Data Liberation

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I recently stumbled across Statistic Canada's Data Liberation Initiative. It's interesting to see this effort and terminology, which is shared with Google's humorously themed effort.

Another, commercial Data Liberation effort provides some good reasons this is important — Do you want fair pricing, transparent testing, faster performance, deeper analytics and straight answers? We can add, do you want to be able to take away information you contributed or paid for? Simply, in my mind, public data and even rights to code you access (like AGPL) should be a competitive factor, and in the public service or for anything of massive utility (like Facebook), something we expect.

The only problem is the Government's DLI is way too narrow. Right now it's aimed at post secondary institutions. There shouldn't be access categories, the same information should be available to 14 year olds and retired persons that's available to academics or public workers. As well, it's hardly a liberation effort when individuals have to pay to access the information ($2350 to learn about Canadian internet use in 2007). I don't think we can really say public participation and corruption, for example, are being seriously addressed until these kinds of issues are resolved, nor can any statements about what "our children" are inheriting be taken seriously.

Once this kind of data is released, we can expect greater participation and new forms of employment through crowdsourcing and other volunteer efforts (for example, making specialized information easier to understand). There are plenty of civic minded hobbyists, experts, and others who would love to understand and work on big problems, and with computers and the Internet any one person or group can achieve so much in their spare time. The trust issues don't really exist, people can learn to not trust a first glance at info just like they have with spam and wikipedia, and networked trust will become a concrete part of our reality. (Of course personal information will be protected, but access to massive correlation alone would make this a breakthrough.)


And wit regard to transparency, like completing a puzzle, once a critical mass is achieved, the missing pieces will become evident.

I know plenty of individuals and groups who can benefit from this data, so many problems that can be solved so we can move onto bigger ones. After taking a run at it with a friend (and ultimately failing), Michael Mulley has finally got a parliament Hansard scraper working, but the amount of effort and reliability will be in jeopardy until this information is intentionally shared.

The government's own (private) GCPedia has already been deemed important in capturing tacit knowledge and helping groups connect, following Wikipedia's model of open organizing. Past that, some things need to be "offloaded" from the government, which is already straining, to willing participants, the gigantic latent capacity that can solve problems without cost, openly and fairly creating a greater social existence that acknowledges our modern reality. This is a push back to the corporatization and governmentalization of services that people should enjoy spending their time participating in.


Blikied on April 11, 2010