Fail is a hard word; maybe using the statement that Spatial Data will never quite reach its potential would be a better way of summing up the title of this post. I have for the last few months been participating in a strategy document for Western Australia related to the power of location. This strategy document looks at how information can be used to benefit the future development of the state where embedding location into data becomes a recognised core element to expanding and deriving value out of the linked data concept. (see http://linkeddata.org/)
What I have really learnt from this experience is that ‘Spatial’ is unknown; an elusive term whose understands is limited to those geeks sitting in the dark corner of ones office. The other side of the coin is that data is meaningless until you link this data with other bits to draw out useful information that can be easily understood.
Reading recent updates on how much data is generated per year and how the numbers are becoming astronomical. All Things Spatial Blog In 2010 the amount of data generated will pass the Zettabyte level, something that I know my computer will gladly roll over, hand in its resignation and retire to some distant silicon oasis. Let’s just say that a Zettabyte is equivalent to 75 billion fully-loaded 16 GB Apple iPads
With that much data being generated yearly there is no doubt that most of it is unintelligent and would be difficult to mine, massage it all into a useful form.
So, if you take ‘spatial’ on its own and ‘data’ on its own they are both pretty meaningless. The Power of Location strategy for Western Australia takes its aim from others around the world such as the UK Location Strategy: Place Matters where ‘everything happens somewhere’ although we can add to this by including ‘and sometime’. The need to look at how information is collected in a variety of sectors and identifying and embedding a location element in it will help in the areas of data mining and massaging ensuring that the right information can be generated when needed relating to the right area.
Information is what gets delivered in applications, in reports and help makes those critical decisions that are needed. Data that is spatially enabled (i.e. has a location) provides the links to other types of data including environmental, social and economical. A triple bottom line effect on how data is collected managed and used to derive information will ensure that ‘spatial’ is catapulted into peoples consciousness as data needs to relate to it’s surroundings at a particular location.
Attrib: Government 2.0 Taskforce Draft Report 2009. http://gov2.net.au/
It was with great excitement that I downloaded the preliminary draft report on the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce a couple of days ago and yet it is with some sadness that I write this post. ‘Engage – Getting on with Government 2.0’ report details the taskforces findings on where Australia should be moving in the area of open access to public sector information (PSI). The document is a long read even only if you skim through or read the executive summary which in my opinion is one of the biggest pitfalls in government where great work gets lost in translation. Web 2.0 and Government 2.0 is about interaction, engagement and fostering cultural change through collaboration, open access to data and the crowd-sourcing interaction with data. So why is it that the community we are trying to engage with gets lost along the ride through these large cumbersome documents? If anything Web 2.0 is about simplicity and interaction, certainly not segregating your audience to those who have the patience to read through an engagement plan and those who do not.
- This report is a step in the right direction and I do not want to tarnish the effort the taskforce in writing this although I feel that there are lacking components: Where is WA in the scheme of things? Ok as a sandgroper I take this one to heart although it must be noted that as this report details the undertakings of stage government initiatives, WA is no where to be seen. Poor form if the Shared Land Information Platform (SLIP http://www.landgate.wa.gov.au/slip/) doesn’t get a mentioned through a report detailing and promoting open access to public sector data. To that, one might even say where is LIST in Tasmania? (http://www.thelist.tas.gov.au/)
- Integration methods. Knowing; through experience how long it can take to successfully integrate data together before it becomes usable it was with a heavy sigh that I could not find reference to having the designated “lead agency”, lead in a common integration framework. The report details interoperability between differences systems and data that is used in these systems yet what I have found key to interoperability is the integration of data. For a very long time governments and the private sector have had interoperability through sharing data manually and transforming the data to meet systems, yet ease of integration especially through a web 2.0 framework must have its place in the sun. Surely this is where location system and spatial data should have been referenced (and included as terms in the glossary!)
- Governance. A lead agency concept is recommended through the report and I’m sure governance will be a requirement. If this is the case, I would like to see governance by government meeting community and business needs be a driving factor. Opening access to data invites scrutiny and misinterpretation. Governance on how data should and could be used and importantly fed back will be a success factor going forward.
And finally: ‘Information’. Data sharing and opening access through creative common frameworks is a great step although if we cannot capture data through governance frameworks, if it cannot easily be integrated then it is difficult to derive information from the data that will inform government, inform policy and inform the community. Information that is easily understood and acted upon will drive a proactive, engaged Australian information economy. To this I recommend reading the report and providing feedback into the future directions.