Last month’s international G8 summit produced a declaration with new guidelines for a broad range of policy issues. Included in this declaration was a set of recommendations for open data initiatives, known as the Open Data Charter. The charter represents the first time open data principles have been agreed to in an international forum—not to mention possibly the highest-level declaration of any kind to mention the open source code repository website GitHub—and will likely help shape the future role of government in data. Here are the key facts.
The Group of Eight is a policy forum for the governments of eight of the world’s largest economies (previously with six and seven member states) held annually since 1975. Although the summit will be gradually supplanted by the larger G20, which includes developing economies and non-Western states, G8 remains a bellwether of international policy. This year’s event was held June 17-18 at the Lough Erne Resort in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and focused on tax policy as well as the ongoing Syrian civil war.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron played host to President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, French President François Hollande, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and a host of supporting diplomats and staff.
The Open Data Charter
Inspired in large part by the 2012 U.K. open data strategy and the recent executive order from Obama on open data (and the Office of Management and Budget’s related open data policy), the charter presents a high-level vision for open data initiatives in G8 nations to improve government operations and encourage economic growth.
The preamble expresses the importance of open data: “We, the G8, agree that open data are an untapped resource with huge potential to encourage the building of stronger, more interconnected societies that better meet the needs of our citizens and allow innovation and prosperity to flourish.”
The charter then outlines five principles committed to by the G8 governments:
Open data by default: The charter seeks to establish a norm that all government data will be published openly be default.
Quality and quantity: Timely, comprehensive and accurate data is a top priority. This principle notes the importance of metadata to accompany data sets so users can understand the strengths and limitations. This principle also includes the importance of allowing and responding to user feedback to improve data quality.
Useable by all: Barriers to data access and use, including access fees, registration requirements, and proprietary standards should be removed.
Releasing data for improved governance: G8 governments will share their technical expertise with other nations and document their own open data initiatives.
Releasing data for innovation: The charter recognizes the benefits that come from the increased commercial and noncommercial use of data and commits G8 governments to promoting open data literacy. This principle also affirms the value of providing data in machine-readable formats.
Finally, the charter contains a technical appendix that includes some best practices to implement each of the five principles as well as a set of collective actions to implement the goals of the charter. The authors of the charter declare the appendix a “living document” that will evolve in response to new experiences and technologies.
The technical appendix in the charter outlines several next steps and milestones. These include:
– June 2013: Contribute to and maintain the G8 metadata mapping index on GitHub
– October 2013: Publish individual action plans
– December 2013: Identify data on key state functions, such as democracy and environment
– June 2014: Report on annual progress
– December 2014: Release data on key state functions, such as democracy and environment
– June 2015: Report on annual progress
– December 2015: Complete implementation of best practices
While it remains to be seen how well each country will be able to achieve the grand vision outlined in the Open Data Charter, this agreement represents an important inaugural effort to introduce the principles of open data to the international community and will provide a yardstick for measuring progress for all countries in the years ahead.
This article was originally published in FedScoop.