INSIGHT: How the NZ Govt can do more with data

Instead of spending money on trying to open up cities’ data for them, national governments should help poorer cities’ attempts to develop their own platforms.

New Zealand’s recent ranking as the joint-fourth leading country in the world in implementing open data strategies carries greater significance according to one industry analyst.

“This is about more than just transparency,” says Nick Wallace, analyst, Ovum. “Opening up city data provides the raw material for a whole range of new services.”

Examining open data readiness, implementation, and impact across 86 countries, the UK once again earned the top spot in the Barometer’s global rankings this year, followed by the US, Sweden, France and New Zealand while Australia ranked joint-tenth in the list.

But according to Wallace, governments, including that of New Zealand, should help poor cities to build their own platform.

“The new edition of Open Data Barometer has once again ranked the UK as number one for openness, but finds that with the exception of a few leading countries, most are falling behind on their stated plans,” Wallace claims.

The report also observes that the presence of city-level open data initiatives correlates with a higher social impact of open data, and argues that opening up city-level data will help to complement national initiatives.

“The most popular open-data-based tools come out of city-level data, because such data is relevant to citizens’ daily lives,” Wallace says.

“It is being used to build navigation apps that incorporate real-time public transport information, to map out the cost of renting a house, and to show availability at city bike-sharing terminals.

“The potential social value of city-level data deserves special attention from policymakers.”

However, as the report highlights, Wallace believes clear presentation is important.

“What might be accessible to a machine or long-in-the-tooth city bureaucrat could look like gibberish to anyone else, even a well-heeled data analyst,” he adds.

“Unintentional misuse of incomprehensible – or worse, unreliable – data could carry social costs: nobody wants a navigation app that makes them miss their train or catch the wrong bus.

“Open data doesn’t just mean pushing data onto the Internet; it means investing in making sure that others can reuse it with confidence.”

Consequently Wallace believes this is a problem for cash-strapped municipalities.

“Some countries have national platforms for local government data, but they are generally unimpressive, even in leading countries,” he adds.

“The best examples of city-level open data around the world are locally controlled.”

As a result, Wallace recommends that instead of spending money on trying to open up cities’ data for them, national governments should help poorer cities’ attempts to develop their own platforms.

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