Home' Position : Position Feb Mar 2015 Contents Since 2013, Australian governments
at federal, state and territory levels
have talked about the benefits
of open data. Each government is
taking steps to open up more and more
government data to the public.
The common rhetoric is that making
this data readily available will lead to
innovation and build the digital economy
PSMA Australia is 100% supportive of
maximising access to data for the benefit
of the economy.
In fact, this was the catalyst that led
the governments of Australia to conceive
our organisation in 1992, and ultimately
to form PSMA as a company in 2001.
From this perspective, PSMA would
like to see the conversation move beyond
the ‘free or fee’ argument to a deeper
discussion focused on what needs to
be done for an open data framework
to deliver the benefits espoused in this
rhetoric – benefits we all seek.
Not all data is the same
The concept of open data is a great
conversation starter. It gets people from
all industries talking about data.
But data isn’t homogeneous. And since
it’s not, why would we expect the same
approach to its release, to work equally
well for all data?
Some data (and it’s common across
most types of location data) continually
change; sometimes slowly, sometimes
much more quickly. Think of your in-car
navigation device. How many times have
you gone searching for a new address
that’s not in your car’s system? The real
world is constantly changing, so the data
that represents it must change equally
quickly so that you don’t end up driving
the wrong way down a one-way street in
the Sydney CBD.
But at the other end of the scale, if you
look at something like financial reports,
that data relates to a specific point in
time. This means that once it is published,
it stands alone and does not change.
Think of this as static data. The value of
static data is the snapshot it provides on
that point in time.
Even when we narrow down to location
data, we may not even be talking about the
same kind of thing. After all, location data
encompasses infrastructure, properties,
addresses, facilities, demography, natural
resources, social services and public
amenities such as public transport
infrastructure and the road network.
A common phrase used about location
data is ‘to unlock value’.
However, dynamic data differs from
static data in many ways, and those dif-
ferences mean that not all data can be
treated the same when it comes to maxim-
ising the benefits of open data initiatives.
The aim of open data
At Locate14 Conference, Minister
Malcolm Turnbull said :
“To extract the most value from data
held by government, we need to make it
readily available to the private sector and
citizens to make it truly open.
“We are committed to regularly
publishing the data we hold and that we
publish much more of it in machine-
PSMA supports the minister’s
enthusiasm for open data including
location data, but before we try to catch
up to the 200,000 datasets released by the
UK government and mentioned in this
speech as the government’s target, let’s get
some things clear.
The idea of open data broadly
recognises the attainment of three benefits
through its adoption: transparency, social
and commercial value, and participatory
governance (open government). I
enthusiastically support these three pillars
of a strong democracy.
However, I think that it is fair to say that
the data that assists with achieving transpar-
ency of government, participatory govern-
ance, and even social value, is rarely the
same data that achieves commercial value.
For this reason, we shouldn’t make
the assumption that all data published
under open data policies will generate
commercial value. Consequently, a
high number of datasets accessible in
a machine-readable form need not be
the best measure of the achievement of
commercial value, although it may well
be a reasonable measure for the other
objectives of open data.
Targeted approach required
to achieve commercial value
To realise the desired outcomes of
industry innovation, reduced costs and
improved service delivery – the commer-
cial value objective – we certainly do need
to make more data more accessible.
However, it is not realistic to assume
that simply releasing data freely to the
public will automatically deliver commer-
cial value. It is a very important step, but
it is not a complete solution to maximis-
ing the value, especially for the class of
data described above as dynamic data.
Maximising access to data needs to
be about providing the type, quality
and format of data at a price point that
meets the needs of the broadest section
of the market.
These are the true barriers to uptake.
The open data policy framework needs
to expand and deepen the open data poli-
cies to appropriately deal with all the bar-
riers to achieving commercial value, rather
than simply maximising the number of
government datasets released to the public.
Quality and value
comes at a cost
Minister Turnbull also acknowledged
that the “value of data, of location
information, is latent. It requires
innovative analysis to realise the benefits”.
This is an insightful comment but
again, we need to go deeper into the issue.
“...this is not a job for a single stakeholder.
Government, industry, end users and everyone else
in between all have a role to play.”
delivering value is not a conjuring act
18 position February/March 2015
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