I would like to use this blog post to compliment the Dutch public and semi-public sectors. Many blogs and opinion pieces don’t compliment the public sector. It is common for these pieces to focus on problems, mistakes and imperfections. However, I want to discuss a positive development: the decision to make governmental data publicly available.
Everyone is able to submit a request for information and gain access to governmental data and documents since the introduction of the Government Information (Public Access) Act also known as the WOB. This has dramatically improved the supply of information. Another trend has also become visible over the past few years: more and more public and semi-public sector industries have actively started making their data accessible online. This is data which has been collected by public sector organisations on companies and, primarily, citizens and which has been used to help form policy, to measure satisfaction, to chart developments in recognisable fields and to help determine which information is important for different types of people. The published data is anonymous and we cannot tell who the person or company in question is. The departure point is sound too: data will only be made available if there are no related risks to privacy or national security. Who’s doing this: the municipalities of The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the Provinces of Limburg and Friesland and the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. Furthermore, there is also the data generated by Statistics Netherlands. This is just a sample of bodies and a reliable source has informed me that a number of other municipalities and provinces have launched projects to help make their data accessible. This is fantastic news for data scientists, data analysts, marketing teams, sales teams and for everyone who processes and interprets data.
Why is it important
As I mentioned above, the data being made available primarily relates to citizens. Why is it important for this type of data to be freely accessible? For starters, the government serves its people and this means that the data actually belongs to us. Why shouldn’t we be able to access it? Secondly, the age we live in revolves around data and public-sector data can provide insight which businesses may benefit from. What if the key to creating the new Google can be found in a municipal database. It would be a shame if this kind of opportunity was missed. Thirdly, citizens and companies can provide the government with new information. This means that the government itself will also become smarter. A good example is the individual who informed the Department of Waterways and Public works of a way in which traffic flow on the A4 could be improved. Lastly, there are a variety of smart tools and programs available which allow individuals and companies to actually use the data made available. We can use it too. Use it without having to make huge investments and without having to spend large amounts of money. In other words, it’s time to free data.
Why is this relevant
Newly founded companies can find out where their competitors are located without having to hire a company to do this for them.
Insurance companies can determine the best locations for flyers or billboards when they want to target the self-employed.
Creating an overview of car share locations or electric charging points will help determine if the coverage is sufficient and proportional.
The ability to objectively determine where clients live or work or where the client’s client is located.
Political parties can objectively determine which issues are relevant to a specific area or city and where they can best campaign.
These are just a few examples of what can be achieved. More and more data will be made available in the future which will benefit us all. I recommend you keep an eye on these developments, that you figure out how you can use this information and that you invest some time in working out how to analyse it.
Frank Op den Kamp