State Services answers call for public data

Lead state sector agency releases guides to non-personal datasets

Efforts to make more government data available to the public and to business appear to be gathering pace with the State Services Commission releasing a series of guides to data already accessible through government agencies.

In a blog post on the SSC's In Development blog, Keitha Booth writes that one of the issues in its efforts to free data has been the perception that wider government has not released many useful datasets and resources.

"While we appreciate that much work still needs to be done (and is being done) in this space, we thought it might be helpful to provide the public with a list of just some of the datasets, databases and other information resources that are already available online, usually on the websites of their source agencies," says the blog post.

The list has been compiled from information provided by government agencies working with the SSC and the Department of Internal Affairs on the Open Government Information and Data Re-use work programme, the post says.

"It is not a complete list and does not include data from agencies such as the Ministry for the Environment, NIWA and Landcare Research which are leaders in opening up their data.  We see the list as illustrating the vast continuum of government online data already currently available."

SSC has collated links to datasets, databases and other resources and now released that as an Excel spreadsheet, a .csv file and an Atom feed.

In June, a group called opengovt.org.nz set up its own guide to data already available.

Principal Glen Barnes said there has been a movement worldwide towards opening up government datasets and the SSC had made some effort in that direction. But the OpenGovt group didn't think it was moving fast enough and decided to “hack together a website” to fill the gap.

Official channels such as the government portal www.govt.nz do not give access to many of the datasets pointed to from the Open Data Catalogue, Barnes said. The catalogue’s contents range from long-term economic time series maintained by Treasury to the register of radio frequencies.

The other prime mover of the effort is internationally known author and O’Reilly conference organiser Nat Torkington, but there are quite a few others making a contribution, said Barnes.

SSC acknowledged OpenGovt in its post, saying it expects there will be strong interest in the release, "particularly from the laudable community which has set up the Open Data Catalogue."

SSC says the information it has now published is in a range of presentation formats and with differing use rights. Therefore, the spreadsheet and feed include an agency contact to assist with queries.

"They also list the dataset name, agency, online address, licence arrangements if known, and usage details if known," SSC's Booth writes.

The resources released are precursors of the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (NZGOALF), the SSC's post says, which will provide guidance for agencies and the public on the use of Creative Commons New Zealand Law licences across the state services. 

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