Open Data Monthly Review 03/2012

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


Open Government vs. Open Data
A new research paper by Harlan Yu and David Robinson does an excellent job of tracing the history of the open government and open data movements and the way the two have been conflated, especially since the beginning of the Obama administration.

New York City to Mandate Open Data
The Big Apple is stepping up its open data program. The New York City Council unanimously approved a measure on Wednesday, Feb. 29, that requires city agencies to publish public data sets on an online portal. The legislation, Intro 29A, is expected to be signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Ordnance Survey holds free open data masterclasses
People across Great Britain are being given the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of open data, and the tools and techniques to use open datasets, through a series of free masterclasses hosted by Ordnance Survey.

In ‘Open Government Data,’ What’s Really Open?
In parsing the meaning of “open government,” citizens weigh the availability of information against the transparency of creating it. It’s a rare grammar debate that affects the course of democracy.

Open data is the raw material of ‘new industrial revolution’

The UK leads the world in making ever more data freely available, according to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. There are more than 40,000 unique public sector datasets on – the largest resource of its kind in the world – from real-time transport data to information on routine hospital activity.

Open data must not be neglected by local government: Nigel Shadbolt
The public sector’s open data revolution will not fully succeed unless more is done with local data, according to professor Nigel Shadbolt, founder of
The open data agenda is not as far as advanced within local government as it is within central government, perhaps due to the fact the open data push originated from within Whitehall, Shadbolt said.

Maude praises UK progress on open data but private sector sees work to do
An “open data” revolution kicked off by a Guardian campaign is gathering pace in the UK. The Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, is trumpeting the UK’s success in making government data freely available – and pointing to examples of companies that have sprung up to create commercial businesses around free data from public bodies.

Open data community to tell government what to publish
The private sector and the broader open data community are to have a greater influence over the release of public sector data, ministers have said at the launch of an independently chaired Data Strategy Board (DSB).

Open data: Jimmy Wales and the Man from Sweden

Last week we learned that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is to act as an unpaid adviser to the UK Government on opening up data to the public. His history is involving people in creating public content; so the appointment is to be welcomed. The more data we all can see, the more open our government, and the better-served is democracy.

Open data to get public-sector gatekeepers

A Data Strategy Board is being created to advise departments on what data they should release, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced. The Data Strategy Board (DSB) will be led jointly by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and universities and science minister David Willetts.

Brits Reexamine Open Data Policies
The UK government has commissioned an independent Data Strategy Board to guide and accelerate future government data releases. The board is tasked with not only determining what data should be released, but will work with government organizations to determine what data releases will lead to economic growth.

TV hackers thrill MIPCube conference, but call for more open data

How do hackers hack when they have very little to hack with? That was the challenge facing a group of developers at the MIPCube conference this weekend. The idea: they would spend 36 hours coding innovative apps and websites based on TV content, then present the results to a room full of producers and broadcasters. Oh, and the hacking took place on a yacht moored in the Cannes harbour.

How a student used open data to beat national rail enquiries at its own game

How useful is open government data really? How much can you use to build things that make a difference to people’s lives? It turns out that some of the most useful is the least dramatic. Recently, the Association of Train Operating Companies opened up its own data vaults to the world.


A single European open data licence?
I’ve seen the online calls for a single European licence for open data. I think they deserve a response: here it is. You’ll know that open data is a cause close to my heart, and I welcome your initiative. You’ll be aware that back in December I put forward an ambitious legal proposal to unlock the goldmine and open up Europe’s public sector, through a system that would be cheaper, easier to use and wider in scope than current rules. In legal terms, these take the form of amendments to the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive: that means they are proposed by the Commission, but then must be agreed by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers before becoming law – and indeed those bodies have already held initial discussions on this topic.

Focussing on open data where it matters: accountability and action

A lot of talk of open data proceeds as if all data is equal, and a government dataset is a government dataset. Some open data advocates fall into the trap of seeing databases as collections of ‘neutral facts’, without recognising the many political and practical judgements that go into the collection and modelling of data. But, increasingly, an awareness is growing that datasets are not a-political, and that not all datasets are equal when it comes to their role in constituting a more open government.

Open Plaques: Community Powered Heritage
Historical plaques by their very nature are objects in the public domain, so creating a platform to collect them with the public – and for the collected data to be available for the broadest possible public use – seemed an obvious starting point. That’s why Open Plaques data has been open data from birth.

Announcing DM2E: Exploring the possibilities of Linked Open Data in cultural heritage
The Open Knowledge Foundation is delighted to announce that it will be leading the community work for a three-year EU funded project entitled Digitised Manuscripts to Europena (DM2E). The project consortium, which includes academic institutions, NGOs and commercial partners, will be led by Professor Stefan Gradmann at the Humboldt University.

Open data and archiving datasets
Considering the word ‘digital’ makes up one third of my job title, you might consider it an oversight to have not used it once in my last blog entry. That may be an indication of variety in work – or perhaps forgetfulness – but I will make up for that today when I consider the union and mutually-beneficial relationship between open data and the archiving of datasets.

The Missing Open Data Policy
Open data policies aren’t doing nearly as much good as they can, because they usually fail to require new information to be disclosed.  To fix this, governments should make their information policy decisions as publicly as possible, indexing their major information holdings, and publicly determining whether or not to release information.

Open data must be about far more than just transparency
Last year, the Government set out its determination “to have the most ambitious open data agenda of any government in the world” and pledged to deliver a “quantum leap in transparency” in Whitehall. Since then, great strides have been made in the pursuit of transparent, open government, including crime maps, school performance and council spending data. Yet transparency must not be an end in itself.

Talk at LIFT 2012: Open Data – How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going

I’m pleased to announce that the video of my talk, Open Data: How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going, that I gave a few weeks ago at the LIFT 2012 conference has now been published.

Chair sought for Open Data board
The government is recruiting an independent chair for a new Data Strategy Board to advise ministers on what information should be released as part of its ‘Open Data’ agenda. Better use of NHS data is a key part of the agenda. The government has already said this will include giving patients access to their online health records and creating a service linking data from primary and acute care so healthcare impacts can be tracked across the entire health service.

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