Via Iceland, a very good overview of the basic argument for opening access to government data collections:
“I’d like to argue that any data gathered by a government organization should be made openly accessible online. Open access, means absence of all legal, technical and discriminating restrictions on the use or redistribution of data. The only exception to this rule should be when other interests – most importantly privacy issues – warrant access limitations.
There is a number of reasons for this.
First of all, we (the taxpayers) have already paid for it, so it’s only logical that we can use the product we bought in any way we please. If gathering the relevant data and selling it can be a profitable business on its own, it should be done in the private sector, not by the government.
Secondly it gives the public insight into the work done by our organizations in a similar way as Freedom of Information laws have done – mainly through media access to public sector documents and other information.
The most important argument – however – is that open access really pays off. Opening access and thereby getting the data in the hands of businesses, scientists, students and creative individuals will spur innovation and release value far beyond anything that a government organization can ever think of or would ever spend their limited resources on.
Some of these might be silly online games with little monetary value but yet highly entertaining. Others might be new scientific discoveries made when data from apparently unrelated data sources is mixed. And yet others might be rich visualizations that give new insights on some of the fundamental workings of society – showing where there’s need for attention and room for improvement.
A recent study on the state of matters with Public Sector data in the UK concluded that the lack of Open Access is costing the nation about 1 billion pounds annually in lost opportunities and lack of competition in various areas. Per capita, a billion pounds in the UK equals about 750 million ISK for Iceland and that’s without adjusting for Iceland’s higher GDP and arguably some fixed gains per nation.
Surely a huge opportunity for something that requires only a thoughtful policy change and a little budget adjustment to enable the institutions to make the needed changes and continue their great job of gathering valuable data.”