The Cabinet Office has today published its Open Data White Paper (Unleashing the potential), a timely move given the UK’s current position as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership of 55 governments. The theme of the UK chairmanship is “Transparency Drives Prosperity” so it’s particularly pleasing to see explicit reference made to the need for government to publish a Developer Engagement Strategy.
You can get a flavour of the event from the video below.
Engagement with those who are often the primary users of your data is key to success and was certainly something that I learned during my time as Director of Digital Projects with the Greater London Authority when we embarked on our work on the London Datastore. I have stated publicly on many occasions that the success of the London Datastore was entirely due to the collaborative nature of the project and the open door policy that we had with the developer community in London. They could make requests for particular datasets, point to mistakes or anomalies in the data that we could correct and we as government could give them a clearer understanding of the difficulties and challenges that we faced when dealing with the whole new world of open data.
The White Paper sets out a commitment to publish a Government Developer Engagement Strategy, setting out expectations of how government will engage with the developer community and making recommendations on the skills and competencies required for effective engagement with this community. The proposed strategy will also set out “how departments will embed the API principles, developed as part of the Government ICT strategy, in a continuous dialogue with developers to support the key principles of robustness and consistency”. This work will be led by us here in GDS.
The original principles drawn up by the Public Sector Transparency Board have been revised as a result of the White Paper consultation process and these are now reaffirmed as follows:
- Public data policy and practice will be clearly driven by the public and businesses that want and use the data, including what data is released and in what form
- Public data will be published in re-usable, machine-readable form
- Public data will be released under the same open licence which enables free re-use, including commercial re-use
- Public data will be available and easy to find through a single, easy-to-use, online access point (www.data.gov.uk)
- Public data will be published using open standards
- Public data from different departments on the same subject will be published in the same, standard formats and with the same definitions
- Public data underlying the Government’s own websites will be published in re-usable form
- Public data will be timely and fine-grained
- Release data quickly, then work to make it available in open standard formats, including linked data forms
- Public data will be freely available to use in any lawful way
- Public data will be available without application or registration, and without requiring details of the usre
- Public bodies should actively encourage the re-use of their public data
- Public bodies should maintain and publish inventories of their data holdings
In addition to the reaffirmation of the principles above the White Paper sets out an expanded Code Of Practice (in relation to the Datasets Section in the Protection of Freedoms Act) that deals with data requests, permission for datasets to be re-used, standards applicable to public authorities in connection with the disclosure of datasets and other issues related to making datasets available for re-use. The Code of Practice will continue to develop in an iterative way and the public will be offered the opportunity to shape future guidance using a crowdsourced wiki to be launched shortly on the newly refreshed www.data.gov.uk - this will enable the Code to reflect the real-world experience and first-hand knowledge of developers and those in civil society most interested in the use of government open data.
You can get a flavour of the discussion on that took place this morning around the launch by checking out the Cabinet Office site here and I look forward to hearing the views of those interested in #opendata though the comments section on our blog.
Emer Coleman (@emercoleman) is Deputy Director of Digital Engagement