Will This Flood of Open Data Wash Past Us?

psi_logo 5959118186_19582c7b84_m@ePISplatform features fairly prominently in the stream of tweets that waft across my desktop every day – it comes from the European Public Sector Information (PSI) Platform (Europe’s One-stop Shop on PSI re-use) Working to stimulate and promote PSI re-use and open data initiatives.

In amongst the useful pointers to news, comment, and documents, I have been recently conscious of an increasing flow of tweets like these:

ePSIplatform (epsiplatform) on Twitter-2
ePSIplatform (epsiplatform) on Twitter-1
ePSIplatform (epsiplatform) on Twitter
ePSIplatform (epsiplatform) on Twitter-3

This is good news.  More and more city, local, national governments and public bodies releasing data as open data.  Of course the reference to open here is in relation to the licensing of these data, but how open in access are they?  It is not that easy to find out.

To be truly open and broadly useful data has to be both licensed openly, with few or no use constraints, and have as few technical barriers to consuming it as possible.  In many cases there will be enough enthusiasts for a particular source with the motivation to take data in whatever form, and pick their way through it to get the value they need.  These enthusiasts provide great blogging fodder and examples for presentations, but do not represent the significant value that should, and is predicted to, flow from the open data and transparency agenda spreading through governments across the globe.

5 star mug The five star data rating scheme, from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is a simple way to describe the problem and encourage publishers to strive to achieve a 5 star Linked Open Data rating, yet not discouraging openly publishing in any form in the first place.  Check out my earlier post What Is Your Data’s Star Rating(s)? when I dig in to both types of openness a bit further.

Policy makers and data openness enthusiasts who are behind this burgeoning flood of announcements [as a broad generality] get the licensing issues – use CC0 or copy the UK’s OGL.  However what concerns me is, they tend to shy away from promoting the removal of technical barriers that could stifle the broad adoption, and consequential flow of economic benefit, that they predict.

We could look back in a few years to this time of missed opportunity to say, it was obvious that the initiatives would fail because we didn’t make it easy for those that could have delivered the value.  We let the flood of enthusiastic initiatives wash past us without grabbing the opportunities to establish easy, consistent and repeatable ways to release and build upon the value in data for all, not just an enthusiastic few. We need to get this right if open data is going fuel the next revolution.

Quality Assurance - the Data Hub Some are thinking in the same way.  CKAN for instance have delivered an extension to calculate the [technical] openness of datasets as listed on the Dataset Openness Page of the Data Hub.  Great idea but I would suggest that most data publishers will never find their way to such a listing.  Where are the stars on the individual data set pages?  Where is the star rating badges of approval that publishers can put on their sites to show off?

We have made great strides so far in promoting the opening of public and other sector information, the ePISplatform stream is testament to that.  Somehow we need to capitalise on this great start and market the benefits of technically opening up your data better.  5 Star badge of approval anyone?

Stream photo from jjjj56cp on Flickr

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