Open data is step one

A blog post entitled “Why the ‘Open Data Movement‘ is a Joke” is making the rounds. There are already excellent rebuttals by David Eaves here and Socrata here and frankly, I don’t have much to add. One thing I will say is that Open Data does risk becoming a PR stunt by government authorities, so we must be vigilant. True and meaningful opening up of government (not just data), must be enshrined in law, there is no other option. In fact, government transparency should be constitutional or in Canada, part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that it remains out of reach of closed minded governments with things to hide. It should be every citizen’s right to obtain real-time digital and open data from the government.

Let’s be clear, the ultimate goal of the open data mouvement is simple: transform government from a closed by default position where citizens request access to information to a government that is open by default and which must defend why a non-personal piece of information SHOULD NOT be made public.

Using fluffy open data (transit, sign-posts, wait times at hospitals) might seem dangerous, but I believe it will set an expectation on the part of citizens. This expectation is a foundation to continuously request more serious, meaningful and higher quality data. Time will tell, but I have no doubts concerning the seriousness and intent of the open data mouvement.

P.S. We see more and more access to information advocates at open data conferences, so the future is hopeful.

Published on May 9, 2012