An open mind on open government data
Yes, it’s another international survey involving Singapore.
But this one is openly different. For starters, it’s conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
(Editor: The EIU is part of the Economist Group, and it provides forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.)
The ‘Open Government Data: Assessing demand around the world’ report is based on an EIU survey of users of open government data (OGD) from around the world.
What is OGD, you might ask?
One local example of OGD is of course, data.gov.sg – the portal where you can make use of the open datasets provided by Government agencies (such as the Land Transport Authority, or LTA) for research and even app development.
The datasets have given rise to useful apps like Beeline, a demand-driven shared transit platform developed by GovTech and LTA, and the SchoolPicker.sg tool that helps parents and students to shortlist the right schools based on desired criteria.
Even citizens have jumped on board: in 2016, an undergraduate created a taxi heat map for real-time updates on actual taxi availability.
In fact, according to the survey results, the vast majority of Singapore respondents use OGD at least once a year.
Singapore is not alone in unleashing the power of OGD.
From around the globe, the Greater London Authority has its London DataStore platform, cities in the USA like Chicago and New York have released open data, and South Korea started its open data ecosystem with a legal act back in 2013.
Aside from Singapore, the survey also covers Australia, Finland, France, India, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, the US and the UK — making for a total of 10 countries.
Naturally, the respondents were all familiar with OGD and were able to express strong opinions.
In particular, the survey sought to understand how these citizens are using OGD, and the expected benefits for society.
Singapore respondents, for example, believe in the economic benefits that OGD brings — such as jobs creation and a better quality of life — and up to a quarter even tap on these datasets to start-up businesses.
So how does Singapore compare with the other nine countries?
Here are a few data points to open your mind:
1. Singapore does well in some areas of OGD
Singapore’s support of OGD and its use, is rated in the top three in some categories in the report.
The EIU survey respondents in Singapore, in particular, think that OGD will create new business opportunities and jobs, and help citizens to be more self-reliant and become happier in general.
2. People in Singapore love to use OGD
One out of ten in Singapore use open government data daily — the highest in the survey — followed by those in France and South Koreans (9%).
In comparison, respondents from the UK, Finland and Mexico use OGD the least on a daily basis.
An astounding 86% of the respondents in Singapore use OGD at least once a year.
More importantly from an economic perspective, a quarter of respondents in Singapore are using OGD to create new businesses, keeping pace with both South Korea and India (30%).
3. Trust and transparency
Respondents in Singapore believe that open government data is used to create jobs, and also build trust between the Government and citizens. In a nutshell, respondents generally believe that OGD helps to promote transparency between governments and citizens.
Respondents in Singapore generally trust their government to keep their data safe and anonymous, as compared to those surveyed in countries like Mexico and Australia who trust their governments the least.
4. Road to better quality of life
The key benefits of using OGD in Singapore, according to the local respondents, is ‘easier access to government information’ (43%) and ‘better quality of life’ (42%).
One obvious benefit of OGD is ‘Shorter commutes, more smart mobility options’, which can be seen in the success of GovTech’s Beeline smart mobility crowdsourcing platform — which is now open-source — and the traffic information services available on LTA’s One Motoring Portal including the traffic.smart interactive map that updates motorists in real-time.
5. The importance of mastering data skills
Respondents here also signalled that they believe in the value of open data, but they might need some help to develop the necessary skillsets. Half of them think that ‘lack of awareness about OGD and its use is a big barrier to greater use’.
One in three think that in general, they ‘lack technical skills to use OGD’, which is higher than the average (25%) in other countries surveyed by the EIU.
But we are definitely making progress. GovTech recently organised the National Data Viz Video Challenge in conjunction with several partners.
The competition saw some 82 teams from tertiary institutions create interesting data visualisations based on open government datasets, which is a hopeful sign that many of us are getting the hang of working with datasets.
If you are interested in learning more about how Singapore and other countries manage OGD, do download the ‘Open Government Data: Assessing demand around the world’ report.