Government is organising its online systems to allow private information brokers to access e-government meta data in bulk and remarket it.
Meta data defines or describes a particular set of data, particularly how, when and by whom it was collected.
“The meta data must be discoverable in case someone wants to create, say, a portal that combines public-sector and private-sector information,” says e-government unit adviser Edwin Bruce. “This is meta data, not the data itself,” he emphasises. “We’re talking, for example, of information on where you go to pick up a form to make a certain application.”
This information contains nothing confidential and government will probably not charge the private companies for it, even though the companies may on-sell it, he says.
As for access to government agency data itself for onward distribution, “it’s way too early to discuss that”, Bruce says, and when it emerges, it will be a matter for the individual agencies to decide. The unit is also working on an “infomediary code of conduct”, covering “the rules of the game, as regards use and abuse of the system”, he says.
The meta data architecture has been fully developed, on the basis of an Australian standard, and is currently being critically assessed for quality by the Dublin Core body. This is an internationally recognised forum for meta data standards, founded in 1995 at Dublin, Ohio.
Many government departments have meta data built to their own standard frameworks, but these will be brought into line with the main aim of correctly interfacing with the e-government portal, says e-government unit head Brendan Boyle. “Once we’ve got it defined in that way, the portal will find the information in any appropriate department,” he says.
Implementation of the portal is expected to begin late this year and extend through 2002.
“At present, the portal and the meta data standard are driving each other,” Bruce says. The unit is planning some requests for information or requests for proposal to potential developers in late July or early August on tools for data capture in these areas.