Government has made a well-received effort to deliver easier access to government data with a new portal, www.data.govt.nz, that channels data from a number of departments and other sources into a single website.
The site launched last week and is one result of a growing clamour for open access to government data, championed by lobbies both within and outside the public service.
In June this year, a small independent group led by Glen Barnes and Nathan Torkington launched the Open New Zealand site (open.org.nz) with the Open Data Catalogue as a “one-stop shop for locating government data” (Computerworld, June 22).
The founders said they hoped that, in time, government would take on the responsibility for maintaining this catalogue in accordance with Open New Zealand’s principles.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Nathan Guy, says input from Open New Zealand has helped the government “take this positive first step in creating an open and collaborative environment between government, users and proponents of open data”.
And, in response, the founders of Open New Zealand have now posted a review of the data.govt.nz initiative on their website, giving it good marks for openness and a collaborative and “conversational” approach, encouraging comment and the exchange of views. They also have some suggestions for further work.
They note that data.govt.nz does not offer bulk download of its database and that while “built on open source”, it has not yet open-sourced its own code.
The site has been created by the Government Technology Service, the part of the Department of Internal Affairs responsible for the operational side of all-of-government ICT, and was launched by the minister.
It includes an online forum for discussion and a suggestion of datasets to include, and has an associated Twitter stream at twitter.com/data_govt_nz.
One example of an insiders’ view of open data, is State Services Commission communications man Jason Ryan’s posting on a public sector communicators’ blog in July.
“It’s not about the technology. It’s not about data quality. Or privacy. Or commercial sensitivity, or any of that stuff. That should all be dealt to as part of the everyday functioning of any administration,” Ryan writes.
“It is about accepting that we, the government, collect and manage this information on behalf of citizens and that it is our fundamental responsibility to make it available to them, in a way that supports the creation of public and economic value.”