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The true concept of Open Government

- February 12, 2014 in Data Days, datadays2014, Featured, open-government

“8 principles of Open Government Data” is the title of the now famous manifesto published on December 8th 2007. Over time, the word “Government” was often dismissed, and much pre-eminence was awarded to the word “Data”! Although an important concept, Open Data is all but a modus operandi to implement Open Government, which is a public policy’s philosophy rather than a political strategy. Public actions are aimed at citizens and Open Government may help better shaping e-Government initiatives supporting those actions. E-Government is a strategy to provide administration services online, so-called digital government. Yet, the number of services available online via Internet is not a measure of success, and the real issue is how to provide better services to citizens. With Open Data, which is a first step towards more transparency, one can start implementing Open Government strategies to ensure more participation and accessibility for everyone. Open Government is not only about providing more Open Data sets through something like data.gov, it is really about making sure “Government is where people are !”. OpenGovImageIn a recent event hosted by the EU Commission, Open Government concepts have been strongly re-emphasized for ICT-enabled Public Sector to deliver the real benefits. Indeed, “there is sometimes confusion that the (sole) adoption of an Open Data platform creates Open Government in and of itself. This is not the case – Open Data alone is not sufficient to create an Open Government” (S. Spiker).   Even on Twitter we are witnessing that line of reasoning: #OpenData + #Hackathon = #OpenGov with the wrong message sent out to the developer’s communities. “We gave you some of our data (awesome), we want you to do stuff with it (nice, thank you), and hence we now have Open Government (not quite)” (S. Spiker). Over the last 4 years, citizen’s attitudes toward our government’s decision-making processes have changed. “There was a time when citizens trusted objective professionals and elected officials to make those decisions […].; this is no longer the case, the Internet accelerates the decline of deference […]. It’s not that we don’t trust; it’s just that we want to verify.” (D. Eaves) Yet, is “transparency” the new objectivity? And, is “openness” really more than a personality-trait? Why “honesty” shouldn’t be more rewarded i.e. authentic raw data re public actions are made public? And, could empowering the administration to use social media tools as well as connect with external communities gathering citizen-generated information be a better approach to foster collaboration? Recent improvement of the French data.gov, allowing user-generated content to be stored along public data is one example of this social move. Last but not least, Open Government is not much about transparency in decision making than about legislation making. It is a philosophy allowing citizens to provide their Government the benefits of their knowledge and collective intelligence through participation. We welcome you to elaborate on this subject during our break-out session during the Open Belgium conference.

Creative Commons and data projects. One license to rule them all

- February 6, 2014 in CC, creative commons, Data Days, datadays2014, Featured

Creative Commons by Kalexanderson, on Flickr
As open data and open data projects are becoming increasingly important as value creators in the modern-day economy, it is nice to see that important efforts are being made to professionalise and perpetuate the open data community. For a while now, it has become clear that the initial approach – which was mainly conceived as an app-competition – doesn’t suffice to keep the communities engaged, nor has it proven to be a breeding ground for sustainable businesses. Luckily high-level initiatives like the Apps4Europe project are being rolled out to provide opportunities to establish a more nurturing environment for the open data community and to foster and streamline the value creation process. On the legal side of things, the global Creative Commons community has been working hard for the last couple of years to make sure version 4.0 of the Creative Commons licenses caters to these particular needs of open data projects. We personally believe that the new version has set a great standard for the coming years. Unfortunately we also see that data-owners of all sorts are increasingly coming up with proprietary licensing suites. It has not been said that these different license sets are lacking anything in terms of legal thoroughness or comprehensiveness. But we do fear that this license proliferation leads to increased complexity for the end user, especially when combining different datasets. Compatibility issues are never far off and different attribution standards could lead to a legal skein. If we really want to harvest the potential of open data, we must look beyond regional and national interests when considering yet again a new licensing suite. The open data community is a global movement, so open data projects and it’s licenses should keep this premise in mind. Furthermore, data owners shouldn’t try to use copyright to force attribution claims through proprietary licenses. There are other and better ways to achieve that. Lastly, we should try to set licensing standards. Best practices for data-owners so we can standardise the way content and metadata are being licensed. This is something that can already be found in the Europeana licensing framework for cultural heritage institutions and seems to pay off in the long run. For Open Belgium, Creative Commons Belgium has invited two very interesting speakers to dig a little deeper into this topic of licensing for data projects and license proliferation. First up is Katleen Janssen, board member of OKFN Belgium with over 12 years research experience in open data and public sector information, who will give a talk about the danger of license proliferation and how we can try to counter the preconceptions a lot of data owners have about the need of proprietary licenses. Afterwards Thomas Margoni, senior researcher at iVIR in Amsterdam, will explain the changes that have been made to  version 4.0 of the Creative Commons licenses and how this can benefit open data projects. Be sure to check out the rest of the program too. Join us at the Open Belgium Conference during Data Days for an interesting day of sharing knowledge and a couple of drinks afterwards!  photo by Kalexanderson Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License