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Irish Open Data Wishlist – Ireland falling behind its Open Data promises and international best practice

- July 22, 2015 in DPER, OGP Ireland, Open Data, Open Data Ireland, open data wish list

This post follows up on a public request made to the government to open up high impact public data sets for the benefit of Ireland’s citizens and economy on April 14th, 2014. The ‘Open Data Wishlist’ of high impact data sets was crowdsourced to be particular to the Irish context by Open Knowledge Ireland by approach to Irish public. The wish list was delivered to Stefan Decker and Deirdre Lee (Insight Centre for Data Analytics) who requested the assessment to be included in their work on the Irish government’s Open data strategy for which they won a tender in 2014. The submission was made by the public on April 14th, 2014. (Link) This blog post is to highlight that, Over a year after the requested ‘Open Data Wishlist’ was delivered not one one of the data sets identified have been  published in an open format and under an open licence! Worse, there is no timeline to do so! This is worrying because Ireland seems to be falling behind other countries such as the UK, the US, Canada, etc. in their efforts to fuel their economy and improve the services provided to their citizens. Equally critically, Ireland seems to be falling behind the promises it has made as part of it’s own ‘Open Data Strategy’! We realise that cultural change takes time, but making already public information, such as hospital waiting lists, available for reuse in machine readable formats should be straightforward (Hospital Waiting List Current Example). If the government of Ireland is serious about empowering evidence-based data-driven decision-making, it needs to start complimenting good intentions with actions. We are calling on Minister Howlin to publish a timeline for publishing these data sets in open format, in line with the promises made, with progress made in other countries and in line with the global G8 Open Data Charter ( Why delays are worrying: In April 2014 via crowdsourcing, the Irish populace produced list of public data sets felt to promise the highest impact and requested that they be published in an ‘open’ format. ‘Open’ generally means that data that is already collected on behalf of the public is published in machine readable format (e.g. not PDF reports) and under a licence stating that it can be freely to used, reused, and redistributed (e.g. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence). Only in this way can service providers and businesses utilise the data in a way that can be of benefit to citizens, businesses and services in Ireland. Once easily accessible to the public these types of data sets have the potential to help build better services to meet the needs of citizens (e.g. data on hospital waiting lists) and to be a catalyst for innovation and economic prosperity. A popular estimate by McKinsey ( on the benefits of adopting open data practices can unlock $3 – $5 trillion of economic value across 7 sectors globally, with up to $1.2 billion unlock-able in ‘Education’ alone. What high-value datasets should be published?
  • Geospatial Data (broken out as many different owners for various datasets. Also included is the examples of what is being requested and/or type of metadata needed to make this useful. Where “name” is listed, both Irish & English if available. All data below to include long/lat coords for single point references or shapefiles for area references)
  • Postcodes
  • Addresses (Full breakdown by building and by structure within e.g. apartments)
  • Boundary data (National, County, City, Suburb, Townland, Census SA, Electoral Division, etc)
  • Road Network (Ref #’s, names, classification, lit/unlit, bridge info e.g. height’s & widths)
  • Topography
  • National Maps
  • Waterways (Navigation, depths, berths, names, source, underground yes/no, rivers, streams, ditches, lakes  etc)
  • Soil data (soil type, acidity, etc)
  • Natural Heritage Area’s (boundary, operator, name)
  • Bogs (type, protected yes/no, operator)
  • Social Facilities (Garda Stations, Courts, Hospitals, Primary Care Centers, GP’s, Dentists, Care Homes etc – name, operator, contact details)
  • Sports Facilities (sport, team, operator)
  • Schools (patron, mixed yes/no, name, level)
  • Voting Stations
  • Government offices/departments (name, contact details, under which dept. etc)
  • Energy (power plants to include renewables, plant type, power lines, line capacity, substations, reference #’s, names)
  • Playgrounds (surface, facilities)
  • Crime data (Crime statistics, safety, location of crimes, accidents)
  • Health data (Prescription data, performance data, source location)
  • Education (List of schools; performance of schools, digital skills)
  • Election data (results, location, party, etc)
  • Energy and Environment (Pollution levels, energy consumption)
  • Finance and contracts (Transaction spend, contracts let, call for tender, future tenders, local budget, national budget (planned and spent))
  • Global Development: Aid, food security, extractives, land
  • Statistics: National Statistics, Census, infrastructure, wealth, skills
  • Government Accountability and Democracy: Government contact points, election results, legislation and statutes, salaries (pay scales), hospitality/gifts
  • Science and Research: Genome data, meteorological data, research and educational activity, experiment results.
What licences should Open Data Ireland use?
  • CC-0 or at most CC-BY version 4
  • Public Domain
  • GNU General Public License (software)

