Open government requires usefulness not just data

Tools

Open government initiatives need to frame the data they supply supply in ways the public can quickly understand and want to use, instead of simply supplying greater amounts of it, says the Center of Technology in Government.

In a Dec. 4 whitepaper (.pdf) the research center from the State University of New York-Albany says there exists a growing interest at all levels of government to open up government data.

However, says the study, agencies too often focus on expanding the amount of government data provided instead of undertaking efforts to determine what data is relevant to both agency performance and public interest.

It suggests agencies determine the primary sources of and audience for their data so they can understand where the two intersect and in what situations the public would use that data. This would allow an agency to create datasets that provide quick access to the most useful information for each determined situation.

For example, the report says government-provided data for road construction will likely have a public expectation that it can give real-time updates on traffic issues or alternative routes, so the information disseminated to the public should support such a use, if possible.

Good policy and data access, it says, requires providing useful information to the public but also data management to protect agencies and indiviudals from abuse.

In order to keep open government initiatives useful as they age, the report recommends giving users the ability to communicate data errors or possible improvements to data providers so that problems are addressed as the arise and future users benefit from a cleaner system.

For more:
- download the "Dynamics of Opening Government Data" report (.pdf)

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