Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of April 27, 2015
Open data can transform all areas of public life. Thailand contemplates formalizing citizens’ rights to government data, while a global partnership explores ways to use data to empower farmers and combat malnutrition. Meanwhile, Edinburgh uses open data to bring its community closer together.
Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plans to propose a new constitutional right: free access to government data. Sak Segkhoonthod, CEO of ICT’s Electronic Government Agency, wants to provide businesses, “access to more data to create new services and innovate,” and to improve, “the government’s transparency and efficiency,” reports Medha Basu in FutureGov.Asia. The proposed constitutional amendment would also help engage citizens, who currently, “must pay a fee to access many valuable datasets.” Segkhoonthod highlights open data as one of the government’s 10 target areas in its plan to remake Thailand as a digital economy.
“Opening up agricultural and nutritionally relevant datasets has the potential to impact lives,” comments Martin Parr, operations director for Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), in SunlightFoundation.com. GODAN, “a growing network of over 100 partner organizations,” believes open data on agriculture and nutrition can deliver, “improved research, science, and innovation.” Parr states that in 2012, the G8 nations established, “the importance of opening up data for combating food insecurity and under-nutrition.” Then in 2013, the United Kingdom and the United States formed GODAN to promote, “long-term sustainable development by improving the economic opportunities for farmers and the health of all consumers.”
As the United Kingdom approaches its May 7, 2015, general election, “parties including the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour have all included commitments to open data,” observes Jeni Tennison, technical director of the Open Data Institute. In GovernmentComputing.com, Tennison notes the push for open data creates opportunities to transform government strategies around data maintenance and use, and, “to reduce the amount of open data funded through taxation.” Tennison details five alternative approaches to direct government funding of open data, including public-private partnerships, civic tech volunteer endeavors, and the creation of infrastructure and policies to support, “publishing open data as standard practice in society.”
The Pew Research Center’s survey on Americans’ views on open data delivers optimistic feedback. As John B. Horrigan and Lee Rainie report in PewInternet.org, 66 percent of Americans, “harbor hopes that open data will improve government accountability.” Optimism weakens on the question of whether open data will boost government performance, though: Less than half of Americans surveyed expect open data to improve, “the quality of government services or officials’ decisions.” The survey also reveals, “People’s baseline level of trust in government strongly shapes how they view the possible impact of open data,” and their trust is, “shaped strongly by partisan affiliation.”
Scotland’s making open data fun with Edinburgh Collected, an online civic heritage project. The digital scrapbook enables, “people to share written recollections and photos of life in the city,” explains Mark Say in UKAuthority.com. “Backed by innovation charity Nesta,” as part of Open Data Scotland, “photos from the Scottish capital’s libraries and museums are combined with those from contributors.” Nesta has funded several online civic projects as part of its Make It Local program, encouraging, “local authorities to work with digital developers on new services for their communities.”