Public sector open data: big problems still to solve
We’re in the very early days of the UK government’s new approach to open data. While it seems to be going in the right direction and progress has in many respects been remarkably quick (eg this recent announcement on public sector transparency), clearly we still have a lot to learn and many problems to overcome.
Chris Taggart and Vicky Sargent’s recent
article on lessons learned from the Open Election Data project was extremely informative on how far we still have to go. I strongly recommend that you read it in full. It’s a salutary reminder that although activity around linked data is blooming, it’s very easy to forget that most people have no idea what we are talking about! That’s our failing, not theirs.
There is a need for education and awareness raising about the basics of web publishing in general. This ought to be a core activity of any organisation in the 21st century and will be the foundation for what we want to achieve with linked data. If more people in local government understand what is possible, that can feed through into setting priorities and selection of software tools and suppliers.
We in the tech community need to provide better software tools to assist the publishing process. They need to work alongside existing systems, not replace them, otherwise uptake will be impractically slow. A lot of the source information is already online but we can make it a lot more useful. Chris Taggart’s work with OpenlyLocal shows what can be achieved with a small amount of well targeted effort.
There is a lack of good learning resources aimed at the intelligent layman. We need introductory material aimed at particular user groups, such as local government, with examples that can be copied and adapted.
There are now a few success stories that illustrate the potential of linked data publishing and inspire more people to get involved. Let’s find more of those and get the word out to a broader community.