Submission by Open Knowledge Ireland to the Public Consultation on Open Data Licences

- March 18, 2015 in DPER, Ireland, licence, OGP Action Plan, OKFN Ireland, Open Data Ireland, Open Knowledge Ireland, PSI, Public Consultation

Date: 18 March 2015 at 11:00
Subject: Submission by Open Knowledge Ireland to the Public Consultation on Open Data Licences
Cc: “” <>

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Sir / Madam,

Please find attached the submission by Open Knowledge Ireland to the public consultation on open data licences.

Open Knowledge Ireland is very pleased at the Government’s decision to invite views on an open data policy for Ireland and the decision to review the Public Sector Information (PSI) licence.

Open Knowledge Ireland (OK Ireland) is a regional chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The OK Ireland is at the forefront of Ireland’s Open Data community with the aim of developing a self-sustainable, enabling ecosystem for open data to empower citizens and organisations to make better informed, evidence-based decisions.

OK Ireland promotes open data culture through regular weekly, monthly and quarterly community engagements. Our events have been attended by thought leaders and notable civic activists.  Between October 2012 and January 2015, OK Ireland has successfully organised 15 community meetups, 5 hackathons, one Open Data training day and one OGP Civil Society day, with a total of over 1000 participants.We facilitate development of practical engagement with open data repositories. We organize training events, in which participants develop practical skills.

OK Ireland is supported by a number of organizations which make world-class technology resources available for fostering innovative projects. For example, CKAN, the world’s leading open-source data portal platform, was developed by the non-profit Open Knowledge Foundation and is today overseen and managed by the CKAN Association. CKAN is currently used by governments and organizations worldwide to power both official and community data portals, including the Irish Government Data Portal

Members of OK Ireland are technology experts and experienced civic activists, with expertise in implementing the best global open data practices and tacit knowledge of unique challenges in Ireland. In September 2013, facilitated by a community engagement day, volunteers audited and catalogued datasets originally published by Irish government agencies. This exercise became a foundation for our input into the Global Open Data Census. At the same event, an Irish instance of CKAN, the worlds most advanced data repository, was deployed. For your convenience, the submission to the Public Consultation on Open Data Licences is also available online here:

Best regards,

Denis Our submission document: Submission by Open Knowledge Ireland to the public consultation on open data licences.pdf

Open Letter Regarding Open Data in Ireland

- February 17, 2015 in Denis Parfenov, DPER, Events, INKEx, insight, OGP Ireland, Open Data, Open Data Ireland, Open Knowledge Ireland, William Beausang

(Originally published here in response on invitation to meet with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform dated 12 February 2015)

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Dear William -

Thank you for your email. Let’s look….

What we have

There are numerous publicly funded data research institutions.

“…INSIGHT [DERI, CLARITY, CLIQUE, 4C, TRIL]  represent an investment in excess of 150,000,000 over the past 10 years, hosting more than 300 researchers, and collaborating with more than 150 industry partners….””…. to create a healthier, safer, more productive world by empowering a data-driven society to enable better decisions by individuals, communities, business and governments…” (here)

Taking into consideration a generous investment of public and private money into data excellence in Ireland, we should be leading in the open data world, right?

Where we are?

