Realising the potential of OpenGov/OpenData

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Rosie Williams

Apr 1, 2013, 10:06:21 PM4/1/13
Hi all, 

For the past few months I have been working with a range of government data including ABS boundary and SEIFA data and also the Australian Federal Budget data (which is only available in pdf format). 

I hope to launch the budget data on budget night and I wanted to engage with open gov and data advocates about the issues that I see moving such projects forward. To this end I've created this blog post which details some issues I and other projects are experiencing and also suggests a way forward:

I would appreciate feedback here or on the blog or by email etc. 

Rosie Williams

Rosie Williams

Apr 1, 2013, 10:48:39 PM4/1/13
On some advice I've just updated the url to be more descriptive so the post is now at


Alex (Maxious) Sadleir

Apr 1, 2013, 11:23:18 PM4/1/13
I think the question of "How do we get open data used in a sustainable way?" is still without a definitive answer. In terms of a CRC to explore this area NICTA does technological exploration of the application of open data 
In the UK the Open Data Institute tries to match up government and business to find useful (and economically beneficial) applications for open data, as well as providing services for business and facilities (co-working etc) for the community/data startups to use
One of the ODI supported startups is OpenCorporates which has an interesting business model - community projects can use their API for free but if you want to take the whole database and mash it up internally with a private dataset (for fraud analysis etc.) you have to pay

Your point about inconsistent Program names is interesting because actually the Departments of Finance and Treasury have the same problem and they're trying to fix it by making a new central system based on consistent government Programs, not on which agency holds the appropriation
"Defined list of Programs to be agreed between Agencies and Budget Group in Finance, All Agencies will report by Program across all parts of the Budget Cycle"
According to that last PDF, the list of Programs should be done now and the system taking data from 181 government agencies (in CSV format, not PDF!) by the end of 2013. There's a lot of reference to Operation Sunlight (as in "sunlight is the best disinfectant" open government ethos) so hopefully this data will be available to all in a machine readable format. 

But it shows that open data isn't just about open government but also ways in which government itself can benefit from better data formats, better data access and better data tools. As suggested at, maybe there's a place for having a government Geek in Residence program to draw on talented individuals in the open data community Sadly OpenAustralia hasn't been as lucky as Sunlight Foundation, Code for America and mySociety to get million dollar grants from Google to make something like that happen.

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Rosie Williams

Apr 1, 2013, 11:48:30 PM4/1/13
Thanks Alex, that is great feedback. Wonderful to hear that the agencies are going to coordinate their naming. The Program names in these documents appear to pretty random but at least they are in csv format.

It's also unclear to me whether this is program or 'scheme' level data. In my database I broke data down into program and program component levels (which I've called Schemes) to closely resemble the way it is done in the Budget Portfolio Statements but after working with these FaHCSIA files with multiple names for very similar 'Programs' it is unclear to me whether this data is given at program and scheme level or if it is a random mix of both.

I'll worry about that more after May 14 but I think it will be disappointing for everyone if we can't make the best use of the data that exists because of such issues.



Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2013 14:23:18 +1100
Subject: Re: [Gov2.0Australia] Realising the potential of OpenGov/OpenData

Rosie Williams

Apr 7, 2013, 9:56:12 PM4/7/13
I got a response from FaHCSIA to my email to them from several weeks ago regarding the Program names late last week which is a help. Now I only have to deal with the terms attached to data published by certain agencies:

"These data must not be used for any purpose other than that stated in the original request.
These data must be kept secure and must not be disclosed, published, distributed or disseminated in any way without the express authority of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
All data descriptions must remain attached to the data at all times. Failure to comply with these conditions may be an offence under Social Security Law and/or the Crimes Act 1914." (DEEWR)

I've posted a new discussion thread to the Canberra Open Innovation Network regarding a PSI CRC or something similar to the Open Data Institute at in case anyone wants to join the discussion there. 

Compared to my experience of advocating publicly on behalf of marginalised groups I have to say this policy idea appears to me as a no brainer, as being a lot easier to sell than anything I've ever lobbied for in the past. Getting people discussing the pros and cons would be a useful start.


Rosie Williams BA (Sociology)

Subject: RE: [Gov2.0Australia] Realising the potential of OpenGov/OpenData
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2013 14:48:30 +1100
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