A Call to Free Up Public Data

open data 300x76 photo (open data)

Author:  Linda Rosencrance, Spotfire Blogging Team

open data 300x76 photo (open data)

Author:  Linda Rosencrance, Spotfire Blogging Team

Although summer has been over for quite some time, people from all over the world went to camp in Warsaw, Poland last week. But it wasn’t just any camp—it was the Open Government Data Camp 2011.

An annual event, the camp drew, well, everyone involved in the open data community, to a converted factory building in Warsaw, Poland to toss around ideas, write code and meet the folks behind open data projects in a number of countries around the world.

Since the Guardian newspaper launched its Free Our Data campaign over five years ago, open data has made its way into “digital policy packages and transparency initiatives all over the place—from city administrations in Berlin, Paris and New York, to the corridors of institutions like the European Commission or the World Bank,” according to this article.

The aim of the Free Our Data campaign is to make taxpayers’ data available to taxpayers for free because government works best when it’s open and transparent. 

But things aren’t going all that smoothly. Data.gov is on pace to have its funding slashed from $34 million to just $2 million—and that’s not such a good thing. The fact is transparency will suffer if the plug is pulled on Data.gov.

But that’s not the only problem open data is facing, according to the article. In the UK people are worried that more data is being locked down and only sold to those who can afford to pay for it. And in many countries, most documents and datasets are still published with legal conditions, which means they can’t be reused.

Participants at this year’s camp were trying to figure out how to overcome the obstacles to opening up this data. And they also learned how to set up and run an open data initiative and get the legal and technical details right as well as how to engage with data users and much more. The group is planning to take all this information and make it available in a book called the Open Data Manual.

Attendees at the event also took part in hands-on workshops on data journalism, focusing on EU spending and tools for journalists. And they met the people behind the Civic Commons, mySociety, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Open Rights Group, the Sunlight Foundation, the Web Foundation and many other NGOs who work on open data.

Some of the most critical information about the world is collected by public bodies on behalf of the public, according to the article. The folks in Warsaw spent their time finding ways to keep opening this data up and ensuring it delivers value to the public.