Friday, July 09, 2010

Making Public Sector data happen - just do it

A concern I often hear raised in the public sector is that they can't release public data yet because it may not be 100% perfectly accurate, or it needs to be accessible to 100% of the population, or it needs approvals from all the involved areas first.

The UK has taken a clear step to solving all of these issues in one fell swoop.

It has mandated that all 434 local councils in the country release details of all of their financial transactions over 500 pounds publicly, in machine-readable format and it is OK if they don't get it 100% correct the first time (data can be updated later).

The Guardian's article, Local government data: how to make it really open details how pressure from Downing Street - directly from the UK Prime Minister - is shortly going to result in a flood of public sector data from councils.

This is an excellent approach to opening the floodgates. Once they are open, and data starts streaming out, councils and agencies will work hard to ensure that the data released is as accurate and timely as possible.

Where data isn't completely accurate, as has been the experience of agencies in Australia releasing geospatial datasets, there's a plethora of organisations and individuals happy to point out inaccuracies which can then be corrected - improving the overall data quality and improving government's capability to make good decisions.

So will we see an Open Data Declaration in Australia from our Prime Minister, which mandates that government agencies and councils just get their data out there?

While Australia has a Westminister system, there are major differences between our system and that of the UK government.

Within our Federation, with States and Territories holding many of the powers, this type of cross-government declaration can't simply come from Canberra, it requires the support of the States.

That can make it much harder for Australia to rapidly and holistically move in the same direction (as the UK is doing). In certain regards we are more like the US where a patchwork of states are moving in roughly the same open data direction, at different speeds and with different levels of expertise and resourcing.

Perhaps this video explains the process best.

1 comment:

  1. You're aware of OIC in NSW, right?

    I hear that many local government bodies are feeling concerned. What's to come may prove interesting, and hopefully, largely positive.