Government departments, agencies and institutions generate an enormous amount of data. The problem? It's locked up in different formats and can't be easily shared. Build a Government Open Data standard to unlock the POWER OF DATA!

There are hundreds of federal, state and local government departments, commissions and so on [1]. Each of these organisations creates, collects and/or collates valuable and helpful datasets. The data might pertain to economic indicators, road safety, population demographics, geographic placement of facilities such as parks and gardens, sport and recreation information and so on.

But there's a major problem.

This data - a valuable and useful asset created by government - is locked up. Because there aren't adopted and legislated data standards at all levels of government, it's difficult to 'unlock' this data, and make is available and open for all citizens to use.

Imagine if government departments created, stored and published datasets in the same standard way. They could be easily reuse, compared, brought together to create new insights, and their value better 'unlocked'.

So, what's needed to make this happen?

1 - BUY-IN: The departments would need to be sold on the idea, and see the value both for themselves internally, but also the value to their constituents and customers

2 - STANDARDS WORKING PARTY: To understand government data, the formats that it is held in and what standards should apply

3 - APPLYING THE STANDARDS: Through the open government data portal - data.gov.au - data can be brought together, showcased, re-used and published to citizens to add value to it.

4 - BUILDING AN ASSET: Our country's data is worth more when it is open, exchangeable, shareable, reusable and linkable. Over time, I can see a maturity model for open government data emerging that looks a little like this;

INITIAL - at this maturity level, open data is just beginning to have understanding and acceptance within organisations that create data. There is some initial understanding of the value of open government data, but little management buy in or 'big-picture' thinking about what it could be leveraged for. The community has little understanding that datasets are made available, how this is done or how the datasets could be used.

REPEATABLE - at this maturity level, there is wider organisational acceptance of, and desire, to publish open data for consumption. The organisation may have open data sets, although these may age, have no clear owner and may not have a surrounding ecosystem such as metadata or a standard format which allows them to be linked or consumed with other datasets from other organisations. The community has some awareness of datasets and what they can be used for, but this understanding exists in isolated pockets.

DEFINED - at this maturity level, standards and frameworks exist which articulate what data is made available, by whom, in what format, and who is accountable for this. Lifecycles and workflows are defined and standardised for government departments releasing datasets. At this level, the community is actively engaged in consuming the datasets. The datasets are actively used to create new products or services, however these may not be adopted by government agencies or taken to production readiness.

MANAGED - at this level, there is a coherent, congruent and compatible approach to identifying, producing, publishing and polishing open government datasets. The community is actively engaged in not only consuming the datasets, but a feedback loop is established whereby citizens actively influence which datasets are initiated. The ecosystem at this maturity level is considered a competitive differentiator for the country.

Photo is open data (scrabble) by Justin Grimes via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons - https://www.flickr.com/photos/notbrucelee/8016198226/

[1] A starting list of federal government departments can be found at: http://www.australia.gov.au/about-government/departments-and-agencies/list-of-departments-and-agencies

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