Wednesday, 9 June 2010

What is the point of open data without open communication to follow it up?

By Tim

It has been very encouraging to see the new government continue the great leap forward that is open data. However, we hope that communications specialists are very closely involved in the debate about what comes after the opening up of data.

For example, I imagine the public will have many questions to raise following the discoveries and analysis that will occur once government data on expenditure becomes common currency. And as enthusiasts start to publicly present data which screams out for a response (the identification accident black spots or botched procurement, for example), surely the logical next step will be to contact someone in government to ask for action or explanation? Wouldn’t it be contradictory to have direct access to open data without direct open dialogue with ministers, council cabinets and even officials about that data?

It makes sense that this communication also occurs openly and transparently and as close to the content as possible-ideally on the same pages. For example, a Yoosk style widget enabling the open posting and ranking of questions to named ministers and officials- with their answers posted alongside-is publicly available. This could be readily deployed alongside content on open data inspired websites. Questions arising from open data content could then be put to a named individual for all to see and support,  rather than emailed to an anonymous official in private correspondence.

Even though the tools are readily available to set up and manage direct open conversations systematically, I don’t yet see any movement in government driving this forward in parallel with open data. It needs senior communications staff to buy into the open data ethos and to deal with all the implications for government communications strategy that comes with it. There's no point in having the technology for dialogue if the communications teams don't make ministers available systematically and regularly to answer the public's questions on open data and other matters. 

6 comments:

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