Fingal council open data services gaining momentum

 

ONE OF the defining elements of the Obama administration has been an open data initiative that is now in its second year. This includes the data.gov website that hosts 389,730 datasets on everything from consumer spending to clean air status.

The public is free to download this data and use it to create useful applications such as interactive maps or smartphone apps.

In November 2010, Ireland embarked on the same journey when Fingal County Council became the first council to open up its data to the public. These 70 datasets will be used as part of Ireland’s first open data challenge at the National Digital Research Centre on July 4th-5th.

“What we’re aiming to do is start development of new ideas for products and services in this space while working alongside Fingal County Council and Dublin City’s Dublinked.ie,” says Teresa Dillon, senior content manager with the centre’s Inventorium programme.

Developers, entrepreneurs and end users will meet Inventorium’s product and graphic designers, council dataset engineers and Microsoft developers to brainstorm.

It is hoped that new business ideas will be developed using this council data. A competition will determine winning ideas that go on to receive commercial development support from the centre.

“The challenge is to look at how you can use these datasets, which are paid for by our taxes,” Dillon says.

“The open data initiative has been progressed by the Obama administration in the US and the Open Knowledge Foundation in the UK. The EU has had policies in place since 2003 but now this is gaining momentum. Both NUI Maynooth and the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway have been very supportive of the lead taken by Fingal.”

A further 100 datasets will be added this September when Dublin City Council makes them available on Dublinked.ie.

“We decided to open up the data that underpins our day-to-day operations,” says Dominic Byrne, assistant head of IT at Fingal County Council. “Transparency allows people to see what’s going on in government and lets them work with the council and other public bodies to create commercial products and this is what the open data challenge is about.”

Applications already exist using this data. An iPhone app displays the nearest Bring Banks in the Fingal area with directions and a list of allowed materials.

Byrne hopes the open data challenge will be the beginning of commercial exploitation of untapped data, adding that real-time data will have great potential.