G8 Open Data Charter: "Open Data by Default" will "fuel innovation"

G8 Open Data Charter, June 2013: “Principle 1: Open Data by Default
13. We recognise that free access to, and subsequent re-use of, open data are of significant value to society and the economy.
14. We agree to orient our governments towards open data by default.
15. We recognise that the term government data is meant in the widest sense possible. This could apply to data owned by national, federal, local, or international government bodies, or by the wider public sector.
16. We recognise that there is national and international legislation, in particular pertaining to intellectual property, personally-identifiable and sensitive information, which must be observed.
17. We will: establish an expectation that all government data be published openly by default , as outlined in this Charter, while recognising that there are legitimate reasons why some data cannot be released….
Principle 4: Releasing Data for Improved Governance
25. We recognise that the release of open data strengthens our democratic institutions and encourages better policy-making to meets the needs of our citizens. This is true not only in our own countries but across the world.
26. We also recognise that interest in open data is growing in other multilateral organisations and initiatives.
27. We will: share technical expertise and experience with each other and with other countries across the world so that everyone can reap the benefits of open data; and be transparent about our own data collection, standards, and publishing processes , by documenting all of these related processes online.
Principle 5: Releasing Data for Innovation
28. Recognising the importance of diversity in stimulating creativity and innovation, we agree that the more people and or ganisations that use our data, the greater the social and economic benefits that will be generated. This is true for both commercial and non-commercial uses .
29. We will: work to increase open data literacy and encourage people, such as developers of applications and civil society organisations that work in the field of open data promotion, to unlock the value of open data ; empower a future generation of data innovators by providing data in machine-readable formats.
See also:
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Chairman and Co-Founder, Open Data Institute on G8 Open Data Charter: why it matters
Nick Sinai and Marina Martin from the White House on Open Data Going Global

Does transparency lead to trust? Some evidence on the subject.

Tiago Peixoto at DemocracySpot: “As open government gains traction in the international agenda, it is increasingly common to come across statements that assume a causal relationship in which transparency leads to trust in government. But to what extent are claims that transparency leads to trust backed up by evidence?
Judging from some recent publications on the subject, such a relationship is not as straightforward as sadvocates would like. In fact, in a number of cases, the evidence points in another direction: that is, transparency may ultimately decrease trust.
Below is a brief overview of research that has been carried out on the subject…
Surely, transparency remains an essential – although quite insufficient – ingredient of accountability. On the trust issue, one could easily think of a number of scenarios in which it is actually better that citizens do not trust their governments. In fact, systems of checks and balances and oversight institutions are not specifically conceived under the logic of trust. Quite on the contrary, such institutional designs assume some level of suspicion vis-à-vis governments: as put in the Federalist Paper No. 51, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
Granted, in some cases a perfect world in which citizens trust their governments may well be desirable. It may even be that transparency leads – in the long run – to increased trust: a great way to sell transparency to governments. But if we want to walk the talk of evidence-based policymaking, we may consider dropping the trust rhetoric. At least for now.”

Innovating at the Point of Citizen Engagement

GovLoop: “In this guide, we share 7 examples where government is improving access to services and information along the spectrum of citizen engagement: ‘must do’, ‘should do’ and ‘can do’ moments.
“Must Do” Moments: These are the compulsory points of engagement. How do we leverage these “forced” moments to inform and invite citizens to other opportunities for engagement? We share two innovative examples in this section:

  • Retooling Tax Time: How the IRS Educates and Engages Taxpayers on the Go
  • Rejuvenating Jury Duty: How a “Captive” Audience Can Become a Catalyst for Action

“Should Do” Moments: These are the points of engagement when citizens aren’t required to participate, but it behooves them to do so. How does government make it easier to take advantage of these opportunities? This section covers case studies where government has effectively facilitated a connection:

  • Helping the Hard to Reach: How Savvy Social Workers Build Digital Bridges
  • Transforming Town Hall: How Takoma Park’s Co-Located Community Center

“Can Do” Moments: Sometimes citizens create their own rallying point. How does government most effectively come alongside these initiatives to appropriately fuel the positive, collective energy of a committed group of citizens? This section shares case studies of citizen-led, government-supported partnership.

