January 31, 2013, 3:29 AM — Japan's conservative economy ministry has launched a new site that offers its data for download under a Creative Commons license.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Open DATA METI" project has gone public under what the government is calling a trial beta version, currently available only in Japanese. The website currently offers data on Japan's energy use, industrial manufacturing, and intellectual property, as well as government white papers on topics such as small and medium businesses.
Japan's government bureaucracy currently makes its statistics and data available to the public in a wide range of formats and locations, and key figures are often buried deep within ministry Web pages. Many parts of the government still employ a rigid "kisha club" or "reporter club" system that limits access to a pre-approved groups of journalists.
METI's site makes use of a license from the nonprofit organization Creative Commons that can be modified for the different kinds of data it offers. Currently government statistics require only attribution, while white papers also mandate that the contents can't be modified. The data is available in Excel and HTML formats.
The site is built on CKAN, an open source platform for publishing large sets of data. The platform has been adopted by many governments looking to make their public data more accessible and is also used in countries such as the U.K., Austria, and Brazil.
For its initial launch, METI has released 79 data sets containing about 3,000 different resources. The ministry plans to release a much bigger set of information, including data on Japan's electricity production, broader manufacturing data, and services industries.
METI launched a working group to make its public data more uniform and accessible last year, noting that this is the norm in U.S. and Europe. The current project includes plans to actively share its progress with other sections of the government.