In a session on perspectives of the United Kingdom's data.gov.uk initiative from this week's Gov 2.0 Expo, Tim Berners-Lee opened with an anecdote about how he got the audience at his 2009 TED talk to start chanting, "Raw data now!" This chant reflects the sentiments of the many developers and data geeks who are working in both the United Kingdom and the United States, initiating a friendly open data race between the two countries.
Much like the United States, the open data movement in the United Kingdom is fairly new, beginning with Tim Berners-Lee telling former Prime Minister Gordon Brown that open data should be put on the web. This conversation began the engineering necessary to prepare the way for data.gov.uk, the United Kingdom's open data project.
FutureGov's Dominic Campbell discussed how the emergence of Government 2.0 in each country has been different. In the United States, the accelerated growth of the open data movement has been politically driven versus in the United Kingdom where those in the ranks of civil service launched the movement.
The United Kingdom faces many of the same challenges at the government level that are being wrangled with in the United States. The recent change in leadership to the Conservative Party leaves the future somewhat uncertain, with government IT budgets being slashed dramatically. These cuts leave some puzzled as the Conservative Party released its Conservative Technology Manifesto in 2010, outlining that access to government data ought to be a right. This was the first time a political party had produced such a guiding document.
In both the United States and United Kingdom, we have just scraped the surface when it comes to the promise that open government data may hold. The Guardian's Chris Thorpe gave examples of how developers have used the open platform and The Guardian Politics API that was provided to create projects like the Voter Power Index. These types of initiatives enable software developers to show government what is truly possible when it comes to providing access to government data.
A race to the top in open data is truly democratizing, making valuable information digestible at the click of a button.
Follow Christina Gagnier on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gagnier