sábado, 3 de abril de 2010

Open Data Movement: Free our Data

It has been several months since I wanted to talk you about the Open Data Movement, specially after my participation in November in FICOD 09 representing Euroalert.net, in the roundtable about creating value through the reuse of public sector information.

During the past few months we have been living kind of an Open Data Rush that started with Obama's promise of government transparency, which in terms of data openness ended, among others, in Data.gov pioneering initiative. Since then several countries, mainly English speaking ones, have launched their own initiatives. You can check, New Zeeland Open Data Catalogue, or Australia Catalogue, and also individual cities like Open Toronto or New York City open data websites. There is a good repository of governments that are opening up their data vaults around the world at The Guardian Open Data Platform or at Fundacion CTIC website

In the European Union since 2003 we have the Directive 2003/98/EC on the Re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI) that has already been transposed into all the members national laws. That means, in simple words, that the EU27 Member States are enforced by law to promote open data, although to date only United Kingdom seems to be doing a significant effort. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is being advised by Sir Tim Berners Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, has talked in several speeches about his aim of turning UK into a world leader in making government data more accessible to the public. This commitment to Open Data Community, considered as an important element of Building Britain’s Future, has led to Data.gov.uk website for the promotion of the reuse of UK public data or the announcement of the creation of "The Institute of Web Science" initially funded with £30M.

In Spain, we are quite far from leading anything in the web, although it is remarkable the effort done by Proyecto Aporta, a small initiative at the Ministry of Industry with very scarce resources, that I presented you a few months ago. For example, in March 2010 Proyecto Aporta launched a beta version of a catalogue of public information in Spain, which sadly contains very little raw data available, and thus, useful for reuse by companies or individuals.

There is not a strong political support from Spanish authorities, and Spain is going to loose another opportunity to improve its performance in digital innovation and to participate in the major changes in economy and society we are living. I cannot not understand why an initiative that would have such a huge positive impact on innovation it is not being pushed firmly in our country. Open Data is a very cheap investment for a Government and the main reasons that are pushing forward these initiatives around the world are purely economic. The European Commission estimated in 2006 that the overall market size for the reuse of Public Sector Information in the EU is 27.000 million Euros (0.25% of the total aggregated GDP for the EU)

In order to be up to date, I recommend the EPSIPlatform, Europe's One-Stop Shop on Public Sector Information (PSI) Re-use, where you will find, among other useful resources, the best tracking I know of all news, announcements and moves in the Open Data World. You can also follow EPSIplatform in Twitter. If you want to get involved I suggest you to follow The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) projects around any kind of information that can be freely used, reused, and redistributed.

Open Data might be a drop in the ocean of economy, but it is a really cheap move, it is easy for public authorities, there are not major shortcomings, it does not hurt any industry and there is a lot of political return, apart from the economic as transparency is a hot topic for citizens. So please move on!. Companies need raw data for developing new and innovative products! Free our data!

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