A project group at The University of Bergen’s Department of Information Science and Media Studies has during the past few months surveyed Norwegian state agencies and interviewed civil servants in different state and local government agencies about their views and policies regarding the release of data sources for re-use. The findings have been published in Norwegian in the project report «Fakta først» (pdf, 14 MB). Here you can read the project report summary in English:
The public sector collects and generates vast amounts of data. In recent years the interest in re-using public, non-personal data has been increasing among citizens, groups and companies outside the public sector. The media, civil society groups, businesses and private citizens can use public data as «raw material» to create new services, new insight and economic value. Efficient re-use of public data requires that public sector agencies inform about their data sources and make data available in relevant formats.
Practice varies strongly between Norwegian public sector agencies in different subject areas and across administrative levels (state/regional/local), this fact finding project from August to December 2009 has revealed. Some agencies offer detailed information about their data sources and have made data available for download. However, a major part of the agencies assessed offer insufficient or no information about data sources on the homepage of their websites. Here a fundamental requirement for the re-use of data is missing. The impression of varying interest and unused potential is amplified by the results of a survey among state agencies:
- Two thirds of respondents say their agency possesses data with potential for re-use that is not utilized today.
- The survey on the other hand suggests that the subject of open data is on the agenda in many agencies; more than six out of ten say they plan to make more data available for re-use during the coming year.
The survey shows that increased costs and the concern that external groups will misunderstand the data and misinform the public are cited as the two greatest obstacles against more data being made available. In addition, interviews with public sector agency employees suggest that the topic of making data available is new to some agencies.
A comparison with initiatives and debates about open public data in a selection of other countries (Britain, Denmark, Netherlands, USA) show that the attention the topic receives is greatest when it is placed on the agenda at the highest political level. The report recommends a number of concrete measures that it is assumed would quickly increase the selection of data sets made available for re-use. A website that collects public data sources, inspired by the US government’s data.gov, would be an obviously efficient initiative, especially when accompanied by a set of clear principles and rules and an «instruction manual» that describes how to make data available in a secure and user-friendly way. The report also points out the need for a parallel, ongoing debate about criteria for the constructive re-use of data. The media should, in cooperation with the public, play a leading role by producing examples of best practices in re-using open data.