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Comments by

Miriam Lyons


Idea for pilot project: ‘open-sourcing policy research’

Part 1. A crowdsourced inventory of publicly available government data at the national level
Part 2. Rating of each data source against the principles of open access
Part 3. Use case studies to explore the options for combining open-access publishing of government information with an open & transparent research process (including at least some crowdsourcing) to demostrate the potential of gov2.0 to shorten the feedback loop between policy implementation and evaluation.

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Posted August 20, 2009  12:07 pm

As per James Dellow’s comment above, some small proof of concept projects are also extremely important in demonstrating the value of PSI – there’s always a danger that we further open up access to PSI but only those who were used to getting hold of it when it was closed are in the habit of transforming that data in publicly relevant ways. For example my organisation is currently looking at doing a data visualisation project on the 2010 budget with the people behind – I think small projects like this are great at demonstrating the value of PSI to a wider constituency.

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Posted August 20, 2009  11:59 am
PROJECT PROPOSALS, whole page, replying to Anna Johnston

Anna – this is an excellent idea!

All worthy projects, but perhaps an unbalanced focus on web 2.0 tools themselves, and not enough on promoting an open government culture or addressing the risk averse public sector culture which prevents the sharing of much information in the first place - which is part of your terms of reference. I'd like to propose a project to shift the risk, and thus shift the culture. The decision-makers faced with access to information requests daily (FOI officers, privacy officers, front desk staff, line managers, whoever answers the phone that day ...) are often over-worked and under-resourced. The easiest answer is to say "no, because of the Privacy Act". They know their boss will back them up for this risk-averse response, more so than if they actually examined their legal position in more detail, which takes time, is frustrating and complex, and risks getting it wrong. As I have suggested in my submission on the Issues Paper, one solution is to make that decision-making task less complex; not by weakening access to information laws/rules, but by offering decision support tools to staff. The Project Fund could be used to commission a prototype 'map' of the FOI/privacy/secrecy legislation covering access to information requests for one or more jurisdictions (let's start with the Commonwealth), with the map generating a series of question-and-answer points on a decision 'tree'/flowchart, to help quickly guide the user towards an end answer, covering their circumstances, for the question: "Can we disclose this?" Imagine the shift in attitude if that tool were also made public - the person asking for the information can also quickly see what 'the law' says about their request! Now the risk has shifted too - the public servant risks saying 'no' when everyone can see the answer should be 'yes'. That would truly create an open government, pro-(appropriate) disclosure culture. Declaration: I would hope to work on such a project (and thus financially benefit), as our firm has much of the specialised privacy content that would be one input into the 'map'. However I have been suggesting this idea since 2003, before I was a consultant and thus in a position to benefit personally from it.

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Posted August 20, 2009  11:50 am

This is an extremely important area for research. I would suggest a couple of extra PSI areas to look at as well as the Powerhouse Museum project:

*A cost benefit analysis of opening up access to ASIC data currently only available through a fee-based ‘detailed company search’. ASIC is currently revenue-positive, costing $274 million & collecting $545 million in fees & charges.
*Research into the public value of ABS data & usage patterns of that data over time
*Analysis of options for opening up access to the HILDA data (the inaccessibility of the HILDA datasets is a common complaint amongst Australian policy researchers)
* An Australian equivalent of this UK study (PDF) on the economic benefits of dropping cost-recovery charging (the study found that data should be charged at the marginal cost of distribution, which online (but not offline) is near zero).

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Posted August 20, 2009  11:49 am