Lets have a quick look where is Ireland positioned in the world of open data:

There is hardly any improvement since 2013.

According to both surveys, the UK is the world leader in open data. Peculiarly, Ireland has  pledged at United Nations Assembly last year  “to share best practice, knowledge and expertise with its Northern Ireland counterparts and assist each other in relation to Open Data.” (here)

It’s good that Ireland has a CKAN-driven It’s not good that it’s “alfa” since May 2014 and technically speaking hosts no open data.

Talking open data, practicing open washing 

It was great to see Minister Howlin of D/PER launching an open data initiative in London in 2013. It was very disappointing to see the Department of Communications excluding any open alternatives for one of the most valuable dataset: postcodes (Eircode) were excluded from bidding process by error .

“Open Data Ireland: Best Practice Handbook” (July 2014) compiled by Deirdre Lee, Richard Cyganiak, Stefan Decker states “The current Irish PSI license is not considered an Open License, as it places a number of restrictions on re-use and distribution that go beyond the requirements of attribution and share-alike.” Other than your consultant’s change of mind on what is or is not “open data” it is not clear what has changed since then re PSI licensing in the last 6 month. ‘Open washing’, is the term for calling open data what is NOT open data (yet).

Even within your own department, the “Reform Unit” is talking positively about theoretical aspects of open data. When it comes to practice, another unit within your department, is supporting The Irish Nonprofits Project Limited (formerly  INKEx), an organisation which receives public funds to build a privately-held database with an intention to sell it back to the state, relaunched.

Open data and community

I clearly recall the moment when in February 2012, after following ‘open data’ across the world, I came across ‘A Briefing paper’ (here), which was co-authored by D/PER’s current Open Data consultant, Deirdre Lee, with other industry representatives. What struck me then was that, unlike any other open data policy document, the Irish one didn’t contain a single mention of the social benefits of open data for civil society.

Taking this into consideration we (Open Knowledge Ireland) undertook a challenge to progress open data in Ireland by catalyzing interest around it. As you remember, in September 2012, Oireachtas cut the XML feed to, the biggest open government data publisher in Ireland. The open data community started to organise regular ‘Open Data Ireland’ meetups.

The idea of of open data meetups was to generate demand for open data through education and collaboration between data holders and data users (under assumption that passion is a stronger motivator than profit). All our events were organised in the evening time or at weekends, in order to accommodate enthusiasts and increase a pool of people who knows more about open data and participate in it’s co-creation.

Prior to our workshop meetup on November 17th, D/PER’s consultant tweeted “It’d be good to discuss how to facilitate broad engagement in #opendataIRL” here.  However the time and date chosen by the consultant is aimed at accommodating those who “work with data”.

We can assume that that the biggest publisher of open data, John Handelaar, based in Cork and Open Street Maps lead in Ireland Dave Corley, based in Galway, do not belong to the consultant’s target group.

The participants of the November 17  workshop discussed 5 projects, which can be turned into real life Irish examples of open data being put in use and we set up a project log here.

However at the follow up meeting with you in D/PER offices, we were informed that the department has a budget for 2015 only for an appointed “consultant”, Deirdre Lee from Derilinx and Deirdre Lee from INSIGHT.

Evidently, D/PER has generous resources for Irish Nonprofits Project Limited / INKEx also…

Taking into consideration that there is a paid “consultant” in place and the fact that none of independent groups cannot compete in tendering processes with quangos which have hundreds of publicly funded researchers at their disposal, our group will not be organising any public engagements in Ireland as long as there is a publicly sponsored consultant.  This is the only logical course.

To summarise, there is still no appreciating for the role of the civic groups in progressing open data in Ireland. There is contradiction between the government’s public commitments and government’s actions.

Thank you for your invitation to meet, but I don’t see any point to participate in creation of an illusion of openness in Ireland.

