[@OKau] Open data & transparency

Rosie Williams budgetaus at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 7 03:37:27 UTC 2015

It was awesome to speak face to face about open data & OKFAU with so many people yesterday. 
While there is still a way to go perfecting the site, I think OpenAus is a useful & valuable demonstration of the use of open data. I offer you my most recent blog post. I hope you will consider supporting the project financially as I suspect I'm about to lose the NEIS funding that allowed me to work undisturbed on the project for the past few weeks.
What future for budget transparency?September 7, 2015 | No CommentsToday’s Australian newspaper reports the political response to the transparency issues in Indigenous spending that was the focus of a recent #openaus chat.Labor will today ask the Auditor-General to investigate the IAS tender process and the Abbott government’s oversight and monitoring of IAS spending as a whole.Since that discussion, The Australian decided to do some number crunching and ‘obtained’ the grants data administered by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet that has not been made available for re-use in order to do the kinds of analysis that OpenAus is set up to do (with all grants programs).It’s a good article with appropriate visualisations and is no-doubt the reason for Labor’s sudden interest in financial transparency in the Indigenous Advancement Strategy. However I also think it is worth saying that if financial transparency regarding the IAS grants is important then so must be for all the grants made by agencies across the board. In fact, providing a way to total spending not only across all grants but across all tenders by agency is the unique and powerful purpose behind my new site OpenAus. 
OpenAus is in its formative stage. Built from scratch over the last few weeks the site has it’s teething problems as all of this is being done for the first time nationally & perhaps globally. Unlike The Australian, OpenAus is the work of one person. I run the site at my own personal expense and I like many of the people targeted by the IAS strategy, while not Indigenous, I live in extreme poverty. Despite this I have coded up the infrastructure and located and transformed the large number of data-sets required for such an enormous project – all in the space of a few weeks.
Of course there will be issues but this information really should be available to the public and if OpenAus does not receive sufficient public support this far-reaching project will not be around to fulfil it’s promise. The Australian has recently demonstrated the importance in having financial information available for independent analysis. I support them in their efforts. I also point out that OpenAus is the only project of this nature and scope in Australia.
I could have set about scraping the IAS data as it is presented on the Department of PM& C website, devoid of any political context, however I was busy adding all the data-sets to OpenAus from the agencies that are actually following the statutory requirementto provide their grants data in re-usable formats (ie XLS or CSV files).
To date I have made available grants data from Department of Social Services,Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Attorney-Generals,Department of Communications, Department of Industry & Science, Department of Environment, Department of Immigration, & the Australian Institute of Criminology. All of these agencies managed to at least approximate the new reporting guideline no 412 requiring data include the location where the funds end up – which is necessary from a policy planning perspective as well as a transparency angle.Noticeably absent from the list of agencies following the statutory requirement to publish their grants data on their websites within 14 days of funding decisions AND make it available for re-use are the Department of Employment, the Department of Education & the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. According to the governments own estimation, education grants are worth nearly 40% of the total grants funding so that’s a big piece of the puzzle to have missing from pubic data for the purposes of transparency & accountability.Today I launch a new initiative in an effort to fund my ongoing work in political and financial transparency. Anyone making a $250 donation is welcome to have their site/organisational logo displayed on OpenAus for 12 months. It’s early days (and I’ve had no media coverage for the new project to date) but I’m not unhappy with the analytics:Sessions2,531Users1,898Pageviews9,974Pages / Session3.94Avg. Session Duration00:05:13Bounce Rate59.58%% New Sessions70.84%New VisitorReturning Visitor29.2%70.8%C1C2New Visitor1,793 SessionsReturning Visitor738 Sessions Considering this is just the beginning it is obvious there is interest in my work. Having said that there is a lot yet to do including many bugs to fix but a little patience and a small donation is a negligible price to pay for Australia’s first and only budget transparency project. 

Rosie Williams BA (Sociology)________________________________________
 NoFibs.com.au - Open Data Reporter | InfoAus.net - Founder and Developer 
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