Open Government 2010

Have just taken part in a panel discussion at the Open Government 2010 (un)conference. The panel had some Govt and academic people on it, myself and Trevor Mallard (standing in for Clare Curran). Steven Joyce opened the conference earlier in the day.

There is a lively twitter feed that you can follow here.

I put a number of ideas to the conference, which I thought I would blog here also for feedback

  1. A Minister of Information (or ) whose job is to lead a culture change in Government focused on getting as much information out to the public as possible, now that we have the tools to scrutinise and analyse it.
  2. Each agency to have what I call an internal ombudsman. Their role isn’t to adjudicate on external requests for information, but to act as champions for getting information out to the public, and making sure this is in the DNA of all IT projects etc.
  3. Set up an site which has the responses to every request made to a govt agency put up there 48 hours after it gets sent to the primary receipient
  4. All cabinet and cabinet committee level papers to be published on DPMC website (subject to normal OIA rules) automatically within six months of receipt.
  5. Set up a central map site where data (maybe using Google Maps) can be viewed, such as census data, deprivation data, housing data etc.
  6. Require all future govt agency databases to have a public access component to them.

What I am referring to with No 6 is databases such as the Justice offending database or the WINZ benefits database. You’d remove personal identification data, but give the public the ability to query the databases directly.

At present trying to get data on reoffending rates means you need to request it under the OIA, waits ages for it, and then if you want more data, do it again and it takes months and months. Think if you could query the database directly and ask it what proportion of first time offenders who are convicted of burglary reoffend? Or if you could ask the WINZ database how many people have been on a benefit for more than 2 years?

I’d even like to have Treasury give people access to their budget modelling software so people can model for themselves what a 0.5% increase in economic growth will do to the fiscals, or an increase in the age of superannuation etc.

Talking of the idea for a government OIA site, a group of clever people have put together their own site which can be used to send off an OIA request to an agency, and publish the response when received. It’s in beta mode so don’t use it yet, but a nice example of the sort of thinking we need.

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