Improving open data access and principles (NZ0007)
Action Plan: New Zealand Second National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Land Information New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs
Support Institution(s): NA
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Legislation & Regulation, Open Data, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery
Improving open data access and principles We will enhance access to information by reviewing and strengthening the principles under which New Zealand releases open data and information. Objective: To review and strengthen the principles under which New Zealand releases open data and information. Status quo: New Zealand has a set of principles guiding the management of government data and information, including proactive release in reusable formats. But the New Zealand principles lack the 2016 level of specificity in the Open Data Charter for data, and include wider information management principles that are still required. Ambition: New Zealand has fully modernised and world-leading principles for government-held data and information that provide a strong foundation for open access to data and information, building capability for data reuse, improving the openness of government operations and supporting informed participation by citizens in government decisions through the availability of open data.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
Review potential adoption of the International Open Data Charter, using public feedback
Review New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles
Determine what principles will guide release of, and access to, New Zealand open data and information, using public feedback
Engage with citizens and government on application of the new/amended open data principles
Implement new/amended open data principles.
Responsible institution: Land Information New Zealand (Lead from 1 October 2016 – 10 March 2017), Statistics New Zealand (Stats NZ) (Lead from 11 March 2017 onwards)
Supporting institution(s): Department of Internal Affairs
Start date: October 2016 .
End date: June 2018
Context and Objectives
The Declaration on Open and Transparent Government requires agencies to release high-value public data in accordance with policies such as the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing (NZGOAL) framework and the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles.[Note127: ‘Declaration on Open and Transparent Government,’ New Zealand Government, 8 August 2011, https://www.ict.govt.nz/guidance-and-resources/open-government/declaration-open-and-transparent-government/.] In other words, data must be released in open machine-readable formats, and licensed for legal re-use in accordance with NZGOAL. High value public data is non-personal and unrestricted data that agencies’ stakeholders and users say they wish to re-use for economic, social, cultural or environmental benefit. This means that agencies’ open data release programmes must be based on identified user demand, not on the agencies’ own open data release priorities.
New Zealand has consistently scored well in international open data surveys but has scored quite low on implementation (58% according to the Open Data Barometer)[Note128: Open Data Barometer, accessed 17 January 2018, http://opendatabarometer.org/?_year=2016&indicator=ODB.], partly due to low scores on some of the 15 government datasets assessed internationally by the ODB and the Ministerial and administrative changes affecting New Zealand’s Open Government Information and Data Programme.
The Open Data Charter (ODC) was launched at the October 2015 OGP Summit in Mexico. The six principles of the International Open Data Charter (ODC),[Note129: ‘Principles,’ Open Data Charter, accessed 17 January 2018, https://opendatacharter.net/#.] released in 2015, essentially match and update New Zealand’s Data and Information Management Principles, and add principles covering governance and citizen engagement and inclusive development and innovation. They also set out practices and procedures for governments to apply when adopting each ODC principle. But the ODC is limited to data, whereas New Zealand’s principles relate to all government-held information and data, including personal and restricted information. Consequently, any work to adopt the ODC requires parallel work to consider the more broadly-based New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles, the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, and also any possible impact on the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework.
The problem is to find a solution that embraces the more comprehensive ODC principles and practices and also retains the broader scope and intent of New Zealand’s principles for managing government-held information. New Zealanders need certainty they can access all the public information resources held by government, not just data.
This commitment looks at adopting the ODC and determining what will be New Zealand’s data and information management principles. Its ambition is to strengthen the principles behind open government data and information release. The activities will be led initially by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and then by Stats NZ, following the transfer of New Zealand’s Open Government Information and Data Programme in March 2017. While each of these departments is a leader in government data management and release, neither has held responsibility for New Zealand’s broader cross-government information management policy and there is now uncertainty about the information policy role of the Department of Internal Affairs. It will be necessary for the departments to bring in information policy experts to assist with the broader policy issues in this commitment and to clarify the responsibility.
The commitment is highly specific and meets the OGP values of access to information and civic participation. The government is improving the quality of the data disclosed to the public by reviewing and strengthening New Zealand’s information and data principles. The government also is creating opportunities and capabilities for the public to influence or inform decisions on the ODC and on the content and application of the new or amended principles.
If fully implemented, this commitment would have a minor potential impact. Adopting international data policy and/or updating existing data and information management policy is an incremental change in improve open data access and practices. Updating policy to adopt ODC could potentially act as a major step forward, especially because the ODC principles extend existing policies to improve access to information. For example, Principle Three of ODC releases data ‘free of charge,’ whereas New Zealand’s current policy releases ‘reasonably priced’ data and information.
However, the IRM researcher codes this variable to be minor and not moderate because the policy update could confuse agencies already applying the broader government policy covering all government-held information. Since 2010, the broader principles and procedures New Zealand currently uses to release data and information have been embedded in many government departments and agencies across central and local government, resulting in widespread release of publications, images, reports, etc. as well as data. Because ODC only applies to data, this update could signal a reverse of data and information management policy, if the volume of data and information disclosed is limited.