Best, Denis  

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister Brendan Howlin re INKEx

- February 13, 2015 in Dail, DPER, Howlin, INKEx, open charity data, Open Data Ireland

QUESTION NOS:  294,295,296
DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin)
by Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly,Stephen S. Donnelly,Stephen S. Donnelly
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 03/02/2015  
* To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way and the reason the decision to revive Irish Nonprofits Knowledge Exchange was made; if alternative approaches were considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Stephen S. Donnelly T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 3 February, 2015. * To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the budget or funding that has been allocated for Irish Nonprofits Knowledge Exchange; if there was a tendering process; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Stephen S. Donnelly T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 3 February, 2015. * To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the objectives that have been set for Irish Nonprofits Knowledge Exchange; the timeframe; the way its performance will be measured; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Stephen S. Donnelly T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 3 February, 2015.  
REPLY. There are in excess of 12,000 non-profit entities, which receive more than €4.4 billion annually in government funding. In line with the Public Sector Reform Plan 2014   2016 my Department is progressing solutions to design and deliver complete data on the funding received by the not-for-profit sector. The establishment of such an evidence base will assist Government in evaluating and delivering a higher quality impact assessment of public spending. The Irish Nonprofits Project Limited (formerly INKEx) previously worked on the development of a single repository of financial, governance and other relevant data on the not-for-profit sector. This project was designed to significantly enhance the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of Government support and interaction with the non-profit sector. It was part-funded through significant State investment. However funding was withdrawn due to economic constraints and the project was put into abeyance. The Irish Nonprofits Project Limited (formerly INKEx) have secured philanthropic funding toward the re-establishment of this project and I have committed to providing match funding. My Department are engaged in discussions with the Irish Nonprofits and philanthropic organisations on the practicalities and structures involved in re-establishing this project. Any investment will build on the earlier investment and seek to realise the value of the State’s previous funding of this project. This is in keeping with the Government’s aim to develop alternative models of delivery and to provide for greater public accountability and transparency in Government grant-making and its support of the non-profit sector.

Open Data Ireland in practice: Let the Sun Shine on Charity Transparency?

- January 27, 2015 in charity financial data, DPER, INKEx, OKFN Ireland, open charity data, Open Data Ireland, Open Knowledge Ireland

In May 2013 Open Knowledge Ireland asked:  “Can data help Irish charities to win back the trust lost in recent scandals?”

Driven by this question and inspired by the successful implementation of in the US, Open Knowledge Ireland (OK Ireland) undertook a challenge to help Irish citizens and donors compare charities using a similar driven-by-data platform.

Initial research revealed that there was little or no relevant, publicly accessible data available in Ireland in useful for 21st century machine-readable format. OK Ireland and partners therefore needed to develop a methodology and a reporting standard to compile and construct an open dataset based on the audited annual reports of Irish charities.  We derived this standard from the UK’s Statement of Recommended Practice, Accounting and Reporting by Charities (SORP).

On a sunny Saturday morning on July 26th in 2014, qualified and engaged volunteers from civil society and the charities sector gathered to cap the exploratory phase of our project by crowdsourcing essential data and building a prototype of the data-driven platform.

In the course of our research and implementation, we looked at the INKEx model and its legacy with great interest. Between 2007 – 2012, this organisation sought to key in a dataset to a proprietary database and make extracts of this data publicly available through a “free website” with the purpose of creating “a public good for the benefit of civil society, not to generate profit” (See Sara Burke’s postmortem report on INKEx, commissioned by INKEx here, p.5). Without noting any irony this endevour has been presented to the public as an “open data project”.

According to public records €1.1 million of public money was invested in INKEx between 2009 and 2011, public funding was withdrawn in 2012 and INKEx ceased trading in 2013. However, the fruits of its endeavours and the data it collected are still not publicly available – rendering it difficult to judge whether it delivered on any of its objectives. (See case study, ibid, here.)

What was the return on this investment to the Irish taxpayer?

According to recent reports, INKEx has been contracted by D/PER for a second phase.

