This page is aimed at council officers and GIS/information teams. It provides advice on how to pitch open data concepts to colleagues and executive management.
Building initial buy-in
So, you want to start an open data initiative at your council but are unsure where to get started? You’re going to need to find some like-minded people who will support you and share ideas. If you’re a team of one, which is often the case in smaller councils, try our ‘Stay Connected‘ page for a list of open data groups you can join to link up with colleagues in other councils.
2. Set aside some time and resources (you don’t need much)
When pitching an open data idea to managers or colleagues, it is useful to have a sense of what is achievable within given resources.
- A number of councils have said that their initial data releases only took one person a few hours.
- Remember that the data doesn’t need to be perfect, as long as you state its limitations (e.g. If the data is three years old, it could still be useful. Just be sure to flag that when it’s released.)
We have put together a step-by-step guide to publishing to make it easy for you to get started and save you time.
3. Consider your stakeholders
Thinking about the structures in your council, consider who you will need to convince in order to get your program up and running. This will generally include your IT manager and GIS staff. Depending on the scale of what you’re trying to achieve and the degree of change you’re proposing, you may also need to seek the support of executive management or Council.
Generally, you should begin by considering what each stakeholder can achieve by implementing open data. For example –
- Council/executive management may find that open data improves community engagement and efficiency and opens up possibilities for innovation and leadership.
- Chief IT officers may see this as an opportunity to improve efficiencies and modernise information-sharing processes.
- Communications officers can find that open data makes it easier to communicate with customers and support community engagement.
- Other departments may find there is potential to reduce the cost of information processing and save time by reducing the number of requests for data.
4. Problem-solving, strategy & quick wins
If there are any specific problems you think open data could help solve, you may want to focus on those datasets.
- For example, if you get a lot of requests for a specific dataset, releasing it as open data could save you time because you can simply point people to the data rather than processing multiple requests.
Consider how open data might fit in with existing council strategies
- For example, if your council has decided it wants to modernise its data practices or reach out to the community, open data can be a way to demonstrate this.
Look for quick wins or pilot programs (incremental change) that align with your council’s longer term goals (such as openness or modernising data management). An example quick win:
- getting a couple of datasets up on data.gov.au
5. Spread the word
Ultimately, open data is less useful if it’s confined to one or two business units within the council. Remember not just to focus on managers and executives. It’s a good idea to talk to your colleagues too. Some things you could do:
- Spread the word about what open data is and what it’s not (see resources on this site)
- Some councils have reported that video resources such as this have been helpful to explain open data to colleagues and managers.
- Show what other people are doing with open data and point people to other councils releasing open data.
- Be prepared to address common myths and misconceptions.
Remember that open data is not just about spatial data. Ultimately, the goal is to empower people in other business units to operate as open data ‘champions’ or ‘peer educators’, so they can support you and help grow an open data culture across the organisation.
6. Get formal support & approval
To help you seek support from various levels within your council, we have prepared the following resources:
- executive management/council – a sample briefing and template policy
- internal stakeholders or champions/peer educators
- the myth busting page addresses common questions
- the open data publishing in Australia page includes ‘Tales from the Field’ showing how local governments have benefited from open data. For instance, open data can save staff time, as shown in the case study below.
Case Study – Open data increases productivity
“Making Vicmap data open has helped my productivity. Now whenever I get a request from a third party for standard GIS datasets I direct them to data.vic.gov.au. This means less of my time is taken up providing standard data so I can concentrate on more important tasks and the third party now has access to base data for any of their subsequent work.” – Barrett Higman, Alpine Shire
7. Sustain momentum
Once you’ve got things up and running, you may want to consider:
- metrics or benchmarks for regular releases and updates
- links with universities, the private sector and community groups e.g. outreach activities (see ‘Going further’).
Do I need a business case?
By focusing on uploading a few simple datasets to data.gov.au, many councils have been able to take their first steps using their existing technologies and with only a few hours’ work. Because of this, a formal business case has not generally been required where councils take an iterative approach to opening up their data.
For councils wishing to take things further and look into broader spending on open data initiatives, the following sources can help build a business case:
- Project Open Data has articulated some of the potential cost savings from open data.
- The Open Data Institute has a guide to starting a business case.
- McKinsey study on benefits of open data including a full report, executive summary and a podcast.
- Open Data and Economic Growth – Open Data Partnership
- ANDS cost benefit analysis of open data (2011)
- Open Data in Government – How to bring about change – Open Data Institute
- Topeka: A Lesson in Gaining Stakeholder Support – Socrata
- Assemble a Winning Team – Socrata