Unfortunately it appears to be yet another Australian site reinventing the open-data-catalogue-wheel. So far we have:
- data.gov.au: custom WordPress site
- data.brisbane.qld.gov.au: custom WordPress site
- data.nsw.gov.au: custom PHP (Drupal?) site
- data.mosman.nsw.gov.au: custom proprietary site
- data.vic.gov.au: custom proprietary site
Open Source Data Catalogues
How come none are using and contributing to an open source data catalogue like CKAN or Open Data Catalog? These projects are so much more advanced than the sites that have been deployed in Australia and it’s no wonder – CKAN’s maturity is because it has been developed for over four years.
Not only that but using an open source open data catalogue simply means it’s cheaper for Australian governments to provide these services. If data.gov.au had used and contributed to an open source data catalogue we’d probably have had the vast majority of Australian local customisations done (if any were needed) and subsequent catalogues by Victoria, NSW and now councils would border on trivial to set up and deploy.
Doing It Right
The open source catalogues I mention above also get some key things right that Australian sites deployed so far don’t – namely open and public data requests and an API (oh the irony of open data catalogues not having
a good any API!).
Open and public requests are critical and would highlight the lacklustre data released to date in Australia. The Brisbane catalogue mentioned above is a prime example, there’s a clear and demonstrable need for development application data to be opened and freed but it hasn’t been chosen as one of the items to be included in the data that launched with the site. If there was a way for data developers to make public requests and not a glorified contact form we might see this data opened at some stage. As it stands, and while there’s a scraper gathering the data that simply ignores the onerous conditions, I doubt we’ll see this.
How do we fix it?
However there’s no point in moaning without suggesting a way to fix things. One way the open data community in Australia could promote the use more advanced open source data catalogues would be to simply set up our own one. A system like CKAN can slurp in data from all of the existing catalogues, thereby providing a comprehensive centralised source of all Australian open data (not just one level of government and not just community projects like OpenAustralia). This would also provide an API to that data and a central place where everyone can log requests for open data and track what data is really in demand by open data hackers in Australia.
Maybe someone should take this on as a project for #odhd? ;)