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US CIO Kundra Plans data.gov Site

April 7, 2009 in Exemplars, External, Open Data, Policy

I just saw this transcript of US CIO Kundra’s first conference call
where he states:

VK: One of the things we want to do is embark on launching data.gov which would democratize data and give data access to the public and based on that challenge whether it is citizens, NGOs the private sector to help us think through how we address some of the toughest problems in the public sector.

VK: Data.gov will publish data feeds, so we’ll have a vast array of data, and the way I like to think about this is that if you think of two forms of data that have been published in the federal government that have fundamentally transformed the economy. One example is the National Institute of Health working with other world bodies when they published the Human Genome Project data online. What that did is it created an entire revolution in personalized medicine where you ended up having over 500 drugs that were created and that are in the pipeline coming into the FDA.

This looks like an upgrade of Kundra’s Washington DC OCTO efforts (OCTO ckan package) to the national level. It is a great initiative and we can only hope this will spur action on opening up government data elsewhere — both in other countries and at other governmental levels.

Lastly, to offer some suggestions, we’d emphasize that, for a project like this to deliver maximal benefits, it should:

  1. Publish public information in way which makes it easy to re-use. For example, publish in XML or Text/CSV, not PDF files which data must be extracted from. Allow direct, bulk downloading, rather than access through an API or piecemeal access via a web service. (For more on this see our post Give Us the Data Raw, and Give it to Us Now.)

  2. Legal and licensing clarity. Be clear about what can and can’t be done with public content and data – with explicit legal and licensing statements, terms of use, and so on. Be clear what is in the public domain and what is free for re-use as long as attribution is given. Be clear about what is not available for use – including material where copyright is held by third parties. Fine grained permissions – with clear terms for each document and dataset – are better than blanket statements, which require each case to be investigated individually.

(Reiterating points made in our earlier post about “What Obama can do to promote openness”).

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