Democratizing Data In New Zealand


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My keynote @ the GOVIS conference in New Zealand, in which I outlined a comprehensive "democratizing data" strategy, its benefits given the current global economic/political crisis, & challenged New Zealand to take the world lead in making the concept a reality

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  • I’m so pleased to be in New Zealand for GOVIS. There was only one important thing left out of my introduction, and that is that I was a religion major in college. It took me many years, but I am now a full-fledged evangelist: an evangelist, that is, for free and unfettered access to data!
  • Those who know me will will tell you that this is a most unlikely turn of events. I’m a right-brained, creative type, and row upon row of numbers such as these on immigration to New Zealand leave me absolutely cold.
  • But gradually data kept playing a greater and greater role in my life, with information that both documented my life and shaped policy issues. For example, household spending .....
  • .. How much the damn war in Iraq was costing, and how much it was diverting from things we should be doing, such as providing quality health care…
  • … and, recently, documenting exactly how serious the global economic situation had become.
  • But when I got interested in data, I found it was pretty hard to get at.We pay taxes so government can collect data, and you can bet companies know all about our shopping habits. Our activities and lives are data’s raw material. But once they’re collected, most citizens -- and a lot of employees for that matter -- don’t have a clue where data are stored or how they’re used.
  • Today, there are signs of hope, closely-controlled and long-lost data are being liberated by the growing demand for transparency .The time has come to democratize data -- to make it available, when and where people need it to do their jobs or to improve their lives. The result will be change and benefits in every aspect of our lives changes that are particularly critical given the current global challenges
  • The time has come to democratize data – making it available, when and where people need it to do their jobs or to improve their lives.The result will be change and benefits in every aspect of our lives, changes that are particularly critical given the current global challenges. and improve our lives:give workforce real-time informationautomate previously manual processes, saving time & increasing efficiencyimprove government regulatory processes by making access to reports instantaneous and shareable by all agenciesbased on the Dutch experience, reducing corporate regulatory costsrestore public confidence through transparency
  • However, we are a long way from realizing these benefits. The reality is that, by and large, data has not been democratized either by government or businesses.The situation’s not all that different from 1520, when Martin Luther’s translation of the Latin Bible into German and decision to print copies gave most people direct access to the printed word for the first time. They no longer had to rely on the clergy as intermediatiresThe results were quick and dramatic: Luther’s works no only led to the Reformation, but to a tremendous push for literacy and the printed word
  • As the printing press transformed learning and people’s access to the word, so too the Internet, and handful of new web-based tools, none of them radically innovative by themselves but revolutionary when combined, is making it possible, in many cases for the first time, for workers and the general public to have direct access to actionable, valuable data. I believe the benefits and revolution will be equally dramatic as what Luther set in motion.
  • The result of applying these tools will be democratizing data: \"Democratizing data makes it automatically available to those who need it (based on their roles and responsibilities), when and where they need it, in forms they can use, and with freedom to use as they choose -- while simultaneously protecting security and privacy.\": \"Democratizing data makes it automatically available to those who need it (based on their roles and responsibilities), when and where they need it, in forms they can use, and with freedom to use as they choose -- while simultaneously protecting security and privacy.\"
  • The first step to begin this transition is an organizational, not a technological ones: It’s time to switch to a data-centric approach, in which usable data is accessible to all sorts of applications and devices, automatically, and all of the organization’s functions are arranged around the data. This diagram, from Hitachi, illustrates this kind of data-centric approach, in this case dealing with a specific category we will discuss later: XBRL. Instead of data becoming captured and altered by applications, it must remain as “data nuggets”
  • The 2nd step to democratize data is to structure data using XML, KML or other systems that attach “tags” such as the ones you see here, to the numbers. As some have said, the tags are information about information, or as it’s also referred to, metadata.These tag systems are universal, open standards, available to all, at no charge. I want to emphasize standards, incidentally: it’s precisely because XML, XBRL, KML are universally recognized and not proprietary, that it makes them valuable: they, and the data tagged by them, can be shared by all.One of the most important aspects of XML and variants is that once the tags are attached to the data, they remain attached: the package of metadata and data can be automatically shared by other applications. That reduces errors because the data doesn’t have to be rekeyed..Equally important, the data must be syndicated, or automatically delivered without any additional effort on the user’s part, in streams such as RSS or Atom.
  • Princeton researchers last year released a paper making a startling assertion. They said the single most important step government can take to make web sites that really serve the public is to concentrate its attention on data streams: “Rather than struggling, as it currently does, to design sites that meet each end-user’s need, we argue that the executive branch should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that exposes the underlying data”
  • The third step for effective democratizing data programs is to provide users with the Web 2.0-based tools that will make it possible for them to really capitalize on that data. Even for trained statisticians, let alone the rest of us, data visualization tools aid in understanding complex data sets, relationships, and so on, because they take statistics and portray them graphically, which makes it easier to understand trends, possible causality, and other factors.As the acknowledged thought leader in data visualization, Edward Tufte, says, “Graphics reveal data. Indeed, graphics can be more precise and revealing than conventional statistical computations.”In recent years a number of free web-based data visualization tools, including Swivel and IBM’s Many Eyes have become available , allowing non-statisticians to easily take data and turn it into a wide range of highly informative visual representations, while Web 2.0 tools such as tags, threaded discussions and topic hubs allow for, and encourage, robust discussion of the results.
  • Curiously, although a growing range of government agencies release public data streams, almost none provide them to their own workforces, to give workers actionable data precisely when and where they need it, to do their work more efficiently.The fourth element of an effective democratizing data strategy is for agencies -- and corporations -- to follow the District of Columbia's lead, and apply the same strategy behind the firewall first, giving workers access to the same data they disclose in public data feeds.After all, agencies’ employees may be struggling with incompatible data bases, may need to reach across agency “silos” to see if there might be synergies between programs, and employees from another agency may be able to provide new insights simply because of their differing life experiences and expertise. In the past, the business intelligence dashboards need to capitalize on this data were prohibitively expensive to provide them to anyone other than Also, as more young workers, who have never known life without the Web, join governmental workforces, they’ll naturally ask why tools they’ve used can’t be used in government. A data graphics project can empower them and tap their expertise. Finally, using the same data feeds to run your organization that you furnish through external data feeds to the public and others can be a powerful way of earning public trust: you’re in essence saying we stand behind this data: we’re so confident in it that we use the same data to run our daily operations as we furnish to you.
  • Finally, on the cutting edge of democratizing data is to use it to invite your customers or citizens to become co-creators. That’s what the Ministry of Transport is doing with its InfoConnect program, making real-time, location-based traffic information available in machine-readable, tagged forms, and has enabled entrepreneurs and others to come up with important new services, some of which might never have been created by government agencies, that serve the public interest. With democratizing data, it will become commonplace and will result in both improved services to the public and entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • The potential benefits of democratizing data are many, and varied:more informed policy debate, grounded in fact, rather than rhetoricconsensus buildingbetter legislationgreater transparency and less corruption: greater accountabilityoptimizing program efficiency and reducing costs: new perspectives, especially when “the wisdom of crowds” emerges.Who would have believed that dry data -- with a healthy dose of Web 2.0 magic -- could become the engine to involve the public in governmental transformation!
  • I’d like to conclude with a challenge to the government and people of New Zealand.The danger in our current situation is clear. The government wants more direct services to the public with fewer resources to deliver them. At the same time, the private sector is also hard pressed to recover, and needs to cut costs where-ever possible.That’s why I challenge you to become the world-leader in integrated, comprehensive democratizing data strategy:providing automatic release of structured, real-time data feeds not just in the Ministry of Transport, but government wide. make all government workers knowledge workers, by providing them with the real-time data they need to do their jobs more efficiently and to collaborateprovide tools to visualize and share datapartner with business and the public, building on the InfoConnect model.You are small enough, and with a strong enough record of innovation and a government the people have confidence in, to pull off such a transformation. If you do, I guarantee you will save money, improve government services, and create entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • Thank you.To learn more about transparent government and how to create the processes and policies to make it a reality, contact: Stephenson Strategies 335 Main Street, Medfield, MA 02052 (617) 314-7858
  • Democratizing Data In New Zealand

