As groups, governments and communities around the world innovate and expand their collaborative potential, open data is quickly becoming an advantage as well as a concern. Denise McKenzie, executive director of the Communications and Outreach Program for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and Ron Exler, a senior consultant with the OGC, addressed this issue recently in a Government Technology article.
Open data initiatives are popping up everywhere, putting “smart cities” within reach. It seems everyone wants to be the first in line, from San Francisco to New York and beyond. However, as it may be expected, policies and governance hurdles are popping up just as fast.
There are two main concerns here, and they may be familiar. The first is protecting potentially sensitive data. The second centers on how to maintain efficiency through the sharing of platforms and reuse of data, which reduces development time and costs and increases overall investment value.
Open data creates more opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving. One group McKenzie and Exler point to as an example of this are the Civic Ninjas, who are leveraging open data to create and support solutions for governments and citizens. This kind of work is made possible by open data, and plausible through open standards, and mirror the principles upon which OpenStand was founded.
Just as the Web’s value derives from an open standards-based publish/discover/use philosophy, unlocking the value of government data depends on open standards. These include standard schemes for naming things and describing relationships (data models) and standard ways of describing data sets (metadata), as well as standard software interfaces and data encodings that make data publishable, discoverable and immediately usable.
Open standards will play a critical role in making open data sharing secure, private, effective, useable, and accessible. McKenzie and Exler encourage decision-makers to make a conscious play for openness: “the art of procurement lies in avoiding deep and long-lasting commitments to closed systems,” they write, “instead cultivating open solutions that help move both users and providers in the direction of openness.”