Home > government, linked > Open Data experiences at the IIEA

Open Data experiences at the IIEA

February 16, 2011

Yesterday attended the IIEA supported talk from Nigel Shadbolt [1,2,3] about TBL[4] and his experiences of creating data.gov.uk and dealing with individual data huggers within the UK public service. About 30 people there and a lively Q&A session followed. The IIEA are to be congratulated I think, and I hope many more talks like this can be held.

Getting into it the content of the talk, firstly, topics for persuading those who may not “see the light” on Open Data are :

  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Engagement
  • Improve Public Service Efficiency
  • Economic and Social Values
  • Crowd sourcing error correction
  • Follow the 5 Stars approach – baby steps

Some government departments embrace the idea, others were not so welcoming (eg Ordnance Survey [10]). Local government are often those most enthusiastic about open data because it brings people to them with a context – informed residents make better rate payers effectively  (!) – better decisions about everything from budget allocations, police statistics, bicycle accident blackspots to potholes[6] can be made because of informed two-way communications. MySociety[5,7] volunteers are harnessing this new capability. Local councils also benefit because of the visibility they now have into other councils – they can compare how much they paid for grit last winter for instance, and work out if their money was well spent – something they couldn’t do before.

The Open Data project in the UK is far from complete, but progress is being made.  People want to see and use the data even if its not perfect, people can do things with the data government never would or could, what has been already created is not perfect but it keeps getting better. However, top-down “encouragement” is sometimes necessary and (to paraphrase) a change in attitude from “don’t publish until an FoI request comes in” to “publish by default (bar clearly personal data)” creates an environment for success. The current Tory/LibDem coalition government have taken up the mantle now and Nigel Shadbolt is on the board of the new Public Sector Transparency Board.[9]


Here in Ireland I believe we need someone like Nigel and this needs to be an “information tsar” rather than a minister. The landscape and attitude are different here, and even though Nigel emphasised that the UK project was far from complete or perfect,  I think if we in Ireland had even a portion of that has been done in the UK, we’d be living in a different kind of country.

I’d suggest that Democracy thrives on Open Data, and for the citizens in a democracy, information is power.

The slides for the presentation aren’t available on the IIEA site yet, but I expect they will be soon. In the mean time, I found some similar (but more technical) ones[8] from a previous talk elsewhere.

  1. http://dbpedia.org/page/Nigel_Shadbolt
  2. http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/people/nrs
  3. http://www.informatik.uni-trier.de/~ley/db/indices/a-tree/s/Shadbolt:Nigel.html
  4. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/card
  5. http://www.mysociety.org/
  6. http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/
  7. http://www.fixmystreet.com/
  8. http://esd.org.uk/esdtoolkit/Documents.ashx?doc=NigelShadbolt1&agency=527
  9. http://data.gov.uk/blog/new-public-sector-transparency-board-and-public-data-transparency-principles
  10. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/
Categories: government, linked Tags: , , , ,
  1. February 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Ultan, good post – and nice to meet you at the event. The IIEA has now posted a video of Nigel’s presentation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=srPinVmjBOE

    • February 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      Hi Jonny – likewise! Not sure I’ll be able to get to the meeting at the Sugar Club on the 21st but I’ve issued a rallying call to a variety of people. Hope the dignataries make it too, and they get to see first hand the ground swell.

  2. February 24, 2011 at 6:29 am

    seems to me that we need them to make the map of ireland ireland commons and then as he said go local…

  3. February 25, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Good to find out that Comp Sci people are getting out of the academic boxes and applying their knowledge to something that is immediately relevant to all of us 🙂 And that it is a professor from my alma mater too 🙂

    As for our Bulgarian government, I wish they put up detailed data where my tax money is going to 🙂

    • February 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      Here in Ireland we know exactly where our tax money is going to, and its not to worthwhile projects…

  4. February 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Come on, there must be some trustworthy people, people with integrity. I can’t believe all people in government are bad 🙂 And that’s the point of bringing more transparency – to encourage those who want to serve and do good, and at the same time to discourage opportunistic behaviour 🙂

    • February 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      Even as a jaded cynic 🙂 I can’t believe it either, but there’s not too much evidence here of real belief in democracy combined with trust and integrity. Maybe someone can list those singular representatives that do meet those criteria for me, or persuade me that I’m deluded to expect such an ideal.

      Personally. my belief, that even with this current Election, its not until we have complete electoral reform that we’ll get anywhere. OpenData is a small line item in one of the parties “manifestos”, and that only came after some haranguing by EamonnL of Open Data Ireland.[1]. Local Government seem to be more attracted to it for sure, but its a shame that it takes the arrival of the IMF to make it more generally topical. F.o.I. and Open Government are perhaps more headline grabbing, and more flavoursome for politicians to talk about and pontificate on, but practical visible measures like Open Data are harder to get movement on it would seem.

      We’re not Greece or Tunisia, and as a nation, we “let things go” by default, elect our own worst governments, and our politicos know it. Everyone’s happy ! Maybe we should be welcoming the IMF after all – maybe they’ll ask for some published figures 🙂


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