  • Enabling Citizen Energy: How Raleigh Opens Up Opportunities for Innovation
  • Mobilizing a Movement: How Online Community Connects Neighbors in Need
  • Overcoming Budget Constraints: How Crowdfunding Supplements Tight Budgets”

Weather Could Be Next On The Auction Block For Crowdsourced Data

Darrell Etherington in TechCrunch: “Waze’s big exit to Google proved one thing: if companies can harness the power of the crowd to deliver real-time, granular data, big tech corporations will be watching them closely as potential acquisition targets. There’s another category ripe for the picking, even if the problem being solved isn’t as apparent or immediately useful as traffic and navigation data: weather. A few apps are trying to harness the crowd to provide accurate, ground-level forecasts and conditions, and they’re catching on with consumers, too.
Montreal-based startup SkyMotion is one such firm, and it recently launched its 4.0 update, which not only harnesses crowdsourced weather reports, but also allows other businesses to plug into that data using a public API, to integrate real-time reporting data from SkyMotion’s users into their own products. That provides an up-to-the-minute forecast, one that probably won’t show you weather conditions completely dissimilar from the ones you’re actually feeling outside at any given moment, as can still be the case with apps that pull weather data only from specific weather monitoring stations….
SkyMotion isn’t alone in crowdsourcing weather data. There’s also Weddar, the “people-powered” weather service and mobile app that encourages location-based reporting with a very human element, since it asks people how conditions generally feel on the ground, instead of seeking out specifics…”

When Ordinary Americans Accomplish What the Government Can’t

in The National Journal: “Washington may be paralyzed by partisanship, but across the country, grassroots innovators are crafting solutions to our problems….This special issue of National Journal celebrates these pragmatic problem-solvers in business, the civic sector, local government, and partnerships that creatively combine all three. At a time of endemic stalemate in the nation’s capital, think of it as a report from the America that works (to borrow a recent phrase from The Economist)….
Another significant message is that the communications revolution, by greatly accelerating the sharing of ideas, has produced a “democratization of innovation,” as author Vijay Vaitheeswaran put it in his 2012 book, Need, Speed, and Greed. This dynamic has simultaneously allowed breakthroughs to disseminate faster than ever and empowered more people inside companies and communities to tackle problems previously left to elites. “One of the most interesting stories in social change today is how much creative problem-solving is emerging from citizens scattered far and wide who are taking it upon themselves to fix things and who, in many cases, are outperforming traditional organizations,” David Bornstein, founder of the Dowser.org website that tracks social innovation, wrote in The New York Times last year. Our honoree Eric Greitens, the former Navy SEAL who founded The Mission Continues for other post-9/11 veterans, personifies this trend. Across the categories, many honorees insist they have pursued new approaches in part because they could no longer wait for Washington to address the problems they face. In a world where barriers to the dispersal of ideas are crumbling, waiting for elites to propose answers may soon seem as outdated as waiting for a dial-up connection to the Internet.
The third conclusion limits the first two. Even many of the most dynamic grassroots innovations will remain isolated islands of excellence in this continent-sized society without energy and amplification from the top. Donald Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, notes the federal government is unavoidably a major force on many of the challenges facing America, particularly reforming education, health care, and training; developing regional economic strategies; and providing physical and digital infrastructure. Washington need not direct or control the response to these problems, but change on a massive scale is always harder without stronger signals and incentives than the federal government has provided in recent years. “It is possible to feed change aggressively from the bottom,” Kettl says. “[But] the federal government, for better or worse, inevitably is involved…. There’s a natural limit in what’s possible to bubble up from the bottom….
Special issue at https://web.archive.org/web/2013/http://www.nationaljournal.com/back-in-business ”

Big ideas can be bad ideas – even in the age of the thinktank

Mark Mazower, who teaches history at Columbia University, in the Guardian: “First there was Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History. More recently, we had Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge: for years, it seems, big ideas have been heading our way across the Atlantic. It is hard to think of many similarly catchy slogans that have gone the other way of late – Tony Giddens’ notion of “the third way” may be one.
Some people think that is a problem. They are worried that Britain has been failing to produce big ideas that policymakers can use. They want to convert academic ideas into policy relevance and shake up the bureaucrats. Phillip Blond, who recently wrote a controversial article in Chatham House’s magazine, is one of them. Francis Maude is another: he wants politicians to be able to appoint senior civil servants so that fresh thinking can enter Whitehall…
And are big ideas the kind of ideas worth having anyway? They age badly for one thing and quickly look shopworn. Moreover, it’s hard to think of many scholars whose best work has been directed explicitly towards such a goal. …The tendency in recent government policy here to demand demonstrable policy relevance or public “impact” from academics shows how far this mindset has spread. It may or may not produce some policy product. But what it will do is jeopardise British universities’ ability to do what they have done so well for so long: world-class research. These days both government and business demand value for money when they fund academia, and this makes it harder and more vital to insist that there are many ways to demonstrate the value of ideas, not just policy relevance.”

