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Feng Gao

Open Data Advocate and Open Knowledge's ambassador for China. Researching, Designing and Coding for Change. Available for Freelancing work

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WOW, QingDao's Roadmap of Open Data Initiative has been revealed

Back to last November, there is one article wrote by FutureGov’s Kelly Ng reporting the launch of QingDao’s icity365 portal and called this portal as “Open Data Platform” in the article’s title. However, as I previously pointed out on twitter and weibo, this platform is not really an open data platform but rather it is a new cloud-based e-gov platform, which will be soon rolled out countrywide.

Although I believe there are some mis-understandings of the icity365, the real exciting news behind the launch of this icity365 platform is that QingDao’s e-gov IT department is actually aware of the open data movement and does has their own plan to opening up their data. The plan actually was first published on Informatization Construction Magazine (November, 2013), authored by WANG ChaoJing (王朝静) who is the director of QingDao’s e-gov IT department. To give you a bit background of the magazine: it is sponsored by Zhejiang Industrial Economic Institute, an institute affiliated to Zhejiang Commission of Economy and Informatization. The magazine can be freely accessed on this site.

The article seems to be just accessible online this week and was publicly re-posted and shared by one of friend I’m following on Weibo yesterday, and that’s why I came across it. In this article, the author explained that the launch of icity365 becomes the important foundation of their open data initiative. Since Qingdao is the first city using icit365 platform, they have done brilliant job there moving their gov’s services and information to cloud, encouraging collaboration between departments, and most importantly educating public servants that gov service should be citizen-centric.

The author also mentioned that as a pioneer of e-gov development, Qingdao Gov has stabled a so called “Si Tong Yi Fen”(in Chinese: “四统一分”,and more details here) administration system to promote, plan and carry out e-gov projects. This system is broken down as: set up one organization to plan and coordinate all e-gov works, make one unified plan for e-gov development, established one unified network as infrastructure to support all e-gov services, and allow each district to carry out their own e-gov work based upon the real situation and challenges they face.

This administration system, as described by the author, become the biggest strength QingDao gov has to support their future open data initiative. After the launch of icity365, they had envisioned a roadmap to further develop their open data portal. The first step, as wrote by the author, is to create a data directory to see who holds what kind of data. They will use the current FOIA directory as a reference and work with departments to have a clear understanding of what resources they have and what can be opened in their pilot project. There will be a survey for citizens to give feedbacks on what kind of data they want to get from gov. Then given all the information and feedback the gov can collect, they can roll out a pilot project to see how it works. The result of the pilot project will be reported to QingDao’s top-leaders to seek support on further development and then the gov can officially launch the data portal. Also, they have plan to improve the existing FOIA system in QingDao. That is probably complementary to open data initiative because it will encourage more departments proactively publish information and data but also help people has a nice channel to get data they can not open.

Engagement is always one key component of open data initiative, and QingDao gov does realize it. There will be surveys and forums for people to give feedbacks, and there will be nice developer portal to engage developers in using those open data. The author also mentioned that standards of API and datasets will be made to ensure the quality of open data.

This plan revealed by QingDao gov is really exciting, and it is quite clear and well thought out. However, it might be still hard for them to carry out the plan. Given unclear national policy on open data and lack of legal system to support it, they will face a lot of problems there. Shanghai Gov, as far as I know, actually started their initiative back to 2011 (know more on “Open Data China Timeline” and my post on Shanghai gov’s thoughts) ,and they are still in the process of setting up their data directory and their existing data portal can not yet be strictly called as open data portal due to lacking of open license (there are other problems on the existing data portal and I’ll blog it later). But I’d like to give all those iniatives my best wish, at least, they give the civil society enough confidence to carry out advocacy work and start thinking about how we might collaborate with gov to take such initiative to next stage.