Your vision for the future of the field

Photo by Saeid Anvar on PEXELS

by Fiona Smith and Paul Stone, Implementation Working Group co-chairs

It’s open government week- a week where practitioners, leaders and thinkers converge to share ideas, solutions, and commitments to citizen participation in government.

So what better time to announce how we are refreshing the Open Data Charter principles and to find out how you can get involved. The principles represent six targets for how governments should be publishing information to be as open as possible, timely, and interoperable. To date, they have been adopted and endorsed by over 90 participating local and national governments and expert organisations around the world.

Back in 2015, the Charter made a commitment to review the principles after two years of adoption. We believe it is important that the principles continue to reflect the highest standards, and stay relevant to practitioners who are implementing open data initiatives.

This announcement also comes at a time when data breaches and debates over the ethical use of data have made it into the news headlines. Governments and private sector organisations are grappling with how to harness algorithms for the public good while maintaining levels of public accountability. Many organisations are reviewing the way they treat personal data in preparation for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force. And in some parts of the world, there is a sense that commitments to government transparency and civic participation are backsliding.

Now, more than ever, we need a rich public discussion about global standards and norms, regarding how data steward organisations collect, publish and use data. As Ania Calderon, the Executive Director of the Open Data Charter has written, while the open data movement has been relatively successful in promoting the idea of publishing datasets, the “publish and they will come” approach has not yielded the desired impacts. There is growing recognition that open data is more impactful when tied to solving specific problems.

Looking ahead, as we build more and more solutions based on open data, are we doing enough to ensure sustainability and availability of the data? We expect to see open data to become an integral part of new digital government services, predictive models for policy, informative and interactive websites and mobile apps for everyday decisions and much more. So there is a growing need for ongoing availability of, and access to the data.

The big question for us, is how to adapt the Open Data Charter principles to reflect this understanding and respond to emerging themes while maintaining a stable core?

How will the process work?

The Implementation Working Group (IWG), chaired by the Government of New Zealand (represented by Paul Stone) and the Open Data Institute (represented by Fiona Smith), are working with the Charter team to review and refresh the Principles between now and September 2018.

The review will invite feedback on the current principles via a consultation process involving a survey, online discussions, and focus group reviews with experts. In particular, we want to reflect on the principles through 4 ‘lenses’:

  1. Publication with purpose- how can adopters take a problem-focused approach to prioritising data publication to achieve impact?;
  2. Privacy and data protection- how can adopters balance privacy concerns, while being as open as possible?;
  3. Open data infrastructure- what do adopters need to do to strengthen support systems and structures, including governance, policy, standards and technologies?; and
  4. Openness in Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems- how can the Charter principles help to address bias and power inequities in AI systems?

The survey will be open for Charter adopters, open data practitioners, leaders and thinkers from government, civil society, and think tanks to complete the survey between now and 10 June. We will also reach out to individuals and organisations in related fields like privacy, AI, and technology to ensure our thinking is keeping up with the latest developments.

A twitter conversation will be launched to facilitate wider discussion prompted by the survey, to give us a richer understanding of areas of consensus and debate.

We have started convening working groups of experts representing the 4 lenses who will discuss results from the survey and propose revisions of the principles.

Then in September, members of the expert groups and Implementation Working Group will meet at the International Open Data Conference to discuss the proposed revisions, and develop final recommendations to send to the Charter Advisory Board for approval.

As we go, we will be publishing summaries of the survey results, and progress of the expert group discussions. We want the process itself to be as open as possible, which means being transparent about the rationale for making any changes to the Principles.

How can you get involved?

If you care about contributing to global standards and norms around open data, we encourage you to contribute your voice. We want to ensure the refreshed norms are truly global — and reflect a wide diversity of geographic contexts, organisations, and experiences.

You can get involved by:

  1. Taking the survey- if you are a Charter adopter, open government practitioner, or data researcher/thought-leader, we want to hear about your experience of the Charter principles, and what you would like to see more (or less) or
  2. Joining the Implementation Working Group- get in touch with us at info@opendatacharter.org or #ODCrefresh if you would like to support this process by participating in our working group
  3. Spread the word- circulate through your networks to ensure the principles reflect a diversity of views, context, and experience

The Charter Principles are already having a positive impact in shaping open government around the world. Let’s all help keep building on that by ensuring the Principles stay relevant and robust.