Open Government Data

This is the eighth in a series of nine posts on the All Things Open 2015 conference I attended in Raleigh in mid-October. For more information on the conference, along with videos and slides from the presenters, check out the conference website.

In what was probably the most interesting session I attended in my two days at the conference, I listened to Mark Headd of Accela, Inc., talk about the issues with open government data, and how governments can really embrace the spirit of open data laws, vs. just adhering to the letter of the law.

This is the area in which I have the most experience, having worked and trained as a journalist and with the Code for Asheville brigade over the past year, and I found his perspective on the subject interesting and informative.

He advocates for eight principles of open government data:

  1. Complete
  2. Primary
  3. Timely
  4. Accessible
  5. Machine Readable
  6. Non-Discriminatory
  7. Non-Proprietary
  8. License Free

Citing data.gov and the 18F project of the federal government as models for open data, he noted that the culture change in the halls of government can be the biggest barrier to open data.

Most of all, though, he noted that the best way to encourage open data at any government level is to use it. That’s where local journalists and code communities come in. Build something useful and the government will see that their efforts to open their data and make it machine readable and timely are important to the people they serve, and the people who use the thing you build will understand why open government data is important as well.