Choosing what data sets to make available using Open Government Data is one of the main questions to consider when initiating an OGD initiative. The government, civil institutions, and social organizations all have limited resources so focusing efforts in the right direction from the outset becomes important.
It is a relatively established fact that the best way to chart the future path of a project is to gather thoughts and opinions of its stakeholders which in case of OGD are social organizations, civil society, and government institutions. However, at the beginning of an OGD initiative especially in developing countries it may not be the best of ideas as:
a. OGD will still be in its infancy in those countries and social organizations, civil society, and government institutions may not have the right understanding of potential value and benefits OGD can bring
b. Owing to the vested interests of the area they work in, the social organizations maybe inclined to offer a partial opinion when asked about which data sets to open up
c. OGD aims to develop transient demands and satisfy unrealized needs so in most cases being demand driven or trying to achieve a definite end by use of a survey is not very ideal
So key question is where to start? What data set to make openly accessible? Is there a simple way to visualize the entire government data landscape to then select the initial data set to open up?
The circles of OGD (see figure 1) may help us find an answer to these questions.
Figure 1: Circles of OGD
The biggest circle maybe visualized as consisting of all the machine readable datasets which the government of a specific nation has. Of all datasets, few may have security and privacy concerns (2nd circle). In an OGD initiative, it is important to take into account security and privacy issues and ensure that data is published in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Therefore, it is advised not to open up the dataset residing in the 2nd circle within an OGD initiative.
In the figure, the remaining datasets in the 3rd circle have least security and privacy concerns hence, sharing them with the wider OGD community will be useful. However, I argue that the most appropriate idea will be to share a part of the datasets available within the 3rd circle.
Start with a small dataset and let it roll – simply open up a small data set to encourage participation. Just as a stone rolling down a hill gathers mass, small data sets will invite participation, encourage engagement and help us realize true benefits of an OGD implementation.
It is critical to ensure that the data available must be easily accessible, analyzable, and accurate. Using the OGD portal, the civil society and social activists must get a medium to access the datasets, connect, discuss, share information. Once we reach the point where OGD portal has been setup and sufficient participation is present, then conducting a survey and gathering opinion from the wider OGD community on which datasets will be most useful to share can be useful. Hope we get to that stage in different countries with regards to OGD implementations sooner rather than later.