Open Data is Civic Capital: Best Practices for “Open Government Data”

I frequently see questions like how can I convince my government that open data is important?, and what should I do as a government web manager to make data open?. These and other questions came up at Transparency Camp a few months ago, and at the end of the conference Gunnar Hellekson of Red Hat, and later I, decided to take on the project of bringing together a repository of best-practices guides for technology’s role in an open government. We have a wiki page for the project which lists some of the guides we’d like to see written.

Since the conference I’ve been working on the first guide, Open Data is Civic Capital: Best Practices for “Open Government Data”, which you can read by following the link. The goal was 1) to motivate why open government data isn’t just an ideological issue but actually makes society more powerful, and can really make the world a better place, and 2) to outline some suggested priorities and recommendations for open government data, drawing on the recommendations of a number of past groups (e.g. the 8 Principles of Open Government Data, and others). Thanks for feedback to Gunnar, John Wonderlich, Carl Malamud, Joe Germuska, Kevin Lyons, and David Robinson. (They had a lot of great suggestions many of which I haven’t had the energy to follow through with yet.) The essay begins:

“Creating a well-informed public is a core value of representative government. It is a prerequisite for ensuring the best representatives are elected and a crucial component of government oversight—as well as being important in areas well beyond civics. This document speaks to why public government data (also called ‘public sector information’) is a valuable resource to society if put on the Web and shared freely with the public, and discusses how to go about doing it. We discuss technological considerations and end with sixteen guiding principles for best practices in open government data.”

Kevin Lyons, who works for the Nebraska State Legislature, began work on a best practices guide for the use of the PDF format. When is it appropriate, what to look out for. That’s up on the wiki and I’m sure your suggestions & revisions would be welcome.

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