[open-government] How to open up local government data

Tim Davies tim at timdavies.org.uk
Thu Jul 8 14:03:18 BST 2010

Paul, Simon

Paul: I very much agree on the need for thought on strategies and tactics to
overcome some of the structural/cultural barriers to local open data.

On Simon's principles, I wonder if they are strengthened by focussing on '#2
as Make is Readable for Humans and Computers' rather than narrowing the
focus to 'machine readable'.

I'm not sure the claim "If developers can't build applications
and campaigners can't analyse it, what use is it?" holds up entirely. I'm
finding many use-cases of open data where data can't be easily turned into
applications or subjected to very clever analysis - but people are empowered
simply by being able to browse a Spreadsheet and find the specific fact
they've been asking a local authority for years.

In terms of principles for data release, emphasising the process of at least
the first three of the five-stars here is perhaps best:


★ make your stuff available on the web (whatever format)
★★ make it available as structured data (e.g. excel instead of image scan of
a table)
★★★ non-proprietary format (e.g. csv instead of excel)

*Strategies: *
On Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 8:37 PM, Uhlir, Paul <PUhlir at nas.edu> wrote:

> I fully support these principles, but the soft infrastructure barriers and
> costs to realizing them are formidable. The principles identify the what,
> but not the how. Impementable strategies and tactics on how to get there are
> very much needed.
> Paul
> ________________________________________
> From: open-government-bounces at lists.okfn.org [
> open-government-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Jonathan Gray [
> jonathan.gray at okfn.org]
> Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 2010 2:55 PM
> To: open-government at lists.okfn.org
> Cc: Simon Rogers
> Subject: [open-government] How to open up local government data
> Pasted below are some ideas on how to open up local government data
> from Simon Rogers at the Guardian:
> http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jul/07/local-government-data
> Simon: can we cross post these on the OKF blog?
> All the best,
> Jonathan
> ## 1. Make it open
> No T&Cs about not using the data for commercial use, no restrictions
> on access. Make the data available to anyone to do whatever they want
> to with it. That's the only way that the data information revolution
> is going to work.
> ## 2. Make it readable for computers
> The data needs to be in a format that any computer can use - no more
> PDFs, thank you very much. If developers can't build applications and
> campaigners can't analyse it, what use is it?
> ## 3. Make it granular
> The days when we only wanted official statisticians to just put the
> numbers together in a way we could understand are gone. Now we also
> want the full, disaggregated data too. It's the only way it will ever
> be useful for someone wanting to gather the true local picture of
> local spending. Let us worry about whether the dataset is too big or
> not. It's not your problem anymore.
> ## 4. Make it quick
> Just get the stuff out there. We'd rather have it as it is - and then
> get it revised later than have to wait months for it to be finalised.
> The government has provided express permission for local authorities
> to do this. So just do it.
> ## 5. Make it easy to find
> There's no point hiding this stuff away. If we can't find it, it may
> as well not exist. It should be easy to discover and simple to access.
> --
> Jonathan Gray
> Community Coordinator
> The Open Knowledge Foundation
> http://blog.okfn.org
> http://twitter.com/jwyg
> http://identi.ca/jwyg
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