Experiments in Democracy

Jeremy Rozansky, assistant editor of National Affairs in The New Atlantis: ” In his debut book Uncontrolled, entrepreneur and policy analyst Jim Manzi argues that social scientists and policymakers should instead adopt the “experimental method.” The essential tool of this method is the randomized field trial (RFT), a technique that already informs many of our successful private enterprises. Perhaps the best known example of RFTs — one that Manzi uses to illustrate the concept — is the kind of clinical trial performed to test new medicines, wherein researchers “undertake a painstaking series of replicated controlled experiments to measure the effects of various interventions under various conditions,” as he puts it.
The central argument of Uncontrolled is that RFTs should be adopted more widely by businesses as well as government. The book is helpful and holds much wisdom — although the approach he recommends is ultimately just another streetlamp in the night, casting a pale light that tapers off after a few yards. Much still lies beyond its glow….
The econometric method now dominates the social sciences because it helps to cope with the problem of high causal density. It begins with a large data set: economic records, election results, surveys, and other similar big pools of data. Then the social scientist uses statistical techniques to model the interactions of sundry independent variables (causes) and a dependent variable (the effect). But for this method to work properly, social scientists must know all the causally important variables beforehand, because a hidden conditional could easily yield a false positive.
The experimental method, which Manzi prefers, offers a different way of coping with high causal density: sidestepping the problem of isolating exact causes. To sort out whether a given treatment or policy works, a scientist or social scientist can try it out on a random section of a population, and compare the results to a different section of the population where the treatment or policy was not implemented. So while econometric models aim to identify which particular variables are responsible for different results, RFTs have more modest aims, as they do not seek to identify every hidden conditional. By using the RFT approach, we may not know precisely why we achieved a desired effect, since we do not model all possible variables. But we can gain some ability to know that we will achieve a desired effect, at least under certain conditions.
Strictly speaking, even a randomized field trial only tells us with certainty that some exact technique worked with some specific population on some specific date in the past when conducted by some specific experimenters. We cannot know whether a given treatment or policy will work again under the same conditions at a later date, much less on a different population, much less still on the population as a whole. But scientists must always be cautious about moving from particular results to general conclusions; this is why experiments need to be replicated. And the more we do replicate them, the more information we can gain from those particular results, and the more reliably they can build toward teaching us which treatments or policies might work or (more often) which probably won’t. The result is that the RFT approach is very well suited to the business of government, since policymakers usually only need to know whether a given policy will work — whether it will produce a desired outcome.”

Data-Smart City Solutions

Press Release: “Today the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School announced the launch of Data-Smart City Solutions, a new initiative aimed at using big data and analytics to transform the way local government operates. Bringing together leading industry, academic, and government officials, the initiative will offer city leaders a national depository of cases and best practice examples where cities and private partners use analytics to solve city problems. Data-Smart City Solutions is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Data-Smart City Solutions highlights best practices, curates resources, and supports cities embarking on new data projects. The initiative’s website contains feature-length articles on how data drives innovation in different policy areas, profile pieces on municipal leaders at the forefront of implementing data analytics in their cities, and resources for interested officials to begin data projects in their own communities.
Recent articles include an assessment of Boston’s Adopt-a-Hydrant program as a potential harbinger of future city work promoting civic engagement and infrastructure maintenance, and a feature on how predictive technology is transforming police work. The site also spotlights municipal use of data such as San Francisco’s efforts to integrate data from different social service departments to better identify and serve at-risk youth. In addition to visiting the initiative’s website, Data-Smart City Solutions’ work is chronicled in their newsletter as well as on their Twitter page.”

New certificates launched to help everyone discover, understand, and use open data

Press Release from the Open Data Institute: “The ODI is today launching Open Data Certificates to help everyone find, understand and use open data that is being released. The new certificates are being announced by CEO Gavin Starks at a G8 Summit event: Open for Growth. The certificates have been created in response to business, government, and citizen needs to bring rigour to the publication, dissemination and usage of open data. Over the last six months, ODI has been collaborating with dozens of organisations around the world to define the certificates. Today sees their first Beta release.
The certificate is made up of two components:1)  a visual mark that shows the quality level of the data
2) a human and machine-readable description of the data being released
There are four levels of certificates:
Raw: A great start at the basics of publishing open data.
Pilot: Data users receive extra support from, and provide feedback to the publisher.
Standard: Regularly published open data with robust support that people can rely on.
Expert: An exceptional example of information infrastructure.
Benefits of the certificates include helping:

  • publishers of data understand how they can better connect with their users;
  • users of data to understand its quality, licensing, structure, and its usability;
  • businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators have confidence that the data has value to them;
  • policy-makers benchmark and compare the progress and quality of the data released.

Commercial and public sector organisations have already committed to the certificates including:
– Open Corporates: corporate information for over 50 million companies worldwide
– OpenStreetMap: the free wiki world map offering worldwide open geodata
–  legislation.gov.uk: 500 years of UK legislation information
– amee: an environmental score for each of the 2.7 million companies in Britain
– MastodonC:  energy monitoring data analysis from Retrofit for the Future projects
– Placr: transport data covering all 360,000 stops and stations nationwide
Certificates are created online, for free, at http://certificates.theodi.org/. The process involves publishers answering a series of questions, each of which affect the certificate generated at the end.Read Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude’s opening remarks at the conference, with the emphasis firmly on open data and transparency”