G8 Open Data

Photo courtesy of UK Government

Photo courtesy of UK Government

So, while this isn’t exactly breaking news any longer, I did want to share some thoughts on the recent G8 meeting. In amongst declarations on Syria, EU and USA trade talks, international tax reform, nuclear disarmament, an end to the payment of hostage ransoms and countless other items of international significance the leaders of the G8 signed an Open Data Charter.

But what’s the point of it and is it worth it? Well, it’s probably not important as some of the other things on the G8 agenda, but the signing of this charter could spur a quiet revolution that may, in time, spread across the entire globe.

The document itself is very short; especially considering it was produced at an international diplomatic summit – these documents usually run into thousands of pages! It outlines five key principles:

1. Open Data by default

Basically, unless there is a good reason, like national security or the potential to identify personal data, every single scrap of information the government collects should be made, by default, freely and openly available to the public

2. Quality and Quantity

Datasets should be released quickly in a comprehensive and high-quality manner. They should be simple to understand and written in plain and clear language.

3. Usable by all

Data should be free, with no barriers to access and typically in an open format.

4. Releasing Data for improved governance

Open Data should strengthen democracy and governance; being open about collection and aggregation and sharing our experiences internationally should help improve governance globally.

5. Releasing Data for Innovation

The charter recognises the power of this data for innovation. By encouraging citizens to use the data; analysing it in new ways and creating new tools, the G8 leaders clearly hope to generate new social and economic benefits from their open data policy.

We need look no further than the UK to see the benefits of Open Data. The UK is a leader in the field with a dedicated government portal but even here many datasets are still unpublished. There are however two notable innovations that demonstrate the power of this data. The release of data by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) resulted in one start-up identified a £200m saving in drug procurement and Transport for London have argued that one particular data release has resulted in a return worth 56 times the original investment made to release the data.

Away from the UK, the consequences may be equally great. In Russia, government secrecy may be challenge by a citizenry demanding that the government honour its G8 pledge. The ability of governments across the world to see how a G8 government spends money, collects data and organises the state may be transformational.

We at Indigo are firm believers in Open Data. Knowledge is power! Even a small advance in the opening of government data could result in hugely positive change for billions of people.