FAQ: Microsoft Open Government + Open Data (Part I)

Credits go to Mark Gayler (CSI) – Field Marketing Manager for updating this FAQ

1. What is Open Government?

Open Government refers to a wave of transformation within Government organizations across the globe aimed at better connection with citizens and communities. The common principles of Open Government initiatives are:

  • Transparency – to enable greater accountability, efficiency, and economic opportunity by making government data and operations more open.
  • Participation – to create early and effective opportunities to drive greater and more diverse expertise into government decision making.
  • Collaboration – to generate new ideas for solving problems by fostering cooperation across government departments, across levels of government, and with the public.

2. What Countries Have Open Government Initiatives?

Many countries around the World are launching Open Government initiatives. The US is driving many Open Government programs directly sponsored by the White House - http://www.whitehouse.gov/Open/

Other countries and regions actively involved in Open Government include UK, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of European Union.

3. Is Open Government the Same as Gov 2.0?

‘Gov 2.0’ (also referred to as e-Government) typically refers to the use of Internet, Digital Media, and Web technologies to enable Open Government initiatives and improve connections with citizens.

4. What is Open Data?

Open Government initiatives usually contain 3 pillars – Open Data, Open Standards, and Open Technology. One of the first objectives of global Open Government initiatives is to publish Government data for public use. It is generally considered that government data is public property anyway and so the government has an obligation to make this raw source data available for public use.

5. Does Open Government or Open Data Require Open Source?

No. Open source software is not a prerequisite for Open Government or Open Data projects. Commercial, proprietary and open source technologies can all be considered for Open Government initiatives. Government organizations should make technology decisions based on ‘fit for purpose’ and taxpayer value.

6. What Can Open Data Be Used For?

Open Data is typically used for public awareness, analysis and research, data-journalism, citizen engagement and to stimulate the development of citizen-centric applications by communities. Open Data should be shared such that it is ‘machine readable’ e.g. it can be accessed independently of a device or technology, can be easily searched and indexed, and can easily be reused within an external application. Sharing of information in PDFs or Zip files, for example, is NOT considered true Open Data.

7. Does Open Data Contain Personal or Private Information?

Open Data typically does not contain personal or identifiable information about private citizens that is not otherwise available through existing Government services.

This generally means that Open Data projects are often able to take advantage of cross-border Online and Cloud technology platforms that may have restrictions for other Government initiatives.

8. Why Have So Many Cities Launched Open Data Initiatives?

Government data becomes even more useful when it has local relevance to the citizen. Many Cities and Municipalities have rich data about local transportation, construction projects, budgeting, projects, civic facilities, etc.

9. What Cities Have Launched Open Data Catalogs?

Notable projects include:

  • City of Washington DC – http://data.dc.gov – the first Open Data Catalog making City datasets public.
  • City of Nanaimo – http://data.nanaimo.ca – the first Open Data Catalog in Canada with focus on GIS data. Powered by a DERIVATIVE project (OSS) using OGDI code on Windows Server / SQL Server
  • City of Medicine Hat – http://data.vancouver.ca – Open Data Catalog built with OGDI/Azure.

10. What Terms of Use are Required for Open Data?

Before making any Government data open to the public, it is essential that Terms of Use are defined and published. Terms of Use can be remarkably simple. Many Government organizations re-use Terms of Use from existing Government open data projects, e.g.

Part II and III coming  Thursday 1/26 and Friday 1/27…

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