Publishing with Purpose - Unlocking the Power of Open Data together

(Ben McNamee) #1

I had the pleasure of attending a three day retreat last week on the role of data in philanthropy. While there, I was told about a shift in thinking in the Open Data world to complement "Open by Default" principles with a "Publish with Purpose" ethos.

It seems as if the “Publish with Purpose” concept was first release in January of this year by the Open Data Charter as a key piece of their 2018 strategy: “In my view there has been a growing recognition that opening up data in isolation is less effective than it can be if targeted at solving specific policy problems - that ‘publish with purpose’ can deliver more than ‘publish and they will come’.” (Calderon, Ania, 2018).

For me, the power of this "Publish with Purpose" idea is three-fold:

  1. It provides an explicit connection of the strategic role that Open Data can play as a tool to improve lives and achieve better social outcomes to the need to be strategic about what is published and how. It isn’t enough to publish the right data to inform solutions to problems, the data needs to be released in the way that ensures it is most valuable. Standards and metadata aren’t just nice to haves, they are vital components to ensuring the power of Open Data gets unlocked.
  2. It provides a call to action beyond releasing data. Indeed, Ania Calderon explicitly lays out "publish with purpose" as an improvement on "publish and they will come." That is to say, you cannot simply release datasets and hope people use them, you need to engage with your stakeholders. Work with those who may/will find use in your data to help them understand the data and the potential within.
  3. It provides a conceptual framework to think of the collaborative nature of Open Data. If Open Data is to be used as a tool to drive impact, then it cannot be a solo endeavour. Those involved in the Open Data movement must coordinate around this concept of publishing with purpose to ensure alignment of data releases and shared standards.