The data sets will be made available in batches. Chang Chia-sheng, Commissioner for IT of Taipei City Government, explains to FutureGov that the selection criteria for the first bath include: 1) focus mainly on data which city residents could use 2) mainly information that has already been open for citizens to enquire free of charge 3) focus on the data sets which have been formatted for easy export The first batch of data covers areas including transportation, administration/politics, public safety, education, culture & arts, health, environmental protection, housing & construction as well as facilities.
In total 131 different data sets are made available through the portal. Chang explains that the challenges encountered during the process were mainly around data classification, consolidation of data of disparate formats as well as ensuring the data are comprehensive and accurate. “The quality of data is very important for the convenience of users,” Chang says.
“Therefore it became a big challenge for us to ensure proper classification of the data, to make sure users can get the information they want within three or four clicks.” After having studied the different classification methods of existing open government portals across the world and the patterns of user enquiries in Taiwan, the Department found that relying on the nature of data and the departments related are most intuitive for users.
This is supplemented by indexing and searching modes. Chang says this will “create premium quality directory service”. Also, because the data is consolidated from different departments, the formats and fields are different. To ensure that the data on the portal are consistent and scalable, the portal uses Open Data Portal standard (http://www.odata.org/), which follows many of the principles of REST (Representational State Transfer) - software architectural style for distributed hypermedia systems.
This simplifies the complexity of data-related operations and enhances service efficiency, according to Chang. As the nature of different data sets and the processes of relevant departments determine that the update frequencies of data are not uniform. For example, water supply disruption information has to be updated daily, while information around cultural issues such as historical buildings is not updated that frequently.
“For the update of data to be smooth, we need to study and understand the operational process and data update timeframe of all the relevant departments,” Chang says. “And this also allows us to monitor and ensure that each department updates their data promptly.” Apps contest Learning from some advanced cities in the west, Taipei City Government plans to hold software development competitions on a regular business, attracting intelligence from the public to improve government services.
This year, leveraging the software competition by Industrial Development Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taipei City Government is organising a contest on developing innovative apps based on government open data. The aim is to encourage students and business-minded individuals, companies and other organisations to use government data to develop more interesting, practical and valuable software apps and services, “making Taipei city a more convenient, friendly and intelligent city”.
Next steps Moving forwards, in addition to continuously enlarging the data sets available, the City Government is also looking at providing more innovative services. For example, an App has been developed for the “Mayor’s mailbox”, giving residents a new way to provide feedback, complimenting paper, e-mail and web channels.
This will also allow them to send pictures more easily, using the built-in cameras and location services of their mobile devices. “This will allow us to have more accurate information about the case and deal with it more timely, accurately,” says Chang. The City Government also plans to continue seminars and contests to promote its open government policy, encourage public participation, and “make Taipei a more liveable place”.