Opening up the potential of existing data in government

Data is political — use it responsibly, argue experts at this year’s Technology in Government conference. More conversations are needed about potential savings and benefits to the public, such as NSW’s FuelCheck.

Data is extremely valuable. Many people were surprised when Microsoft offered to buy LinkedIn earlier this year for US$26 billion. But as Steven Wilson, VP of Constellation Research pointed out, LinkedIn’s user data on 450 million registered members can drive many insights into Microsoft’s core customer base, justifying the hefty price tag.

Fortunately, with over 9.4 thousand discoverable datasets currently published on alone, Australia’s public sector is rich in data. But as governments release more and more data, people in government and industry are grappling with how data can best be used, with associated privacy issues a central concern.

Not enough conversation has gone into what hasn’t worked in open data, says David Eaves from the Kennedy School of Government.

For example in Canada, one initiative published Parliamentary debates in a newsfeed, interweaving Parliamentary transcripts with background contextual information and photographs. By providing users with information in a much more useful and user-friendly way, this is displacing the official Hansard publications, with Eaves stating that official staffers prefer this service. But Eaves asks: “Is this sustainable? I don’t think so.”

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