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"Open Data" and "Government as a Platform"

A little while ago I gave a short TED-type talk at the GOVIS (government IS managers) Conference at Te Papa on “Open Data and Government as a Platform”.

It was a topical topic (if you’ll pardon the pun). It is one that Henk Verhoeven (one of our solution architects) has covered recently in his blog “Open Data – Open Government – Open World” where he talks about the roles of the three participants – government, citizens and business.

So what do we mean by the terms “Open Data” and “Government as a Platform” and why are they important?

Hans Rosling, when presenting at the launch of the World Bank’s open data initiative in May, talked about a pernicious disorder that affects many government agencies around the world – something he called DbHd – “Data base Hugging disorder”. Thankfully, not too many government agencies are affected by this, as it is totally antithetical to the principles of Open Data. You’ll be delighted to know that the New Zealand government has embraced the concepts of Open Data and Government as a Platform, being one of only seven countries in the world to have so far launched an Open Data portal.

Open Data is a concept that has been floating around for many years – essentially government agencies (national, state, regional, local) sharing more of their public data for free in a form that other people or organisations can make ready use of. But the concept got a huge boost with President Obama’s commitment to Open Government – in fact his first executive action after taking office was to call for “greater transparency, public participation and collaboration”. And what do you need for all of those to be achieved? Yes, they all rely on ready access to data. And that is being delivered in part in the United States through their data portal which has grown from 47 to 272,677 datasets in its first year of life. In New Zealand we have a directory of over 250 datasets that are available for public consumption.

Government as a Platform is a related concept that has been floating around for a few years too – the creation of an environment in which people and organisations can gather, coalesce, and create better services as communities, for communities. Have a look at Tim O’Reilly’s session at the gov2.0 expo in May on Government as a Platform for Greatness for an idea of what this could be. He uses the iPhone as an example of a “platform” – Apple created the device (platform); delivered less than 20 applications for it; then stood back while more than 200,000 applications were built for it by individuals and organisations. Apple essentially said “here’s a platform, go build on it”. That’s the same idea with Government as a Platform – “Here’s the data and the interfaces you need – go add value to what we’ve given you”.

For me the most exciting aspect of Open Data and Government as a Platform isn’t to do with the technology. The thing that excites me the most is the transformational impact this new era of more open access to data and the associated spirit of transparency, participation and collaboration between government, business and citizens will have on society.

Intergen has lots of stories to share about how we are working with our clients to achieve transformational effects on society, so contact me and I’d love to share some of these stories with you. After all, our goal at Intergen is that “everyone, every day, is touched positively by the things we do”.

Posted by: Paddy Payne, Director and Enterprise Architect | 09 September 2010

Tags: Open Data, Government as a Platform, GOVIS

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