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Access to PSI – Who is doing what?

2009 July 12

We know that there are many people already working (both in and outside of government) on making PSI more accessible and useable.

For example over the last five years I have worked closely with a number of government projects designed to develop policy, technical and licensing solutions – such as the Government Information Licensing Project (GILF) (see its Stage 2 Report).  Our team has also worked closely with federal agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics who are now providing free PSI under CC licences, AGIMO and the Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information Officers Committee (CJCIOC). 

I know that most governments in the country are now doing work in this area and many individuals and industries are also active.

Can people let us know what they are doing, proposing to do or want to do in this space?  Preferably for the record, make a comment on this blog but if you wish communicate with us is in some other way. 

(Note, this is intended to be a first cut at a project which the Taskforce may wish to do in a more systematic way, and as a result we’re likely to return to the subject more formally. But in the meantime, I thought this would be a useful preliminary exercise).

17 Responses
  1. 2009 July 13
    jojo permalink

    Hi, for the less-informed, can you please let us know what PSI stands for.

  2. 2009 July 13

    PSI stands for Public Sector Information – Government is great at using acronyms and just assumes everyone knows what they mean.

    • 2009 July 13
      professorbrianfitzgerald permalink

      Yes – PSI is short for Public Sector Information. The European Union formulated a Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI)in 2003.

  3. 2009 July 13
    professorbrianfitzgerald permalink

    People may also be interested in this news item released last December on the GA website:

    Geosciences Australia

    New product licence improves customer access

    Visitors to our website will find it easier to use and access information in future through the adoption of the Creative Commons licence.

    These licences are easy to understand, royalty-free, modular, off the shelf licences which have been customised for the legal codes of more than 50 countries, including Australia.

    Geoscience Australia is the first Australian Government agency to implement the licence, which is being considered also by the Queensland and Victorian Governments, Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Bureau of Meteorology and others.

    Among the products available through the Geoscience Australia website with Creative Commons licences are MODIS data and the Australian Mines Atlas.

    Other material to be issued shortly under Creative Commons licences includes the GeoMAP 250K product, digitised BMR records and educational material about tsunami.

    Adoption of the licences has been made in response to requests from clients for the use and re-use of Geoscience Australia data to be simplified and made more transparent.

    As it [is] adopted by other organisations, the Creative Commons licence is expected to make it easier for users to merge spatial and geoscientific data obtained from different sources.

  4. 2009 July 13

    In 2004 I formed a company with the long term objective of giving individuals control over and knowledge of all their online information. The reason for doing this was the belief that it would empower individuals so that they were able to operate effectively in electronic space.

    The first application of the idea is a set of tools that individuals can use to prove their identity electronically without necessarily saying who they are. This has been implemented and is being sold as a service to organisations under the brand greenid. Empowering individuals to prove who they are is less expensive, more reliable, and safer than organisations trying to prove who someone is and so is attractive to many organisations. It also enables organisations who do not want to know who a person is but rather do they have particular characteristics – e.g. are they are over 18 years of age.

    This same idea is essential for government 2.0 to operate effectively. Unless a person can easily prove what they are and unless they have the tools to interact with the government and its agencies efficiently and privately then it is difficult to establish effective communications. People need to be able to interact anonymously but with responsibility with government organisations but likewise governments often need to know characteristics of the person with whom they are communicating. Expressing an opinion through voting is classic example. People will communicate more readily if their right to say something and their credentials for saying it can be verified but without requiring them to reveal who they are. One of the greatest fears of many people is their fear of public speaking. One reason is the fear of public ridicule and their fear that what they say may be used against them. The same fear applies to online opinion and electronic communication and hence the need for many (most) social networks to allow anonymous comment. However for it to be effective anonymity must be accompanied by responsibility.

    Other government communication with citizens is hindered by the inability of governments to know who to talk to on a particular issue. This “problem” is less critical if individuals can approach governments with their “credentials” rather than their identity.

    We have learned much about what works and what doesn’t work and we are continuing to develop better ways for organisations to interact with their customers. An example is the ability for a person to identify their right to get “help” without having to prove who they are but instead prove their right to help without the call centre operators knowing who they are.

    The government information of most interest to most people is what information the government holds about them.
    Using this approach the government can allow people to access information about themselves in government records because individuals can prove who they are electronically. If people know what is held about them they can initiate actions to correct records (e.g. addresses and ways of being contacted). Knowing what information is held about you in organisational and government databases is an important Privacy Principle and so this approach enables governments to comply with its privacy obligations.

