Open Data Monthly Review 01/2012

A review of latest news and blog posts in the field of open data.


For years, proponents of “government 2.0” have been calling for the liberation of public data. Gigabytes of information about crime, health, money and the weather are gathering dust somewhere, so why not release them so we can build civic and life-improving apps?

The most interesting thing for the European Commission is that so much can be done with so little when it comes to data. Opening up data that is already collected, that taxpayers have already paid for, is right for transparency, and is the cheapest way we know to unlock innovation potential. It’s the best way we know to help Europeans create the jobs and economic growth that we so desperately need.

The federal repository experienced major gains in 2011 in the number of data sets added and downloaded and in the number of new applications and “mashups” created with data obtained from the site, according to a new report from the General Services Administration.

We are only one working day into 2012, and already two data startups announced funding rounds. Klout confirmed its Series C, and now social music data gatherer, Next Big Sound, is set to announce a $6.5 million Series A.  The TechStars startup (Class of 2009) just got backing from IA Ventures and Foundry Group. It will also be opening an office in New York City (it is headquartered in Boulder, CO).

The cabinet office data team looks at how public managers can make better choices with more information. No doubt many people will have made New Year’s resolutions for 2012 – and a number of people will already have succumbed to the temptation to temper their original goals or maybe even have decided they don’t really need to learn the bassoon.

One of the easiest targets for budget cutters in a recession is governmental initiatives to make data both accessible to the public and easy to work with. For example, the budget for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Electronic Government Initiatives was cut from $34 million in FY2010 to $8 million in FY2011. Recently Congress asked NOAA to consider charging other federal agencies for data that has historically been provided free of charge.

Making data easy to access will allow citizens to be creative with public data, which can help deliver economic benefits. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude recently argued that access to data can curb public spending; but it should also be an integral part of a more ambitious growth agenda for the UK.

The government has an impressive land and property portfolio, but is releasing figures an effective strategy? Public managers have been divided about the benefits of the government’s release of huge swaths of data. Can statistics alone effect change? The government hopes so. On 12 January, the Cabinet Office released data about the property owned by central government.

The Chinese government has stepped up efforts to make data on the country’s air quality more transparent, including allowing the public to tour the country’s pollution monitoring centre.

The Cabinet Office has appointed Tim Kelsey as its new executive director for transparency and open data within the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG).
The Cabinet Office open data team celebrates the release of more information than ever before about secondary school education.

Concerns about personal privacy appeared in a “significant” number of responses to the government’s consultation on transparency and open data, the Cabinet Office revealed today.

In the fall of 2011, a team of six IBM experts spent three weeks in Helsinki as part of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge program. The program brings together an interdisciplinary team to focus on a challenge faced by a city. In the case of Helsinki, the City wanted to make the most of two opportunities. One was that Helsinki had just begun to implement an open data strategy to make city data available to its citizens. The second was Helsinki’s selection as the 2012 World Design Capital, a biennial event that promotes cities that are using design to improve their social, cultural and economic life.

Over the past years we have experienced an increased understanding for the importance of open data. We’ve seen governments, non-governmental organizations and even private and public companies open up their data repositories. Beside the open data champions inside these entities that pushed the idea through ignorance, bureaucracy and firewalls, there has also been a lot of work done to provide guidance, standards and tools. One important contributor of such things is the Open Knowledge Foundation. The globally-located and community-focused team that nurtures communities and builds tools to promote open knowledge, data and content. I think it’s time to show my appreciation by highlighting some of their initiatives.

We live in a connected society, where devices and data are being pulled together to profoundly change business, our personal lives, society and even nations. In this introduction to this Agenda, I want to try to outline, in non-technical terms, some of the benefits to the sector (and ultimately the taxpayer) of extracting and linking data.


I am pleased to announce the following open content textbooks
Open Data Structures (in Java) Edition 0.1
Open Data Structures (in C++) Edition 0.1Beta
These books, and accompanying source code, are freely available at

Last year during my Open Government Data Camp keynote speech on The State of Open Data 2011 I mentioned how I thought the central challenge for open data was shifting from getting data open (still a big issue, but a battle that is starting to be won) to getting all that open data in some common standards and schemas so that use (be it apps, analysis and other uses) can be scaled across jurisdictions.

By now, just about any city with a progressive outlook has conducted an open data apps contest–inviting hackers to create applications that make life better there. But Dublin, Ireland, is putting other places to shame. Next year, its HACK THE CITY exhibition and festival will present a slew of events, workshops, installations, and mass-participation experiments aimed at exploring ways to make cities work better. “We want to leave an imprint that inspires people to think differently about how we could an should live in cities,” says Teresa Dillon, curator for the festival at Science Gallery, an initiative of Trinity College Dublin.

While being most commonly known from the recent Linked Open Data movement, the concept of publishing data explicitly as Open Data has meanwhile developed many variants and facets that go beyond publishing large and highly structured RDF/S repositories. Open Data comprises text and semi-structured data, but also open multi-modal contents, including music, images, and videos. With the increasing amount of data that is published by governments (see, e.g.,, or, by international organizations ( or and by scientific communities (,, GenBank, IRIS or KNB) explicitly under an Open Data policy, new challenges arise not only due to the scale at which this data becomes available.

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, today delivered a complete coup de grâce for ICT education by accepting wholeheartedly that ICT education, and indeed the cross-curricular syllabus, was fundamentally broken. He accepted that traditional methods for mending a broken bureaucratic, micro-managed education system would not address the immediacy of the problem, and so he threw it open to the floor.

Remind me again: what’s the purpose of opening up all this public data?
Ah yes, that’s it. To create value. And you can’t get a much stronger example of real value in the real world than showing people how to save money when buying train tickets.

10 thoughts on “Open Data Monthly Review 01/2012

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