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Hear from current ODI Members
In July, the ODI Membership Team spoke to ODI Member Link Digital’s Executive Director, Steven De Costa, to find out what they’ve been up to…
Based in Australia, Link Digital is a global open information technology company that helps its clients make meaningful change with open data. Since 2012, Link Digital has been developing solutions based on the world’s leading open-source data portal platform: CKAN.
CKAN is an open-source data management system for powering data hubs and data portals. It allows organisations, governments and communities to easily publish, share and use data.
Following the ODI from the start
Steven and the Link Digital team discovered the ODI back in 2013 at the Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin. They were intrigued by the organisation and its mission. “We’ve always found the ODI to be a fascinating organisation,” says Steven. “It’s great that government actors can come to the ODI and receive help advancing certain initiatives.”
“We became an ODI Member because we value being part of a wider ecosystem.”
“At Link Digital, we work on a variety of open data projects. In the Australian context, these are provincial open data platforms. We manage five of the eight states and territories’ portals. We’re also working on the national portal in Australia, data.gov.au.
“Link Digital also works on agency data sharing projects. In the resources sector, we have the Geoscience Data Modernisation Project (GDMP) for the Geological Survey of Queensland (GSQ) – we’ve helped them catalogue their exploration data. The GSQ collects data on drill sampling and boreholes, then they catalogue what comes out of the earth and make it available for the public to explore remotely.
“The most complex build that we’re working on at the moment is the Pacific Data Hub. It is a CKAN data portal which has a Drupal component to it, and has stories with data attached to it as content items. It also has a spatial preview for spatial-oriented data sets using TerriaJS, developed by Australian digital research network, Data61, which is a cool tool.”
The data landscape in Australia
“Data projects in Australia are at different levels across the country. At a federal level, there are big data projects that are important to the whole country. If the projects relate to the resourcing sector, agribusiness, biodiversity or land use, then the requirements can be expansive – it all comes down to geography and demography.
“The rest of 2022 will be about project management and increasing engagement in this process.
“We’re working to see if we can improve CKAN to improve its flexibility, adaptability and integral integration opportunities for our customers. This creates opportunities for us to engage with our customers even further.”
“I think everyone in the sector faces similar challenges. Data projects are often launched with a great deal of fanfare, ambition and political winds.
“There is not always a great deal of follow through in terms of budgets, which is why you need strong advocacy at the political level. You also need good practitioners at a programme level.
“A data project is not core business to a government department or agency, and is often sidelined. We find that our customers are either underfunded or under-supported within their own agencies.”
Strong data management outcomes
“We’ve worked on national portals – we’re working with the government of Saudi Arabia at the moment. These are the projects that are more politically-oriented and underfunded.
“When it comes to a sector-specific portal, there is usually a strong data management outcome that comes from that, they’re usually better funded and supported. People can understand the value of what’s going to be coming out of their programmes. There is great value in the output of these programs. They are excellent projects to work on.
“An example of this is the Canadian Watershed Information Network (CanWIN). It is well-supported because it helps a wide group of stakeholders enable the outcomes of a number of different research projects.
“Similarly, within the resource sector, we have a climate data portal in New South Wales that has supercomputer facilities to produce simulations and projections of the future. These projects are good because they’re linked to policy – they’re not just on the sidelines.”
We spoke to Richard Duffield, Head of Customer Insights at GeoPlace to find out how this ODI member helps governments and businesses deliver better policy and services, and what its data resolutions are for 2023.
“If you live or work in the UK you will certainly have benefited from GeoPlace’s data as it enables many different aspects of daily life and business to function.”
GeoPlace is a central source of information for 42.8 million addresses (UPRNs – unique property reference numbers) and 1.3 million streets (USRNs – unique street reference numbers) across the UK, and its data enables public and private sectors to work together to benefit citizens and businesses.
The application of its data drives everything from making sure emergency services go to the right address, vulnerable people get support and advice they need, to enabling the buying and selling of houses, and local authorities to make good planning decisions. Its data has also been used to inform policy during the pandemic and for net zero targets and energy efficiency measures.
How GeoPlace operates
“We work with all 339 councils in England and Wales, plus authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as well as central government, Ordnance Survey and highway authorities to collate, manage and maintain extensive location data sources and services. The data is made widely available by Ordnance Survey as the AddressBase range of products, and the National Street Gazetteer.
We aim to ensure that our data sets and services are consistent and accurate so that the government and businesses can readily access it, and link it to its own data sources. This helps them make better decisions, and to formulate new innovations and initiatives based on real-life evidence.”
Making the most of location data sources
As a long-standing member of the ODI, GeoPlace’s mission mirrors that of the ODI in that it believes in the power of accurate and open data to transform people’s lives. Its guardianship and championing of location data sources has and will continue to have an impact on many different facets of life and business.
There are many examples of this, as Richard explains: “A recent initiative called open identifiers, saw the Government Digital Service (GDS) open standards board mandate the use of UPRNs and USRNs across all central government bodies, including the NHS. This enables datasets from different sources to be more easily linked together for better and more accurate, insightful policy making and service provision. Also, UPRNs and USRNs were released under Open Government Licence to become a public sector standard for referencing and sharing property and street information.
This can be seen with our recent involvement with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The department is now able to link up its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) data to UPRNs to deliver improvements in targeted provision for those most in need particularly around fuel poverty.”
GeoPlace in 2022
“The last year has been a very busy and positive year for GeoPlace with our data being more widely and effectively used throughout the public and private sector. Government departments and bodies including HMRC, DWP and DLVA have all linked up their own data sets with GeoPlace’s to provide more targeted services and support, and to make better policy decisions. And as the cost of living crisis has started to hit hard this winter, the data has been pivotal in helping to locate and support the most vulnerable in society.”
Private sector companies also use GeoPlace’s data to improve productivity and efficiency, for example, insurers, banks and other financial institutions have been using the data sets to validate transactions faster and to more accurately assess risk, while retailers like Sainsbury’s, Zoopla and Riverford are using Ordnance Survey’s AddressBase to increase the efficiency of their logistics and last mile delivery services.
Data in 2023
When asked what new year’s resolutions and wishes he had for data in 2023, Richard focused on the importance of collaboration. “Working together has never been more important, especially with so much cost cutting going on. We can only solve society’s challenges when we use data in a more collaborative and open way. In 2023 our aim is to focus even more on outreach to make sure that everyone from government bodies to private companies understand the benefits of our data and how it can really make a difference for citizens. Sometimes, this requires a cultural and mindset change and a willingness to see the bigger picture and the transformative power of data.
We hope to connect with other ODI members this year and would love to talk to those who think that there might be opportunities to collaborate or learn from each other – my inbox is always open!”
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