Australia has topped a global index of how well nations publish open government data.
In the initial release of crowd-sourced survey, the Global Open Data Index (GODI) – published by Open Knowledge International – Australia finished equal top with Taiwan out of 94 nations assessed.
For each category of open data – such as government budget, national statistics, water quality and election results – countries are scored on their openness. Metrics include if the data is available in a machine-readable format, how up to date it is, and if it’s downloadable at once and for free.
The worst performing areas of Australia’s public sector data related to ‘government spending’ and ‘land ownership’. Water quality, air quality, weather information and draft legislation were also picked out for improvement.
“By having a tool that is run by civil society, GODI creates valuable insights for government’s data publishers to understand where they have data gaps,” an Open Knowledge Institute spokesperson said. “It also shows how to make data more useable and eventually more impactful. GODI therefore provides important feedback that governments are usually lacking.”
The initial ranking can now be contested before the final results are issued on June 15.
France, the UK, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Brazil, United States and Latvia, are ranked in the top ten. Among the worst performing countries are Malawi, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Myanmar.
Benefits to innovation
Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor welcomed Australia’s ranking.
“I am delighted, but not surprised, to see Australia being ranked as the best in the world when it comes to open government data. Data was one of the earliest success stories of this Government as we increased the 500 datasets available in 2013 to more than 20,000 datasets currently – and this has delivered real benefits in innovation,” he said in a statement.
The government has run a number of initiatives relating to open data over the last few years. For example, it’s Open Data 500 Report identifies how public sector data is being used by enterprise. The latest report found the most commonly used data was geospatial and mapping data, followed by environmental data, demographics and social data, and positioning/GPS data.
Geoscience Australia and the Australian National University are using Landsat satellite data to produce maps of Australia’s surface water patterns. Work is currently ongoing to “apply this rich data to many more government and commercial problems”, the government said. Last month the government launched federal and state spatial dataset platform – theLINK (Location Information Knowledge).
“The Geo-coded National Address File, which was released by the Government in February 2016, has been used for a wide range of business and operational purposes, such as infrastructure planning, business planning and analysis, logistics and service planning, emergency and disaster response,” Taylor added.
The open data effort has not run entirely smoothly. In September the Department of Health released datasets from which doctor and other service provider ID numbers could be extracted, according to Melbourne University researchers.
The revelation led to the dataset being pulled, an Australian Privacy Commissioner investigation and prompted Attorney-General George Brandis to introduce legislation to amend the Privacy Act that will make it a criminal offence to re-identify de-identified government datasets. The amendment is currently before the Senate.
Data held by the federal government was deemed a “strategic national resource” under government policy released in 2015. In December 2015 the government released the Public Data Policy Statement to coincide with the launch of its $1.1b innovation agenda.
Under the policy, government committed to an approach of open by default for non-sensitive data sets and to collaborating with researchers and the private sector to expand the use of government-collected data.
Late last year the Productivity Commission held an inquiry into open data, and a draft report was released in November recommending consumers be given better control over how their personal information is used and shared by government and private companies. The final report is currently with the government.
“We must now ensure that we keep this momentum going in order to fill the gaps highlighted by the global index and build on our initial successes,” Taylor added.