Any piece of information created with the means of public funds is owned by the public and should be available for re-use by everyone in any manner they please.
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland
Last week I attended the Open Government Data Camp (OGDCamp) in Warsaw, Poland. The world’s biggest open data event, it brought together civil servants, developers, NGOs and others for two days of talks, workshops and project sprints. The range of topics covered was immense, varying from open government data in Kenya to the future of apps competitions in Italy and encouraging more sustainable travel choices in Sweden through the clever use of data.
Although the camp had a distinctively European and American flavour, those interested in open data in a developing-world context did not go away empty handed. While countries like Kenya and Ghana face additional barriers to fully embracing the open government agenda, they also face many of the same problems that their European and American colleagues are grappling with. How, for example, can open data enthusiasts convey their message and get ordinary people to start using and interacting with the data? This is just as much as an issue in Atlanta as it is in Accra. If the open data community is to grow, then it will need to do so with the backing and support of the public at large. Much has been achieved so far and there were plenty of fabulous open data initiatives on display at OGDCamp, but the movement has not yet achieved mass appeal. Another issue that remains unsolved is how to create data without borders. To be able to fully exploit the potential offered by open data, we need not only to access information on our own communities or countries, but crucially we need to be able to compare that with data emerging from other parts of the country or the world. The issue of defining common schemas is an issue affecting every country with an interest in and commitment to open data. And all across the globe, open data activists and campaigners need to ensure that they keep open government data on the political agenda and have to be able to show real world applications of how open data can be harnessed for development, innovation and enterprise. If the open data movement is to succeed then it will need to answer these and other questions to enable it to grow, consolidate and progress.
One of the event’s great strengths is that it demonstrates a keen desire to enhance the public profile of open data. With approximately 400 participants, OGDCamp was an unmistakably visible endorsement of the goals of the open data movement and provided a great opportunity to showcase some of the most exciting developments in the field. That being the case, roll on OGDCamp 2012!