good practice is to offer a way to request for additional data sets that are not yet
published (Charalabidis et al., 2014; Máchová and Lněnička, 2017; Millette and Hosein, 2016).
Some of these systems are comprehensively described and compared in Kubler et al. (2016),
Millette and Hosein (2016), Ojo et al. (2016), or Umbrich et al. (2015).
To best serve the needs of the public, portals are required to be highly available services
that provide reusable data that are universally available and consumable (Millette and
Hosein, 2016; Ruijer et al., 2017; Yang et al., 2015). Additionally, for governments, data
release through open data portals saves costs because it is cheaper than transforming them
into reports and applications ( Janssen et al., 2012). However, the question remains whether
the way such data are organized and disclosed really facilitates the task of finding the
required data (Lourenço, 2015). In addition, this raises questions regarding the actual use
and usability of open data portals and the extent to which they fulfill the stated outcomes of
open data (Kapoor et al., 2015).
For these reasons, it is importantto identify the basis andbackground for researchingthis
issue and to specify the key requirements of open data portalsin the context of their usability.
The motivation behind thisresearch was to help governments to improvethe overall qualityof
their opendata portals, as well as enableother stakeholders to easilyfind, access, and reusethe
relevant online information.The goal of our usability testingwas formulated and concretized
as the comparison of individual representative portals in terms of usability of their
functionality. An associated research goal is to identify the deficiencies in the usability of
individual portals regarding data discoverability, accessibility, and reusability from a
stakeholdersperspective.From this formulated goal,it was revealed that the subject of testing
would not be one specific portal, but several distinct representative portals. More precisely,
five governmental data portals were evaluated from an ordinary citizens point of view.
evaluation of
open data

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