Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of March 23, 2015
This week we’re seeing the many sides of the data-driven society: while citizens’ privacy concerns skyrocket in high-tech Australia, Ukraine takes a fundamental step toward offering basic transparency to its people. Rounding out the week are Q&A with Chief Data Officers, the UN’s latest marks for global openness, and applause for the most open government in the world.
“Privacy, at its most basic level, is about the right of citizens to be let alone by their governments,” stated Paul Farrell in theGuardian.com. He reported on the recent passage in Australia of legislation allowing the government to store and access metadata on every Australian citizen. He noted the government’s use of, “fear of terrorism and serious crime,” to deter opposition to the plan, and more recently, the government’s strategy of, “ essentially telling Australians that the changes are no big deal.” Farrell challenged the government’s assertions, questioning the metadata collection plan’s effects on liberty, free speech, as well as its financial cost to taxpayers.
The UN promoted, “the need for a Data Revolution,” to support sustainable development goals, in its Open Data Barometer, Second Edition. The report also reflected on efforts by G8 and G20 nations to use, “open data as a tool against corruption.” However, it also cited the absence of information most people around the world contend with in their countries, on everything from how public services are performing to basic information on land ownership. The report outlined five key steps world leaders must take to advance transparency goals, as well as upcoming high-profile opportunities to commit to the steps.
Chief Data Officer, or CDO: It’s a welcome, and relatively new, title to open data pioneers in government. As Jack Moore reports in Nextgov.com, federal agencies increasingly have created CDO positions, “to help them manage their data as an asset.” CDOs are generally charged with making data publicly accessible, “to citizens and entrepreneurs alike,” and leveraging data within and across agencies to gain insights and develop efficiencies. Moore shared Q&A with several CDOs, including Dan Morgan, of the federal Department of Transportation, who advised new data officers to spend time talking to IT staff and, “to your program people and to the folks who are really formulating policy.”
A multi-faceted leap toward open government for Ukrainians gained momentum in recent weeks, explained Andriy Berehoviy in SETime.com. Convincing everyone remains a challenge, believes Yaroslav Pavlovskiy, deputy director of the Information Society Institute. He contends, “e-government reforms will not be easy, since mid-level officials are not interested in them.” Top-down directives may win the day, though, as Berehoviy reported President Petro Poroshenko stating he and other high-level officials aim, “to finally establish e-government,” with specific goals of enabling ministries to manage procurement online, and allowing citizens to comment on draft legislation and submit Internet petitions.
Open data workers in UK agencies can celebrate their number-one ranking by the World Wide Web Foundation. As Michael Hennigan wrote in FinFacts.ie, the UK’s degree of public access to official data makes its government, “the most open and transparent in the world.” Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who leads the World Wide Web Foundation, ranked the countries and holds the UK to a higher bar yet, stating the UK has “a long way to go” to achieve full transparency. Other top finishers were the United States, Sweden, France, and New Zealand.