4th IODC

Blog IODC 2016
Madrid. October 6-7, 2016

#IODC16

Internal management, a necessary step before opening data

March 8, 2016 by Marc Garriga

Marc Garriga graduated in Computer Engineering from UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and in Market Research and Techniques from UOC (Open University of Catalonia). Being an expert on Open Data and, more generally, in open government, he has taken part in various initiatives in each field. By mid-2012, he set up desideDatum Data Company, a company focused on offering services related to management and data opening such as consulting the Generalitat de Catalunya (on the creation of the Catalonia Transparency Portal, which will host more than a thousand public entities), among many other projects related to open data, open government and Smart Cities.

Besides, desideDatum Data Company is one of Socrata’s main partners, the most important open data service provider globally.

He is a pro-public sector, pro-transparency, pro-open government and pro-Network Society activist; among others, he is founding member of the Spanish Chapter on the Open Knowledge Foundation Network (OKFN-Spain), of Xarxa d’Innovació Pública (XiP), of the group Catalunya Dades, and he is a node at TheProject (THP).

According to the service of collection of open data portals at the CTIC Foundation, there are currently more than 150 Open Data portals in Europe and about 300 globally. One must take into account that in the CTIC Foundation service, the mentioned portals are those which offer large quantities of data and also those with narrow data opening. Some of them offer quality data, although in other cases one may consider a euphemism to even mention the quality of data. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is an increasing number of organizations (Commonly public administrations) that are opening their data even though, as José Luis Marín stated, there is still a long way to go, there is much to be opened yet.

However, I personally believe that, in many cases, if we do not open more data that is because data opening services are not completely integrated within the internal processes of data management – yet – or, what is worse, many public administrations lack a good internal data management (either open or not).

My expertise in providing advice to public administrations about how to implement a sustainable data opening service has brought me to recommending a previous step to this process: the implementation of an internal policy of data management.

In reality, it is very hard to offer a quality open data service if, internally, there is not a good data management policy. Without that management it will be extremely complicated to openly provide a great quantity of data with a minimum standard of quality (adequate updating, semantic description of data, homogeneous data with other administrations, etc.).

At my workplace, I deal with clients (public administrations) that want to open data for different reasons: sometimes due to initiatives related to the transparency of the institutions (given that data with a more “democratic” aspect are opened, they take advantage of this and open other data); other times, data opening stems from the economic sector that demands data, and institutions cleverly open data not only for those who request it, but for everyone; in other cases…why hiding it? One can decide to open data just because it has become a “trend” to do so.

Nonetheless, as I mentioned above, I often find realities in which the internal data management is frankly ineffective or even inexistent. The most common problems are:

  • Data are not described semantically through metadata (private or following international standards).
  • There is no transversality of data, not even inside the organization itself (among its own departments).
  • There is no homogenisation of data, neither internally nor externally between similar organizations.
  • Frequently, datasets are not updated and/or are not complete.
  • There is no responsibility over each dataset; said responsibility stays in a limbo that favors nobody in terms of assuming the obligation of certifying the quality of said datasets (ensuring that the aforementioned points are implemented). A good example in this case is the City of Chicago Data Dictionary.

In summary, before starting a data opening process, there has to be an internal organization in the institution that decides to open data; only then a good open data service can be achieved and, besides, a good internal data management will result in an improvement of the internal efficiency, a crucial step that any organization must take (public or private).

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