Open Data Education portal/website:
Verification is still required.
by William Warren Munroe, July 19, 2011

Today, the provincial government of BC has made public, access to data via the internet. The data is raw and not easy for the lay person to analyze. But before spending a great deal of time and effort to make the data legible, be sure to make sure the data is reliable.

Access to data has been sought by many for many years. It is thought that access to information will both allow for innovation and allow scrutiny of information used to justify government policies. While access to government information may be considered an important improvement, what about the reliability of the information. Unfortunately, access to data disseminated by governments does not mean the end of fascism nor police states.

As mentioned to people in our School District (Qualicum) trying to save the only high school in town, there will likely soon be a flood of raw data from tax funded organizations, such as the provincial government of BC, for which we will need "an army of people prepared to help explain the raw data that is becoming increasingly available via the internet" (The Literacy Challenge of Open Data at ..... ).

So here is the beginning of the flood, but first be sure to consider the reliability of the data. As we have seen thru many venues, information can be changed, or bent without informing the users and viewers. The information age and access to information is no guarantee police states are a thing of the past. We must be able to verify the data we are being flooded with; otherwise, we eagerly refer to data that can easily be changed without citizens knowing.

Verification of data disseminated by governments is required to ensure the data is not being changed to support a worldview. Governments must allow the verification of the data they disseminate. If governments do not allow verification, they are hiding changes to the data that they do not want you to see. For example, British Columbia’s official population statistics disseminated by BC Stats are not verifiable. A concerned citizen asked to have access to the input data (hydro hookups) to the municipal level, used to estimate population, available through the Freedom of Information Act, but this was not wanted by BC Stats Population Section Chief Demographer, Dave O'Neil, and not allowed by the BC provincial government. Why?

Could it be that the government does not want citizens to see the difference between the numbers produced by the models and the numbers disseminated? Why would the government not want concerned citizens to see the real numbers? Recall, that these numbers are used to justify the opening and closing of public and private facilities. Since 2001, there have been nearly 200 public schools closed in BC.

Verification of the funding formula should be carried out for every School District before any more public schools are closed. I have requested, several times, all inputs into the funding formula (Ms. Clarke brought in) used to justify the closing of a secondary school in a town of approximately 10,000 people; however, I have yet to receive a reply from the local School District.

I recommend that any and all data be verified. This data is paid for by taxpayers, this data is gathered in our communities and sent to a central authority. We pay for the data to be analyzed and disseminated. We use the data to justify closing schools; therefore, we have a responsibility to ensure the data is reliable.

Before downloading Public School dataset available through the Open Education Data, I read with great interest the license agreement, and in particular the sections about the assurance of quality of the data.

Perhaps, not surprising, the license agreement ( ) adapted from the uk ( ) skirts the issue of reliability. See Sections 8 and 9 entitled "No Warranty"

The license agreement shows how confident and responsible the government is when providing the public with the public's data, by stating ....

Section 9. The Information Provider is not liable for any errors or omissions in the Information and will not, under any circumstances, be liable for any direct, indirect, special, incidental, consequential, or other loss, injury or damage caused by its use, even if specifically advised of the possibility of such loss, injury or damage.

Before using government data to justify policy making or planning decisions, be sure to verify the data. Remember, governments have changed numbers to support their worldview and to cover-up harm before.

Website content, code, and design by W.W. Munroe. Copyright 1999 - 2011.