When linked open data isn’t

Chris Taggart (member of the Local Public Data Panel) identifies the first of what is likely to be a growing number of enterprising organisations that will spring up as ‘the saviours’ to local councils struggling to come to terms with the need to comply with the Gov agenda for more transparency – in this instance, the need to publish financial data. On the one hand, these councils are to be commended on their willingness to make this data available at all, but putting it in the hands of a third party service provider is probably not what Gov had in mind when setting out the policy. Unfortunately, many councils have outsourced their IT and web publishing activities and/or do not have the skills or knowledge in-house to be able to convert back-office financial data into linked open data (LOD) for web publishing. It will be interesting to see whether statutory powers are going to be required in order to ensure that public data is open and free for use by all, or whether ‘proprietary openness’ (yes, an oxymoron) is better than nothing at all. Interesting times!

Amplify’d from blog.okfn.org

When the coalition announced that councils would have to publish all spending over £500 by January next year, there’s been a palpable excitement in the open data and transparency community at the thought of what could be done with it (not least understanding and improving the balance of councils’ relationships with suppliers).

Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Eric Pickles followed this up with a letter to councils saying, “I don’t expect everyone to do it right first time, but I do expect everyone to do it.” Great. Raw Data Now, in the words of Tim-Berners Lee.

Now, however, with barely the ink dry, the reality is looking not just a bit messy, a bit of a first attempt (which would be fine and understandable given the timescale), but Not Open At All.

One thing we weren’t explicit in that first draft – because we took it for granted – was that the data had to be open, and free for reuse by all. Equality of access by all is essential.

So I’ve been watching the activities of Spikes Cavell’s SpotlightOnSpend with some wariness and now those fears seem to have been borne out, as the company seems to set out not to consume the open data that councils are publishing, but to control this data.

See more at blog.okfn.org

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