Digital strategy and communications


A broad coalition of stakeholders have launched DataCatalogs.org, a new project to keep track of open data initiatives around the world.

The alpha version of the project launched on 30 June 2011 at the Open Knowledge Foundation’s* annual conference in Berlin, with the aim to be ‘the most comprehensive list of open data catalogs in the world’. The reason for the initiative is explained in their press release as follows:

‘Governments are beginning to recognise that opening up public information can bring about a wide variety of social and economic benefits – such as increasing transparency and efficiency, creating jobs in the new digital economy, and enabling web and mobile developers to create new useful applications and services for citizens.

But it can be difficult to keep up with the pace of developments in this area. Following on from the success of initiatives like the Obama administration’s data.gov and the UK government’s data.gov.uk, nearly every week there is a new open data initiative from a local, regional or national government somewhere around the world – from Chicago to Torino, Morocco to Moldova.’

Having been involved in the Where Does My Money Go project last year – which aims to make government finances much easier to explore and understand – I can safely say that the excitement from other countries in what we were doing was quite considerable.

This came home to me again last week when I was lucky enough to visit the World Bank in Washington DC, as part of the Digital Mission programme – and which prompted this post.

The World Bank is one of the key exponents of open data, and is one of DataCalalog’s stakeholders. You can explore their data by indicator, country, or topic and learn how to use the data they hold in a dedicated area of the site.

Other stakeholders of DataCatalogs include independent bodies such as the W3C and the Sunlight Foundation, as well as numerous national governments and the Open Knowledge Foundation itself.

Browsing through the catalog so far you’ll find data from both usual suspects and those you might not have expected to see, such as the Balearic Islands and the UAE.

But why is all this significant?
As the stakeholders for DataCatalogs show (see extract quotes from the press release below) there are many possible responses to this question, for some open data makes governments more transparent, for others it enables citizens, government bodies, NGOs and businesses alike to make better, more informed decisions. In opening up and creating a catalog of data from across the world it enables this to happen at a global rather than just local level.

Quote extracts:

Neil Fantom, Manager of the World Bank’s Development Data Group:
“Open data is public good, but only if you can find it – we’re pleased to see initiatives such as DataCatalogs.org giving greater visibility to public information, allowing easier discovery of related content from different publishers and making open data more valuable for users.”

Beth Noveck, who ran President Obama’s open government programme and is now working with the UK Government:
“This project is a simple but important start to bringing together the community of key open data stakeholders. My hope is that DataCatalogs.org grows into a vibrant place to articulate priorities, find and mash up data across jurisdictions and curate data-driven tools and initiatives that improve the effectiveness of government and the lives of citizens.”

Cathrine Lippert, of the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency:
“DataCatalogs.org is a brilliant guide to keeping track of all the data that is being opened up around the world. In addition to our own
national data catalogue, we can now point data re-users to DataCatalogs.org to locate data resources abroad.”

Andrew Stott, former Director of Digital Engagement at the UK’s
Cabinet Office
: “This initiative will not only help data users find data in different jurisdictions but also help those implementing data catalogues to find good practice to emulate elsewhere in the world.”

*Disclosure: The Open Knowledge Foundation are a former client and I’m a continuing supporter of their work.

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