Have you visited data.gov.au lately? We’re beginning to witness the ‘Open Data Multiplier’

PS News has a great report on the growth of data.gov.au – linking to a report on the Department of Finance’s blog which indicates the site added 100 datasets in June.The site has also upgraded to provide more data visualisation capability for users, as well as a responsive template for improved mobile access.

Most interesting was the high use of the service over GovHack, with 4,755 user sessions by 2,618 users. The most popular datasets included intellectual property government open data 2015, ABC Local online photo stories 2009-2014 and sample household electricity time of use data.

I’ve written about some of the interesting Govhack prototypes over at The Mandarin in the article, GovHack 2015: a wildly successful idea that keeps spawning more, where I also wrote about how participation is a useful way for agencies to test and support ‘edge’ innovation without committing scarce personnel and funds.

From what I’ve been hearing over the weeks since Govhack we’re reached something of a tipping point with open data in Australia, with governments beginning to seriously recognise the value of sharing data in this manner.

Those benefits are not just external to agencies, such as transparency, economic growth or community engagement, but also internal.

Internal open data benefits to government include improving agency decision-making (through greater awareness and access to collected data), improved data quality and fostering innovation and creativity.

As a result of reaching the tipping point, I expect to see continuing significant growth in the quantity and quality of open data available across Australia, as well as more targeted and useful data as agencies become more sophisticated in their data release (as I’ve outlined previously in my Open Data Generations Roadmap)

This will stimulate what I’ve termed the Open Data Multiplier.

As with the network effect, where the value of a network increases exponentially with the number of participants (think about telephones or the internet), the Open Data Multiplier means that each additional dataset released for reuse creates a growing number of possibilities to combine it with existing data, or use it on its own, to prompt even more interesting and diverse innovations.

However the Open Data Multiplier only operates when the community and agencies are engaged with open data. Without this community both inside and outside of the public sector, data sits ‘on the shelf’, generating no value at all.

This is where volunteer-run events like GovHack are valuable for fostering a positive civic hacking culture.

Agencies also have a role in fostering both an internal and external culture of data-based innovation through supporting GovHack and similar events, and running their own separate challenges on agency-specific topics (as Transport for NSW and Public Transport Victoria have done).

The internal benefits don’t stop at data either. The same challenge model, once adopted by government, can be used more broadly for policy and service design and in finding diverse solutions for government problems – as has been successful in Challenge.gov and is used by VicHealth and thre ACT government.

Indeed I ran a similar service design challenge for the Victorian Government at GovHack, the first exploration of such an approach at that event. The learnings will help guide Victoria’s government in identifying when to use similar approaches and in designing and running future challenges.

All of this follows on from opening up government data, creating a more permissive and experimental sandpit for innovation and sharing.

And it starts with a visit to data.gov.au – have you visited lately?