Open Government Act: getting your information house in order just like ‘getting your house in order’

Open Government Act (Woo): from obligation to improvement…

In the program “Sort Your Life Out” with presenter Stacey Solomon, families were given the clear task of saying goodbye to a large part of their belongings so they could move on with a tidy house. The items they selected to get rid of had to be placed in three different boxes: Donate, Sell or Recycle.

Digitization combined with an urge to collect has created almost similar chaos with digital data at many government organizations..

The story

The program makers collect all the items and lay them sorted on the floor of a 2,000-square-meter warehouse. Then the family enters and immediately there is surprise. First about the total quantity after which slowly the recognition of the objects in the different boxes unfolds. Next, they must work on their own, choosing which items to part with and then dividing them among the boxes donate, sell, or recycle.

“The program beautifully portrays man’s urge to collect and the impossibility to turn chaos into structure and order without a predefined overview.”

open government act
(Courtesy of BBC1)

Digitization combined with an urge to collect has created almost similar chaos with digital data at many government organizations. We are generating and collecting data more and more and faster, and with storage costs close to zero, it is quickly growing into an unmanageable amount. Distribution to different departments and system applications result in rigid data silos. No one knows the whole and it is questionable whether the individual details are well known.

A comparison to the various closets, rooms, attics, and garages of a household comes to mind. As there is no overview of the content of the data, so it has become difficult, if not impossible to create some sort of order.

If we first bring all this data sorted and organized into overview, half the work of “information housekeeping” would already done. To achieve that, we need a team of programmers, which is currently lacking. And the employment of more people, whether hired from outside or not, that can do inventory and mark up file by file, and page by page is neither practical nor economically feasible at the current scale of data and information. It would also be a return to a type of approach from the paper world of yesteryear.

SynerScope sorts, categorizes and displays patterns

Digital technology causes the data problem, but it also increasingly provides the opportunity to develop and apply an approach, à la “Sort Your Life Out”, to all digital data. The big shed is found in scalable public cloud infrastructure such as MS Azure. Taking the data, sorting, and visually displaying it can be done with software. SynerScope has developed a very powerful solution in this segment that takes unstructured data in addition to already (partially) structured data. SynerScope sorts, categorizes, and displays patterns in the data, providing the organization’s domain experts with all the information and context needed to apply data markers and labels at detail level in the data. Not page by page but with whole groups of pages, documents, or files at once so great speed can be achieved without compromising quality.

Open Government Act (Woo).

Of course, the data and information housekeeping of government organizations is more complex than the straightforward “de-stuffing” in the TV show. Multiple rules and laws apply to handling government data. The Archives Act specifies what data must be kept and what must be destroyed, and when and for how long. The Woo indicated which data should be actively published and how this should be designed in phases over the coming years across various categories of government data and information. For the older data, it remains possible to continue to request it in Wob (Freedom of Information request) manner, but then under the regime of response times of the Woo.

Tasks such as the Environment and Planning Act and the healthcare domain significantly increase the degree of difficulty in gaining control of all data. The tasks and obligations ensuing from the GDPR run over and through all of this. Privacy protection requires masking, openness requires applying it selectively, deciding what to mask requires good oversight, transparency, and visibility into the details of the data.

In short, for all decisions in each of the aforementioned areas and policy decisions, knowing the data is always a requirement.

SynerScope labels and organizes

After the computer has sorted and displays its patterns from the data, users with domain knowledge will provide each sorted data “box” with labels that mark the content and thus also differentiate the areas according to content. These labels (also called tags or meta-data) are very valuable for reuse throughout the organization. Also, new unknown data can be mixed with such previously labeled data so that it becomes possible to transfer previously acquired knowledge directly to newly entered data.

We would like to let you and your organization experience what putting information management in order means when new methods and processes supported by SynerScope’s technology are deployed. There is an opportunity to turn the Woo from obligation into a powerful push to make your organization work better with digital assets. This will enable the government to greatly improve its service to citizens and society. A government organization that quickly knows more about its data can better tailor the disclosure of data and information to the needs of its various stakeholders and constituencies. This brings a major change from informing afterwards to involving in advance, transparently presenting policy alternatives, and exposing the various considerations, all with the fullest possible context of the underlying data.

Webinar Open Government Act

In our webinar, we gave you an idea of what this will look like in practice. Organizing a pilot with data from your own organization is of course always a possibility. Because a pilot with your own data can be realized within a few days, testing is more efficient than meeting about the possibilities….

Watch our webinar, including video and slides (Dutch language):