GovHack – How can we collect more data?

If we had all the cancer information from around the world, any keyboard warrior could wrangle the data and find helpful new discoveries. But we struggle to even complete a state-level database let alone a national or global one.

After being dazzled by the enormous amount of data already released by Government, you soon realise how much more you really need.

For starters, there are lots of paper records not even digital. This isn’t just a Government problem of course, many private organisations also grapple with managing unstructured written information on paper. But if Governments are still printing and storing paper in hard copy form; we further delay a fully open digital utopia. At the very least storing atomic data, separate to a merged and printed version enables future access, and stops the mindless discarding into the digital blackhole.

Then consider all the new types of data which could be collected. The routes that garbage delivery trucks and buses take and the economics of their operation. If we had such data streams, we could tell citizens if a bus is running ahead or behind. We could have GovHack participants calculate more efficient routes. Could buses collect rubbish? We need data to know. More data means more opportunities for solutions and improvement for all.

When you consider the colossal task ahead of Government, we must insist on changing culture so that data releases are considered a routine part of public service. And also make further data collection an objective, not a bonus extra. Until that happens, large banks of knowledge will remain locked up in fortresses of paper.

What do you think? Do you know of any forgotten archives of paper that would be useful for improving lives?

Participate in GovHack this year, play with the data we do have and continue the conversation with us.

(I will be publishing a series of blogs focusing on GovHack, exploring opportunities and challenges that arise and consider while I work on the committee for the Geelong GovHack which runs 29-31 July 2016)

Image courtesy Fryderyk Supinski licensed under Creative Commons