How Ordnance Survey Ireland is strengthening information sharing, reducing duplication of effort, and supporting national initiatives through a growing number of collaborative projects and partnerships.

OSi has huge aspirations for the future.  We don’t just want to fulfil our mission to create, maintain and provide the State’s definitive mapping and geospatial information services; we want to completely transform the way that geospatial information is used, to improve the quality of life for everyone in Ireland.

To drive this transformation, we will need to make it far easier for organisations with data to share their geospatial information with the general public, businesses, and policymakers.  We will have to minimise the cost and time required to maintain geospatial data sets, by reducing duplication of effort.  Then, we will need to ensure that the right data is available, in ready-to-use formats, to meet the needs of users and support national and international policies.

All three of these undertakings are hugely ambitious – but OSi is rising to the challenge by working with its public sector partners and engaging in collaborative projects with academic institutions, research organisations, and industry.

Strengthening information sharing

Already, OSi and its partners have made huge strides forwards in making it easier for organisations to share their geospatial data resources. Most significantly, OSi has expanded its GeoHive platform, to create a single national geospatial data hub for Ireland. Due to be relaunched in the spring of 2020, GeoHive will provide a truly collaborative platform, where all organisations can share their geospatial data, apps, and services. Like a ‘Yellow Pages’ for geospatial data, GeoHive will make it easy to find up-to-date information about all aspects of Ireland’s natural environment, urban areas, policies, communities, and heritage all in one place, for the first time.

OSi is also engaged in partnerships with academia to advance OSi’s methods of disseminating data so that geospatial information can be used in an optimal way via the Semantic Web and Internet of Things.  We are, for example, working with the ADAPT Centre, a research institution funded by Science Foundation Ireland, to advance the use of Linked Data, which will make it easier for people to combine and analyse different types of data and use it in machine-based learning.  Collaborative projects like this one, conducted with academic and research institutions, help OSi to achieve key policy objectives in a cost and resource-effective way. 

To encourage organisations to share their data and use third party data creatively, OSi is working on a number of initiatives to promote the development of new geospatial products and services, in collaboration with industry partners.  For example, OSi has recently created a Puzzle Book that contains ideas for the use of geospatial data.  Through this and other future collaborative projects, we aim to not only strengthen the sharing of information, but also stimulate innovation.  Who knows what the future will bring?

Reducing duplication of effort

It is vitally important to reduce the amount of time and money required to collect, manage, and maintain geospatial data, particularly within Ireland’s public sector. OSi has, therefore, been organising events and meetings with third party data providers, including the Department of Agriculture, to demonstrate how they can best use OSi data, in accordance with the Irish Government’s ‘once-only’ principle. We show public sector bodies how they can reduce their data management costs by taking advantage of data collected and maintained by other organisations. We then explain how they, in turn, can reduce costs for other public service bodies, by sharing their data.

To supplement this activity, OSi has been working with partners to create a number of apps to improve the cost efficiency of public service bodies.  For example, OSi has been working in partnership with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on a Proximity Analysis app, which shows how far each household is from key public services, such as schools and hospitals.  Combining a dashboard and story map, this tool reduces the effort for public service organisations by making it easy for them to identify where demand or over capacity exists and make well-informed policy decisions more quickly and cost-efficiently. 

Similarly, OSi has collaborated with partners in the development of an online tool that enables public service bodies to check Eircodes more cost-efficiently.  This Eircode Validation App allows users to perform tasks including validating addresses, finding Eircodes, and automatically populating address fields in online forms.  It reduces the effort needed to manually look up Eircodes, saving time and money across the public sector.

Supporting national initiatives

Many of the collaborative projects that OSi is engaged in relate directly to the delivery of national or international policies. In particular, OSi has worked with multiple partners, including the CSO and the Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE), to create an online portal for monitoring Ireland’s achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This data hub is being continually enhanced and will be supplemented in 2020 with additional statistical and Earth observation data and services. Such has been the success of this particular collaboration, that the SDG data hub has been shortlisted for the World Summit Awards. In parallel, OSi is continuing to maintain the national INSPIRE geoportal, in partnership with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

This collaborative programme is vitally important to ensure Ireland’s compliance with EU policy and needs to respond to changes over time. OSi and its partners are also collaborating on projects to support national priorities, such as education and housing. For instance, OSi has recently collaborated with the All Ireland Research Observatory (AIRO) and Dublin City Council to create and host an app that provides detailed information on Dublin’s housing market, including rental prices, property sales and valuations, planning and zoning and census-based socio-economic data. Called the Dublin Housing Observatory Mapping Viewer, it provides an authoritative source of information on housing in Dublin which can be used to inform policy decisions about planning and affordable homes.

During 2020, OSi will be working with Maynooth University, the Society of Chartered Surveyors and Esri Ireland on a public and private sector collaboration project to boost technology skills in schools. Our aspirations for the future may be ambitious, but we have already taken huge steps forwards. We have achieved a lot and, by continuing to work with our public sector partners and engaging in collaborative projects, we know we can achieve even more.

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