Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The case for OA to PSI

Hjálmar Gíslason, The Case for Open Access to Public Sector Data, Technology and other wonders, August 28, 2008.  An article forthcoming in The Reykjavík Grapevine.  Excerpt:

Government institutions and other public organizations gather a lot of data....In these public data collections lies tremendous value. The data that has been collected for taxpayers’ money for decades or in a few cases even centuries (like population statistics) is a treasure trove of economical and social value. Yet, the state of public data is such that only a fraction of this value is being realized.

The reason is that accessing this data is often very hard. First of all its often hard to even find out what exists, as the sources are scattered, there is no central registry for existing data sets and many agencies don’t even publish information on the data that they have.

More worrying is that access to these data sets is made difficult by a number of restrictions, some accidental, other due to lack of funding to make them more accessible and some of these restrictions are even deliberate. These restrictions include license fees, proprietary or inadequate formats and unjustified legal complications.

I’d like to argue that any data gathered by a government organization should be made openly accessible online....

The only exception to this rule should be when other interests - most importantly privacy issues - warrant access limitations.

There is a number of reasons for this. First of all, we (the taxpayers) have already paid for it....Secondly it gives the public insight into the work done by our organizations in a similar way as Freedom of Information laws have done....The most important argument - however - is that open access really pays off. Opening access and thereby getting the data in the hands of businesses, scientists, students and creative individuals will spur innovation and release value far beyond anything that a government organization can ever think of or would ever spend their limited resources on....