    1. The New Zealand Challenge: will you lead the world in “democratizing data” to transform government, business & daily life? W. David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies May 22, 2009
    2. Democratizing Data: How free access will transform our lives Ignite Boston Feb. 12, 2009 W. David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies
    3. Critical for today’s challenges •give workforce real-time information •automate processes •improve government regulation •reduce companies’ reporting costs •restore public confidence through transparency
    4. Luther democratized the written word •390 editions published in 1523. •By 1525, 3M copies of pamphlets relating to him printed •Transformed scholar- ship: original thought valued.
    5. Democratize data quot;Democratizing data makes it automatically available to those who need it (based on their roles and responsibilities), when and where they need it, in forms they can use, and with freedom to use as they choose -- while simultaneously protecting security and privacy.quot;
    6. 1st: become a data-centric organization
    7. <breakfast_menu> − <food> <name>Belgian Waffles</name> <price>$5.95</price> − <description> two of our famous Belgian Waffles with plenty of real maple syrup </description> <calories>650</calories> </food> − <food> <name>Homestyle Breakfast</name> <price>$6.95</price> − <description> two eggs, bacon or sausage, toast, and our ever-popular hash browns </description> <calories>950</calories> 2nd: tag & syndicate data
    8. “....the executive branch should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that exposes the underlying data”
    9. 4 : give workers data th
    10. 5 : make the public partners th
    11. Benefits: •More informed policy debate •Consensus building •Better legislation •Transparency •Less corruption •Efficiency •Lower costs •Co-creating
    12. My challenge to you! Make New Zealand the world leader in comprehensive democratizing data strategy •automatic release of structured, real-time data feeds government-wide •make all gov. workers knowledge workers •provide tools to visualize, share data •partner with business & public
    13. To learn more about democratizing data, contact: W David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies 335 Main Street, Medfield, MA 02052 USA 508 740-8918 .. and watch for “Democratizing Data to transform government, business & daily life”