[open-government] Introductions

Brian Gryth briangryth at gmail.com
Sat May 29 17:28:25 BST 2010

Good discussion thus far.

Here is my two cents:

1) Legal issues will vary largely based on jurisdiction.  For instance,
licensing issues are not (or should not) be an issue in the United State
because most government data is considered a public record and therefore
must be made accessible for inspection (note that does not necessarily
equate to being accessible).  Licensing is an issue in the UK and Canada (so
I have heard) because the Crown asserts an ownership interested on the
data.  Privacy is also a huge issue in the United States (ask any
administrator or clerk that has had to deal with Social Security Numbers
appearing in records).  I agree with Jonathan's assessment that general
guidelines will be helpful.  Any best practices materials, however, must
address these legal and policy issues even if a particular issue was not a
barrier to implementation.  Such information will be important for
comparative policy and legal analysis and will help a jurisdiction amend or
create an appropriate legal and policy framework.

2) Financial issues are extremely complicated especially with ever
decreasing budgets.  Making government data open does involve a financial
commitment.  An important commitment, but a commitment nonetheless.  When
governments are having to make critical decisions on providing basic
services, committing additional resources to open government data may not be
a priority.  The costs can be related to many things.  After all, it costs
money to stand up a server to house the data, it costs to host and maintain
the server, and IT resources may need to be devoted to converting the data
into a usable formats.   In short, open data is not free.

That being said we, the government and communities like this one, need to
find ways to fund these open data projects.  In some cases, those funds will
come from traditional resources like taxes and in other cases new funding
models will need to be explored.  Furthermore, the long term benefits of
open government data may lead to spending reductions that will off set the
short term investment.  Secondary effects to the economy may also be
realized.  However, the data supporting these possibilities is lacking.  The
open government communities need to create quantitative data to support the
qualitative benefit to society.  Studies like the recent Government Online
report by the PEW center in the United States.  See

3) Organizational change will be needed to effectuate progress in opening
government data.  It seems counterintuitive that government entities would
resist releasing data that is essentially owned by the public/citizens.  But
that is often the reality for many varied and complex reasons.  I personally
believe that the government 2.0 movement's long term success will be
determine by a change in organizational culture rather than by technology
adoption or release of datasets.  Value can only be realized with sustained
effort.  As Tim points out in his blog, open government data has little
value unless in results in change or societal improvement.  David Eaves
talks about the long tail of public policy (see
and that open government data helps more people (i.e. the long tail) get
involved in policy making.  However, that involvement can only be realized
if those people's voices are heard and acted upon.  We must get government
to move beyond the perceived or real culture that feedback and comments will
be disregard in the order they were received.

I am excited to work with this group to see what we can achieve.  We may
have a daunting task.  But as the saying goes, nothing worth doing is easy.

Brian Peltola Gryth

On Fri, May 28, 2010 at 7:55 AM, Jonathan Gray <jonathan.gray at okfn.org>wrote:

> Thanks for your email, Gerhard!
> 2010/5/27 Content Research <contentissimo at chello.at>:
> > 1. I fully agree with your comments that this Soros
> > Foundation Study is rather useless or even misguiding.
> > I do not even cite this study.
> I would love to hear in more detail about what you consider its main
> deficiencies to be! E.g. specific things that you think it should have
> covered better, identification of misleading claims or factual
> inaccuracies...
> > 2. I have the strong impression that none of the recent
> > authors has participated in any Epsiplus meeting in the
> > past years and have read any of their/my studies.
> For what its worth, many at the Open Knowledge Foundation have always
> been in close contact with ePSIplus network. Also Chris Corbin is on
> our advisory board:
>  http://okfn.org/about/people#ChristopherCorbin
> Also at the OKF (at least as long as I have been here) we *always*
> strongly suggest that European open government data advocates contact
> their ePSIplus/ePSIplatform representative, and learn more about what
> is happening regarding national transposition of the PSI Directive.
> E.g. I was speaking to some advocates here in Berlin about this last
> week, and some of the things that came up included:
>  http://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/okfn-de/2010-May/000085.html
> Regarding your papers, what would you recommend as being most relevant
> for this list? In general I would note that there is a pretty
> important difference between ignorance and disagreement (Especially if
> your presentations are scattered with ad hominems like: "Open data is
> driven by freaky guys", "Open data freaks", etc --
> <http://www.cciia.com/library/Open-data-policy-evaluated-by-Wagner.pdf>)
> > Even the literature in the 60ies was far behind that what
> > I currently am pleased to read.
> > Open data entails so many complex legal, organisational
> > and financial questions where none of the open data
> > evangelists have even thought of.
> Which evangelists are you thinking of? What issues are you thinking
> of? Examples would be very helpful to help us substantiate your
> claims, and to help 'evangelists' to become better informed.
> Also, while I agree that knowledge of the various complexities is very
> important (e.g. whether there are special provisions regarding
> government information in national copyright legislation, knowing
> about existing licensing and pricing regimes and how these work, etc.)
> -- the extent to which these complexities are directly relevant to
> open government data advocacy depends on the argument that you are
> making. For example, in order to make the case that there are
> compelling benefits to opening up official data (perhaps with
> reference to interesting or useful web applications such as Gapminder,
> TheyWorkForYou or Farm Subsidy) -- do we really need to allude to the
> details of US Government Circular No. A-130 in 1996, the UK's 2000
> Cross Cutting Review of the Knowledge Economy, and so on, *every
> time*?
> While the OKF is not a campaigning organisation, the Guardian's 'Free
> our data' campaign could not really have been called the campaign to
> 'allow non-personal information that is gathered, processed and stored
> by government bodies in pursuance of their public duty, and not
> withheld from the public on grounds of national security, to be reused
> by the public for any purpose at marginal cost (i.e. zero) where the
> overall cost to society does not exceed the benefit of doing so'.
> Also 'there are benefits to doing X' does not mean 'there are always
> benefits to doing X', or 'we should always do X'. To paraphrase Bob
> Dylan, not all open data advocates say that all government data should
> be open all of the time. It is only fairly recently that digital
> technologies have made it so easy for people to represent, analyse and
> deliver official information in new ways - and many open government
> data advocates simply seek to articulate and communicate these new
> opportunities to public bodies and the public, and to explain how data
> should be published in order to encourage innovative reuse.
> > I haven't came across any handbook which assists Governments
> > to transpose this complex issue step by step in line
> > with complex national legislation.
> Not sure what you are proposing? Do you think there should be a single
> handbook to help with PSI Directive transposition in European member
> states with information on complexities (legal, economic,
> organizational, ...) in each country? Would this not become a little
> unwieldy? ;-)
> I do think there is room for a *very basic* open government data
> handbook which explains various legal and technical aspects of making
> data open from perspective of reuser. E.g. what do we mean by 'raw
> data', what do we mean by 'legally open' (and how is this different
> from 'available online'), what are the possible benefits (e.g. citizen
> driven web applications and services a la Sunlight and mySociety),
> what experiences have other countries had with open government data
> initiatives (e.g. in Australia, Norway, NZ, Spain, UK, US, ...) and so
> on.
> All the best,
> --
> Jonathan Gray
> Community Coordinator
> The Open Knowledge Foundation
> http://blog.okfn.org
> http://twitter.com/jwyg
> http://identi.ca/jwyg
> _______________________________________________
> open-government mailing list
> open-government at lists.okfn.org
> http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-government
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