Monthly Archives: November 2013

Putting public data to work and putting the I back in IT

The Silicon Republic is “Ireland’s No 1 resource for technology news”.  Along with delivering the news about technology innovation in Ireland they orchestrate fantastic industry events to amplify emerging discussions of importance with the irish indigenous and foreign technology sectors.  Tracey P. Lauriault has attended three of their events to date, and participated in their latest, the Irish Data Forum.  Their events feature a cross section of industry, academic and public sector experts to discuss trends, issues and innovations. The discussions are frank and audience participation is skillfully moderated by Ann O’Dea CEO, Editor-at-large of the paper.

The Irish Data Forum Putting “I” back in “IT” discussed cloud, big data, data analytics, open data, data science and public data.  It also examined the data revolution and how Ireland can be at its heart.

Below is a selection of media from the event.

Panel 2 Part 1 Video

Panel 2 Part 2 Video

Some media coverage of AIRO-based work

A sister project of The Programmable City is the All-Island Research Observatory, also hosted in NIRSA at NUI Maynooth, and for which Rob Kitchin is also PI.  Over the past few years AIRO has been providing open data services and tools and fostering evidence informed analysis and policy making.  Through the blog IrelandAfterNAMA it has also sought to provide an analysis of what the data reveals.  In particular, AIRO and NIRSA have been key players in opening up data related to housing and planning and analysing how these are unfolding in the context of Ireland post-Celtic Tiger. Such data forms an important input into the notion of a programmable city by making the city knowable in specific ways and opening it up to modelling, prediction and simulation.  This week was a busy one on the media front with respect to AIRO-based analysis being sought by the media.  Here’s some links.

Semi-Detached, Prime-Time, RTE 1, 21 November.

Last Word, Today FM, 18 November 2013
Morning show, Newstalk, 18 November 2013
Morning Ireland, RTE1, 18 November 2013
Clare FM, 19 November 2013
Highland Radio, 19 November 2013

All-island interactive census map shows north,south differences, Irish Times, 20 November,
Irish ghost estates face demolition on safety grounds, Scotsman, November 19,
Demolition will not cost big money.  Irish Times, November 19,
Ireland Plans to Demolish Some of its ‘Ghost’ Housing Estates, Wall Street Journal, November 18th,
Minister will allocate money for demolition of ghost estates, Newstalk, 18 November
State set to pay for demolition of 40 ghost estates. Irish Examiner, 18 November
Ghost estate ‘monuments to skeleton of Celtic Tiger’ to be bulldozed,, 18 November

Silicon Republic Panel: Extracting Value from Big Data for Business, Government and Society

I am looking forward to participating in the Silcon Republic panel about putting data to work at the Irish Data Forum on Friday morning with:

  • Phil Townsend, Director of Communications, Manchester United
  • Stephen Moffatt, Cloud Computing and Business Analytics Leader, IBM
  • Andrew Maybin, Managing Director, Tibus

Smart Cities, Big Data & Their Consequences

Rob Kitchin is presenting an invited talk today at the 3rd National Smart Cities Summit in Croke Park.  His talk is entitled ‘Smart cities, big data and their consequences’.  It is an updated version of his paper ‘The Real Time City: Big Data and Smart Urbanism‘, with two new sections (the politics of big urban data’ and ‘buggy, brittle and hackable cities’).  A full written version of the paper can be found here.  And here are the slides:

Chiselling away at open data blockages

At the ProgCity open data event I was talking to Denis Parfenov and Flora Fleischer from Open Knowledge Foundation Ireland about some of our AIRO experiences at trying to leverage data out of government departments and to push forward an open data agenda in Ireland.  I said I would share a slide I first presented a few years ago about the ostrich attitude to data and evidence-informed policy within many government departments and the arguments used against opening and sharing data and providing open access analysis tools and training.

These arguments were presented to me in one government department in a sequence as I rebutted each assertion.  The last two capture perfectly the way that Ireland works politically and institutionally.

  • We don’t need open data – officials on the ground know what’s going on their area/domain.
  • Anybody who knows what they’re doing in government can access, process and interpret relevant data.
  • The data is too sensitive to share and might used in ways for which it wasn’t intended.
  • The potential gains with respect to increased understanding, and more effective and efficient government are over-stated, and it’s not financially viable.
  • Just because you have data it doesn’t mean it’ll get used; that’s not how Irish policy is made.
  • Even if it shapes policy, policy is not implemented or enforced in Ireland.

The whole line of reasoning basically leads to: what is the point of opening data when it won’t make a blind bit of difference as to how the country is run and it’s only going to create additional work and be an annoyance?  Given the government has signed up to the open government partnership and to providing open data it’ll be interesting to see to what extent these attitudes persist amongst agencies and politicians (who equally dislike hard evidence as an inconvenience to gombeen politics).  Today, the government announced that postcode data will not be open, which is not a great start.

It is clear from recent attempts to make freedom of information requests more difficult that, with a few exceptions within some units, the government is not so much interested in open data for the purposes of transparency, reform and to be held to account, but rather the hope that they might be leveraged economically to create apps, new data products and jobs.  If that can be done in a way that does not get in the way of normal political and policy business I suspect they’d be delighted.

Hopefully, the open data movement will not get stifled by the sixth point: even if we have an open data policy it does not mean it’ll get implemented, or if it does it’ll take a long time and be limited.  To go back to postcodes, that has been in the pipeline for at least ten years, with endless false starts and consultations.  There is no reason why open data should take that long, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

AAG 2014 Paper – A genealogy of data assemblages: tracing the geospatial open access and open data movements in Canada

The following paper has been accepted for presentation at the AAG 2014 Data-based living: peopling and placing ‘big data session organised by Matt Finn (Durham University, UK), in Florida.

A genealogy of data assemblages: tracing the geospatial open access and open data movements in Canada

Authors: Tracey P. Lauriault and Rob Kitchin, NIRSA, NUI Maynooth

The field of geomatics has for decades concerned ‘big data’ about people and places, and the monitoring and managing of population, resources and territory.To better carry out this function global, regional, national and sub-national spatial data infrastructures have been built. SDIs are defined as the institutions, policies, technologies, processes and standards that direct the who, how, what and why geospatial data are collected, stored, manipulated, analyzed, transformed and shared.They are also inter-sectoral, cross-domain, inter-departmental, distributed and interoperable authoritative large biopolitical systems. As part of these projects a loose coalition of highly skilled actors have sought to open such geospatial data from state bodies for wider use.Some of these actors have been joined by a nascent open data movement.To date, however, the complex unfolding of the geospatial open access to/data movement has not been charted.In this paper we provide such a genealogical analysis, tracing the open access/data movement in Canada over the past three decades, unpacking the various overlapping, co-evolving and oppositional data assemblages.We conceive a data assemblage as a complex socio-technical system consisting of a number of inter-related elements — systemsof thought; forms of knowledge; finance; political economy; governmentalities; materialities and infrastructures; practices; organisations and institutions; subjectivities and communities; places; and marketplaces — that work together to frame how data are produced, managed, analyzed, shared and used. We suggest that such a conception and approach has utility in understanding and contextualizing the wider changing data landscape.