Hjalmar Gislason recently wrote to us to tell us about an initiative to open up material from the Icelandic government and other public institutions. In The Case for Open Access to Public Sector Data he writes:
In these public data collections lies tremendous value. The data that has been collected for taxpayersâ€™ money for decades or in a few cases even centuries (like population statistics) is a treasure trove of economical and social value. Yet, the state of public data is such that only a fraction of this value is being realized.
The reason is that accessing this data is often very hard. First of all its often hard to even find out what exists, as the sources are scattered, there is no central registry for existing data sets and many agencies donâ€™t even publish information on the data that they have.
More worrying is that access to these data sets is made difficult by a number of restrictions, some accidental, other due to lack of funding to make them more accessible and some of these restrictions are even deliberate. These restrictions include license fees, proprietary or inadequate formats and unjustified legal complications.
Iâ€™d like to argue that any data gathered by a government organization should be made openly accessible online. Open access, means absence of all legal, technical and discriminating restrictions on the use or redistribution of data. A formal definition of Open Access can be found at opendefinition.org
Hjalmar has also started a wiki page, Opin gÃ¶gn (‘open data’), so that people can register government data and document how it is accessible, how it is published, and so on.
We look forward to watching this progress!
Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.