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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Reboot Earth - Open Government Data


There are great efforts to encourage open government using the latest technology - particularly in the US and the UK, judging by this Google search. And recently we had the excellent, rather stirring example of Reboot Britain, one aim of which is to draw entrepreneurs and the public sector together.

Of course, it is vital that individual public bodies permit open access to the publicly funded data that they control. However, this doesn't mean "Open Gov" initiatives should be geographically constrained. Otherwise, we'll miss not only the big, global picture, but also the similarities between countries and regions and the people and demographics within countries and regions, worldwide. It is trite to say, but a worthwhile point to make here, that only by understanding the true state of the world now, and the trends that are shaping it, can we know where and how to achieve meaningful change. A need that is perceived to be weak and unworthy of attention in one region, may resonate with the same need that is attracting resources elsewhere. Similarly, mistaken assumptions about wealth trends in certain regions may mean great opportunities go begging. Yet public, cross border collaboration is lacking even in the EU, where forging a single market is the top priority.

That a worldwide approach is necessary was brought home to me by Hans Rosling's presentation at TED 2006, which I've embedded here. It was added in a comment by Steve Har on a recent post on O'Reilly Radar speculating on the future of the US open gov initiative. Hans does a wonderful job bringing public statistics to life, in a way that challenges lack of understanding and preconceived notions about the state of the world, its regions and people.

PS, 1 October 2009: Hat tip to FreeLegalWeb - the UK government has called for developers to contribute to the usability of data.gov.uk , and the Australian equivalent just went live (US data.gov led the way in May)
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