Simon Hamilton launches new Open Data strategy for Northern Ireland…

Forgive my native scepticism when I hear politicians talk about small changes day by day, but are reluctant to talk about numbers. However, there may be some light on that particular horizon…

DFP Simon Hamilton has unveiled a strategy document for the implementation of open data as a default. It’s long on words but fairly short on detail; although the accompanying roadmap provides some vestigial details about roll out and intention to engage.

The ambition is admirable, but there are some conditions…

The default will be that all public sector data will be open by default with exceptions in respect of personal data, security, commercial, intellectual property rights or environmental importance.

On the whole, a welcome, and as these things go, a fairly timely move. One thing, that’s clear from the Risk section though is that they are taking a cautious view of cleaning up the data.

In London, they are asking the public to help them sort out problems whereas here

Most of the risks that result from using open data are due to a lack of communication or a lack of interpretation between the data provider and the data user about limitations, errors or the timeliness of the data. This risk exposure can be mitigated by introducing clear communication and validation procedures along with clear and precise metadata.

Sure there are potentially some new commercial opportunities arising here. But it is the release of new stories and insights that could be transformative.

If you want to keep a closer eye on these matters, you can join the NI Open Government Network and help at the very least keep a watching brief…

  • salmonofdata

    This is a very welcome move, but it is one thing for a Minister to have worthy ambitions in this area, and another thing to change the mindset of the local public sector that is not known for openness and transparency. For example, when trying to do some research on traffic volumes for different roads in Northern Ireland, data that is easily available and in the public domain in Great Britain, I came across this nugget on the DOE website:

    “Roads Service may be able to provide existing traffic count information… at a cost per site.”

    Note the “may” (they don’t know if they have the data), the “cost”, and the “per site”, i.e. the data (if it exists) is not held centrally. It is woeful, and the very opposite of open data principles in every respect.

    I’m also happy to see that the document specifically excludes “reports which are generated from aggregating and manipulating raw data”. This is definitely a good thing; open data means releasing the raw, unadulterated data, and not reports and summaries that have been created using the data. One of my bugbears that I have is people complaining about how open data could somehow lead to “too much data”, as if this would make it more difficult to extract meaningful information from the data if there is an abundance of it. This is, frankly, nonsense; saying that there is too much data in a database is like saying a library has too many books in it. More is more.

    As I said, all very positive stuff and fine words. But it remains to be seen how this will turn into reality.

  • chrisjones2

    “The default will be that all public sector data will be open by default with exceptions in respect of personal data, security, commercial, intellectual property rights or environmental importance.”

    Forgive me at creasing up at this.

    You sometimes accuse me Mick of being too cynical but just look at the recent history of Stormont and especially OFMDFM and you can see the sad reality of the new ‘Cabinet Office’s commitment to openness

    There is also so much wriggle room on this. As I read it all data will be open data and all open data will be available through NI Direct ….. so one assumes that if its not placed on NI Direct by default all those open Departments will claim that FOI Request are superfluous as everything that should be published has been.

    Then there are the exceptions – why for example is data of ‘environmental importance’ not to be open data eg lets suppose Agriculture have information that slurry run off is a major health hazard in some areas. Whoops its not open data automatically. Why? Surely this is just the case that should be?

    And how far does IPR extend? Can I claim, for example, IPR in every piece of data I generate? Quite possibly