There are two philosophies that governments can pursue with the data that they capture. Either data is confidential by default or data is public by default. Governments around the world are moving to an open by default model.
Why are governments moving to a public by default data philosophy?
Governments are waking up to the fact that government data that is open by default and is accessible, discoverable, and usable fuels entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery – all of which improve citizens’ lives, contributes significantly to job creation and an increase in economic growth.
In New Zealand, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is an open data platform created and administered by the New Zealand government. The platform contains all the spatial GIS layers collected by various government agencies and it is made publicly available to everyone. Opening up this data has resulted in an explosion of new innovative products and services that businesses and individuals are using to drive the New Zealand economy. Online services like realestate.co.nz and relab.co.nz are providing online services for their customers to make informed decisions about housing. Property consultancy businesses are also using the publicly available data to help the New Zealand government make informed decisions about infrastructure planning and spending.
What are the benefits to governments?
By making data public by default, public institutions become more transparent, trusted and accountable to citizens.
What are the benefits to citizens?
By making data public by default makes it easy for the public to access and comb through facts and figures on a variety of topics. This ensures that a country has well informed citizens. Publicly available data is more valuable when it is widely distributed and can be used to spark new ideas and discoveries.
What are the benefits to business?
By supporting the use, reuse and free distribution of datasets, governments are supporting business start-ups, innovation and new citizen-centered services.
By making data open and accessible, governments are removing the barriers to entry for the creation of new products and services that rely on public data.
In order to produce the greatest public good, government data should be open by default. That is why Open Government Data (OGD) as a philosophical and growing set of policies is gaining traction worldwide with governments.