Civic Awesome: Open Data In The News For November 14, 2014
Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” That sentiment is befitting this week’s leading stories in open data, as we take a look at ways organizations around the world are realizing (or failing to realize) open data’s potential.
One of the US government’s leading publishers of data, NASA, is having a hard time rising to the standards set by the Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative. The issue isn’t that NASA doesn’t want to liberate its data, its making that data machine readable and standardized that’s the trick. NASA has stepped up efforts to get its datasets out of PDF and proprietary formats into CSV or other files preferred by open data enthusiasts. Over the past year, the number of NASA datasets on data.nasa.gov has risen from 25 to more than 4,000.
In an effort to save councils millions of pounds publishing transportation information, local governments have collaborated and launched Roadworks.org. The website, which now bears a far more mobile friendly interface, allow the public easy and free access to up-to-date roadwork and real-time traffic information throughout the UK. Data that fuels the site was opened by over 165 local governments as well as national and regional traffic organizations.
In partnership with Sierra Leone’s Open Government Initiative, IMB has launched a SMS or voice enabled system for citizens to report Ebola related matters directly to the government. “The goal is to provide the [Sierra Leone] government with insight into the day-to-day experiences of communities affect by Ebola and come up with a better strategy for containing the disease.” Similarly, IBM announced plans to create an open data repository through which other governments, aid organizations, and researches can access information on the disease.
Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer at Jisc, is calling on medical, scientific, and other academic researchers to employ the open data strategies currently being rolled out by councils across the UK. Pointing to the rise of globally conducted research, Richards maintains that open data can facilitate international collaboration and bear other “scientific, cultural, and economic benefits.” He does warn there are a few stumbling blocks, such as privacy (particularly where health data are concerned), metadata standardization, and the threat of “human-free research.”
From the “head scratcher” files, William Wolfe-Wylie decries Toronto’s latest release of data, Top 25 Licensed Dog and Cat Names in the city. What’s really gotten Wolfe-Wylie’s goat (apologies, we can’t help ourselves when there’s an animal pun to be made) is that the list is not, in fact, open data. Rather, Toronto has published two XML files with a single column of information, that being “name.” He asserts that not only has Toronto downplayed the value of true open data as the city’s “done nothing useful” save create “a publicity stunt” by publishing this puuur-rile dataset. (Again, sorry for the puns.)