Thursday 20 October 2011

Dublinked to support open data for businesses

IRISH BUSINESSES and communities are being given the opportunity to tap into data collected by the Dublin regional authorities through a new online portal, which it is hoped will generate new business opportunities.

The Dublinked initiative promotes open data, and facilitates access to information including planning application data from across the region, air and water pollution maps, noise maps, parking and traffic volumes.

This could enable new uses for the data: for example, sharing public transport data could help users looking to buy houses in a certain area. Health performance data could be used to make services more efficient. One application already in use in the US allows people travelling to hospital to register with the hospital before arriving.

The data sharing initiative launched yesterday includes information from Dublin City Council and DĂșn Laoghaire Rathdown, South Dublin and Fingal county councils, but it is envisaged that other organisations, both public and private, will share their information in the future.

More than 100 datasets are available, and that is expected to rise to about 200 before Christmas as more local authorities provide data to the portal.

A 2009 European Commission report estimates that across the EU, public sector bodies are estimated to be sitting on a potential treasure trove of data, worth up to €27 billion.

NUI Maynooth has taken on the role of co-ordinating the data project, and curating data to make it easier for users to gain access to the information they need.

“We are part of the community, we wanted to do something. It’s our way of giving something back,” says NUI Maynooth’s Dr Ronan Farrell, co-ordinator of Dublinked.

Smaller enterprises could use the project to gain access to new niche markets, and identify potential business opportunities.

“Open data markets are immature. There are very few incumbents there,” says Jonathan Raper, chief executive of Placr, a British company that specialises in using data as a service.

Projects such as Dublinked allow SMEs to access data at a faster pace than local authorities could supply it, and with data available free of charge, it’s an attractive prospect for companies.

It has also prompted a change in how local authorities view data.

“It’s not natural for government,” said Fingal County Council’s Dominic Byrne. “What you’re looking at is a changing world and a changing environment and it’s enabled by technology. Not just the web, but the fact that it’s ubiquitous.

“Now you can have access to data all the time. In the same way that the private sector is changing to deal with this, the public sector also needs to change.”

To address privacy concerns the data released through Dublinked does not contain personal details that could lead to people being identified.

Irish Times

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