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Conference

  1. In a conference room in Brussels a group of data fanatics have spent two days discussing how governments could be encouraged to make more data available to their citizens, what technologies might be appropriate for the purpose and what uses the data might serve to those citizens when they get it.

    These are important questions to answer because it is widely accepted that making good quality public data available can reduce corruption, and contribute to a greater level of accountability and transparency in policy making.

    Amongst the sixty or so attendees at the event organised by Phil Archer (from the W3C) were Franco Accordino, (Head of the European Commission’s Task Force Digital Futures), Andrew Stott, (Public Sector Transparency Board, former UK Government Director of Transparency & Digital Engagement) and numerous academics and experts in the field.

    The vision, which largely united rather than divided those at the event is one of a world where people have better, quicker, more efficient access to government information, which allows them to hold their representatives to account and generally improve the way they connect with and consume public services.

    This might mean better ways to track a policy decision that effects your child’s school or data that enables you to find out which of allotments in your area have the shortest waiting lists. The availability of data is also seen to be a major potential contributor to new ways of designing policy, which is something that very much fits with the EU’s Digital Futures project

    It’s worth mentioning that there was an  almost unanimous recognition that the best way to make data really valuable was to used the linked data model. There was a particularly good session from Tim Davies on open data and engagement which described the five stars of working with linked data.

    While there was widespread agreement on the technologies and the general idea that great things could come from making data available, a number of people agreed with Vagner Diniz, who expressed concern that governments with scarce resources were incurring expense to release data without knowing whether it would ever be of use to their citizens.

    In fact, the imbalance between the huge amount of data available and the relatively low level of perceived demand for the services powered by it was something of a recurring theme. That said, there were some interesting success stories, including an excellent example of how the availability of market prices data via mobile phone was improving the lives of rural African farmers.

    The predominant business case from a financial point of view, both for the public bodies investing in the infrastructures needed to make the data available and for non-governmental operators looking for commercial opportunities, is that considerable efficiencies can be found when people, both within organisations and outside them, no longer struggle to get the information they need.

    That might not have the brave new world ring of transparent policy-making for nations of “smart” cities and towns whose citizens’ lives will be made easier by good quality, timely data at their fingertips, but it might be enough to get the ball rolling.

    Anti-corruption and transparency campaigners are putting governments’ willingness to release data high on their check-list when judging a country’s openness. Many government institutions see enough benefits in terms of efficiency to invest in this area and there are a growing number of web developers having fun with the data available producing apps at Hackathons. For take up of the services for the population at large to become widespread however, there is a need for more products that are more directly focussed on solving real world problems and meeting user needs.

    Overall the two day event was an excellent opportunity to discuss the current state of play regarding open government data. This is an area that is getting a lot of attention and I’d recommend that anyone who’s interested looks through the agenda and reads some of the papers (all of which are around 2 pages long).

    The hashtag for the event was #pmod

    Here’s a small selection of tweets:

  2. Leimdorfer
    #pmod kicks off with an intro to http://www.crossover-project.eu/ and strict warnings about sticking to allotted time.
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 03:29:09
  3. Miel_vds
    @alberto_cottica check out http://freeyourmetadata.org for a great hands-on tutorial on Google Refine RDF extension #pmod
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 04:18:23
  4. osimod
    @yannisc : we’re under a data deluge we dont need to reproduce it further , be selective #pmod
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 04:38:23
  5. timdavies
    .@alberto_cottica introducing next #pmod session. Are we facing an #opendata bubble?
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 05:06:08
  6. alberto_cottica
    @timdavies is dead right: #opendata reuse demands an ecosystem to be in place, but most everybody just pushes data out. #pmod
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 05:15:12
  7. Flygirltwo
    Shout out for the Data Journalism Handbook at #pmod. I wrote a section. 🙂 Free to download here: http://datajournalismhandbook.org/ (cc: @ddjournalism)
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 08:57:37
  8. deirdrelee
    Presentation on Linked Open Data app for Galway Volvo Ocean Race available here http://slidesha.re/MKoC5N #pmod #opendata
    Tue, Jun 19 2012 10:12:50
  9. luigireggi
    No correlation btw Government Data Openness index in Latin America and UN #egov index. #OpenGov is not so IT driven as egov was. #pmod
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 03:30:30
  10. alberto_cottica
    @luigireggi hit the nail on the head: #opengov is not about IT, it is about values/practices given a minimal IT layer. Makes sense? #pmod
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 03:35:16
  11. luigireggi
    .@ssdawes “Data quality depends on user’s point of view”. Very faceted issue > “Data Quality Assessment” http://dwquality.com/DQAssessment.pdf [pdf] #pmod
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 03:56:19
  12. Leimdorfer
    #pmod “The amount of metadata and quality and attention on it should be commensurate with the value we think the data has” @ssdawes
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 03:58:09
  13. MicheleOsella
    About data relevance: wrap-up “big picture” w/ @ssdawes. #PMOD 🙂 http://pic.twitter.com/LfM9FnbN
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 04:02:18
  14. Leimdorfer
    You have the right to ask European Union bodies for information, they are legally obliged to respond http://www.asktheeu.org/ #pmod @AskTheEU
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 04:13:13
  15. Flygirltwo
    The World Bank Puppet Masters report @CountCulture just mentioned can be downloaded here: http://www1.worldbank.org/finance/star_site/documents/Puppet Masters Report.pdf #pmod
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 08:42:08
  16. Leimdorfer
    http://opencorporates.com/ has information on 43,605,794 companies. #pmod #opendata @opencorporates
    Wed, Jun 20 2012 08:51:03
  17. And to round off, here’s a picture of the wonderful Atomium, which is an appropriate shape building to appear on a post about linked data. I vote that the next meet up on the subject takes place in one of the balls!
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