OK Ireland and the strategic partners involved in Open Charity Data project and in generating SORP v.2 are of the opinion that reviving INKEx is not a wise strategic decision for the following reasons:

  • The case study mentioned above, (ibid, p14) reported that there was “little understanding” as to how INKEx’s model could have cost €1-1.3 million per year (publicly and privately raised) on an ongoing basis. (ibid, p14). This cost is scarcely justifiable in 2014.
  • Smart and prudent public funding remains an issue. What was questioned as being of limited value then remains bad value now.  Building a closed service with inward focussed employees rather than harnessing public value, as was done in 2010 and 2012 is not progressive thinking. Public opposition to this practice is clearly evident in the example of Irish Water – high wage bills for publicly-funded organisations. The charity sector can do without another stick to beat it.
  • INKEx’s business plan was to own the data, commercially tendering to provide it to the newly-legislated Charity Registry on one hand, while on the other hand receiving public grants and philanthropy for the data’s collection and curation.  Why should this company receive funds to build a privately-held asset which is then sold back to the state?  (See Sara Burke report pp14).

In Open Knowledge’s view, charity data should not be owned and controlled by one company,  but by the Irish people and should be readily available to the public and the government at no charge, once collated.

Open Knowledge’s approach to helping charities share their financial data contrasts with the stated intentions and methodologies of INKEx. We would provide a platform for charities to share their data openly and publicly in a self-sustainable fashion. The outcome would be owned by the people of Ireland under an open licence (CC), making the relevant information available for anyone to use, reuse and share, in the spirit of Open Data, a vital 21st century movement in which the D/PER / Irish government has already invested ideologically and publicly.

More importantly, OK Ireland’s proposal is to gain broad engagement and participation by civil society in serving itself and its needs rather than vesting this responsibility in a private company. Our approach embraces a forward thinking practice that recognises the gain both financially and politically by harnessing participation, sharing the burden and collectively sharing the benefits.This shifts from a clientist model to a collectivist approach, which has proven to lead to socially-driven solutions to society’s needs through civil engagement across all stages of design, implementation and delivery.

Our project has been frequently shared with D/PER’s Reform Unit (slide deck). It was also presented to the newly appointed charity regulator (2-page case study .pdf). It has been clearly indicated that the project can be delivered at the fraction of cost of deploying a dedicated staff, by providing a value proposition for participants in serving their own needs (2-page appeal to charities .pdf). Instead of setting up a Quango, government could mandate a reporting format for charities, and make returns in this format a proviso for state grants. (HSE does exactly this for some NGO sectors). Once the data is in a standard format, there is no need for keying in this information manually.

D/PER’s Reform Unit, which has a task to make open data a reality in Ireland, was supportive with organising a workshop and we are very grateful for their support in beginning the process of changing the way in which we govern ourselves in Ireland. Open Data holds great promise. A promise embraced by one sector within D/PER, but this seems contrary to another unit minding INKEx within D/PER and holding fast to an antiquated approach to serving society without civil engagement.

There seems to be a contradiction in practise between the state declaring an understanding of the benefits of open data, while investing in old-school closed projects to compile proprietary datasets for commercial outcome.

Data is useful when it makes a difference by enhancing transparency and enabling evidence-based decisions. The loss of trust in Irish charities is estimated to have reduced donations by 5% in a €2 billion market. This equates to €100m every year being diverted from former charity recipients. Our Open Charity Data project has the built-in capacity to empower citizens and donors and win back their trust, thus potentially saving lives and boosting the quality of life standards for people in need.


Public meeting on Open Data Ireland on 8th September

- August 25, 2014 in DPER, Events, OGP Action Plan, OGP Ireland, Open Data, Open Data Ireland, public meeting

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) invited you to attend a public briefing session on Open Data at 6pm on Monday 8th September in the Atrium, Department of Justiceand Equality, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2. Please register for this event here.  

The format of this meeting will be a presentation by Insight NUI Galway on open data and the recently launched Open Data Portal. The floor will then be opened for discussion of priorities for a national Open Data Strategy, to include issues such as priorities for the next steps in the area of open data, including how to ensure a focus on high value datasets, as well as how the publication and reuse of official non-personal information has the potential to create significant economic and social benefits. Click here to read an article on the PER blog on the Potential for Open Data in Ireland.  

