Tomorrow morning at 9.30 marks the start of the Open Government Data Camp, the first of it’s kind, and what we hope will be an annual event. People are already arriving from across the world to attend including representatives from the UN, White House and European Commission. But why all the fuss? We spoke to key figures in open government data and asked them why the next two days are important.
What is Open Government Data Camp about? It’s about helping build a 21st century citizenry, here in the UK and around the world. In the 19th century we didn’t build libraries for a literate citizenry. We built libraries to help citizens become literate. Today we build open data portals not because we have public policy literate citizens, we build them so that citizens may become literate in public policy. That’s our purpose.
Opening up government data is infectious. Once one country opens its data, the pressure builds on others to follow suit. Just as the internet knows few national boundaries, nor do the growing communities of civic hackers working collaboratively across borders to shed light on issues of global significance and make governments more accountable for their actions.
The last 18 months has seen the emergence of Open Government Data as a game changing development in a number of countries. Open Data can improve public services, creates innovation and value, and leads to greater transparency and accountability. I hope that more will join the Open Government Data community to share these benefits and help us all do better still.
The UK and USA have done really well opening up government data, but these are still very early days. Government data is an iceberg, and only the tip is open. Developers, civil servants, and NGOs from around the world are all working to expose the rest of the iceberg. They’re learning from each other, and events like the Open Government Data Camp are critical for sharing hard-won experience. We want the UK experience with linked data to help New Zealand’s work in this field, just as New Zealand’s work on a standard government license informed the UK’s Government Licensing Framework. If we work together then we all go forward faster.
In my work on open government data I see that people work with their respective governments locally, but themselves are working on a European scale. Because the issues involved are the same for all. It’s just that governments are organized along these national divisions. The camp brings that European network together and strengthens it. I hope we can build the same practice oriented connections for civil servants of the countries represented. Cross fertilizing good practice, and learning from countries at the forefront of open government data will give energy to all of us, especially to the European countries that haven’t made significant progress yet.