Open Data, maar vraag niet hoe…

De Britse regering in zwaar onder vuur komen te liggen door ‘dumping large amounts of data into the public domain that is poorly presented and difficult to interpret’. Dat was de stevige conclusie van een rapport van de Commons Public Accounts Committee, (getiteld Implementing the Transparency Agenda), die stelde dat het doel om meer data publiek te maken zeer te waarderen zijn, maar dat de regering er wel voor moest zorgen dat het ook een nuttige operatie is. 

‘This committee fully supports the principle of greater openness and its potential to strengthen accountability and drive improvements in public services. But government has a lot more work to do before that potential is realised’,stelde de voorzitster van de Commissie Margaret Hodge. ‘It is simply not good enough to dump large quantities of raw data into the public domain. It must be accessible, relevant and easy for us all to understand. Otherwise the public cannot use it to make comparisons and exercise choice, which is the key objective of the transparency agenda’.

Hodge stelde ook dat ‘the Committee had concerns that some data that should be made public is being held back by private firms on dubious grounds’ en dat de regering niet goed beseft wat de implicaties zijn van het openbaar maken van zoveel data.

‘One area of particular concern to this Committee is that private providers can hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ to block the disclosure of relevant information. We must be able to follow the taxpayers’ pound wherever it is spent’, zo voegde Hodge er aan toe. ‘Data is also being issued by government and other public bodies without any clear idea of the costs, benefits and risks of doing so. The government should develop a comprehensive analysis of what it actually costs to release data, and of the real benefits and risks’.

Het rapport stelde ook de volledigheid van de data aan de orde, ervan uitgaande dat onvolledigheid van de ter beschikking gestelde informatie het in principe grotendeels waardeloos maakt. ‘It does not help government to meet the objectives of the transparency agenda when large quantities of raw data are released without ensuring that the data are fit for purpose. Some data are very difficult to interpret, such as on local government spending, and there are important gaps in information, such as incomplete price and performance information on adult social care’.

Francis Maude, de verantwoordelijke minister, stelde dat de regering de conclusies van de Commissie ter harte neemt. ‘We agree that open data allows citizens to hold governments to account, drives improvements in public services by informing choice, and provides a feedstock for innovation and growth’, zo stelde hij. ‘The government will be hoping the creation of its Open Data Institute will help it address some of these concerns and ensure that the benefits it has touted of releasing public data sets are realised in the real-world’.

Open Data is mooi, maar het vergt meer dan alleen het over de schutting gooien van informatie om het ook werkelijk nuttig te maken.

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