Insight’s research comprises a Best Practice Handbook, a Data Audit Report, a Roadmap for Open Data, an Evaluation Framework and an Open Data Publication Handbook. These reports have been published to assist in the development of an Open Data strategy for Ireland and are accessible here.  You may wish to review these in advance of this briefing session. Submissions or comments may be made by email in advance of the event to  We will continue to accept submissions until 19 September.

If you have any questions, please email

(copied from DPER’s email )

OGP Jam Round Up

- June 25, 2014 in Action Plan, DPER, Events, OGP, OGP Action Plan, OGP Ireland, OGP jam, OGPirl, Open Data Ireland, Open Knowledge Ireland, open-government

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.51.02   On 8-9 May 2014 over 300 representatives of governments and civil society from over 30 countries took part in the OGP European regional meeting hosted by Minister Howlin of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Dublin Castle. On day one of the conference the Minister presented Ireland’s 1st Draft OGP National Action Plan and between May 8th and June 7th the Minister invited feedback on this Draft (PDF). Open Knowledge Ireland participated in a joint working group with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform between February and April 2014 and continuously helped to refine the Action Plan to help make it more meaningful to all Irish citizens. However, there was a lot of red tape and to date many suggestions have not been adopted. Another shortfall is that there was no public engagement on behalf of the Minister or the relevant Government Unit. So in the spirit of the OGP principles of citizen engagement and participation, Open Knowledge Ireland, with support of the OGP, held an OGP Jam on Saturday, 7th June to generate tools and ideas on how to make the OGP Action Plan meaningful to Irish citizens. Around ten people participated in a collaborative and creative event supported by Microsoft Ireland and Dovetail Technologies. The main benefit of the OGP Jam was that we were able to work with other citizens and use new technologies to explore how we can turn a government document into something that makes sense to the average citizen. What follows is a brief story around what was achieved on the day. The main goal of OGP Jam  was to make Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan more concise and specific in the areas of “Open Data”, “Citizen Participation” and “Trust”. Over the course of the Jam, our volunteers concentrated on three key areas of Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. The participants concluded that in order to make the Action Plan more actionable, measurable, readable and understandable the Action Plan in its current format needs to be improved by including the following: [NOTE: All suggested dates and partner organisations are to be confirmed with the Irish Government, these are our suggestions]
  • Assigning partner organisations (which may follow up with the government throughout the implementation period). The Irish OGP Action Plan needs to be populated with Partner Organisations that the Government can partner with the government to achieve their goals. Other Action Plans including for example the UK OGP Action Plan have demonstrated that this is a solid methodology for Action Plan implementation:
For example: Establishment of best practice standards for Open Data Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.34.09  
  • Make commitments SMART wherever possible. Remember, that’s Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timebound. Applying SMART classification to tasks is the only way we can interpret if and when a commitment was completed.
    • You cannot easily see this from the 27 pages of the Action Plan. But if you look at it in a structured way and strip down the text into what’s relevant, not many commitments are SMART, yet.
  • Create a roadmap for NAP implementation over the 2014-2016 period
As per OGP guidelines, Action Plans should be written in plain language with minimal use of jargon or technical terms. So the idea was to simplify the document and make it more accessible to a wider audience through clarity, precision and specification.
Imagine going from this: Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.39.12

 To this (actual content! – and this is only a very simple prototype!!):

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 14.43.03The community members who attended the OGP Jam created this model and to a large extent  filled it with possible values. In many cases the time-frames, partners, goals, challenges, etc. for each commitment are still unknown. But we have provided this model to the Government Reform Unit looking after the OGP Action Plan as a recommendation on how to make the Action Plan more accessible to everyone. Our work will continue throughout the implementation phase of the Action Plan and you can follow our progress here (
The OGP Jam is storified here and you’ll find photos of the event here.