Government open data initiatives, such as the US’ data.gov and the UK’ data.gov.uk are to be applauded, but there are still many challenges to be overcome. I’d like to outline three important ones.
What are the problems?
Open data is a bit like a hammer looking for a nail. There needs to be greater transparency about the problems facing government. Politicians are incentivized to present everything as rosy. This makes it more difficult for citizen developers to focus their resources for the greater good.
So, we need open problems—a list of what governments think is most pressing.
We need the right data
Once we’ve identified the problems, we need the ability to source the data that will help solve them. This isn’t necessarily the data that is already published. There needs to be a feedback loop where governments focus on publishing the data that will have the most impact—not just the data that they feel happy about publishing.
Real-time data feeds are required
Publishing data annually is imposing an archaic model on a new technology. Data could, and should, be published as it is collected. Everyone knows that the rate of change in society is accelerating. Without real-time data we’re, at best, solving last year’s problems.
So, open data is great. Let’s just try and get it right.