    Our experience and knowledge gained in building a system to empower individuals is available to the Task Force.

  5. 2009 July 14
    Joey permalink

    Fantastic idea. Government should be asking the people how best to serve them and open access to data can only be positive.

    Another government agency that is quite restrictive on its data licensing is Airservices Australia. These guys make aeronautical charts, maps and have online access (requires free login) to meteorological and important navigation/airfield information required for pilots to navigate.

    Prior to Airservices claiming copyright over their compilation, USA dept. of national geospace used to release a free dvd called DAFIF. This was a dvd containing a database of every airfield, waypoint, navigation aid etc. in the world. It was of extreme value, but unfortunately after Australia started copyrighting their data, the US withdrew this dvd as they would be breaching Australian copyright. Now people must buy expensive products such as Jeppesen charts/databases (tens of thousands of dollars) to get this information.

  6. 2009 July 15

    Hello all. I am a strong supporter of the idea of making government information available at “minimum cost” to other government entities and private industry members. Some of the online technical blogs in the US are already talking about all sorts of Business Analytics Services being developed on top of – the availability of the information is driving new business development and entrepreneurship.

    Through my work I’ve been involved in the development of information management frameworks. These frameworks were primarily developer for intra agency and some cross agency exercises – I context to this discussion, this work is very much the first step, making information easier to reuse within the machinery of government. The information management frameworks recognise that availability of information and the desired uptake and reuse of information requires trust, governance and transparency. As such they provide means of standardising the authoring, management and publishing of information. In particular they align information “demand and supply” to government products (such as policies and programs). This has often been an eye opener when it comes down to information reuse and how it underpins good decision making in government.

    I think a good first start would be to start building agreements, trust and consensus within the government (federal, state, and local). This would provide a way to test the ideas/principles of PSI reuse and then build on these.

  7. 2009 July 15

    We’re using data provided by a few different government sources and hand generated data to marry street addresses to electoral divisions and elected representatives.

    This way a user can enter their street address and (eventually) find the names and details of all the people who represent them at each level of government.

    We’re also building an API so other services can simply query use for subsets of the information – for example the electoral divisions an address is in or the encoded polyline required to generate a Google map of the division.

    This is all very beta at the moment as we figure out how to handle the data, what the community needs/wants and how to best exchange the data with other services.

    More than any other piece of PSI though – election data should be freely and publicly available given that free and fair elections are at the heart of our democracy. This includes electoral boundaries, polling places, vote counts (per polling place preferably) and more. Whilst elections are trusted here in Aus there is no reason for this data not to be easily accessible.

  8. 2009 July 18

    Professor Fitzgerald,

    Thank you for identifying GILF in your post. I am currently responsible for the GILF website. We welcome an opportunity to respond, and also to be of assistance to the Taskforce where we have capacity to do so.

    GILF is the product of 5 years of research. The website was created with the assistance of the Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information Officers Committee (CJCIOC), following identification of a need for a nationally consistent approach to PSI licensing by the Online Communications Council. We have also provided assistance in varying degrees concerning GILF and Creative Commons to the ABS and Geoscience Australia, and our input into the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Open Access to Information has been noted in their report.

    Nationally the CJCIOC is reviewing GILF (referred to in that forum as NGILF (National GILF)) for use in each of the jurisdictions, with a final position expected in late October.

    The policy of GILF can be summarised in many respects by reference to the OECD’s Seoul Declaration – Recommendations of the Council for Enhanced Access and More Effective Use of PSI, which Australia (via Senator Conroy) endorsed. PSI should be searchable (content and licence identification) and accessible (raw data (also advocated by Sir Tim Berners-Lee), open standards and API’s), with the least restrictive licence in the suite applied as appropriate to the circumstances.

    In Queensland, GILF is being reviewed prior to adoption as a Government Enterprise Architecture policy, with a view to it becoming a requirement for Qld Government agencies in the near future. It is anticipated that review will be complete in October. We also consider GILF to be an enabler of the recently enacted Right to Information Act 2009 (QLD), which places agencies under a positive obligation to ‘push’ information into the public arena, as opposed to the ‘pull’ approach under the former FOI law. Obviously, consistent with the policy intent of the RTI Act, it is important to apply licences enabling re-use of information. We have commenced GILF implementation briefings for some agencies, whilst others have already begun licensing information under CC.

