Everyone benefits from a more open environment, and this is true for individuals and governments across national and international borders. How can government policies ensure that Open Data reaches who it’s supposed to, to benefit everyone?
That’s what this article covers. You’ll learn about Open Data government policies and their benefits, what data should be public, how to make it public, and how to implement an Open Data policy. To conclude, we’ll showcase how Orvium plays a part in the Open Data movement.
Open Data Government Policies - Insights and Benefits
You’ve most likely used Open Data at some point, even if you didn’t realize it. From our What is Open Data article, you know that this is a type of data that is available for everyone to access, use, and share. Moreover, this data has enormous benefits at cultural, scientific, environmental, and governmental levels when shared freely. Unfortunately, accessing government data of this sort was very difficult for a long time, if it was available at all.
Thankfully, in the late 2000s, governments and other entities started allowing a larger number of people access to these resources, with the first government policies appearing in 2009. Today, Open Data initiatives exist for more than 250 governments at national, subnational, and city levels, along with 50 developed and developing countries, the UN, and World Bank. Each year, more governments and institutions launch new Open Data programs or expand the existing ones. Benefits are significant and include:
- Streamlining government services
- Stimulating economic opportunities
- Encouraging innovation and transparency
- Improving public safety
- Reducing poverty.
What Data Should be Public?
When striving for openness, governments (and any associated parties) create a data ecosystem where Open Data is the default. Doing so means that public information is available online without barriers to its reuse and consumption. By switching the default to open, you’re focusing on public interests and allowing Open Data to live up to its potential.
For a successful and strong Open Data policy to be adopted by a government, certain regulations and steps must be followed. Below is government data that can and should be readily available to the public (not a complete list and not ranked in order of priority):
> Government information - government information includes public policies or issues with local, state, or federal government, official government documents or statistics, information from a government agency about a health or safety issue, information on how to apply for a government job, or information about or application of government benefits. Here you can see how many people are currently visiting government websites, with a staggering five billion visits in just the past 90 days, showcasing the importance of access to this information across borders.
> Referencing and building upon existing public policies - existing laws and policies are in place to defend and establish public access to information, often focusing on information quality, disclosure, and publishing. Strong Open Data policies should build upon these existing laws and policies to help strengthen new requirements and see what updates or revisions are necessary or need to be addressed. A benefit to building upon existing laws and policies as a foundation for Open Data is that it ensures a legal right to that information, something that we should all have.
> Build upon the values, goals, and mission of the community and government - an Open Data policy can bring about a lot of public good, including honesty, accountability, civic engagement, economic growth, and government transparency. A statement of goals, values, or intent can highlight what a government hopes to achieve from an Open Data policy, while a mission statement highlights the importance of Open Data.
> A public, comprehensive list of all data - for an Open Data policy to have a strong foundation, governments should conduct an inventory of existing data (in the early stages of policy development) so they, and any stakeholders, can be aware of the implications of full data release. The inventory itself should be available to the general public to ensure that the information benefits the public interest, sheds light on the data governments have, and creates efficiencies among government departments.
How to Make Data Public?
There are many ways to make data public, and they include:
- Provide the appropriate formats and all associated materials for varied uses - to maximize access and interactions for individuals and governments alike, any type of technical reuse and proper distribution methods should be considered
- Remove any access restrictions - for true Open Access, registration requirements, usage limitations, and access fees don’t exist, as there must be a right to freely reuse government information
- Mandate that data must be license-free - if specific governmental data is not in the worldwide public domain, it must have a Creative Commons (CC) license instead
- Require the publishing of metadata and data creation processes - these two provide valuable insights into how the data was created
- Require code sharing or publishing open source - the tools, portals, other online resources, and code can provide benefits and are all just as valuable as the data itself; governments should employ open source solutions whenever possible
- Create a central location for data policies and publication - data portals and repositories can serve as a hub for multiple data setsCreate permanent access to data - once digitized, data must be findable and remain permanently available.
How to Implement an Open Data Policy?
To implement an Open Data policy, you must appoint an authority such as a chief data or information officer, although responsibility can be shared among departments. There should be actionable steps and goals in place for governments and appointed authorities to follow, as well as regulations and guidance.
At the same time, governments must create meaningful opportunities for public feedback concerning the data quantity, quality, format, and selection, including the user-friendliness of the access to data. It’s not enough to simply release data; it must always remain up-to-date, accurate, and accessible. Lastly, future review of Open Data policies must be in place to keep up with the current best practices and feedback. Read more about Open Data policy guidelines here and see how to start an Open Data initiative here.
Orvium and Openness
Open Data is still in its early stages, with Open Data policies changing constantly, so it may take some more time to fully understand its potential and complexity as communities and best practices to enable it to continue to emerge. The good news is that there is a huge potential already. There are also steps and regulations in place to switch the default to open.
Orvium encourages the Open Data movement and believes that it gives people a voice and the right to change and take part in governmental and public policies for a more open future. Not just that, but Open Data has many benefits at national, regional, and international levels. To read more about how invested we are in a more open future, check out our platform.