Australia’s information deficit

They ranged from the high­ly graph­ic (like this flash-based atlas of pub­lic health data) to the promis­ing but dys­func­tion­al (this ‘Geo Map’ data­base would not work in any of my browsers), to the slight­ly intim­i­dat­ing (but rich) Bureau of Stats nation­al eco­nom­ic data col­lec­tion and the fas­ci­nat­ing but out-of-date (like this ‘base­line’ data on Aus­tralian water resources).

Tech­ni­cal­ly a hodge-podge of flash maps, tab­u­lar data and impen­e­tra­ble html forms; an appar­ent sal­ad of under­ly­ing data-struc­tures; incon­sis­tent rep­re­sen­ta­tion, no appar­ent attempt at gov­ern­ment-wide meta-data; many of the reports were the result of a sin­gle sur­vey rather than an his­tor­i­cal col­lec­tion. I found few data archives and pre­dom­i­nant­ly tech­ni­cal rather than pol­i­cy-ori­ent­ed data. Why aren’t there data on cus­toms clear­ances, or quar­an­tine inspec­tions?… It impos­si­ble to avoid the con­clu­sion that Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment on-line data pro­vi­sion is a mess.

But it’s also true that we get the gov­ern­ment we demand. Here, too, the Unit­ed States is show­ing the way. This wiki com­piled by Wired Mag­a­zine is a great resource, iden­ti­fy­ing data col­lec­tions that can, and should be dig­i­tized (most are, already) and made avail­able to a con­sis­tent and cat­a­logued col­lec­tion on the web.

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