In March 2017, the New Zealand Government Information and Data Programme moved from LINZ to Stats NZ. Between October 2016 and March 2017, there was a period of uncertainty and inaction while the location of the programme was discussed, its new home agreed and the programme transferred. To accommodate this delay, this commitment’s timeline was officially changed on 30 June 2017, with the final three commitment activities extended to 31 July 2017, 30 August 2017 and June 2018 respectively.[Note130: ’What's happening: 2017,’ Open Government: New Zealand,’ accessed 17 January 2018, www.ogp.org.nz/whats-happening/2017/.] Government explained that the delays were due to ‘the reallocation of Ministerial portfolios, budget timing and transfer of the Open Government Data Programme from LINZ to Stats New Zealand in March this year.’[Note131: Mark Mitchell, ‘Stats NZ takes lead on open data,’ Scoop Independent News, 3 March 2017, www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1703/S00048/stats-nz-takes-lead-on-open-data.htm.] Official consultation on the timeline change was set for 16 June to 29 June 2017.[Note132: ‘Achieving our Open Data Milestones,’ Open Government Partnership: New Zealand, accessed 17 January, 2018, https://www.opengovpartnership.nz/achieving-our-open-data-milestones.] The actual period was shorter; consultation was announced via Twitter on 20 June, and on the Open New Zealand discussion list on 26 June, and the final decision made on 30 June. The IRM researcher understands there was minimal feedback from the public which is not surprising given the very short timeline.
The first two commitment activities, to review potential adoption of ODC and to review New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles, have been completed. Government consulted the public widely on the ODC and the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles in August and September 2016, initially as part of the public engagement process to develop the action plan. One workshop in Auckland and two in Wellington sought public feedback on whether to adopt the ODC. There was an invitation from the responsible Minister to participate,[Note133: ‘Have your say on New Zealand’s open data commitments,’ 6 September 2016, New Zealand Government, https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/have-your-say-new-zealand’s-open-data-commitments.] an open call for participation using social media (Twitter), consultations on the New Zealand government website, govt.nz, the Open New Zealand discussion list,[Note134: ‘The Open Government Ninjas,’ Open New Zealand, accessed 17 January 2018, groups.open.org.nz/groups/ninja-talk/.] and through the avenues used by Engage. Subsequent activities included a teleconference with respondents who could not attend the workshop and online engagement via the Open New Zealand discussion list.
What has not yet been completed as of 30 June 2017 are two actions: a formal decision on adoption of the ODC, which will guide release of and access to New Zealand data and information, and engagement between citizens and government on the application of new open data principles. Stakeholders interviewed by the IRM researcher expressed frustration that they received no acknowledgement of their submissions and that there has been no progress to address matters they raised, such as updating the pricing policy in the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles to match the ‘free of charge’ statement in the ODC. Stakeholders are also unclear about which agency has responsibility for leading the wider government-held information policy work.
The adoption of the ODC, determination of any updated principles, engagement with citizens and government, and subsequent implementation of new open data principles will be further reported on in the end-of-term report.
The IRM researcher recommends that this commitment’s activities are completed in the remaining period of the action plan. It is assumed that the delay in adopting the ODC is due to the programme’s transfer to Stats NZ and changes in Ministerial portfolios, and that an announcement is expected soon after 30 June 2017. With respect to the remaining activities, it is recommended that Stats NZ leads a cross-government information management activity to determine any changes or updates to the NZ Data and Information Management Principles following approval of the ODC. This would include engagement with government’s information management community and citizens on any subsequent changes, using the programme’s well-established engagement channels. This would establish consistent practice across the public sector. The finalised principles and their relationship to the ODC would then be presented to government’s Information Group[Note135: ‘Governance and Leadership: Information Group,’ New Zealand Government, 4 September 2017, https://www.ict.govt.nz/governance-and-leadership/governance-groups/partnership-framework/information-group/.] for approval ahead of being submitted to Cabinet for approval.
The IRM researcher also recommends a concurrent new activity to clarify the lead agency for developing and updating government-held information and data policy. It is unclear which of government’s functional leaders holds this broader responsibility. Stats NZ’s role as Chief Data Steward is known but appears to exclude government-held information. For example, while Stats NZ is likely to apply updates of the Open Data Charter, what agency will update the NZ Data and Information Management Principles, and other information policies already approved by Cabinet? When this decision is made, the IRM researcher recommends it be announced publicly as well as across government’s own media channels. An example activity could be:
•Clarify the functional leadership responsibility for government and information policy development, including appropriate Ministerial and Head of Profession responsibilities. (Start date: January 2018, End date: June 2018).
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Technically, the government completed all of this commitment’s milestones. However, the government did not update its 2010 policy principles for all government-held information (including data on personal and restricted information). This means that the ODC and DIMP have conflicting principles about charging for information. Further, the DIMP lacks principles covering governance and citizen engagement, innovation, and sustainable development. The government has advised the IRM that “at this stage there is no plan to revise or add to the existing NZDIMP.” [Note60: SSC email to OGP responding to the draft OGP IRM end-of-term report, 20 December 2018.]
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Marginal
Civic Participation: Marginal
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