Open data for evidence based policy making
I spend a lot of my time thinking about and talking about open data. How it improves government transparency, how it can fuel innovation and how it can make government more efficient. The biggest user of open public sector data is the public sector itself - directories of people and organizations, maps of just about everything and so on. But data is increasingly used for evidence-based policy making.
This is one of the fields explored in the Crossover Project that I've been involved with on behalf of W3C since October 2011. A recent study, Case studies on specific applications of ICT solutions for policy modelling (PDF), conducted under the project looked at hundreds of examples of the use of ICT for governance and policy making. I didn't write the report so I can say without hesitation or self congratulation that it is particularly well written and interesting. It boils hundreds of cases down to just 4 show cases:
- 2050 Pathways Analysis, a UK government tool for experimenting with different policies around energy production and climate change mitigation;
- Opinion Space, a Web platform for discussing policy ideas in which policy makers can and do participate;
- UrbanSim, a tool in widespread use for city planning;
- GLEAM, a remarkable tool for modeling the spread of infections diseases.
What makes GLEAM interesting from my point of view is its use of data that was produced for entirely different reasons.
- geographic distribution of people and major transport hubs
- mobility of people, how they commute and travel around the world;
- epidemiology model - complex disease scenarios and responses.
Only the third is actually related to epidemiology directly, the others were generated and used initially for quite different applications. GLEAM uses a mixture of open and closed data, but as more data becomes more open and greater use is made of common vocabularies and common identifiers, solutions of this type can be put in the hands of policy makers everywhere, helping them to make informed decisions.
The potential for what Crossover calls Policy Making 2.0 will be explored in detail at the project's final conference, held just ahead of the European Commission's Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin this June. The center piece of the conference will be the Crossover Research Roadmap which encapsulates a huge body of research and input from the broad community on how governments can make smarter use of data, analytics, modeling, and more. The existence of the Web as a two way communication medium between governments and citizens is taken as a given. How the proliferation of open data and social media fits into that landscape is discussed in detail along with many other topics.
Details of the International Conference on Policy Making 2.0 are being finalized but the dates and venue are now fixed: Trinity College Dublin, Monday 17 - Tuesday 18 June. It's an event I'm very much looking forward to.