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Open Data Strategy for Ireland Submission

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Wed, 06 May 2015 15:16:15 BST

As part of the public consultation process in respect of the development of a national Open Data Strategy for Ireland, Fingal County Council made a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in September 2014.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is developing a national Open Data strategy for Ireland in line with commitments contained within Ireland's Open Government Partnership Action Plan

The national Open Data portal data.gov.ie was launched on 22nd July 2014 as an alpha site with 415 datasets from 45 public bodies. Local Government is not included at this stage, but hopefully this will change with the next iteration.

As part of the preparatory work for the strategy, Insight Galway have produced the following reports -

Best Practice Handbook
Data Audit Report
Roadmap
Evaluation Framework
Open Data Publication Handbook

Further information can be fund on the Department's website at http://www.per.gov.ie/open-data/

Submissions in respect of the Open Data strategy can be made up to 5pm on 30th September 2014 to [email protected]

The following is Fingal County Council's submission -


Fingal County Council Submission to Open Data Strategy for Ireland Consultation

September 2014

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 230 datasets published on Fingal Open Data in open, machine-readable formats under the terms of the Irish PSI 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

The Council has actively encouraged others to reuse the 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 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.

As well as enabling improved understanding of information for citizens, Open Data can also enable improvements within local communities.  Fingal County Council supports initiatives such as Code for Ireland (http://codeforireland.com/) which aim to utilise data to create apps and services that benefit local communities.

The Council is 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 release of data and organising of events.

Through the work of the Fingal Data Hub initiative 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.

Open Data and Data Analytics are enablers in Fingal County Council’s Economic Development Strategy.  Open Data can be used by businesses and startups to create apps and services.  Businesses can also use demographic data to support decisions on business locations and marketing.

Fingal County Council welcomes the Open Data commitments contained within Ireland’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan and the publication of the research reports.  These reports will provide valuable guidance in developing an Open Data strategy for Ireland and will also be very useful to public bodies in publishing Open Data.  The roadmap report provides a particularly useful framework for the proposed Open Data strategy and Fingal County Council is in broad agreement with the objectives set out in the roadmap.  The remainder of this document will primarily focus on the roadmap report and the recommendations that Fingal County Council consider to be of particular importance.

The following are Fingal County Council’s recommendations regarding an Open Data Strategy for Ireland –

 

Recommendations

1.         Outline a Vision for Open Data in Ireland.

Purpose

Fingal County County is currently integrating its Open Data initiative into a broader Knowledge Management strategy in order to ensure that Open Data publishing becomes an integral part of Council processes.  This will ensure that the required Open Data can be made available for reuse for transparency, participation and collaboration purposes.  Likewise, a national Open Data strategy should outline a vision for Open Data publishing and reuse in Ireland.  Any objectives and actions identified should contribute to achieving this vision.

 

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

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.

Objective S.5 in the proposed roadmap aims to publish all Open Government Data via a national portal.  The pilot national Open Data portal does not include dataset records from Local Authorities or state-sponsored bodies.  The future development of the portal should include Local Authority data.  An example of Local Government data that could be included is the Local Election 2014 data available at http://data.localgov.ie

Where Government data is already published as Open Data, this data should not be re-published via the national portal as this will lead to data duplication and inconsistency of data versions.  Instead the national Open Data portal should provide for federated publishing of existing Open Data catalogues such as Dublinked and Fingal Open Data.  The catalogue entries should provide a link to the location of the published data, which may or may not be on the national Open Data portal.

 

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

Purpose

This is Objective M.6 in the proposed roadmap.  From our experience to date, Fingal County Council considers this to be a critical objective in enabling the long-term sustainable publishing of Open Data.  It is relatively straightforward to initially publish Open Data as a one-off exercise.  It is far more difficult to embed Open Data publishing within the processes of public sector bodies.

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 report's recommendations was a success for Fingal and resulted in the provision of quality data that enabled improved service planning.  However, the initiative did not continue to deliver data on an on-going basis, as this approach was not embedded within the relevant public bodies – particularly those bodies operating on a national basis.

The inclusion of the above proposed action would enable 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 and published as Open Data via data.gov.ie as appropriate.  The implementation of EirCodes should negate the need for geocoding to provide the data at administrative county and sub-county levels.

 

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.

Purpose

There are a number of limitations to the published Data Audit report which are outlined in the report e.g. Local Authorities were not included.  In addition the methodology relied on an online review – therefore data that is not currently available or referenced online is not included

A catalogue containing details of the data holdings of 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 in 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.

 

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

Purpose

Objective S.2 in the proposed roadmap recommends that the national Open Data strategy be aligned with other national data strategy including the National Spatial Data Strategy.  However, no explicit mention is made of the INSPIRE directive.  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.

 

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

Purpose

This is Objective S.4 in the proposed roadmap.  Fingal Open Data uses the Irish PSI licence from http://psi.gov.ie/  However, a number of re-users of the data have highlighted limitations of this licence as highlighted in the Best Practice Handbook.  Identification of an Open licence which conforms to international best practice would be of great practical benefit to data re-users.  It would also be important that such a licence be applied to all Open Data from public sector bodies, as at present there are a wide variety of licences, copyright protection and data access procedures in place for various Government agencies which inhibit ease of re-use of data.

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