    Since January this year we have also been working with the Bureau of Meteorology on what has become known as the ‘GILF for Water’ project. That project was established by the Bureau’s Water Division to identify best practice for the licensing of water information collected under the Water Act 2007 (Cth). The Bureau’s Water Division executive has recently endorsed the CC Attribution Australia licence, and is encouraging the use of that licence by water information providers. Again, the CC Attribution licence supports and furthers the policy intent of the Water Act and in turn, the ‘Water for the Future’ framework.

    I may be contacted at should anyone have any queries about GILF.

    Thanks again and we look forward to reading the Taskforce report.

  9. 2009 July 20
    Professor Brian Fitzgerald permalink

    People may also be interested in the evidence given by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) before the EDIC of the Victorian Parliament –

  10. 2009 July 21

    Here are a few government 2.0 initiatives/links we’ve come across here at Creative Commons Australia:

    - Mosman Municipality Council has one of the best government social media implementations we’ve come across. Not only do they have well a designed website, they also have a Twitter account, YouTube account and numerous blogs and pages with associated RSS feeds and it filters these through its FriendFeed account. The Mosman Library also has a Flickr account, a blog, a video account on Vimeo and runs it’s Mosman Reader program through Ning. This is all as a result of the Council’s Community Engagement Strategy, launched on 7 April 2009, which has the stated intent to “inform“, “consult” and “involve” their residents in order to ‘achieve a broader range of views to assist Council in planning services better to meet community needs and aspirations and to provide residents greater opportunities to contribute to and influence outcomes which directly affect their lives.’ They’ve even released much of this material (including the strategy) under a Creative Commons licence, so other groups can adapt it to their own needs. See our case study on it here.

    - the Creative Commons wiki has a list of government implementations of the Creative Commons licences internationally, with a good section on Australia. You can also find more detailed case studies on the Creative Commons Case Studies wiki. Finally, our books Building an Australasian Commons and Unlocking the Potential through Creative Commons both have a chapter on government adoption of CC in Australia.

    - finally, there are a few recent reports which might be relevant (though I’m sure the taskforce already has most of these): ACMA’s Click and connect: Young Australians’ use of online social media; the Queensland Government’s Government Information and Licensing Framework Stage 2 Report; the final report of the Victorian Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee’s Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data; and the Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s Digital Economy: Future Directions

  11. 2009 July 21
    Yvonne R Thompson permalink

    Thanks Gordon, I meant only to use Aged Care as one of many examples. We’ve made a start and were sent some data, but then someone got nervous and the last I heard over month ago they wanted to hear what their lawyers had to say.

    Extracting individual datasets from websites is sometimes OK, but dpending on the data not always a very practical arrangement. Emergency services need the data to be authoritative, maintained and fit for purpose, and accessible for incremental updates on a regular basis.

    There are costs of introducing new data into any systems, and if you can imaging the number of data sets and organisations we’d need to deal with, it is not satisfactory to just download data from government web sites that lack metadata and arrangements for custodianship.

    This seems to be difficult for some parts of Government to grasp, as they constantly build expensive new search tools for the public, without comprehending that this is not a substitute for becoming a custodian of data in the true meaning of the word.

    Should an emergency service, for example, be expected to go to 200 government websites and try to extract the data, clean it and reload it every year? No, it should be pushed out in open formats, with metadata, so that it can be easily found accessed through repositories.

  12. 2009 August 24

    I’d like to put forward Australian Policy Online (APO) as an essential resource for collecting and disseminating not only public sector information, but also that of policy research beyond the confines of government, including academia, NGOs, think tanks and the media.

    Many other commentators on this site have pointed out that government policy is not, and should not be created in a vacuum and that there is a great deal of expertise beyond the bureaucracy. APO is one of the main tools by which policy makers are informed about current research, and the govt research is able to disseminated out to public.

    APO is a national open access digital library and news service that was established in 2002 by the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University in Melbourne. It now has an archive of around 7000 research reports and 1500 commentary pieces. This year the editors have expanded the collection to include policy related video, audio, books and web resouces. Information such as jobs, events, submissions, courses and notices can be posted by any registered reader either for free or for a small fee.

    For a few years now APO has provided information via RSS and the databse has been harvested through the OAI protocol into the NLA’s ARROW project. However it certainly wasn’t particularly web 2.0 and it has been clear the site needed to move with the times.

