Govt should focus on depth of open data, not just volume

January 18, 2019 11:40
In opening up government data, Hong Kong authorities should ensure that there is enough depth in the information, observers say. Photo: Bloomberg

The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) said last week that over 80 government bureaus and departments had published their first annual open data plans before the end of 2018.

Another 650 new datasets will be released this year on for free viewing and use by the public.

Such open access to data provides the raw material needed for technology research and innovation.

The public can browse, download, distribute, reproduce, print and hyperlink all datasets disseminated via the public sector information portal free of charge, for both commercial and non-commercial uses.

By the end of 2019, the number of datasets on the site will be expanded from around 3300 to close to 4000, representing a increase of about 20 percent.

Also, all datasets on the PSI Portal follow international practices and are released in machine-readable formats commonly used by the industry, such as JSON, XML and CSV.

As an industry participant, I'm happy to see the government is heeding the call on the key aspect of opening up data. Hopefully, more government departments will join the plan.

That being said, authorities should bear in mind that they also need to focus on the issue of data depth, apart from data width.

For example, if open data only tells us it takes 10 minutes to go from from Wan Chai to North Point, without telling you the means of transportation, traffic flow or number of passengers, the data is of little use.

Public transportation firms possess a huge amount of data but they are not opening them up fully. The government should urge the operators to open up their data further, with the move possibly listed as a requirement for renewing their licenses.

That would enable mobile app developers to get more information and develop more apps to benefit the public.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 17

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation honorary chairman