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Open Government Partnership Submission

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Thu, 03 Oct 2013 11:12:04 BST

The following submission by Fingal County Council in respect of the development of a National Action Plan for Ireland's participation in the Open Government Partnership, was submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in September 2013.

Submission to Open Government Partnership Ireland Consultation

September 2013

Background

Fingal County Council has been to the forefront of Open Local Government in Ireland.  In 2005 the Council was the first Local Authority in Irelandto webcast Council meetings including Area Committee meetings and meetings of Balbriggan Town Council.  The webcasts can be seen at http://www.fingalcoco.public-i.tv  The Council has published details of Councillors Allowances, Expenses, Payments and Conference attendance since 2009.  All agendas, minutes and reports of Council meetings, Area Committee meetings and Strategic Policy Committee meetings are published on the Council’s website.  The Council is currently integrating the Council Meeting Management System with the Webcasting System to allow a direct link between minutes of a Meeting and the archived Webcast.  This will facilitate a better overview and understanding of the discussions, debates and processes involved.

Through the work of the Fingal Data Hub initiative http://www.fdb.ie/fingaldatahub Fingal has actively pursued a goal of increased inter-agency data-sharing to support interagency co-operation, service planning and statistical profiling.  This initiative produced a protocol and technology platform which enabled the sharing of data relating to Fingal between nine agencies – local and national.

In 2010, Fingal County Council became the first Government body in Irelandto publish Open Data via the Fingal Open Data website http://data.fingal.ie  There are now over 200 datasets published on Fingal Open Data in open, machine-readable formats under the Irish PSI licence.  The Council has actively encouraged others to reuse this published data and in 2011 organised the Apps4Fingal competition http://data.fingal.ie/apps4fingal  This competition resulted in the creation of 22 working Apps which used Open Data.  A number of the participants are now pursuing the commercialisation of their Apps.

Open Data can also enable improved access to and understanding of information relating to Government.  Fingal County Council has published its Annual Budget data in Open, machine-readable formats on Fingal Open Data.  This data has been visualised using the Open Spending website at http://openspending.org/fingal_exp_budget which presents the Council budget in a useful and engaging form.

The Council is also an active participant in the Dublinked project http://www.dublinked.ie along with Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council and NUI Maynooth.  Dublinked aims to support data-driven innovation in the Dublin Region through the release of data and organising events.

Fingal County Council is particularly keen to encourage increased Citizen Participation – particularly in Local Government.  The Council provided a facility for citizens to make online mapped submissions in respect of the last County Development Plan.  The Council is currently developing a Public Realm Strategy for Malahide and has undertaken extensive engagement with citizens, businesses and visitors of the town through a creative workshop-based engagement process.  The Council will also pilot the use of online deliberation using web technologies through the SOWIT project http://sowit.eu/

Fingal County Council has actively encouraged the engagement of young people in democratic processes.  In developing the Malahide Public Realm strategy the Council actively engaged with 600 students from four schools in the area, giving the young people of Malahide an opportunity to contribute to planning the future of their area.  Fingal Comhairle na nÓg http://www.fcnn.ie/ is a young peoples' council that represents 12 to 18 year olds in Fingal and has been going strong for 10 years.  It is facilitated by Fingal County Council and provides young people with a voice at community level and representation annually at the national Dáil na nÓg.  The Council also recently initiated Placeshapers http://placeshapers.wordpress.com/ - an architecture and urban design project for young people in partnership with the Irish Architecture Foundation.  The project enabled transition year students to investigate the architecture and urban design of their communities and to engage with the people who build, design and plan their built environment.  This year the Council will pilot a programme for transition year work experience that will provide the students with a hands-on and engaging experience of working across the wide variety of Council Service areas.  The programme will also serve to increase the students’ awareness of Local Government.

Fingal County Council welcomes the decision that Ireland join the Open Government Partnership and believes that there is an opportunity to include actions in the Action Plan that would further develop work that we have been engaged in relating to Open Government.

The following are Fingal County Council’s recommendations for actions to be included in the Action Plan –

Recommendations

1.         All public sector bodies will be required to share with other public sector bodies aggregated administrative data relating to the services that they provide.  This data will be provided at administrative county and sub-county levels including Local Electoral Areas and Small Areas of Population.

