The (somewhat) latest developments in open data
Jane Park, June 21st, 2012
Some of these developments may be dated by a month or more, but we want to make sure they are on your radar by pointing them out here.
Several open data portals have launched, including a Brazilian Open Data portal powered by the open-source data cataloguing software CKAN (run by the Open Knowledge Foundation – OKFN). The Ministry of Planning in Brazil worked with the OKFN to develop the portal, cultivating citizen participation through an open and transparent development process. Furthermore, the portal itself carries a default license of CC BY-SA. Since its May 4 launch, the portal has grown and now hosts 79 data sets and 893 resources. As noted on the OKFN blog, “the portal is part of a larger project called the National Infrastructure Open Data, or INDA. The general idea of INDA is to establish technical standards for open data, promote training and support public bodies in the task of publishing open data. This entire process is done through intra-government cooperation and cooperation between government and citizens, always aiming to achieve a real platform for open government.”
You should also take note of the Open GLAM data portal. This portal also runs on CKAN and is a hub for open data sets from GLAM institutions, aka Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums. The datasets are licensed under various open licenses, and some with no rights attached thanks to the use of the CC0 public domain waiver.
In addition to open data portals, open data initiatives like the School of Data and the Open Data Institute are taking off. The School of Data is a collaboration between the OKFN and the Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) to “create a set of courses for people to learn how to do interesting things with data, from beginners to experts.” In late May, the School of Data held a week-long kick-off sprint in Berlin with a virtual component, which I participated in by helping to start an open data challenge with virtual colleagues. The challenge is still in development, and once completed it will be a part of the School of Open as well as the School of Data. You can help to build it at the P2PU platform.
The kick-off yielded a great foundation for many other data tracks as part of the School of Data, which you can read about here.
The Open Data Institute is an initiative by the UK government to “incubate, nurture and mentor new businesses exploiting Open Data for economic growth” and to “promote innovation driven by the UK Government Open Data policy.” £10m will be invested over five years by the Technology Strategy Board, a non-departmental public body. The UK government has published its implementation plan as a pdf online. You can learn more at The Guardian article from last May.
The data-driven economy is also a hot topic within the EU, with the emergence of a data session at the European Commission’s 2nd Digital Agenda Assembly taking place today and tomorrow. The workshop will “explore the potential of data, some of the most promising economic and business aspects involved, and discuss how policy for data and our investment in R&D can better address the challenges of businesses and the public sector and further support innovative business development.”
Lastly, to put all the current activity around data into perspective, is a thoughtful article by the OKFN’s Jonathan Gray on “What data can and cannot do.” The Guardian article reinforces the point that data, while valuable, when divorced from context and without interpretation, is not very effective. He encourages us to “cultivate a more critical literacy” towards data:
“Data can be an immensely powerful asset, if used in the right way. But as users and advocates of this potent and intoxicating stuff we should strive to keep our expectations of it proportional to the opportunity it represents.”
Essentially, opening up data is just the first step — and arguably, a necessary step to ensuring that data can be reused, contextualized, and interpreted in meaningful ways.
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