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Open Data Strategy for Ireland & Open Data Technical Framework Submission

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Sat, 22 Aug 2015 22:02:56 BST

As part of the public consultation process in respect of an Open Data Strategy and Open Data Technical Framework for Ireland, Fingal County Council made a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in July 2015.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform launched a public consultation on 15th June 2015 in respect of the following documents -

  • a Foundation Document for the development of Ireland’s Open Data Strategy; and
  • a Technical Framework to underpin the publication of datasets in open data format on the Government’s open data portal data.gov.ie

The following is Fingal County Council's submission in respect of this consultation -

Fingal County Council Submission to Open Data Strategy for Ireland & Open Data Technical Framework Consultation

July 2015

Background

Fingal County Council has been to the forefront of Open Government Data in Ireland. In 2010, the Council became the first Government body in Ireland to publish Open Data via the Fingal Open Data website http://data.fingal.ie There are now over 240 datasets published on Fingal Open Data in open, machine-readable formats under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Fingal County Council has three main objectives for publishing Open Data -

  • Transparency - citizens can access the data that assists the Council and other public sector bodies in making decisions. Citizens can also use this data for additional social value.
  • Participation - citizens can increase their participation in the county of Fingal by using the data to analyse issues, to propose new ideas, to gain an insight into local government and to enrich their lives and their community.
  • Collaboration - citizens and businesses are encouraged to suggest ideas about additional data that could be published, what applications or services could be built using the data and how access to the data might be improved. Citizens and businesses are encouraged to turn this data into apps, websites or other useful products

Fingal County Council welcomes the publication of the Open Data Strategy foundation document and the Open Data Technical Framework by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  The Council made a submission in September 2014 as part of the public consultation process in respect of the development of a national Open Data Strategy for Ireland, which contained a number of recommendations. The Council is pleased to note progress in relation to these recommendations as follows -

1. Outline a Vision for Open Data in Ireland.

Progress:Vision Statement included in the Open Data Strategy foundation document

2. Develop the National Open Data portal (data.gov.ie) as a comprehensive Open Data catalogue for all public sector agencies including Local Government.

Progress:A new version of data.gov.ie was launched on 30th June 2015 incorporating Local Government Data including data from Fingal County Council

3. Develop a cross-public sector data infrastructure to enable a standardised and sustainable approach to data sharing by the public sector.

Progress:Unclear

4. Collect details of the datasets held by each public sector body through a standardised Data Audit procedure and publish the results of the audit output.

Progress:A Data Audit process has been included in the Open Data Strategy foundation document

5. The national Open Data strategy should be aligned with fulfilling Ireland’s obligations under the INSPIRE directive.

Progress:Unclear

6. Agree an Open Data license to use for all Irish Open Data.

Progress:The Open Data Technical Framework document includes a recommendation that all data and metadata linked to data.gov.ie will be associated with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) Licence, at a minimum

 

Strategy Recommendations

The following are Fingal County Council’s recommendations regarding the Open Data Strategy Foundation document -

1. The scope of Open Data covered by the Strategy should be extended to all sectors.

Purpose

Section 3 specifies that the scope of the strategy in relation to the benefits of Open Data covers all sectors of society. However, the scope of Open Data to be published is restricted to Public Sector Open Data. While Government can only be responsible for the publication of Open Government Data, a national Open Data Strategy has the capacity to provide a framework to encourage and support the publication of data by other sectors including Business, Scientific, Culture, Charity and Not-for-Profit organisations. Similar to Open Government Data, the publication of Open Data from other sectors can also provide economic, social and democratic benefits, as outlined by the World Bank. There is also the potential to derive cumulative benefits from the combined reuse of Open Government Data and non-Government Open Data.

2. Establish a mechanism to identify and address issues arising from Open Data.

Purpose

In Section 4, the aims of the Open Data Strategy should include a mechanism to address issues arising from publishing Open Data. The benefits of Open Data are frequently cited when advocating the publication of Open Data. However, the potential also exists for Open Data to give rise to privacy issues and to the emergence of a ‘Data Divide ... the gap between those who have access to and are able to use Open (Government) Data and those who are not so enabled’ (https://gurstein.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/a-data-divide-data-%E2%80%9Chaves%E2%80%9D-and-%E2%80%9Chave-nots%E2%80%9D-and-open-government-data/)

3. The lifecycle approach to publishing Open Data should include updating of datasets.

Purpose

Section 4 outlines a lifecycle approach to Open Data, and Section 10 and 11 outline publication plans and standards. However, the updating of published datasets is not addressed. Once an Open Data dataset is published it is important that it is updated at a frequency appropriate to the dataset. The Strategy should include a requirement that Public Bodies put in place mechanisms to ensure that published datasets are regularly updated.

4. The Vision, Goals and Benefits for Open Data should include Community Development as an aim.

Purpose

Sections 5 and 6 outline a Vision, Goals and Benefits for the Open Data Strategy - including economic and democratic objectives.  Open Data can also play a key role in supporting community development and engagement. The “Putting People First” Action Programme for Effective Local Government sets out a comprehensive framework for supporting community development.  The publishing of relevant Open Data by Local Authorities, public bodies and other service providers can support the community-led bottom-up approach to community development envisaged in “Putting People First”.

