Civic Awesome: Open Data In The News For October 31, 2014
Trick or Treat! It’s time for a Halloween-themed look at open data in the news. We’ve got some tales of open data horror, some scares, and a few candy coated treats, too. Enjoy.
For government agencies looking to invest in open data programs, “there is little research on [their] utility…in terms of increasing transparency, collaboration, or participation” says The Brookings Institute. Measuring the effectiveness of open data programs is difficult because of variations in policies across all levels of government. Differences in the scope and maturity of policies lead to differences in the quality, type, and usability of available data. Brookings calls for more actual research to be conducted in this area as governments begin to “look past anecdotal evidence and seek to find concrete reasons for an investment of political capital.”
The Sunlight Foundation is undertaking an audit of all federal agency open data catalogs and has revealed its (sometimes not so sunny) findings specific to the Departments of Defense and the Interior. For the DOD, the upshot is its data offerings are thin, with only 373 datasets available. URLs for 59 of the sets return 404 errors and another 48 have other issues which cause other datasets to be non-responsive. All told, about 29% of Defense’s datasets are not accessible to the public.
The Interior fares better in terms of how much data it makes publicly available. Interior has opened over 36,400 datasets with nearly 44,000 unique ULRs. Sunlight found 404 errors for only 2,650 of these URLS, which it calls “impressive, if imperfect.”
Disasters such as Ebola, climate change, and other global crises are increasing the demand for fully developed recovery plans and the “sharing of data and information among government organizations, community leaders, rescue personnel and citizens is essential for the success of these plans.” Governments can leverage open data as Brazil did in cooperation with Google Maps to manage the whereabouts of tourists, police, and weather conditions during the World Cup. In cases of climate disaster, citizens need access to data about evacuation routes, aid centers, and traffic conditions, among other information. While projects like these are underway, there needs to be a move toward more extensive and accessible information for all people when disaster strikes.
A study conducted in partnership between Socrata and EMC Research found that 80% of governments will invest the same or more resources into open data initiatives in the the next six months. Effective leadership is necessary to pursue open data initiatives say 72% of the survey’s respondents. There’s less agreement about how open data policies are enacted, however, 41% say their governments try to make as much data as possible available, 48% say they focus on opening the most important data, while a mere 11% are doing just the legal minimum their open data policies require.