Data is the bedrock of sound public policy. But which data? How should it be collected and by whom? And how can governments make it accessible and useful to everyone?
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its draft “Principles for Open Measurement,” which set a new high-water mark for rigor in public sector broadband measurement programs. This is an important commitment to rigorous, scientific research that can serve as a model for other public sector initiatives. You can view the FCC’s published principles here, here, and here.
As governments have sorted out policies for collection, analysis, and dissemination of public sector information, there’s broad consensus around openness as a keystone value. Making public sector information accessible drives innovation, allowing third-parties to make the data more useful to citizens. And opening up access to public sector information drives economic growth. In one study, experts estimate that in Europe alone the benefits could amount to €140-180 billion annually.
When the FCC started its broadband measurement program over 2 years ago, it baked openness into its practices by relying on Measurement Lab (M-Lab). Consumers use M-Lab to test the speed and performance of their broadband connection, and all the tools and data are made openly accessible so that they can be reviewed, improved, and validated rigorously.
Over 180 million tests have been run (more than 575 terabytes of data collected), and third parties have been able to turn the data into visualizations of speed and performance that are useful to consumers. We're excited that the “Principles for Open Measurement” reflect the same principles that underlie M-Lab and the benefits the project has created for researchers, policymakers, and users alike.
Meredith Whittaker is a Program Manager in Google Research. She leads initiatives related to Internet measurement, and helps coordinate Google's support for the M-Lab Collaborative.