An Open Government Data Licence for the World?
Published 10:49, 21 July 11
As I've noted before, the UK government is now arguably the leader when it comes to open data. Of course, that's not really the point: this isn't a competition with winners and losers, but a global effort to open things up. As such, it would be nice if there were more collaboration between the different governments - things like this, for example:
As revealed yesterday, the province of British Columbia became the first provincial government in Canada to launch an open data portal.
It's still early but here are some things that I think they've gotten right.
The first is that the license is good. Obviously my preference would be for everything to be unlicensed and in the public domain as it is in the United States. Short of that however, the most progressive license out there is the UK Government’s Open Government License for Public Sector Information. Happily the BC government has essentially copied it. This means that many of that BC's open data can be used for commercial purposes, political advocacy, personal use and so forth. In short the restrictions are minimal and, I believe, acceptable.
As the author of those words, David Eaves, points out, the good news is potentially even bigger:
The other great thing is that this is a standardized license. The BC government didn't invent something new they copied something that already worked. This is music to the ears of many as it means applications and analysis developed in British Columbia can be ported to other jurisdictions that use the same license seamlessly. At the moment, that means all of the United Kingdom. There has been some talk of making the UK Open Government Licenses (OGL) a standard that can be used across the commonwealth - that, in my mind, would be a fantastic outcome.
That could be really big. If most governments adopted the same open data licence, their projects would be compatible and therefore able to be combined easily. That would mean open government data could scale in a useful way.
Of course, two data points don't really make a trend, so the question is what can be done to encourage governments to converge on a single licence. The fact that the province of British Columbia has adapted the UK Open Government Licence provides a useful starting point; Eaves's comment about rolling it out across the Commonwealth also suggests a way forward.
What we need is an open government data conference to be convened for members of the Commonwealth with a view to drawing up a common open government licence based on the UK Open Government Licence (since that is being used extensively and has now been adapted once.) Other governments would be welcome to join if they wished to participate on that basis, but the Commonwealth focus might prove a handy stepping stone to a later, more ambitious, conference that could try to draw up a truly global licence for open data that was flexible enough to accommodate many different legal frameworks.
Given his expertise in this area, and his previous experience in organising global open data events, an obvious person to help make this happen is the author of the above post, David Eaves. How about it David...?