Fuck the Recession, now give us our data and up our bandwidth

I mentioned recently the Hack the Government day in the UK where people will meet in London and now Brighton on building better Government systems. I’ve been thinking recently about our own Irish Government and many of the totally useless systems they have or websites that appear to run on Windows ME. Years ago I wrote a piece for the Tribune about the idea of a Government API and being able to access Government (which really is ours) data. In the article I mentioned the OSI data and being able to access the Revenue Service too. Two of hundreds, if not 1000s of datastores we could access.

The Government is right now panicking and doing their best to get anyone to come to Ireland and hire Irish people to do any kind of task. At the end of the day these multinationals are doing nothing more than making Ireland their tech support hub. The runt of the litter really. While the pharma companies are doing genuine R&D and IP creation, for the tech multinationals it’s tech support or localisation. Robot work.

Open Government Data Session Tack-on Free For All
Photo owned by illustir (cc)

The more connected people and businesses are and the more data that flows between them, the more value that can be extracted from this network they are in.

I’m sure the above has been said by people before. There’s the idea of Metcalfe’s Law about the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system but I wonder if the bandwidth of the interactions between those nodes increases does this value go up even more? Exponentially? I think the value of those connections does go up.

Setting aside the National Broadband Fuckup which will limit bandwidth between people, the Government should be doing their best to make sure that people are shifting as much data between each other as possible. Freeing all Government data is one way of doing this. Encouraging companies to share data might work too. Boards.ie’s release of 10 years of data was a brlliant idea. And stop thinking about the killer app, the street finds its own uses for this data and the world will make the apps. The Government can supply the data and work with companies to build the access methods. I’m sure a very clever business could tender (for free) to build all these APIs in return for minimal charges for API access to the app makers.

I’m not gunning after Eamon Ryan here but he’s Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Minister. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Minister or someone that looks after electronic resources too? It would be nice to move beyond the grandstanding about a knowledge economy and start working on things that can kickstart local companies taking existing data and creating something new with it. So Dear Government, fuck the recession, let’s start playing with our data.

Photo owned by pacomexico (cc)

8 Responses to “Fuck the Recession, now give us our data and up our bandwidth”

  1. Adam says:

    You said it damien. There would need to be a revolution in order to have our government actually implement something like this but it would change the way the country operates. I’d love to see it in my lifetime – and im in my 20s….

  2. Ronan says:


    If I had a heart condition, I’d go to the best cardiologist in town.

    If I was in trouble with the law, I’d hire the best lawyers.

    If I had a problem with my business, I’d get the best consultants/directors I could.

    The government is not doing this. Take the Anglo Board – more hacks appointed, politico’s able, but not bankers! HELLO …..?

    As you know, a few years ago I was studying the work of Michael E. Porter and in particular the Competitive Advantage of Nations. In the late 1990’s and 2000’s the government had Porter advise on various matters, such as innovation, infrastructure etc. Some advice they took and it worked, other advice they didn’t and it’s a crying shame. I guess in particular the infrastructure advice is some we looked at, e.g., roads, telecoms, broadcast was ignored.

    Porters points on Patent policy too, were ignored.

    I can’t help thinking that some of the issues we had advice on, were not acted on and if they had been, the nation might be in slightly better fettle.

    Should we ring Porter and get him in?

    Ha ha. Yup, too late!


  3. Aidan says:

    when things were good they wouldnt do it, will they take notice now? i dont know… fuck the politicians. What you would want is the right civil servants (who are probably near retirement) around the same table and knock their heads together

  4. The Beer Nut says:

    We used to have a minister for electronic resources: when Tom Kitt was junior in Taoiseach’s he had responsibility for the knowledge economy. They actually did some good work: I was dead impressed by the IPSMS, for instance. Now it looks like a sad antique — a thesaurus of government department names that was up to date for about a month after it was released. Our taxes are still paying for the hosting of that relic.

    I spent a fair bit of my five years as a civil servant pitching ideas at management for ways of using the Internet in cool ways to do more for the public. My catchphrase was “Can’t we do that in XML and put it out on the website?” But the will just wasn’t there. They don’t see the need or the point. And there’s also the real fear that if we give the public the data, they’ll only go and use it, and demand more. And that could make things complicated. What if someone finds a mistake we made?!

    There are no high-level champions for innovation in the public service, as far as I can see. It was cool for 2000 to 2002, then it fell waay down the priority list. A generational change among the senior civil servants is required.

  5. If you really think a Govt API is a runner, why not ask Cork County Council to expose an API for test use?

  6. Peter Tanham says:

    A database driven country… now that’d be the day.

    Hans Rosling’s first TED talk explains the importance of this quite well (if you haven’t seen it already) http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html <- skip to the 15min mark “How Can We Use This Data” if you can’t watch it all.

  7. flor says:

    look at this F*CK YOU RECESSION window

    from a design agency in london