The Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) is a free, open source platform developed by Microsoft to facilitate the publishing of data on the internet. It allows interested parties to develop visualisations, data mashups and other innovative ideas for the sharing of knowledge.
Mark Gayler, Platform Strategy Director for Microsoft has the job of working with, “Customers, partners and other stakeholders in our community to get people to understand the benefits of the open and interoperable features of the Microsoft technology platform.”
His particular area of expertise is around open government, open data and technologies that can be used to enable those kinds of initiatives.
Greater transparency, the hoped for result behind the initiative, helps people understand how things work and the benefits,values and importance they may have to an individual, community or entity.
“Transparency is very valuable in that sense. It provides some insight into the workings of whatever the entity is that is being transparent.”
OGDI enables government organizations to open up their data sources to make them available to citizens, communities and developers. In doing so it makes the data transparent. Therefore it makes part of the workings of government transparent.
The technology is based on Microsoft’s cloud platform which is Windows Azure and it provides a repository for governments to host their data in the Cloud.
Because of the open and interoperable nature of the cloud platform citizens and developers are able to get access to that data in a very open, user-friendly, accessible way using a variety of tools.
But it is not enough to have the technology available; people, organisations, institutions and governments have to be willing to use it.
Mark says the way to, “getting governments to use these kind of technologies is to help them understand the benefits of open government, open data initiatives. Understandably, some governments are reticent about those concepts. Part of my job is to get them to understand the benefits of it and how the technology can make that easier and lower the barriers of entry.
“We also get governments that come to us and say, ‘We’ve got a lot of data, we want to get it out there, we want to share it, how can Microsoft technology help us do that in a way that is open and accessible to all?’”
The Cloud is an open platform and was designed inherently from the beginning to be open. It is easy to get your data in and once it is there it is eminently scalable. You don’t need a lot of additional software or hardware to manage the infrastructure.
Once data is in the Cloud developers and citizens can access it through a variety devices, protocols and development tools.
Making data available is what makes it valuable and as more governments and their associated institutions avail themselves of programs like OGDI we can hope to greater light shed on the decision-making processes of our representatives. That would be very valuable indeed.