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I've been making this argument for at least a year in my dealings with various central and local govt bureaucrats, but this is the most concise and best articulated statement of it I've come across, and in future I'll just send people a link to this post. Excellent.



To use a rather non-PC allegory...

Raw data is like oil.

It is dirty, smelly, inconvenient and has very limited uses in its natural state. It is hard to get at and requires some prowess and brute force.

I'd guess only about 1 in 5000 of the population is involved in getting oil out of the ground.

Once refined as petrol, diesel, aviation fuel and plastics then we all use it and largely take for granted that this minority is involved in actually getting the black sticky stuff out of the ground on our behalf.

Raw data is one of the (clean) fuels of the future digital economy and we should be both recruiting the equivalent of oil workers to get it, and industrialists make it into something palatable and useful as well as looking actively for new oil fields to exploit.

Just as the early 20th century oil pioneers could neither foresee Concorde nor plastic knives, we cannot know what future Android/iPhone/Computers will evolve to exploit this vast resource.


First off, the OAuth is no longer busted!

Second, I initially felt much the same way as you. I happen to think that digitally archiving and publishing government data that is already "public domain" should be such an obvious job of the government that it shouldn't even be questioned. However, the problem is that money is being pulled from these programs, because they don't seem important to policy-makers or the people who've elected them. Regardless of their civic importance, these programs need to figure out ways to appeal to a wider swath of people, not necessarily by having a flashy website, but at least generating more obviously important apps or projects built on their data. Otherwise, how will they get funded?


I fully support your views. having worked for gov't statistics for years I find the concept of engaging a mass audience with data entirely ludicrous. IMO public data sites should focus on being machine- and librarian-friendly rather than going after the mythical concerned citizen.

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