    With a recent migration to an open source CMS (supported by an Australian Research Council grant) we are in a position to capitalise on our extensive readership amongst those interested in policy matters.

    We have a number of projects in development, some involve improvements to the current database including opening up the database to external contributors, developing collaborative tagging and bookmarking of resources, introducing ratings/recommendations. Other ideas – some more achievable than others – involve new developments include setting up a policy blog network providing commentary on research issues and publications, setting up policy platforms for discussion, possibly using Drupal, Ning or some other group software, creating an international policy portal, and finally, the creation of a policypedia – a wikipedia style guide to current policy.

    We would be happy to work with the taskforce and anyone else interested to make the most of the extensive collecting and cataloguing we have undertaken thus far – and more importantly the community of practice already strongly associated with the site.

    • 2010 April 24
      Madeleine Kingston permalink


      I am delighted to be supporting the APO initiatives and participate in online discussion.

      Since my new excursion into the world of social media blogging I am discovering the potential use of these innovative initiatives to reach target audience and open up the dialogue with those who may form neither part of the not-for-profit sector as it is formally defined; or the bureaucracy.

      I believe strongly that effective data sourcing and management is a central role in ensuring access to pertinent research and other data that may help to improve policy considerations on topical matters of interest.

      Archival material will help us all to learn lessons from the past – without which we are all lost.
      My congratulations to APO for continuing to bring matters of social policy concern to the attention of a wide public.

      There is much scope for mutual learning and for spreading the net to capture ideas and inputs from a variety of stakeholders.

      I have read with interest the many thoughtful social policy issues that are brought to the attention of interested parties and have enjoyed exploring the presentation and format of the APO web pages.

      I have not been able to devote nearly as much time as I would like into the policy debate through digital means, and am very much a newcomer with a highly developed sense of social justice wishing to participate in as meaningful way as I can.

      Making opportunities for newcomers like me to cross the digital divide and actively participate in the affairs of the country generally and in social and communication initiatives in particular will undoubtedly improve awareness and community participation and possibly identify emerging issues that require more serious attention, research and investigation.

      I have been citing from APO data and individual researchers for a while. Andrea Sharam for example is one of my most regularly cited social policy authors, especially in the arena of energy.

      I am almost able by now to recite Andrea’s sobering views on energy policy; market power and exclusions; compromised complaints redress, and a host of other matters of real concern.

      I am pleased to see that the issues of social justice as they impact on marginalized groups such as international students some more vulnerable than others, the re-conceptualizing and re-positioning Australian library and information science education for the 21st century; and the host of other policy matters that should concern thoughtful citizens and those elected to govern them.

      I am looking forward to participating in a more inclusive democratic dialogue with organizations appointed to formulate national and local policies and to expand my range of contacts with like-minded people or others who will help to stimulate respectful exchange of ideas where views differ.
      I am spending more time exploring the APO web pages to learn more about what I can to do enhance my input into the social policy debate.

      As you know I am a subscriber and find it most convenient to receive joggers sent directly to my email address. I am really pleased to see the range of social policy issues that APO delves into and brings to the attention of the public.

      Carry on.



  13. 2009 July 14

    Joey, this is fairly typical. Airfield, waypoint, navigation aid etc is very important to emergency services, and yet finding custodians willing to provide this most basic data-set with the name and location of all airfields or landing strip this data is difficult.

    Recent attempts to obtain data-sets from government departments with the business names and addresses of Day Care Centres, Kindergartens, Aged Care facilities have bumped up against that other favoured furphy of the fearful, that this information is “privacy protected”. I get that one all the time, and I’m sure the businesses will be delighted to know that government has taken this position on their behalf, and that their privacy was protected, even though the emergency services may not be able to find them.

  14. 2009 July 15

    The excuse of data privacy goes away if an individual or business or organisation can give permission when data is collected for its data to be made available at the time of collection. Organisations, individuals and businesses may even be able to “pressure” governments or collectors of data to make it available by saying – “I am happy to give you this data if you will release it when asked to the following types of people or organisations”.

  15. 2009 July 15
    Gordon permalink

    There’s a child care centre locator run by the Australian Government at The data is possibly screen-scrapeable, but I couldn’t find an easy way to download the data set in bulk or access an API. Business names and addresses are readily available, though. I suspect that additional licence issues might be attached if these addresses had been geocoded.

    There’s also an Aged Care facility finder run by the Department of Health and Ageing with geocoded entries that you may find useful.

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