Our thoughts about Open Data
In celebration of #OpenDataDay 2018, we share where Australia and New Zealand are at with releasing data, how data is being used, and some of our favourite initiatives.
Interest in open data has ramped up in recent years as agencies across the world begin to understand the value of open data and its ability to contribute to addressing social and environmental challenges.
Governments around the world have been releasing open data for over 10 years and it is great to see it gain momentum as more countries sign up to the open government partnership. Releasing data is helping improve transparency, accountability and greater participation in government.
In 2013, the Australian Government announced Australia’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership. As a result of this Declaration and the Gov 2.0 Taskforce, the central public dataset platform, data.gov.au, was created. As of February 2017, Data.gov.au has 28.6k datasets, 6.2k API enabled resources and 22.3k openly licensed datasets.
The Australian National Action Plan for Open Government demonstrates the Federal Government’s commitment to open data.
Of the 19 Commitments that came out of the 2018-2020 National Action Plan, seven are related to Government Data, including Commitment 3.3; “Improve the discoverability and accessibility of government data: Public data”. This commitment is currently being delivered through the partnership between the Digital Transformation Agency and Data61 to develop the data.gov.au platform.
Australian state and local governments are also delivering open data. All state governments now have an open data portal. See links to local and state government portals below;
New South Wales: http://data.nsw.gov.au/
South Australia: https://data.sa.gov.au/
Western Australia: http://catalogue.beta.data.wa.gov.au/
City of Melbourne: https://data.melbourne.vic.gov.au/
City of Sydney: http://data.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/
We are also seeing some more tailored open data initiatives such as the NSW Government’s online data portal ‘SEED’, which provides public access to environmental data. The portal currently has 112 data sets from eight agencies.
Statistics New Zealand’s Open Government Information and Data Programme (Open Data NZ), came out of the New Zealand Government’s Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, released in 2011. Open Data NZ’s role is to promote open government data and information. Data.govt.nz is home to the open data sets, case studies, a toolkit, forums and a blog. New Zealand also had The Data Champion Network, which aims to shift the culture to an ‘open by default’ approach. The Network is made up of executives from Government agencies to lead the release of open data cross their organisation. engage2
Over the last year, we have also seen the formation of the Code for Aotearoa. Code for Aotearoa worked with LINZ and Wellington City Council to run a Fellowship program, see what they achieved here.
Engage2 facilitated the official public consultation on the Open Data Charter, the engagement summary report is available here: Engagement Summary – Open Data Charter (PDF).
How open data is being used
There are many stories of how open data is being used. We love the Australian example of ‘CoastAdapt’, an online tool developed by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). The framework helps identify coastal climate risk using data sets from the Government’s data.gov.au site. See more use cases here.
We were particularly excited with the new digital format of the Australian State of the Environment Report. All data used in the State of the Environment Report 2016 was made open to all on the Australian Government’s Open Data portal, data.gov.au. The report sourced its data from 345 datasets, across Federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector and universities.
An exciting, and fun to play with use of open data, is the Government’s NationalMap, which aims to improve the usability and accessibility of the data through visualising data and allowing users to layer various datasets. Around 7000 spatial and geospatial datasets are now available on NationalMap.
In terms of private sector use of Open Data, check out the Open Data 500 Australia, a study Australian companies and NGOs that use open government data to generate new business, develop new products and services, and create social value.
Hackathons are a great opportunity for people to come together to use open data. The Random Hacks of Kindness uses data to solve social problems. GovHack uses government data to create apps, products and visualizations. We recommend checking out the Disruptor’s Handbook Big List of Hackathons in Australia. These events are a great way to engage data users and highlight the value of open data.
At engage2 we’re looking forward to seeing open data references in government publications link to open data as the source used, as an evidence base for proposed changes. The Australian State of the Environment Report is a great example of this. This use of open data will enhance public participation because it would:
- demonstrate transparency
- help to build trust in government evidence based decision making processes
- help people to understand the challenges governments are trying to address and the rationalisation for proposed changes
- provide stakeholders and participants in public participation with the opportunity to provide informed input during key stages of consultation and government decision making processes
- Support the use of more deliberative engagement methods.
We’re also excited to see open data teams engaging more, both online and offline. Online we are seeing open data platforms become more ‘engaging’. Instead of just publishing datasets, governments are using their platforms to invite input about what data sets to release and to understand and respond to the needs of data users. Hear our director Amelia Loye speak about the connection of data to engagement on the contentgroup podcast.
To see how Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world is fairing in Open Data, check out The Global Open Data Index, created by the Open Knowledge International, a global non-profit organisation focused on realising open data’s value to society by helping civil society groups access and use data to take action on social problems.
Open Data Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the value of open data, and share the benefits of open data with the non-data sector. We look forward to seeing interest around open data grow as more success stories surface.