Open Data & Open Standards
Parliamentary Open Data and Open Standards
The Library of Congress of the U.S. announced the winner of the first legislative data challenge, Markup of US Legislation in Akoma Ntoso. The challenge, which was open from July 16 to October 31, invited participants to create XML versions of US bill text using the Akoma Ntoso standard. The Library also asked for feedback about the Akoma Ntoso standard itself to help ensure US legislation can be incorporated properly into this international framework.
Like the first data challenge, this challenge incorporates the Akoma Ntoso legislative schema, but instead of asking competitors to apply the schema to bill text, participants should map existing elements from US and UK bill XML to the most recent Akoma Ntoso schema.
As part of the U.S. House of Representatives’ commitment to improving transparency and accountability, the House announced the creation of the new online XML version of the United States Code that is available for bulk downloading. The XML version of the United States Code, which resides on the website of the House’s Office of the Law Revision Counsel, is open and available to all, free of charge at: http://uscodebeta.house.gov/download/download.shtml
The Global Survey for ICT in Parliaments 2012 asked parliaments to identify the purposes for which they are currently using XML. The results are highlighted in the Figure.
According to the Global Survey for ICT in Parliaments 2012 43 per cent of the parliaments responding to the survey and having a document management system for bills reported that the system uses XML as the document standard. The comparable percentage from the Global Survey for ICT in Parliaments 2009 was 34 per cent.
The Figure shows the percentages of parliaments that, according to the Global Survey for ICT in Parliaments 2012, use XML for plenary votes, plenary speeches and debates, minutes of plenary sessions, minutes of committees meetings, committee reports and committee hearings.
There are a number of important advantages to the use of open standards in parliaments:
Adopting open data policies means making information freely available in a format that can be examined and reused, assembled in a variety of ways and republished on different platforms. The use of open data can help parliaments become more transparent, accountable and efficient, and can facilitate the presentation of parliamentary information in innovative and more attractive ways. Open data publishing can promote the creation of new way for citizens to interact with members of parliament and participate in parliamentary monitoring and policy analysis.
Open standards are a critical requirement in the parliamentary environment. Documents prepared in proprietary formats - that is formats that can only be managed with particular software or specific hardware from a few vendors - constrain the options available for using them, limit the capacity for meeting future requirements, and ultimately cost more money to maintain, because they will need to be periodically converted to newer standards.