10 steps to open data – instructions
How to open data (and what does it actually mean)? It’s not difficult and it doesn’t require rebuilding the office’s entire technological infrastructure. Start from a small bit and step by step you’ll have your data open – really open: up-to-date, accessible, machine readable, complete and limitlessly available.
- Choose a small bit
There’s really no need to publish all public data at once. Do research and start from a bit that a particular office has already made an electronic version of.
- Choose a topic
Financial, social, cultural data? Data for businesses or tourists? A register of public information requests? Information about historical buildings? A school register? A list of individual license plates? Public transport data? Localisation of objects with business activity? Think about the area your data concern. Ask NGOs, business, academia representatives for help – they might be able to come up with an original idea which will be easy for you to implement and very useful to them. This way you’re obtaining allies to your project.
- Check and standardise data
See what data you have in your database. Chceck if they are correct and if there are no spelling mistakes or ‘gaps’ in your registries or any other errors which would diminish usability of the database. Establish one standard for your data (one standard for dates, addresses, locations, values – see here for date formats).
- Provide the context
Don’t simply publish your database. Let others’ know what’s in it, add comprehensible key words (‘car’ rather than ‘vehicle’), specify conditions of using the data and the range (whether they apply to the entire commune or just its part) and whether they are up to date (creation date, last modification date, frequency of updates). Such information will help beginner users to get familiar with the register.
- Choose open format
Eg. CSV or XML – remember that data need to be machine readable so scans or ‘hand-made’ grids created in .doc are not the best solution.
- Publish data
On your BIP website (public information bulletin), on a commune’s portal, on a data-dedicated platform (using eg. CKAN). It’s important that the website doesn’t require logging in and is legible to users.
- Make your data available
It would be great if the data had API (Application Programming Interfaces) which will make your data verified as soon as you update them. It’s crucial for the data that often change or the data made available in real time (position of public transport vehicles, current air pollution, nivel information, traffic announcements, etc.)
- Inform the world
Contact local start-ups, groups of programmers in your commune, students, NGOS. Inform them that you have data and that they can use them. Listen to their responses – they might put forward interesting solutions or ask for additional data and link them to the existing ones. Use their experience.
- Update your data
It’s not enough to simply open your data. Establish frequency of updates and keep to your schedule.
- Go back to point 1
If you have any further questions, contact the coordinator of the Open Cities program supporting communes in the process of opeing public data.