Background

The Policy Framework for Government-held Information 1, released in 1997, is government's best practice statement for managing information held by Public Service departments. It anticipated a digital environment by encouraging Public Service departments to make government-held information "increasingly available on an electronic basis".

The Internet and web technologies have changed the way information is used and discovered. The Internet is the first place New Zealanders now search to find information 2. Web 2.0 technologies and applications bring people and content together and allow the re-purposing of data and information in ways that were not previously possible.People do not make distinctions between government and non-government information and data. They expect both to be instantly available. Internationally, governments are moving to open up their non-personal information.

The OECD has released its Recommendation for Enhanced Access and More Effective Use of Public Sector Information [C(2008)36]3, and its Policy Guidance for Digital Content4. The European Union (EU) earlier released its Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information 5 (2003/98/EC). The Australian Federal Government is assessing the recommendations of the Venturous Australia; Review of the National Innovation System report which, amongst much else, recommends a National Information Strategy to optimise the flow of information in the Australian economy 6.

There is also increasing international demand for governments to provide data in readily usable or re-usable formats. A US Open Government Working Group, comprising 30 invited attendees from influential US organisations, has released a set of principles for open government data7. In Canada, the Citizens for Open Access to Civic Information and Data group is advocating that all levels of government make 'civic' information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens. They believe "this is necessary to allow citizens to fully participate in the democratic process of an "information society" 8.

New Zealand government agencies across the wider State Services are starting to open up their non-personal digital information and data. Statistics New Zealand is leading the way with its making information more freely available initiative. Some Crown entities, for example, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and Public Health Information Online make digital data available. The New Zealand Transport Agency provides real-time traffic data free of charge for development by third parties. Organisations such as TheyWorkForYou are remixing publicly available information in ways that New Zealanders indicate they want.

Footnotes

1 http://www.ssc.govt.nz/Documents/policy_framework_for_Government_.htm following Cabinet approval (CAB (97) M 15/4C (i) refers

2 http://www.aut.ac.nz/resources/research/research_institutes/ccr/wipnz_2007_final_report.pdf

3http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/0/27/40826024.pdf

4http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/20/54/40895797.pdf

5 http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive/psi_directive_en.pdf

6 http://www.innovation.gov.au/innovationreview/Documents/NIS_chapter%207.rtf

7http://wiki.opengovdata.org/index.php/OpenDataPrinciples

8http://www.osbr.ca/ojs/index.php/osbr/article/view/514/473