Government data done well

December 12, 2010

Thanks to Dr Michael Hausenblas of the Linked Data Research Centre in Galway, Ireland for posting an excellent example on their website (  of how Tim Berners-Lee’s “five star” model of government data might operate in practice on the W3C  (World Wide Web Consortium) e-government group. The model may explain to a wider audience what “open data” is and is able to permit. The “five star” model is briefly summarised as:

* on the web, open licence

** machine-readable data

*** non-proprietary formats

**** RDF standards

***** Linked RDF

Some of us will need to be reminded about what TLA’s like RDF and URI mean, so I’ve linked off to W3C.

The W3C is also looking at establishing a Government Linked Data Working Group to focus on the technical issues needed behind all this and it now has a draft charter to operate by.

An end to reinventing square wheels – lets have some international standards for e-government fit for the World Wide Web!


Open strategy

December 3, 2009

So, the Conservative Party have leaked a leaked copy of the draft Government IT Strategy! I’d been privvy to an early draft through the Local CIO Council and hadn’t really thought anything was worth shouting about. In fact I’m not really sure that another government would do any much different, apart from branding and terminology. Whilst I am a strong believer in, and my dissertation relates to, “co-production”, I’m not a believer in crowdsourcing per se, it’s a bit like mob rule or, even worse, minority rule or oligarchy, which is apparently the Conservative Party rationale for leakage. I had wondered if it had been a deliberate leak on John Suffolk’s part but I gather from the Cabinet Office that this was not the case, however they do insist it was an early draft and that the feedback will be very useful!

This is the leakage is latest Conservative version of a Conservative ICT non-strategy and not some little way from their earlier rallying cries around “open source”,  “open gov” and “open data”. On the W3C group on e-government, someone recently posted a list of alternative “definitions” for such data and here they are with credit to Winchel “Todd” Vincent III of
<xmlLegal> This may be developed as part of the groups work but the original is his.

“Unavailable: You simply cannot get the data.  Data is cost prohibitive to publish. There may be security or privacy reasons not to publish.  Or, simply, no one ever thought to publish the data.

Not Translated: Data is available, but exists in a different language than the end user’s language.

Paper: Data is available, but it is only available on paper.

Free: Data is available at no cost and without restrictions.

Fee Based: Data is available, but only for a fee.
— Public: Fee Based: Government provides data for a fee.
— Private: Fee Based: Private company provides data for a fee.

Copyright: Data is available (in some way) but there are copyright restrictions on republication or reuse.

Copyright with License: Data is available (in some way), there is a copyright, but also a license that allows some use (other than all rights reserved).

Public Domain: Data is available (in some way) and is in the public domain, so there are no restrictions on use of the data.

Electronic: Data is available electronically.

Electronic: Web Browser or Paper-Like Electronic Document Format: Data is available but only via a web browser or an electronic document format and not in an easily parsed format (where Images/Graphics, HTML, XHTML, PDF, Word, and Word Perfect do not count as easily parsed formats).

Electronic: Structured Format: Data is available electronically and in a structured format.  A structured format would include delimited text, spreadsheet, XML, and the like.

Electronic: Structured Format: Schema: Data is available electronically and in a structured format.  Additionally, there is a schema available that defines the structured format.

— Government Schema: A government promulgates the schema. The schema may or may not be in the public domain.

— Standards Body Schema: A recognized standards body promulgates the schema.  Schema is licensed under a “copyleft” (perpetual, free, but with restrictions not to modify) or similar license (typical of W3C, OASIS, but not all “recognized” standards bodies).

— Private Schema:  A private company promulgates the schema.  The schema may or may not have licensing restrictions associated with it.

Electronic: Browser/Viewer: Electronic data, whether structured or not, is available only via a web browser or other viewer for viewing.

Electronic: Download: Electronic data, whether structured or not, is available to download.  Here, download means a “manual” download. Some manual user input must be done to download the data (e.g., downloading a spreadsheet or structured text file via an HTTP link or FTP) to the user’s local machine.

Electronic: Web Service: Electronic data, typically structured, is available via a web service (meant in a generic way, not specific to a technology) for machine consumption.  There is some standard, specification, or documented publication rules, such that machines can reliably access the data on an ongoing basis.  The point here is not the format of the data, but the reliability and availability of the connection to the data, so that machines can get to the data feed without human intervention.

Each of these qualities makes the data more or less “open” or “accessible” as a practical matter.  There are  many combinations of these that one could put together.”

