Patrick O’Donovan TD, Minister of State for Open Government and eGovernment launched the publication of a national Open Data Strategy for 2017-2022 on July 14th 2017. Speaking at the launch Minister Donovan commented, “Openness and transparency is a key government priority. Opening up government data will empower citizens, foster innovation and reform public services. This Strategy aims at fostering an ecosystem that will enable Ireland to become a leader in Open Data”.
Studies have shown that access to official, open format non-personal data supports more effective decision-making and empowers citizens to take a more active role in their communities. This Strategy builds on the significant work and achievements of public bodies to date and sets out a vision, objectives and the related actions to be implemented over the next 5 years.
The Minister noted, “It is essential that all public bodies fully engage in opening up this valuable resource. This is key to delivering on the vision for Ireland as a country where the economic, social and democratic opportunities and benefits of Open Data are recognised and achieved by all stakeholders. I am confident that shared ownership of this Strategy, under the leadership of the Open Data Governance Board, will deliver significant opportunities for Ireland over the next 5 years and beyond’.
To assist public bodies in the implementation of the Strategy, framework agreements for Open Data training and technical support are currently being put in place which will allow public bodies to draw down the necessary expertise and assistance to enable them to engage with the Open Data Initiative.
Open Data is about making data held by public bodies available and easily accessible online for re-use and redistribution. Publication of data in open format facilitates the reuse of the data for new purposes such as the creation of new products and services, increasing openness, transparency and accountability of public institutions, promoting citizen participation and improving data analysis of public bodies and more effective decision-making. It can be used, for example, to understand and therefore improve our health services, our transport infrastructure and our air quality. A key output from the Open Data initiative to date is the national Open Data portal which links to over 5,200 government datasets in open format.
The Open Data Strategy 2017-2022 builds on the substantial achievements made in implementing the Open Data Initiative since it was instigated in 2014. The Strategy was prepared under the leadership of the Open Data Governance Board with input from key stakeholder representatives from business, civil society groups, researchers/academia, librarians/information professionals and the Public Bodies Working Group on Open Data. A further short public consultation was also undertaken in June 2017 to provide an opportunity for everyone to reflect on our priorities for Open Data and how Open Data can be fully utilised to ensure the potential benefits are realised.
The Strategy sets out actions under seven strategic themes: broaden the range of public bodies actively engaged in the Open Data initiative; broaden the scope of the Initiative and improve the quality, quantity and range of datasets available on the Portal data.gov.ie; continued engagement with stakeholders and encourage the use of Open Data; support and encourage various groups of Open Data Users, the provision of a framework to support and train public bodies in their Open Data activities; evaluation of the impacts and benefits of the Initiative and ensuring that effective governance structures are in place to implement the Strategy.
Two core objectives are the publication of high value government data in open format, making it publicly available and freely reusable; and engaging with a broad community of stakeholders to promote its social and economic benefits.
Open Data is aligned with key Government priorities such as the Public Service reform programme and the ICT Strategy and can lead to more transparency and accountability of public bodies, better data discipline in public bodies providing for greater efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery and more citizen participation and inclusion. In terms of economic gains, these are expected to be generated in the areas of business innovation and creation by creating opportunities for Open Data inspired products or services and job creation.