I’ve been watching state governments across Australia preparing to ‘tick the open data box’ by trawling around agencies, finding data that they all agree can be published without breaking the rules, hoping that something good happens.
Well, it won’t. This approach is like building a product without figuring out whether anyone wants it. It might tick a box, but it won’t add much value.
The fact is that people want to be involved in the discussion about open data. In their open data initiatives, state governments need to look at the demand end of the equation first. Identify the consumers and their needs. What data do they need, and to solve what problems? Focus on these needs, then suck the data needed to service them from government agencies and make it freely (yes, freely) accessible to data consumers. This is the way to provide value, quickly and tangibly.
This approach will focus and drive the discussion with data owners/suppliers. It will provide government open data initiatives with an agenda. And it will open up a wider network of collaborators, and with it social and economic opportunities.
To stimulate economic growth, I suggest that state governments should let the business community drive the publication of government data that will enable it to innovate, solve problems and create wealth. To lower the cost of living, governments should ask families what data they need to make better-informed choices and cut domestic costs.
Higher education and parts of the not-for-profit sector are important stakeholders too. Given the opportunity, they can help to create a discussion around open data between government, business, academia and the public. Imagine a dialogue about real business and social issues, punctuated and catalysed by the publication of data sets that truly enable the emerging ideas.
Governments need to stop telling people what data they are allowed to have access to (and sometimes what they have to pay for it). Instead, they should ask people what data they need and how they want to use it.