If anybody in UK wants to remember the recent history of the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG), they’ll remember the local property data expensively gathered with great efforts spent cleansing it. The authorities who have spent large sums of money are now likely to find this being given away. There is current effort on matching this data with that from the Electoral Register, this is the Coordinated Online Register of Electors (CORE) project. One of the issues around propert data in recent times has been resistance from the Royal Mail which produces the postcode file to allow any fee-free use of the PAF. So local authorities are expected to give away data that has been expensively cleansed in order that private organizations may profit – if that is the Conservative plan – to see it given it away like North Sea Oil, public transport, British Gas etc etc. The comment is that public money paid for it, so the public should have it – but what if they have to pay twice?

Getting Techie

July 22, 2009

Tim  Berners-Lee has made one of his not-too frequent posts upon the topic of e-government. In fact it’s not really e-government its about putting data online. The article is on the W3C web site.

This is probably highly appropriate since the W3C eGovernment Interest Group has reached its latest phase and published a draft charter.

With everyone working on data handling and information management, what I’d like to see is that we can use linked data, as envisaged by Berners-Lee but in a coordinated manner, so that the tools we emply internally can produce the data for external use by ourselves (which we may not need when external hosts can do it) and others.

Anyway, Berners-Lee provides lots of suggestions plus some ‘do’s and don’ts’. Lets do some.

The same metter is picked up in a piece in the McKinsey Quarterly entitled E-government 2.0, which reinforces the method but accepts the cultural hurdles to be leaped or stumbled over. Very importantly for me, Baumgarten and Chul, also consider it in a multichannel context by stating the need to “provide consistent experience and share learning across channels.”


If you are interested and, preferably, in UK local government please complete the survey, it doesn’t take long at all. I’ll keep feeding back through these pages, which are also covered by and PSF.


The ‘invisible hand’ writes on…

September 24, 2008

Owen, another member of the W3C eGov IG  responded to a mail of mine there that:

” Having discovered CCSR as a result of your message, I converted its “aims” (goals) and objectives to StratML format for inclusion in our collection at or, more specifically,

Googling for CCSR’s site also prompted me to discover CPSR. Their goals, objectives, and values are now documented in StratML format as well:

They are the 361st and 362nd plans indexed in Mark Logic’s StratML search service prototype — — in
which they, respectively, rank:

    1st & 8th of 97 on the term “social”
    1st & 5th of 121 on “responsibility”
    200th & 4th of 205 on “technology”
    NA & 1st of 46 on “computers”

The prospective purposes of StratML are outlined at Under the auspices of AIIM, we aim to establish it as an international voluntary consensus standard for potential use by all organizations worldwide, as well as individuals who choose to take *responsibility* for leading mission/goal
directed lives.  AIIM’s StratML Committee page is available at
In light of their missions, it would be good if CCSR and CPSR could play roles in helping to specify and foster widespread usage of the StratML standard.

BTW, the eGov IG’s plan is also available in StratML format, at, and the use case I drafted for the IG’s consideration is at Also included is the plan of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA:  
It would be good if organizations like CCSR, CPSR, and the eGov IG could partner with organizations like NAPFA to ensure that government agencies are making readily available (in XML format) the information citizens need to understand and be held accountable for not only their personal responsibilities but also those their governments are imposing upon them.”

Whilst Owen in the USA promotes the NAPFA perhaps the Power of Information lobby might like to consider this?

Tagging one’s potential resources as one identifies them seems a constructive exercise – any takers?

Owen has also pointed out to me the Web Content Managers Council and I thought another view of metrics is always welcome – – its big, its commercial and its not what I’m looking for! But thanks all the same Owen!


June 5, 2008

Yesterday I was at an ESD-Toolkit TLC meeting (Electronic Service Delivery Toolkit Toolkit Learning Community) apart from the healthy debate over NI14 (thank you Bob and others), there was also some chance to discuss customer satisfaction and insight. Tony Hinkley dropped a name that I was unto unaware of – Robert Johnston of Warwick Business School – so I will now spend the next month reading his uncollected works – shed loads of stuff on satisfaction, complaints, service excellence etc, so I will try and summarise some on here – but there is a lot of it! Many thanks Tony (and Bob for writing it all).

The other big news this week was the launch by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) of the eGovernment Interest Group. There is also a forum there. Lots of potential to debate the Web 2.0 and the future!