Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Government agencies need to think open first with all content - example of the Clean Energy Regulator

Last week the Clean Energy Regulator released a calendar that illustrates when other government agencies use National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting data.

Called the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting publication calendar, this is useful data for locating government reports on energy and climate change. It also serves a secondary role in highlighting the importance of the information collected and released by the regulator.

Now a calendar, by its nature, is simply a table of data - so it would make sense to release this calendar as data. Indeed as it is a public document, with no security or private constraints, it is a perfect candidate to be released as open data.

This would allow the calendar to be mashed up with other data on the topic to present, perhaps, a comprehensive calendar of climate change and energy research in Australia.

Indeed it would likely be simpler to release this calendar as data than as a formatted document, which would require additional formatting and conversion steps. This could also meet all government accessibility requirements, as well as making the data easily reusable by others.

So what did the Clean Energy Regulator do?

They released the calendar only as a DOC and a PDF.

*deep sigh*

It's clear to me that there's still a major disconnect in government regarding when and how to release data in an open way.

This is likely an education gap, but also a KPI gap. If public servants were required in their KPIs to ensure that relevant public content they were responsible for was published in an open and machine-readable fashion we might see some change.


Essentially agencies need to embed 'open thinking' at the start of their reporting and research processes, working from the basis that all data that is being released publicly - including content such as calendars, lists, financial accounts and more - should be available in a reusable open format.


In this case I've 'liberated' the data for the Clean Energy Regulator and let data.gov.au know, as I did recently for ACT Crime Statistics data.

In this case I've even improved the data by turning the month field into a working date, fixing the errors (where closing brackets were dropped), separating out web addresses as a new field and separating Department/Agency name from the note that follows it, thereby allowing Department/Agency to be analysed and grouped. (view it at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1xlnfd0H9t4O1JzdNqhjfeUCw7Oxk1XN7DYM_WbAHZ-c/edit?usp=sharing)

I've also done some analysis on the number of reports by agency and month (as below).



This is the type of work that individuals like me should not be doing.

It's what agencies and individual public servants need to take responsibility for - particularly when opening up the data is actually simpler than locking it down into a less open form.

The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting publication calendar is now (unofficially) available as a Google spreadsheet for reuse. The Clean Energy Regulator is welcome to take a copy and use it for their publishing updates.

You'll find it at:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1xlnfd0H9t4O1JzdNqhjfeUCw7Oxk1XN7DYM_WbAHZ-c/edit?usp=sharing


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