Credit: Open Data Charter

Credit: Open Data Charter

New Zealand adopts International Open Data Charter

The Government of New Zealand recently announced that it is officially adopting the International Open Data Charter.

At the Open Data, Open Potential event that took place in Wellington, Minister of Statistics James Shaw and the Government Chief Data Steward Liz MacPherson signed of a letter to officially adopt the International Open Data Charter.

According to New Zealand Minister of Statistics James Shaw, the move is to confirm the country's commitment to the practice of openness in government and to ensure that the government-held data is used to help achieve better outcomes for New Zealanders.

“This will ensure we are accountable, transparent, and resilient in our use of data, as well as meeting increased user demand for open data to drive innovation,” said Minister Shaw.

The overarching goal of the International Open Data Charter is to foster greater coherence and collaboration for the increased adoption and implementation of shared open data principles, standards and good practices across sectors around the world.

Founded in 2015, the Open Data Charter is a collaboration between governments and experts working to open up data. According to the official website of Open Data Charter, the aspiration was that data should be open by default, timely and interoperable. More than 70 governments and organisations have joined the movement.

The Charter upholds 6 core principles:

(1) Open by default

This principle changes how government operates and how it interacts with citizens. Contrary to the usual case that citizens have to ask government agencies for specific information they seek, open by default has a presumption of publication for all. Governments need to justify keeping data closed, such as for security or data protection reasons to protect citizens’ right to privacy.

(2) Timely and comprehensive

This principle ensures that open data remains relevant and up-to-date, by getting information published quickly and in a comprehensive way. It is encouraged that governments should provide data in its original, unmodified form as much as possible.

(3) Accessible and usable

This principle ensures that data is machine readable and easy to find. Developing portals is one way of achieving this. Governments should also consider user experience of those accessing data, including the file formats that information is provided. Data should be free of charge, under an open license, such as those developed by Creative Commons.

(4) Comparable and Interoperable

The principle anchors on the idea that data has a multiplier effect. The more quality datasets you have access to, and the easier it is for them to talk to each other, the more potential value you can get from them. Commonly-agreed data standards play a crucial role in making this happen.

(5) For Improved Governance & Citizen Engagement

Open data has the capacity to let citizens and others in government have a better idea of what officials and politicians are doing. This transparency can improve public services and help hold governments to account.

(6) For Inclusive Development and Innovation

Other than improving government performance, availability of open data can help spur inclusive economic development and innovative solutions.

By opening up data held by public agencies, the New Zealand Government is encouraging openness as the default setting for government agencies to make non-personal, unclassified and non-confidential data freely available to anyone to use and share, while confidential and private information will remain protected and safeguarded.

New Zealand's official data agency Stats NZ will implement the Open Data Action Plan to set the direction for the Charter's implementation in New Zealand.

The Open Data Action Plan, implemented by Stats NZ, will: (1) provide transparency about the data the Government holds, (2) equip agencies with better tools and resources, and (3) connect citizen and the Government.

Online tools and resources and training will lift people’s capability to innovate, to inform decision-making, and to provide evidence-based policy through data.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, the national governments of Australia, the Philippines and South Korea have also adopted the International Open Data Charter.

The International Open Data Charter is available here.

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