Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Government Transparency via Open Data and Open Source

Government Transparency via Open Data and Open Source by Jennifer Bell, Executive Director of visiblegovernment.ca,Open Source Business Resource, February 2009, fits in the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.


Industry analyst Gartner describes web services based on open government data as having a "greater potential effect on the ability to transform government than anything else in the Web 2.0 world". In his technology platform, Barack Obama has made groundbreaking promises related to increasing government accountability by: i) publishing data in open formats; and ii) using online tools to involve citizens in government decision making. These transformative ideas have not yet spread to politics in Canada.

As citizens, we trust that money is being wisely spent on the systems that run our country. We trust that the people governing us have the skills, time, and information they need to make the best decisions. We trust that bureaucracies are well-designed and that the people in them are motivated to make those bureaucracies better. Unfortunately, it's hard to trust what you can't see. By publishing information in open, machine-readable formats, governments can take a powerful step towards building public trust. By sharing information, governments can start to channel the expertise of the citizenry outside of the civil service to build more effective and inclusive ways of running the country.

The non-profit VisibleGovernment.ca is working to make online tools for civic participation based on open government data a reality in Canada. This article describes why open government data is not only a requirement for greater government transparency, but also a valuable investment in our country's infrastructure.