The availability and accessibility of open data has the potential to increase transparency andÂ accountability and, in turn, the potential to improve the governance of universities as public institutions. InÂ addition, it is suggested that open data is likely to increase the quality, efficacy and efficiency of researchÂ and analysis of the national higher education system by providing a shared empirical base for criticalÂ interrogation and reinterpretation. The Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) hasÂ developed an online, open data platform providing institutional-level data on South African higherÂ education. However, other than anecdotal feedback, little is known about how the data is being used.Â Using CHET as a case study, this project studied the use of the CHET open data initiative by universityÂ planners as well as by higher education studies researchers. It did so by considering the supply of andÂ demand for open data as well as the roles of intermediaries in the South African higher educationÂ governance ecosystem.
The study found that (i) CHETâs open data is being used by university planners and higher educationÂ studies researchers, albeit infrequently; (ii) the governmentâs higher education database is a closed andÂ isolated data source in the data ecosystem; (iii) there are concerns at both government and universityÂ levels about how data will be used and (mis)interpreted; (iv) open data intermediaries increase theÂ accessibility and utility of data; (v) open data intermediaries provide both supply-side as well as demandsideÂ value; (vi) intermediaries may assume the role of a âkeystone speciesâ in a data ecosystem; (vii)Â intermediaries have the potential to democratise the impacts and use of open data â intermediaries playÂ an important role in curtailing the âde-amelioratingâ effects of data-driven disciplinary surveillance.
The report concludes as follows: (i) despite poor data provision by government, the public universityÂ governance open data ecosystem has evolved because of the presence of intermediaries in theÂ ecosystem; (ii) by providing a richer information context and/or by making the data interoperable,Â government could improve the uptake of data by new users and intermediaries, as well as by the existingÂ intermediaries; and (iii) increasing the fluidity of government open data could remove uncertainties aroundÂ both the degree of access provided by intermediaries and the financial sustainability of the open platformsÂ provided by intermediaries.