It is interesting to compare which data government stakeholders consider important to publish, compared to what citizens feel is important.
Looking at Very Important from the tables (below) it is pretty clear that government puts a higher priority on data about themselves – for example the location of government services. This tends to be easier data to release as governments know where their shopfronts are and want citizens to find them.
However from a citizen perspective there’s a priority on data that supports communities and increases transparency – public safety, financial data and accountability ranking 1st to 3rd for ‘Very Important’ (compared to government stakeholders who rated them 3rd, 8th and 7th). Government service locations is still relatively important but only 5th on the list for ‘Very Important’ and even lower at 8th when ‘Moderately Important’ is considered as well).
Census data is perceived as far more valuable by government stakeholders (6th) than the community (13th), possibly because governments consider the business value and individual citizens only rarely directly need access to broad demographics (such as when buying a house).
Education data is also in an interesting position. It is 4th for citizens but only 10th for government stakeholders on ‘Very Important’ – however when ‘Moderately Important’ is added, it shoots up to 2nd for citizens and for government to 8th place.
This could be reflected in how there’s been quite a bit of political opposition to myschool.gov.au, but plenty of community buy-in. Someone’s getting the sentiment wrong here, and I don’t think it is parents.
It would be very interesting to see governments hold this type of study in Australia – looking at government stakeholders, citizens, businesses and civic hackers (maybe media as well), to understand the differences in expectations and how different data is valued.
Unfortunately we may be a little immature culturally to ask this as yet, open data has not had a significant impact on most people’s lives and hasn’t consistently been championed at a political level or put ‘on the agenda’ in more than a niche way.
It is clearly important for people inside and outside government to appreciate that government stakeholders may have very different views to others in the community on what open data is a priority to release and governments take appropriate steps to engage and consult with other groups in the community on an ongoing basis to understand the differences.
And a tip for politicians seeking to get elected or a Ministerial slot – there’s clear support in this survey from citizens for politicians who advocate for open government and walk the walk. In fact three out of four citizens said they’d be more likely to vote for a politician who was an open government champion.
Citizens also see open data as worth investing public money in. I’m sure our Treasurer will consider this in his upcoming budget statement – which will be released under Creative Commons and as reusable data of course!
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