Like restaurants, Open Data sets have to earn a good reputation before hoping to become popular. Reliability, validity and good consistency of Open Data sets (defined as government data that is deliberately shared in a machine-readable format for free reuse by others) are key for its wider acceptance and use.
Today, many governments provide Open Data sets that are typically published by many different entities and agents. Unfortunately, there are wide variations in this publishing output, in terms of both quality and consistency. But, no company wants to use inconsistent data sets full of errors. Does this mean there are just too many cooks in the kitchen…or is the recipe wrong?
Imagine going to a restaurant where several cooks prepare your meal, each in their own way, using their own style and spices. Unfortunately, in this case every time you order a steak with pepper sauce, your meal will most likely look and taste quite different. That’s exactly what is happening with Open Data! Too many departments are publishing their data using their own ‘styles and spices’, without agreeing on and adopting common formats, standards, and vocabularies. Too often, this leaves the user puzzled, trying to figure out what is the right data model and, eventually, having to translate all data into a single format in order to combine and use all information.
If companies see such inconsistent variations, they won’t use the data. If, on the contrary, governments follow the same recipe at all times and use a standardised data format, their Open Data will be consistent and therefore extremely valuable to the public and various stakeholders. Governments must visibly re-calibrate their standards and processes before Open Data becomes a trusted input source.
Does this sound familiar? Yes, it’s very similar to the process of creating data warehouses and business intelligence solutions. These are well established processes that have been used for a very long time now. Moreover, the same tools and techniques – including master data management (MDM) – can be used for Open Data. So governments don’t need to invent a whole new kitchen, and as long as they agree on a recipe and follow it strictly, there can also be multiple cooks.
The ultimate recipe for successful Open Data is very simple: consistent implementation of a standardised publishing structure and rules across all departments and sectors.