What is open data & what can it do for you: personally, professionally, politically


Rosie Williams (@Info_Aus), who runs the OpenAus project in financial and political transparency, has developed a short (free) introductory course for people who are unfamiliar with open data as a concept and with the open data eco-system. She explains below.


If you are a follower of my work you are likely to be aware of my concerns regarding the level of engagement of various sectors in drafting Australia’s first Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.

I am not the first person to complain about the lack of media attention given to the OGP process. After years of inaction by the government, the sudden signing and launch into public consultation at the end of 2015 has left a lot of people scrabbling to figure out how to contribute and what it all means to them.

While the government launched the OGPau website and funded four information sessions in December, for an initiative supported by the Prime Minister and entire Cabinet this has been a particularly low key start to what should be substantial national engagement activity. (OGP submission)

Sydney-based charity, The Open Australia Foundation, hosted engagement coordinator Amelia Loye to present a rundown of the new engagement strategy at their February Meetup and subsequently posted this advice on how to make an OGP Commitment.

After last airing my frustration with the lack of diversity of input into the National Action Plan, I subsequently realised that a couple of blog posts was not enough support to provide to busy people to enable them to contribute. I realised that a proper set of resources was required if people were realistically expected to play any role in the Open Government Partnership – as is their democratic right.

The result of this  musing is Australia’s first ever open data mooc. A mooc is an online course that can have large numbers of participants. I decided on this format as it allows people to join whenever they want and take as long as they want to cover the material.

The content in Introduction to Open Data explains open data explains where to find open data, what it can do for you personally, professionally and politically. This is where the Open Government Partnership comes in. One of the modules in this short course asks participants to contribute to a crowd-sourced list of data-sets that various communities or individuals would like to see opened for re-use.

Creating a list of data-sets that is contributed to by a diversity of interests provides a concrete goal that the National Action Plan can be held accountable for. A key aspect of the National Action Plan is that it requires agencies to come on board and help deliver the Commitments that come out of the consultation (on now) and provides community oversight of the implementation of these Commitments which is reported back to the OGP.

The course is aimed at the general public, people who may never have heard the term open data or who are unsure how the Open Government Partnership can help their interests or organisation. With the exception of the crowd-sourced list of data-sets, the rest of the content provides the background to understand what open data is and its relationship to better policy, better democracy and better lives.

This short course should take a few hours all up which you can do at your leisure. All challenges are voluntary with most submissions shared with other participants so people can learn from one another in a mutually supportive environment. An example of the kind of content the course contains is the following videos which provide a good overview of the important role that can be played by open data and also some of the issues still to be overcome if the potential of open data is to be had.

This article was originally published at OpenAus and is cross-posted here with permission. Read the original article.