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Irish Government announces Open Data objectives

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Sat, 19 Nov 2011 11:49:44 GMT

Fingal County Hall, Swords, Fingal

In my September blog post Open Data in Ireland – where are we now? I set out my view on what needed to happen to encourage Irish Government agencies to publish Open Data.  I outlined the need for a Government policy which states that Government departments, agencies and local authorities should publish Open Data.

I am delighted to see that yesterday the Irish Government published such a policy statement within the Public Service Reform Plan.  The Plan sets out objectives in relation to Open Data, Inter-Agency Data Sharing, National Open Data Portal and Statistical Data.


Open Data

Section 2.5 of the Plan states –

“Citizens and businesses should have access to information on the availability and performance of key services. Increased sharing and publication of public data will increase transparency, aid the democratic process and drive better decision-making for individuals and businesses, as well as for Government and the Public Service.”

and it sets out the following corresponding action –

“Publish data held by Public Service organisations online where possible within legal constraints.  This should be explored both within the Public Service and with academic and private sector organisations, and should seek to identify how such publishing can be done in a way that provides value to the general public and facilitates the development of both free and commercial products.”

These clearly set out a requirement for Public Service organisations to publish Open Data for the purpose of Open Government and Economic Development.


Inter-Agency Data Sharing

I also outlined the opportunity for the public sector to achieve efficiencies through inter-agency data sharing.  The Government’s Plan includes the following objective –

 “We will improve the sharing of data across Government to reduce costs and enhance customer service.”

 and underpins this and the previous objective with the following action –

 “Review all relevant legislative provisions in relation to data sharing between public bodies and develop principles for the sharing of data. This should have regard to data protection legislation including the forthcoming Directive and consideration of any amendments which may be necessary in this regard.”

The Fingal Data Hub project which started back in 2004 achieved a great deal in this regard but was limited by being restricted to Fingal.  This action will address the limitations we encountered.  I believe that inter-agency data sharing will be critical to the success of Open Data in Ireland as it will enable direct benefits to be gained in the public sector through improved efficiencies.


National Open Data Portal

Some of the most successful Open Data initiatives around the world have come in the form of national Open Data portals such as data.gov and data.gov.uk

The Plan states that –

“More information and services should be available online and through electronic channels.”

with a corresponding objective –

“Publish existing online information and services through a centralised portal to increase awareness and access. Leverage this portal to provide centralised and structured access to public service data online.”

This would appear to indicate that the Irish Government will create a portal comprising both Open Data and online Government Services – perhaps through http://www.gov.ie


Statistical Data

Finally, the Plan outlines an objective to utilise statistical data for decision-making, planning and service delivery –

“Develop a code of practice for data gathering and its use for statistical purposes across the Public Service, to facilitate improved usefulness of the data gathered for decision-making, planning and service delivery and the reduction of the potential for fraud.”

the supporting actions are –

"Assign the lead role for the development of a code of practice and standards for the gathering and use of data for statistical purposes in the Public Service.

Develop an integrated approach to the collection of administrative data across the Public Service, including a strategy to promote consistent approaches to, and systematic uses of, data (including identifiers, classifications and geo-spatial/postcode data) in service planning and delivery.

Assess the legislative environment with a view to identifying the scope for additional and greater uses of statistical data, including any potential legislative changes where necessary.”


The Next Phase

Two days ago, we celebrated the 1st anniversary of the launch of Fingal Open Data.  Fingal County Council launched this first Open Data website in the country because we believe in the benefits that publishing our data can bring in the areas of transparency, participation, collaboration and economic development.  We also set out to play a leading role in Open Data in Ireland and to encourage other Local Authorities, Government Departments and Agencies to also publish Open Data.  In the Dublinked initiative we are proud to be active partners with our sister Local Authorities in the Dublin region and NUI Maynooth.  With the Apps4Fingal competition we are now encouraging the development of applications and services that make use of Open Data.

One year on, we are delighted to see the Government committing to the publishing of Open Data.  Fingal County Council looks forward to playing an active part in this next phase of Open Data in Ireland as more Irish Public Service organisations start publishing Open Data.  In a year’s time who knows what innovative applications will emerge from the combination of diverse datasets published by different organisations.  It’s going to be an interesting year ahead for Open Data in Ireland and we’re looking forward to being part of it.


Dominic Byrne,

Fingal County Council.


18th November, 2011



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