Suggested amendment to the Vision – “This Open Data Strategy aims to create an environment where, by opening up Government data, new opportunities for research, innovation, transparency, engagement, community development and greater efficiency are delivered and realised by public bodies, businesses, researchers and citizens.”

Suggested amendment to the Goals – “4. For Citizens and Civil Society to participate in the Open Data process and utilise datasets for transparency, democratic purposes and community development.”

Suggested amendment to the Benefits – add “Support community development” to the list of social and democratic benefits.

5. The Open Data strategy should be aligned with fulfilling Ireland’s obligations under the INSPIRE directive.

Purpose

Under the EU INSPIRE directive, public sector bodies are required to participate in establishing a Europe-wide Spatial Data Infrastructure including data-sharing and metadata services for public service spatial data.  The requirements in respect of the relevant datasets are similar to the requirements for publishing Open Data.  Therefore it would be an efficient use of resources if each public sector body, when making their datasets available for INSPIRE, were to also publish them as Open Data.

Section 7 outlines how the Open Data Strategy is aligned with various other initiatives and legislative requirements. A paragraph on INSPIRE should be included in this section.

6. The scope of the Open Data Strategy should include Open Content and Open Access data types.

Purpose

Section 10 includes a definition of a dataset for the purpose of the Open Data Strategy which is essentially restricted to tabular or geospatial data. This definition excludes Open Content including text documents, photographs, video and other media. It also excludes Open Access i.e. scientific information. There is wealth of Open Content and Open Access data held by public bodies which could realise great benefits if released as Open Data. The European Commission’s Communication on Open Data includes reference to these data types.

 

Technical Framework Recommendations

The following are Fingal County Council’s recommendations regarding the Open Data Technical Framework document -

1. Publishing Open Data should include updating of datasets.

Purpose

The “Publishing Open Data” section of the document sets out a “planned and structured approach to the publication of datasets as Open Data”. However, the updating of published datasets is not addressed.  Once an Open Data dataset is published it is important that it is updated at a frequency appropriate to the dataset. The Framework should include a requirement that Public Bodies put in place mechanisms to ensure that published datasets are regularly updated, and the Decision Process Map should incorporate update and review of datasets as part of the publication lifecycle.

2. The Open Data Checklist/Audit should incorporate INSPIRE.

Purpose

Annex 2 sets out an Open Data Checklist.  Additional item(s) should be added to this checklist to cover INSPIRE e.g. Is this dataset covered by the INSPIRE Directive? If so, (i) is INSPIRE metadata available for this dataset and (ii) has this dataset been published under the INSPIRE Directive?

 

Responses to Consultation Questions

The following are Fingal County Council’s response to the Consultation Questions in the Open Data Strategy foundation document -

  1. The Council agrees with the use of the Open Knowledge definition of Open Data.
  2. The principles itemised would be acceptable to the Council. The Council would suggest the inclusion of additional principles as follows -
    • The release of Open Data aims to improve governance, facilitate innovation and support community development
    • Open Data will be published to specified standards in respect of quality, completeness, consistency and persistency.
  3. The Council welcomes the inclusion of auditing and publication approaches which will facilitate participation by public bodies. The training events referred to in Section 13.3 are also welcome, but these should be complemented by awareness briefings for all Public Servants including the benefits of Open Data and the responsibilities of public servants.
  4. It is not clear from the document which COMSODE methodology is being referenced or if this is related to the Open Data Checklist in the Technical Framework document.
  5. The Council would suggest prioritising the various elements of the Technical Framework in the following order -
    • Audits and Publication Process
    • Open Data Licence
    • Metadata Schema
    • Formats
    • Standards
    • Unique Resource Identifiers
  6. Any dataset published on data.gov.ie should comply with minimum standards. However, it may also be appropriate to publish a version of the dataset in a non-Open format for the purpose of providing context (e.g. a CSV file of data and the corresponding PDF document with the formatted version of the data), but only if an Open version of the dataset is also published.
  7. The datasets included in the following should be prioritised -
    • High value datasets itemised in Section 4 of the foundation document
    • High value data listed in the G8 Open Data Charter
    • Datasets associated with the strategic priorities of Government, Local Authorities and Public Bodies
    • Datasets requested by citizens or businesses via the various Open Data Portals including Fingal Open Data, Dublinked and data.gov.ie
  8. The datasets included in the following should also be considered for prioritised publishing -
  9. The appropriate formats are outlined in Section 4.2 of the Technical Framework
  10. The Council would strongly encourage the use of Pilot Projects and Use Cases in relation to Open Data. Fingal Open Data includes examples of Open Data reuse on its Apps page at http://data.fingal.ie/Apps/
  11. Yes, Fingal County Council would be happy to participate in any outreach or dissemination activities organised to promote the Open Data Strategy and would also be happy to contribute to the identification and planning of such activities. The Council has previously organised such activities and is also involved in on-going Open Data activities through the Dublinked partnership.
  12. The Council would be interested in the following activities -
    • Public Sector Awareness
    • Business Awareness
    • Local Community Awareness
    • Challenges and Competitions

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