If you are making content available for re-use, you should give thought to some additional factors which can remove barriers to its re-use. It is especially important to provide very clear statements of the rights and responsibilities of potential re-users, provide content in formats that are easy for re-users to consume (manually or through software), and provide enough supporting context that users understand exactly what you are making available.
Giving consideration to the points on this page will help you ensure that you are in line with good practice in Information Management when releasing information or data for re-use.
Ownership and authority
- Material published for re-use must clearly identify the agency(ies) responsible for it.
- Material should contain or be accompanied by agency contact details. At the least, this should be an email address monitored by staff qualified to receive and respond to queries about its use.
- Copyright works should be licensed for re-use in accordance with the NZ Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL). Apply a NZGOAL or equivalent re-use licence.
- The re-use licence should set out, at a minimum, re-users rights and obligations including requirements for attribution or any necessary disclaimers.
Accuracy and validity
- Any constraints to the accuracy of material being published should be clearly stated. It should include information such as margin of error and confidence levels, known gaps or omissions, or specific areas where reliability cannot accurately be determined.
- Check with your legal teams whether disclaimers are required in such circumstances.
- Material such as raw data should clearly indicate when and how it was captured, when the dataset was created, when it was last updated and the expected frequency of update.
- Choose formats that are both easy to use and most likely to be accessible in the future. Choose openly documented formats over closed formats, or ensure that material released in closed formats is also accompanied by an equivalent in open formats.
- Avoid publishing data in product-dependent file formats.
- Refer to the NZGOAL Guidance Note on file formats. You should ensure re-usable data is published in widely adopted machine-readable formats.
- Where necessary, provide information on how to access the material, particularly when the means of access is via an Application Programming Interface (API).
- Accompany data with an appropriate set of metadata in a schema that supports the data being released (e.g. the ANZLIC metadata profile for geospatial data, Dublin Core for general information, etc).
- If releasing tabular data for re-use, ensure it is laid out as simply as possible. Avoid complex spreadsheet layouts containing merged cells or nested tables.
- If tabular data cannot be presented in Comma Separated Variable (CSV) format (i.e. with no visual formatting), you should query the business unit responsible for releasing the data and determine whether it can be laid out more simply.
- If releasing data via an API, choose the most easily usable format for the API. Formats such as JSON or XML should be preferred over more complex formats like SOAP where possible.
- Ensure that APIs are fully documented. Check Govt.nz for an example of good API documentation.
- Structure API endpoints so that upgrades to APIs do not hinder access to data for users of previous API versions. For example, Govt.nz could release an upgraded API as https://beta.govt.nz/api/v2/ while still providing access to the superseded version as https://beta.govt.nz/api/v1/. This allows existing users time to adapt their usage to the new version without impacting their current use of the API.
- Allow API users to select their preferred data format by manipulating URLs - check the high-level documentation of the Govt.nz API for a good example.
- Ensure access to information is reasonably priced. Use and re-use of government-held information is expected to be free. Charging for access is discouraged.
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