Purpose

The Report of the Fingal Data Sharing Initiative identified that the lack of reporting of administrative data from public sector bodies at administrative county and sub-county levels “presented a number of challenges and blockages to interagency co-operation, service planning and statistical profiling”.  The report proposed a number of actions including Data Audits of the relevant public bodies, geocoding and aggregating of administrative data and sharing of data via a technical platform (Fingal Data Hub – http://www.fdb.ie/fingaldatahub).  The implementation of the reports recommendations was a success for Fingal and resulted in the provision of quality data that enabled improved service planning.  However, the initiative has not continued to deliver data on an on-going basis, as this approach is not embedded within the relevant public bodies – particularly those bodies operating on a national basis.

The inclusion of the above proposed action would enable this data to be provided on an on-going basis – not just to Fingal, but to all Local Authorities and indeed all public sector bodies who require administrative data for service planning.  This data could be shared through a public service data sharing platform or indeed published as Open Data if appropriate.  The implementation of Post Codes should negate the need for geocoding to provide the data at administrative county and sub-county levels.

 

2.         Create a National Open Data portal (including data catalogue and data store) for the purpose of publishing Open Data from public service bodies.

Purpose

Fingal County Council and the Dublin Local Authorities have published a large number of datasets.  The value of these datasets is increased when they can be combined with datasets that other public sector bodies release to provide new insights and new opportunities for innovation and economic development.

 

3.         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.

Purpose

A catalogue containing details of datasets held by each public sector body would facilitate the publishing of Open Data and the sharing of public sector data.  There are existing requirements for public sector bodies in the eGovernment Strategy to identify datasets that they hold and under the Freedom of Information Act to publish information about records that they hold.

In Fingal, the Report of the Fingal Data Sharing Initiative resulted in a data audit being carried out of selected datasets held by the various participating agencies.  The timely completion of the audit was facilitated by having an external body carry out the audit.  The use of a standardised format for the audit in each agency facilitated the subsequent process of sharing the datasets.  Ideally the metadata collected in a data audit would include currency, update frequency, accuracy, purpose of collection, any limitations on publishing or sharing, format, and details of source system.

 

4.         Implement a common Business Identifier for businesses which will be recorded in all Business Registers held by public sector bodies, and require public sector bodies to share Business Register data across the public Sector.

Purpose

It is currently difficult to match data on businesses stored by different public sector bodies.  Fingal County Council is currently in the process of developing an economic profile for the Fingal area.  The purpose of the economic profile is to enable strategic economic planning for the County; to monitor the economic health of the County on an on-going basis; and to plan the provision of services and supports to existing enterprises and start-ups in the context of the introduction of Local Enterprise Offices (LEO).  In the absence of a common Business Identifier, the Council is engaged in a data matching exercise of GeoDirectory against Business Databases.

Action 2.6 of the Public Service Reform Plan outlines three actions intended to improve the sharing of data on businesses across the public sector.  These actions relate to utilising the Revenue Business Register, but there should also be a requirement for the sharing of data between public sector bodies.

The implementation of this action would enable the coordinated provision of services to businesses including registration and licensing services; improved efficiencies in public sector bodies in dealing with business data; and would facilitate economic analysis and planning by Local Authorities and public sector bodies.

 

5.         Develop a student programme to be implemented in partnership by schools and Local Authorities.  The programme would concentrate on citizenship and participation in decision-making processes and would also integrate existing initiatives including Comhairle na nÓg, Green Schools, sports, enterprise, arts, libraries.  The programme would also complement the CPSE curriculum

Purpose

The Open Government Partnership envisages citizens who are mobilised “to engage in public debate, provide input, and make contributions that lead to more responsive, innovative and effective governance”.  This can be facilitated by practical education and learning opportunities in democracy and citizenship.  Local Government is responsible for planning and decision-making in relation to matters that directly affect local communities and is the ideal environment for this learning.

Fingal County Council currently operates a very effective Comhairle na nÓg and has recently facilitated the Placeshapers programme which enabled transition year students to engage in the planning and design of their urban environment.  There are a range of other initiatives that Local Government operate in cooperation with schools which could be coordinated through a student programme.


The submitted document can be found on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform along with other submissions made and background information on the Open Government Partnership at http://per.gov.ie/open-government-partnership-ogp/

 

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