Yesterday attended the IIEA supported talk from Nigel Shadbolt [1,2,3] about TBL and his experiences of creating data.gov.uk and dealing with individual data huggers within the UK public service. About 30 people there and a lively Q&A session followed. The IIEA are to be congratulated I think, and I hope many more talks like this can be held.
Getting into it the content of the talk, firstly, topics for persuading those who may not “see the light” on Open Data are :
- Improve Public Service Efficiency
- Economic and Social Values
- Crowd sourcing error correction
- Follow the 5 Stars approach – baby steps
Some government departments embrace the idea, others were not so welcoming (eg Ordnance Survey ). Local government are often those most enthusiastic about open data because it brings people to them with a context – informed residents make better rate payers effectively (!) – better decisions about everything from budget allocations, police statistics, bicycle accident blackspots to potholes can be made because of informed two-way communications. MySociety[5,7] volunteers are harnessing this new capability. Local councils also benefit because of the visibility they now have into other councils – they can compare how much they paid for grit last winter for instance, and work out if their money was well spent – something they couldn’t do before.
The Open Data project in the UK is far from complete, but progress is being made. People want to see and use the data even if its not perfect, people can do things with the data government never would or could, what has been already created is not perfect but it keeps getting better. However, top-down “encouragement” is sometimes necessary and (to paraphrase) a change in attitude from “don’t publish until an FoI request comes in” to “publish by default (bar clearly personal data)” creates an environment for success. The current Tory/LibDem coalition government have taken up the mantle now and Nigel Shadbolt is on the board of the new Public Sector Transparency Board.
Here in Ireland I believe we need someone like Nigel and this needs to be an “information tsar” rather than a minister. The landscape and attitude are different here, and even though Nigel emphasised that the UK project was far from complete or perfect, I think if we in Ireland had even a portion of that has been done in the UK, we’d be living in a different kind of country.
I’d suggest that Democracy thrives on Open Data, and for the citizens in a democracy, information is power.
The slides for the presentation aren’t available on the IIEA site yet, but I expect they will be soon. In the mean time, I found some similar (but more technical) ones from a previous talk elsewhere.