Open data in practice

After more than a decade of open government data, what's next?

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 at 6:03 am

Open data isn’t something that you can switch on and switch off like a tap.

We've seen open data grow. Initially the issues were data format and granularity. Now it's a key driver for political transparency and critical resource for civic innovation.

It’s also time to think about what happens to open data as data-driven approaches to government become more common. 

Research into open data in the APS

We partnered with The University of Melbourne to conduct research into how open data practices feature in the day-to-day work of Australian public servants. 

We asked:

  • What are the attitudes of government agency workers to open data? 
  • What factors contribute to the successful implementation of open data policies and initiatives?
  • What are the indicators of open data maturity in the practices of data-releasing agencies on the supply side across all levels of government?
  • What factors contribute to or limit inter-agency data sharing and public release?

What the research told us

  • Workers are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about open data. But people defined open data in a number of different ways.
  • Open data is perceived as a valuable public asset. However, we observed conflicting views about what high-value open data sets might be and how this value should be leveraged.
  • Interviews revealed a need for higher and more consistent funding for open data initiatives. But there's little evidence of proven models for creating sustainability for open data programs.
  • Open data workers are often critical of organisational silos. Yet interviewees often talked of organisational units where open data portals or policies are managed in isolation from other areas of government where relevant work may be happening.
  • There's desire for data literacy and advocacy at the ministerial level. Interviewees discussed literacy in terms that ranged from the technical knowledge needed to 'read' and 'write with' open datasets through to being able to diagnose and predict ethical and legal issues related to data release.

We hope this research contributes to ongoing debates about open data futures.