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Is it important to make government datasets available to public?

As it has already been mentioned in many of Hans Rosling's talks, public data is being increasingly made available in websites, such as However in some countries the dataset is not available such that people are able to view it through a visualization tool as in GapMinder. So what is the reason for making the data public if it cannot be viewed such that a normal person would be able to understand. Those who are exploring datasets would of course be able to use the textual data and maybe implement their own tools to view the dataset as a whole.
Each country is providing thousands of datasets to the public but it is not well organized. However some of the websites provide some tools to view some datasets but i feel it is not enough.

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    Mar 31 2011: Governments don't own the data; the taxpayers do. The data must be made available. But I'm not sure that government can or even should provide the interpretation; nor can political parties or special interest groups. There's simply too much opportunity to inflict spin and mislead the public to manipulate their reaction.

    Colleges and universities can publish research from government data, while entrepreneurs may be able to monetize the publication of analysis of the data. Perhaps best of all would be for the news media to take up the role of analysis and interpretation, to present interesting and accessible information to its audience.
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      Apr 1 2011: Given today's media, I think it would be terrifying to have them be the interpreters of the raw data.
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        Apr 2 2011: Daniel, I understand the sentiment. The media today are too concerned with market share and profit; and as long as there's even the perception of bias, they don't command the public trust that they once did. Organizations like FactCheck and PolitiFact get past the spin and maintain a reasonable level of objectivity, so perhaps they'd be better suited to the analytical role.
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          Apr 3 2011: Nice! I hadn't heard about those two yet, thanks for the tip. They could team up with Hans Rosling. He's always good for a nifty graphic.
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    Mar 28 2011: I know of an organization where the executive director baffled the board with lots of baloney. A method to this madness one might ask? You betcha. To hide the real meat.

    A dataset in a form that is incomprehensible for whom it is intended is WRONG and avoidable.
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    Apr 3 2011: Yes it is important.
    Why you think it shouldn't be important? (really sorry to say that from your explanation I couldn't understand this point, as you were explaining something else than what you asked in question which is way of presenting data in understandable way, organised way etc). So right away answered your question in my first sentence here :)
  • Apr 3 2011: YES. Public data belongs in open domain.
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    Apr 2 2011: The more information that a government supplies the more it would rate on a transparency index. I think that the people are the ones who should own the data. It is clear from declassifie data that the people would often not have supported the course that the government decided to take and yet, short of something like Wikileaks, much data which would enrage the people is kept secret.
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    Mar 31 2011: I agree that a government publishing data for the public ought to try and make it generally readable. Or at least, make neat graphics for the important bits. But that's a lot of data to be sorted through and made explicable to the average person.
  • Mar 30 2011: Holding on to data is a source of power for some people. It gives them as sense of authority and importance. Hence, the reluctance to relinquish hold or provide it is an user friendly format. Sometimes it helps to have an organized group exerting constant pressure, over a period of time, in order to elicit meaningful change.
    • Mar 31 2011: i agree that a lot of people have put pressure on the government and that is the reason that they are currently providing information to the public. However, some say that it is difficult to provide all the government dataset in a user friendly interface. I like how Hans rosling provided the datasets in gap minder, but when he is not guiding us through the dataset it is difficult and we sometimes forget where one country was about 2 or 3 years back in his gap minder software. So it is difficult to follow. If a government is trying to publish datasets and provide users an easier interface, how can it be done? and this takes time as a lot of research is required on understanding both the users and the datasets.
      I agree that lot of people does not want to provide datasets in readable formats. However there are lots of people/ companies that are willing to provide but does not have the necessary expertise/ tools / ideas to provide that in a way that user would understand easily.