25 August 2011 ~ 1 Comment

3 Quick Wins for your Open Gov Initiative

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/5857826966/If you’re a government agency evaluating ways to get started with your Gov 2.0 / Open Gov / Open Data initiatives, keep in mind these 3 simple strategies for a quick win:

1. Review the terms of use

Even if your agency doesn’t have an Open Data policy, your agency’s website could have potentially restrictive terms of use policies. When looking at enabling Government as a platform, a quick win is to review and revise your site’s terms of use.

Specifically, are you explicitly preventing someone from using or even linking to your site’s information? Citizens that want to leverage and re-use public information on your site — for example, waste pickup schedules, council information or ward boundaries — may be legally bound from doing so. Ensure that this type of information isn’t restricted by “sweeping” terms of use policies, it can be as simple as revising the footer of those web pages. For more see this piece on licenses at Eaves.ca

2. Publish the original files

Another quick win is publishing the “raw” structured file that were originally used to create the public information on your agency’s site. More often than not, the print-ready documents in formats like PDF originate from machine-readable, structured documents or spreadsheets. While some argue that PDF does a good job of “preserving document integrity”, it often handicaps efforts to automatically extract the data.

If your web pages or PDF downloads originate from a spreadsheet, document, or any other type of a structured file format (including geospatial formats) — offering up the raw files saves developers the headache of reverse-engineering the documents you can just as easily publish online, along with the PDFs if you so choose.

3. Make open what’s already public

The last tactic is identifying the “low hanging fruit” for open data — typically information that’s already public. My favorite are various geospatial datasets that you may already be sharing today via maps, guides, etc. If your agency is using GIS (Geographic Information System) software, you can simply export the data that was originally used to create those nice citizen-friendly guides & community maps into a popular format like KML. Think maps of your agency’s facilities, points of interest, parks, city and ward boundaries, etc. This GIS data can then augment the static maps and power some very useful citizen-ready Gov 2.0 applications.

These are some simple but effective strategies to get the ball rolling with your Gov 2.0 initiatives.