Friday, February 05, 2010

Victorian government commits to Creative Commons licensing for up to 85% of public sector information

It's going to be a Victorian Government day today in my blog, with the state launching a number of Gov 2.0 based initiatives, from their 'Apps my State' competition to VisualPlace (see my post Friday afternoon).

Significantly, Victoria's government has made a commitment this week to use Creative Commons as the default copyright licensing system for public sector information.

There's a good post about the decision over at the Creative Commons Australia website, Victorian Government commits to CC licensing.

Even more interesting reading, however is the actual statement by the Victorian government, which was in response to the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee’s Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data.

This provides some of the reasons for the move - and outlines the challenges the government believes they will face in implementing it.

One of the foremost benefits outlined was economic, with the Victorian Government expecting increased commercial activity. This reflects finding from other countries as well as within Australia where, for example, the ACIL Tasman report (PDF) found that another $0.5 billion could have been added to national GDP and consumption in 2006-07 if constraints on the reuse of spatial data were removed.

A second benefit was supporting scientific research. By allowing researchers to access primary data across disciplines, the government is helping them accelerate discoveries and insights.

The third major benefit outlined was government transparency - which is a pre-requisite for making governments more accountable to the people they serve.

The Victorian Government reckoned that up to 85% of public sector information could be licensed for re-use, and acknowledged that the Victorian public service has a large job ahead of it, with some fundamental changes in culture and processes required to change the default position from 'no reuse' to 'reuse permitted'.

The cultural aspect was highlighted very clearly, with the statement that,
These reforms will require much more than a change to process and procedures to be successful. It will require a fundamental shift in the attitude and thinking of Victoria’s public servants.
Given that we have a more than a hundred year tradition of data protection this, in my view, is the biggest shift required to implement the Victorian Government's agenda and will take time and some pain to overcome.

It will be extremely interesting to watch what types of 'first mover advantage' is granted to Victoria if it makes a swift and clean transition to open licensing of public sector data - although we may not get the opportunity as some other states have been moving in a similar direction, at varying speeds. To be fair, Queensland was the first Australian state to mandate Creative Commons licenses and has done significant work in the area. However there wasn't a clear mandate from the Government and implementation has not, as yet, been widespread.

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