My Open Data Christmas Wishlist

Dear Santa,

The Education and Healthcare data sets that I’d like to see exposed in a standard, machine readable format include the following:

  1. K-12 student satisfaction surveys
  2. Emergency room wait times

Student Satisfaction Surveys

As a parent of two boys, I’m interested in know what the student satisfaction survey results are for the schools in my area. Student satisfaction is a good indication of engagement, and engagement is a good indicator of learning. Having worked for the Ministry of Education in the past and seeing the rolled up results of student satisfaction for the Province of British Columbia, I know that data is interesting. I saw, for example, how students on the whole are very engaged from kindergarten to grade 5 or 6 (about 4.5 out of 5). In grade 7 the engagement declines and it bottoms out around grade 10. (Its been a while since I’ve seen this data, but this is my best recollection and it coincides with my own educational experience).

What I envision is the student satisfaction survey mashed up with mapping data so that I have an app that shows the schools in my neighborhood with the student satisfaction for each grade. An even better indication of the school performance would be provided if data from the Fraser Institute’s report card on elementary schools (based on Grade 4 and Grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessment results) is included.

Santa school

Santas at School

Emergency Room Wait Times

The other idea also stems from being a parent. Imagine the unwanted scenario where your your child has somehow hurt themselves playing in the yard. You look at them and realize that you need to take them to emergency. You pull out your smart phone and go to the ER Wait Time app. This app shows all of the hospitals in your area with driving times (maybe even considering traffic data). The app will also show you the wait times. Hospital A has a wait time of 6 hours. Hospital B, although it is 20 minutes further to drive there, has 3 emergency physicians and a wait time of only 20 minutes. I know which one I want to go to. The app can also provide you with a report card on hospital procedures, medical conditions, and medical conditions related to childbirth. The app would be customizable to allow people to evaluate hospitals on quality measures important to them. It may also include patient ratings of hospital performance.

Thanks Santa! Keep up the good work. Every year, we are getting more and more data sets. We sure appreciate all the great work you and your elves do exposing data, stimulating the digital economy and helping government be more transparent and to provide better services outcomes.

Merry Christmas!

Standardized Global Data Structure Common Sense Next Step for Open Data

Throughout the world we have thousands of open data sets being published. A subset of this data is cataloged here. This is a good thing. Data is the next emerging frontier of the democratization of information, possibly as revolutionary as the Internet in bringing information into the hands of people so they can make informed decisions, hold companies, governments, and leaders into account, and drive the new economy into the future with innovative data-driven start ups. Data is the building block of information, and information makes the world go round.

data(Data chaos 3 image by sachynroyalty free)

Wouldn’t it be great to have a common standard that governments and other organizations adhere to when publishing their data? That way data from one company or jurisdiction could be compared with the data from another. Global comparative analysis of local government financial, traffic, or crime data, for example, would reveal the best-run local governments and shed light on best practices that could be shared between jurisdictions.

Common standards vastly increases the number of people who can use a data set and exponentially increases the reach and impact of code that is written against that data for use in other jurisdictions. It also means that linked data can be used for exponentially more uses as more and more data is connected. Like the Internet, connected data becomes more and more useful as a building block for information as its reach and inter-connectivity expand.

Standardization is one of the main reasons that transit data is one of the most leveraged data sets across the globe. In 2005, Google and the City of Portland Tri-Met created the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), a standardized format for transit data. Any transit agency that stores transit data in this specified format can use the open source TimeTable Publisher developed by Tri-Met and Google and many other free applications built on the GTFS data including mobile transit planning apps and trip planners that use text messaging.

The benefits of standardized data structure for open data is clear. The question is how do we bring governments together to standardize the open data structure so we can better leverage open source development based on open data and more effectively link open data for better analysis, transparency and accountability. Perhaps, this is question that is best addressed by the Open Government Partnership or the Open Data Institute. The mandate of the Open Government Partnership is to make governments better by making them more transparent, effective and accountable. A standardized open data structure would go along way towards that goal. The Open Data Institute, which will officially launch on December 4th “will catalyse the evolution of an open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value.” Either organization is well positioned to champion the cross-government open data standard.

A Short Definition of Social Government

Social Government is government for and by citizens. It is a new paradigm in government service delivery promoting self-service, efficiency, transparency, and responsiveness. Examples include crowdsourced constitutions, participatory budgeting, citizen-driven policy, community building around civic and/or global issues (for example, global warming, health care and homelessness), citizen-centric design, public engagement (including policy consultation, deliberation and decision making), social media-accelerated political campaigns, and public outreach. Government may participate in, facilitate or lead these initiatives/conversations.

When Social Government leverages technology such as open data and the read-write web, we also call it Government 2.0.

See also: Government 2.0 or Social Government?

Stop Bill C-30, the Online Surveillance Bill

Thank God for Rick Mercer! Love this hilarious (and frightening) rant. We have to stop Bill C-30, the Conservative online surveillance bill.
“The state has no business in the hard drives of the nation,” rants Mercer. If they want access, they can get a warrant. It’s the same as coming into my home.
This bill is a blatant disregard for privacy.
If Bill C-30 is passed, it will require that all sorts of online information about you will be readily organized and accessible (a big security risk). It also removes the requirement for independent oversight on police investigations, allowing mandatory disclosure of an internet subscriber’s information without a warrant.