Home > United Nations Online Network in Public Administration and Finance (UNPAN)
1. Global
Global
2. Africa
Africa
3. Arab States
Arab States
4. Asia & Pacific
Asia & Pacific
5. Europe
Europe
6. Latin America & Caribbean
Latin America & Caribbean
7. North America
North America
UNPAN Europe
Public Administration News  
Share
UK: Beyond 2010: Open Data Key to Big Society Agenda, but Watch for the ASBOs
Source: publictechnology.net
Source Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Europe
Created: Oct 22, 2010

Publishing data will change behaviour. A bald statement but one that is pregnant with significance for the many public sector bodies who have not yet even started on the path to publishing data, such as the 90% of local authorities claimed to have not done anything in this area yet.
 
Another way to think about this is your ASBO tracking app on your iPhone (the ASBOrometer)was the number one free app the week it was launched). Want to know how many anti-social yobs live in your ward or where your child's new school will be? Time was, there was literally no way to get such information. But by making the dataset available, some enterprising types were able to put this information at your fingertips.
 
Yet at the same time ñ open data will fail in a lot of instances, there will be scandals and there are still big questions on what sort of data can and should be made public. Confused? Well, now may be the time to start embracing the complexities of the open government data phenomenon, sometimes also called crowdsourcing, according to a variety of experts and practitioners speaking at this week's Beyond 2010 conference on digital innovation in Birmingham.
 
ìThis won't be a perfect process,î warns Nigel Shadbolt, chair of the Local Data Pane and Government Transparency and Open Data Advisor. ìIt's important to realise that at the outset and we will see some bad examples. But to avoid any moral panic, we have to realise at the outset that the importance of publishing public data assets takes priority.
 
There is also the political fact that for the Coalition and its commitment to openness and empowerment from 'liberating' the NHS to opening sites for public comment on what to cut prior to this week's CSR to setting up a body, data.gov.uk, specifically to release datasets for the whole world to do with it as it will, to insisting that from January all council item spend over £500 is made transparent and put online, this stuff is pretty damn important.
 
"There's no reverse gear on this," points out Stuart Harrison of Lichfield District Council, who's been leading publishing of this sort of data for his council. "The Transformation Agenda is not going away."
 
At the same time, use of public data by the intelligent citizen is actually deeply embedded in the British public service tradition. Take John Snow, who used such data in 1854 to show that an outbreak of cholera in Soho could be traced to one particular dirty street pump  "a pioneer example of crowdsourcing" that, to quote Shadbolt, "changed public health forever".
 
Change of behaviour is what all this is about, remember. Shadbolt's other example apart from the ASBOrometer is that of the Mother of Parliaments herself. Public data was compiled to set up the e-democracy site They Work For You which has been taken as an example and model for the official Parliamentary website. 
 
Progress so far
 
Tracing a direct line from Snow to the ASBOrometer makes sense for many public sector open data pioneers. So far some 4,000 datasets have already been made public at the central government end, the site itself, incidentally, using Open Source software ("This site is in permanent beta," jokes Shadbolt) and some of the most secure and battle-tested software in the world ñ the code that makes it so much less easy to hack Windpipe than it used to be.
 
Shadbolt, who is also benefiting from the input of World Wide Web and Semantic Web developer Tim Berners-Lee, says that the Open Government Data camp is more than aware that not all of those 4,000 are perfect. "There is a phenomenon of endangered species datasets, we can see not all datasets and 'created equal,' there are clear issues around quality," he told the Beyond 2010 audience.
 
But that doesn't matter. "The problem isn't deciding on the public's behalf what is interesting, useful or too poor quality. The presumption must always be'publish'!"
 
Will each dataset be turned into something actually useful, though? Again, Shadbolt and other open data proponents say that's not the point. For every successful site, there will be initiatives that fail or falter. "But what we can be sure of is that we will learn things we didn't know before in terms of what data we have, what it means, and what uses the public can make of it,"he is convinced.
 
And how easy will it be to meet these open data objectives? Other speakers, like Kate Sahota of Warwickshire County Council, who has set up an open data site for her authority, admit there are still some questions. "We were told that we couldn't publish where lollipop ladies worked as they were lone workers who could potentially be targeted by a Jack The Ripper type," she says, though in this case health and safety intervened in a positive way and the bat was lifted.
 
There have also been some snags with the Ordnance Survey on what's called 'derived [geographical] data,' based on issues around Crown Copyright about what sort of mapping information can be legally used.
 
But once again "that can't stop the revolution", argues Shadbolt and other converts to the open data movement. "In the end we want not just URLs out there for everyone but bus stops, individual expense transactions, school locations,  this is all data that the public paid for and the public deserves to have."
 
The final comment in the week when we start to think about how to live with the CSR has to go to Adrian Brown of think tank Institute for Government: "In Whitehall they are less focused on words like dataset than we may be ñ but they are very convinced of the Big Society agenda. Freeing up data will be key to any move to making that vision a reality."
 
Now that seems quite a useful way to think about how data can change behaviour. Yours.
News Home

 Tag This
 Tell A Friend
del.icio.us digg this Slashdot
Rate:
0 ratings
Views: 242

Comments: 0 Bookmarked: 0 Tagged: 0



0 Comments | Login to add comment

Site map | FAQs | Terms and Privacy | Contact Us
Copyright 2008-2010 by UNPAN - United Nations Public Administration Network