Can open data help revolutionise community services?

A quiet revolution is building momentum in Queensland’s fastest growing city, Ipswich.

It cannot be seen on the streets and it is not defined by struggle. It is an online revolution and it may just redefine how some community services are delivered.

Open data is at its core – data anyone can access, use and share.

Ipswich City Council launched its open data platform in 2017 and since then, has published 72 datasets across a range of areas such as town planning, infrastructure and compliance, among others.

Economic Development and Digital City spokesman Cr Paul Tully said open data was a powerful enabler of innovation.

“Council collects a vast array of information that is both useful and important for how people go about their lives and the functions of the city,” he said.

“Not all data held by council can be made available as open data. Some data may contain information that is personal in nature, commercially sensitive or owned by a third party.

“However, there are large amounts of data council can publish. Empowering the community to use data to take a new approach to existing challenges or opportunities can bring significant economic and social benefits.”

Cr Tully said the idea of deriving major social benefits from the use of data was not new, however ease of access was.

“Interestingly, one of the earliest examples of the power of data can actually be found way back in 1854 when physician John Snow combined the position of 13 water pumps with the location of 578 deaths to stop a cholera outbreak in London,” he said.

“By combining the data, Snow was able to ascertain which pump was causing the epidemic and demonstrate that cholera was a waterborne disease by closing the pump off and stopping the outbreak.

“It’s exciting to contemplate the possibilities that might flow in years to come for our city on the back of embracing open data.”

The promotion of open data can help:

  • Create opportunities for local businesses, schools, entrepreneurs and policy makers to innovate using city data.
  • Enable new business models and services incorporating city data.
  • Enable improved service delivery for the people of Ipswich.
  • Foster an open and collaborative culture in the community and council, breaking down silos and enabling improved information sharing.
  • Lead to a more engaged citizenry.

Ipswich City Council’s open data is available here.

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