Openness is being driven internationally through multilateral associations such as the Open Government Partnership. It can also be implemented at three levels in a country: at the federal, state, and city levels. There has been progress at all of these levels in India, the most ferment being observed at the city level, perhaps because cities are the first point of contact with citizens but also because there has been so little data that city governments have made open. Cities are also the focus of urban renewal projects and investments that are premised on their being data-driven in their decision making.
Our local experience suggests that the push for open data as it is currently framed nationally and internationally assumes a far higher quality and comprehensiveness of existing government data at the city level than what currently exists in Chennai. Our research sought to investigate the quality of municipal data and to demonstrate that the implications of poor quality data on civic services are enmeshed in larger institutional and organisation contexts of that civic service. We examined data availability, quality, processes of creation and use of data, and impact of data quality using a methodology that used unstructured and semi-structured interviews, surveys, physical and digital mapping methodologies, public consultations and focus group discussions.