Open Data dovetails the digital evolution of transparency and right to information agenda, both fundamental for citizenship. The coalition’s plans for Open Data offer a major opportunity to make government more accountable, build participation and to promote economic innovation.
We believe in the potential of new technologies to increase and enhance citizens participation. However, there are risks. The first risk is very simple: that vested interests within departments, the desire to maintain revenue from closed data sets, and any perceived delay in seeing real benefits from newly-opened data might derail plans to open up government data.
The second risk is around interpretation and use of Open Data. Much civic minded data re-use until now has been geared towards the citizen as individual and consumer, and the problems surrounding the use of data for complex decision making and collective organisation have only recently begun to be discussed.
Thirdly, a full understanding of privacy risks needs to be developed by government, so fundamental rights are not threatened.
Making open data truly useful means both helping groups to open up data and information, but also building capacity in civil society groups to make use of open data for visualisation, analysis and generally use government data to increase their effectiveness.
These are the main areas where we are currently working:
A new single agency, the “Public Data Corporation”, will centralise high value public datasets such as weather, land records and national mapping. Unfortunately, the plan is also to sell off part of these services, marking the end of the road for open data in several key areas. ORG is working to reverse the worst aspects of this decision and is formulating an alternative vision for a PDC based around openness and innovation.
Current government proposals for the commercialisation of "anonymised" public services data appear to potentially disregard the well documented threats of reidentification of individual records. Open publication of data online brings many other substantial challenges to privacy. ORG is working with groups across Europe to create a clearer understanding of where privacy risks may occur.
The campaign’s first major piece of work is, alongside FreeBMD, building a broad Open Genealogy Alliance to promote Open Data in the family history sector. Historic data about births, marriages and deaths, or censuses has been collected for public benefit, and is available to companies through purchasing agreements, but is frequently hard or expensive for individuals to access. And restrictive licensing is reducing the impact of voluntary transcribers who want to republish historic archives.