Open Data Policy Guidelines » Guideline 4

Create a public, comprehensive list of all information holdings

In order to establish a strong foundation to an open data policy, governments must first determine what data is immediately available to share with the public. Governments should conduct an inventory of existing data early in the process of open data policy development - this will allow government and other stakeholders to better understand the full potential dimensions of data release. While defining total information holdings may be a complex undertaking, governments should conduct as comprehensive a review of existing data information as possible, including information holdings that may benefit from becoming structured data themselves.

The inventory should itself be made public. Publicly accounting for agency information helps ensure that information is managed to benefit the public interest, allows for common understanding of what data the government records, and can also create efficiencies among government departments. It empowers policymakers and administrators to determine whether information is being appropriately managed, and engenders public oversight of those determinations. In addition, an individual or group should be charged with oversight of the inventory to ensure its ongoing maintenance and accuracy. To make the listing of data as useful as possible, such a list should also encompass data that may be viewed as sensitive or unlikely to be released (along with any other helpful context). In addition to setting the stage for meaningful public discussions around dataset release, an inventory process can provide a roadmap for creating ambitious timelines of data release (see Provision 27), and identify whether new data should be collected.

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