Alas, data.gov.au doesn’t really exist but it is at least an idea in the US. Craig provides some commentary in the Australian context and explains that “In Australia we even go to the extent of copyrighting government data.” That’s not a good starting point but of course we have to accept that here in Australia, our history, geography and the origins of government are quite different from the US. Having said that, while we can’t avoid what happened in the past, it doesn’t mean things can’t change. Craig goes on to draw comparisons to the Wikipedia story:
“As history has recorded, countries that remove barriers to the free flow of ideas and information develop faster, are economically more successful and their people enjoy higher standards of living. Fostering innovation directly leads to national success. So in a world where some countries make data freely available, how do other nations continue to compete? To draw an analogy from the publishing world, Wikipedia disrupted the business model for Encyclopedia Britannica. By providing free ‘crowd-sourced’ information of greater depth and about the same accuracy as a highly expensive product, Britannica has been struggling to survive for years… In other words, you cannot beat openness with secrecy – the only way to remain successful is to step towards openness yourself.”
Like it not, change is coming to government around the world and Australia can’t bury its head the sand.