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Friday, July 13, 2007

Does the Istanbul Declaration call for OA?

Jesse Robbins writes on O'Reilly Radar that

The Istanbul Declaration signed at the [OECD World Forum in Istanbul, June 27-30, 2007] calls for governments to make their statistical data freely available online as a "public good."

Just for the record, the Istanbul Declaration does not call on governments to make their statistical data freely available online. That's why I didn't blog it when it came out, although I did add it to the BOAI FAQ list of city-named declarations in the same general subject area.

Here's what the Istanbul Declaration does say:

The availability of statistical indicators of economic, social, and environmental outcomes and their dissemination to citizens can contribute to promoting good governance and the improvement of democratic processes....

Official statistics are a key "public good" that foster the progress of societies. The development of indicators of societal progress offers an opportunity to reinforce the role of national statistical authorities as key providers of relevant, reliable, timely and comparable data and the indicators required for national and international reporting. We encourage governments to invest resources to develop reliable data and indicators....

It doesn't mention "free" or "open" availability and it doesn't mention availability "online" or on the "internet" or "web".  It does say that the availability of official statistics can be useful and it does call them a public good. These are reasons to make them OA, but so far the Istanbul Declaration only asserts the premises, not the conclusion.

It also says:

To take this work forward we need to: ...improve the availability of data and indicators...

But this is compatible with priced access, indeed with priced, printed access.

I wish the Istanbul Declaration had called for free online access to public statistics, like the UK Free Our Data initiative, the recent Australian report on Government Information and Open Content Licensing (dated October 2006 but released June 2007), or even the OECD's own earlier report on Public Sector Information and Content (March 2006). 

If the OECD meant for the Istanbul Declaration to call for free online access to public statistics, I'd be glad to hear it and report it.