We caught up with Andrew Downie from City of Greater Geelong to talk about his experience with the recent Fellowship program they ran. This is what he had to say about it:
How would you describe the Fellowship program to other government agencies in Australia?
For City of Greater Geelong the fellowship program allowed us to have a fellow come into an organisation to help discover the processes and data that can be leveraged and improved through open data access.
The fellowship provided council with a way to reengage our departments and how they could use technology to overcome their challenges.
This also meant that new datasets that were previously held in silos of council were now potentially available as open data for the community to make use of.
What was your favourite part of the program?
Our favourite part of the program was working closely with our fellow to understand the challenges and the data in our organisation. The fellow provided a fresh new take on existing problems that could be solved in new innovative ways with technology.
Each week we would have a regular round table meeting to discuss the findings and plan for the week ahead. This helped up keep on track and make sure that the council would have multiple tangible outcomes directly from the fellowship program.
How do you think this type of work is going to make a difference in the City of Greater Geelong?
The fellowship program and outcomes has had multiple benefits to both the council and the Geelong community. From a council perspective we have now clearly identified the challenges that many departments face. These challenges have been documented as well as datasets identified that could be used to create solutions from the open data community.
It has also empowered the council to focus on providing open access to council data and to allow technology enthusiasts the ability to read in and create functional solutions using the data. This is creating a technology interest in the local community but also stimulating new technology startups in the area.
This means that there has also been an economic benefit to the region by allowing this data to be used.
City of Greater Geelong was in the top 5 government agencies publishing data on data.gov.au in the last few months. How did you get there?
City of Greater Geelong has been working hard to become a leader of open data in the region. We want to create positive and collaborative working relationships with all councils and government organisations.
From 2014 onwards City of Greater Geelong started the open data journey. This has meant that we were able to develop the right frameworks and policies that link to our strategic business plans to create publishable and rich datasets to data.gov.au.
The fellowship meant that we were able to rocket ourselves into new and previously undiscovered open datasets that have been harvested from throughout the organisation.
This has also meant that different departments and teams throughout the organisation became familiar with the idea of open data and could become open data enthusiasts to further promote the cause.
What would you recommend to other government agencies embarking on their Digital Transformation Journey?
It’s easier than ever for other local governments to embark on their digital transformation journey. Many government organisations have already paved the way for others to join by sharing their open data policies with others.
From the early adopters of open data it’s clear that there are many benefits embracing open data, and we are seeing more and more examples of this each day such as openbinmap.org which allows residents to check their bin night, as well as opentrees.org which explores council tree data in new ways.
Councils are working together in a collaborative effort to move forward into the 21st century, and the groups such as Code for Australia and Open Council Data are fostering these innovative work practices.
Overall the real power from open data comes from the community. Government agencies often have restrictive resources and time but by giving the community the data and the tools to access the data there’s every chance that we will see solutions to long standing problems being created by the open community. This has the possibility to improve government but also lives of people in the community.