Open Data Insights:
The importance of open data in government
As the open data movement gathers momentum in government, we’re kicking off a new blog series that will profile government datasets we believe are worthy of your time.
Our new Open Data Insights series
Today we're launching ‘Open Data Insights’, a new blog series that will highlight open government data. Every month, we'll explore and briefly analyse an open government dataset with the aim of raising its profile so that others might explore the dataset further. Ideally, and most importantly, we hope to inspire you to use the data to improve people’s lives in some way, whether it's through a simple app or better informed policies.
Open Data Insights will start with datasets from data.qld.gov.au, because it was part of our pledge and commitment to the Queensland Government when we recently upgraded and significantly enhanced its open data portal. However, we hope to profile other government datasets in the future.
What is open data?
Open data is data that is freely available for anyone to download and use for any purpose (with the only restriction that sometimes proper attribution is required). Ideally, it should be data that is made for sharing — machine readable files (no PDFs please!) in non-proprietary formats (CSV not Excel) work best. And a data dictionary that explains what all the fields are would be great too.
The ideals of open data is not new, but the open data movement has gathered momentum and achieved significant milestones in the past decade. And consequently, many countries have adopted and applied the philosophy of openness to government data.
The importance of open government
Open government aims to make the workings of government transparent by making government data freely available to the public. The US government launched its open data portal data.gov in 2009, and the UK Government’s data.gov.uk was made public in 2010. Since then, many other governments have opened up "their" data — there are more than 70 national governments that have joined the Open Government Partnership, including Australia.
Admittedly, there is variation in the quality and accessibility of government data. But what is undeniable is the benefit of government transparency to democracy.
Open government data promotes public participation in the democratic process. It allows informed decisions to be made, and for greater scrutiny of government (by both the general public and journalistic organisations).
Open data also fosters innovation.
For example, using weather data provided through Queensland Government’s Scientific Information for Land Owners (SILO) dataset, developers have created IrrigWeb, an irrigation scheduling tool aimed at sugar cane farmers.
Why are we doing this?
Salsa Digital has been committed to all things open since its inception — you can read about the Salsa open source history in our blog on Salsa’s journey. We’re focused on helping enterprises and governments become more open, more consolidated and more connected. We believe in the importance of open government and the power of open data. But we know that data itself, open or otherwise, is actually not that useful. It needs to be used — whether as part of a journalistic investigation to keep politicians accountable, a scientific study or a commercial app that uses open data.
We want you to do good with data. So we’re going to profile datasets that we believe are worthy of your time. Some will be interesting and perhaps amusing, while others practical and useful.
We’ll highlight a few interesting insights along the way, but the goal is to arouse your curiosity enough that you’ll take up the challenge and explore the data yourself, gain deeper insights and do something with the data.
About Open Data Insights (ODI)
‘Open Data Insights’ is a new blog series that will highlight open government data. Every month, we explore and briefly analyse an open government dataset with the aim of raising its profile so that others might explore the dataset further. Ideally, and most importantly, we hope to inspire you to use the data to improve people’s lives in some way, whether it's through a simple app or better informed policies.