Summary of Open Data Forum, 30 June 2015

December 21, 2015

As temperatures outside reached above 25° on Tuesday 30th June 2015, citizens, civil society, businesses, researchers and public servants assembled in Dublin to discuss the current hot topics in Ireland’s Open Data Initiative. The main purpose of the event was to continue the ongoing engagement with all interested stakeholders; and ensuring that progress in the Open Data Initiative is based on meaningful collaboration leading to an understanding of the real needs of stakeholders. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin T.D., opened the Open Data forum, saying that: “this evening provides an opportunity to tell you what we’ve been doing, and to get your input to help us create a strategic vision for Open Data in Ireland.” The Minister emphasised the importance of good governance arrangements to help realise the benefits for all Open Data stakeholders. A cornerstone of Open Data Governance arrangements will be the Open Data Governance Board (ODGB). The Minister announced “that Expressions of Interest are now being sought from suitably qualified persons for appointment to the Board”. This process is currently advertised on www.stateboards.ie with a deadline of 14th August 2015. Explaining the role of the ODGB, the Minister said that it will “have a leadership role in progressing the Open Data Initiative including identifying opportunities to maximise the value of public sector data and information for long-term economic and social benefit”. Following the Minister’s opening comments, participants listened to a presentation on the newly launched Open Data portal, data.gov.ie, with enhancements including making it more searchable, improved functionality and appearance. A second presentation provided an overview on the two public consultation documents which would form the basis for the evening’s key discussions:

  • 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.

Following these presentations, participants broke into four groups to discuss opportunities for further Open Data progress. These groups focussed on opportunities and challenges arising for public bodies, business, the research community and Civil Society. The sessions raised a number of interesting comments, suggestions and concerns which are set out in detail in the rapporteur notes, which will be uploaded here. Themes emerging from these deliberations included the importance of:

  • identifying high value datasets;
  • releasing data early, even if it is imperfect; and ensuring that it complies with the Technical Framework;
  • delivering a cultural shift in how data is treated, with Open Data becoming the norm over time;
  • developing Data Management Plans to ensure that the publication of datasets is considered at an early stage, as a condition of funding and that there is clarity on how data are treated into the future; for example, after the publication of a research project;
  • building Open Data capacity in public bodies and across the wider stakeholder community;
  • building trust in datasets to encourage re-use, by ensuring compliance with metadata requirements for update information;
  • incentivising use of Open Data through competitions, hackathons, etc to build a demand-side perspective to complement the supply-side focus of the consultation documents;
  • using international best practice to measure the impact of Open Data and publish success stories;
  • developing fully inclusive approaches to consultations and ensuring that these help to capture the views of all stakeholders; and
  • ensuring that Open Data is not treated as an IT issue, but as a business-driven change management process.

The Department of Public Expenditure has committed to ongoing outreach and engagement activities, and will consider best practices in identifying how best to engage with each group to realise the objectives for Open Data in Ireland.