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9th Open Data Ireland Meetup

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Thu, 01 Aug 2013 14:04:16 BST

The 9th Open Data Ireland Meetup took place on Thursday 18th July in EngineYard, Barrow Street, Dublin. The theme of this meetup was Local Government, and was attended by over 30 people.

It was a beautiful summer's evening for the meetup - however this meant that it was too bright in the room to show slidedecks!  The various speakers carried on regardless to give their perspective on Open Data in Local Government in Ireland.

The first speaker of the evening was Dominic Byrne who spoke about Open Data in Local Government in Ireland.  Dominic explained the background to how Fingal County Council came to be the first Government body in Ireland to publish Open Data through Fingal Open Data.  He also spoke about the Dublinked project and highlighted a number of other Irish Local Authorities who are publishing Open Data - Clare, Sligo, Limerick, Roscommon, and Galway County.  He reviewed various events that had been held to encourage reuse of data and then highlighted examples of how data has been reused.  He also showed a newly created Budget Visualisation for Fingal County Council created using OpenSpending.org  Finally, Dominic highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities for Local Government Open Data including the Open Government Partnership Consultation, Linked Open Data and reuse of data for the benefit of Local Communities.‎

Budget Blog

Pauline Sargent was up next to speak about her work on HyperLocal and Open DataHyperLocal is 'online news or content services pertaining to a town, village, single postcode or other small, geographically defined community'.  Pauline manages the DrimnaghisGood blog and spoke of the current network of c. 30 HyperLocal bloggers in Ireland which she would like to see growing.  She explained how HyperLocal can help in developing community spirit as well as providing practical information and news for the community.  Pauline spoke about the kind of data that she would like to see Local Government releasing which would be of direct benefit to Local Communities including Public Representatives clinics, Parks staffing and budgets, Costs of local facilities, Mobile Libraries, Local Crime data and Census data to support funding applications.

The third speaker was Jason Hare, Open Data Program Manager for Raleigh, North Carolina.  Jason had previously spoken via Google Hangouts at the 2nd Open Data Ireland Meetup and regularly joins the meetups online, so it was great to be able to meet and hear him speak in person.  Jason spoke about Open Raleigh and how it started out as a transparency initiative but quickly became a data management project.  He spoke about data events that they run to encourage partnerships with others.  They have found that data visualisations are a great way to engage people as they make the data more accessible.  They work hard to engage with citizens, asking them what they want and encouraging local conversations.  Jason gave an example of work currently being done in the area of parking data and apps.  The data is currently poor, but they are working together with other municipalities to agree standard formats and improve the quality of the data.

Open Data Meetup 9

‎After a break for beer and pizza and lots of conversation, we resumed with a chat about Open Data in Local Government -

* How do we ensure that once data is published, it doesn't subsequently get switched off?
Jason said that in Raleigh, they aim to introduce SLAs with a commitment to making best effort to keep data available - the approach is the same as that for any other Local Government service such as maintaining streets, public lighting, street signs, etc.

* What is the Best App that has been created for Raleigh?
The Raleigh Trails App.

... the Worst App?
A Crime App - because of the way the data was represented.

... the Most Popular Data?
Expenditure Budget and Building Permits

* There was a question about how to ensure the sustainability of Open Data.
Jason pointed out that other Open Data initiatives in the U.S. have faltered or stopped.  He believes that the adoption of Open Data policies by National and Local Government is important to ensure that Open Data become part of the normal working of Government.

* Jason was asked about Partnerships and Relationships that the City of Raleigh have developed with others around Open Data.
RedHat have helped them build a Service Oriented Data Architecture to de-silo data; for RedHat this serves as a demonstrator of their technology capability.  The Research Triangle Institute also work closely with them to both obtain and provide data.

* There was a discussion on what the next big opportunity would be with Open Data.
While there is a lot of focus on Big Data at the moment, Open Data initiatives generally consist of large numbers of small datasets.  The challenge is to enable people to navigate all of this data and to easily access the data that is of relevance to them in their everyday lives.  The opportunity here is the long tail of data.

* How do we make Open Data more accessible to citizens?
We need to provide easy to use tools and visualisations to enable ease of access to the data.  Jason said that this was a key feature of Open Raleigh

* How do we identify data that's important?
We should focus on the problem, rather than the data.  If we can identify the challenges that citizens face, these will in turn highlight the data that is required in order to address these challenges.  Organising unconferences which aim to involve citizens, data owners and developers can be more successful than hackathons which generally only attract developers.

The meetup finished up with Denis Parfenov telling us that Open Data Ireland meetups will take a break for August and will be back again in September for Meetup #10 on a date to be decided.  Keep an eye on the Open Data Ireland Google Group and https://tito.io/open-data-ireland/ for details.

It was great to have an meetup on the theme of Local Government which provided lots of food for thought on where we should concentrate our efforts - particularly with Fingal Open Data and Dublinked - but also Open Data across all of Local Government in Ireland.

Thanks to everyone who attended and participated, to Denis Parfenov for facilitating, to Pauline Sargent, Jason Hare, and Dominic Byrne for presenting.   And as ever a special thank you to Eamon Leonard for hosting.

#opendatairl tweets from the meetup have been storified at http://storify.com/Fingal/9th-open-data-ireland-meetup

Dominic Byrne,
31st July, 2013.

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