Open Data Case Studies

By Josh Wright

Since the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework was approved by Cabinet in 2010, NZ government agencies have released nearly 2000 datasets to data.govt.nz under a Creative Commons licence.

There are a bunch of reasons for this to happen. First, open data is more efficient, as it makes it easier (and cheaper) for thousands of New Zealand data users — both inside and outside of government — to do their job. Second, open data make it easier to find out just what New Zealand government agencies actually do; that is to say, open data makes government more transparent.

These are, we think, sufficient reasons to justify the open release of public data. But open data also enables the development of new tools and services,  tools and services that wouldn’t have otherwise been produced. Over the last few years, the Open Government Information and Data Re-use Work Programme has written about some of these innovative cases of open data reuse. As these case studies are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution licence, we’ve decided to summarise them for a non-government audience. Enjoy!

ANZ Truckometer

“Coal Trucks, Greymouth (maybe)” by VC Browne & Son, via DigitalNZ. No known copyright.

The ANZ Truckometer uses New Zealand Transport Agency traffic volume data to predict economic growth or decline. Focusing on key traffic routes, ANZ’s research has found that analysing traffic flows gives a forecast on New Zealand’s economic direction—and is accurate six months into the future.

The Truckometer benefits both ANZ and its customers: customers gain accurate insights into economic forecasts, which in turn bolsters confidence in ANZ. Moreover, ANZ’s data analysis has helped identify and fix errors in the original traffic volume dataset—proof of the benefits to government departments in placing their datasets under open licences.

Ministry of Education

Government ministries themselves have been creating avenues for the release and dissemination of openly licenced government data. Seeking to make school information more available, the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) NZSchools app re-uses data from the MoE, the Historic Places Trust (HPT), and the Education Review Office (ERO) mashed into a user-friendly, navigable Google Maps framework.

NZSchools provides parents, students and educators with basic school information, including decile and total roll; displays school enrolment zones and bus routes; and links ERO reports to schools, amongst other features. However, app use has grown wider than just this: it is also used by real estate companies to display school zoning, and by news media to show data and graphics from the app. The MoE, ERO and HPT all benefit from a wider dissemination and greater visibility of their already-open datasets.

Land Information New Zealand

While the NZSchools app was made in-house, other government agencies have licenced their data openly with the intention that third parties utilise it. Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) releases its tide prediction data, which is used by a range of mobile and desktop app developers. These  apps, which include QuickTide, NZ Tides, and TidePlan, broadcast up-to-date data in an accessible, clear format ,

Tides data is also used by MetService on their public weather website and on their page in daily newspapers. The broadcasting of up-to-date, accurate data allows people who use the sea—whether commercially or recreationally—to make good risk management decisions, keeping people healthy and safe.

Pocket Ranger

Pocket Ranger is a smartphone app primarily concerned with user safety. Developed by the Department of Conservation in partnership with Project Tongariro, Pocket Ranger relies on open data made available by  DOC to give users descriptions of the tracks, points of interest, photographs, maps and safety information in and around the national park.

The app uses QR codes placed on stands to provide location-based information to walkers in the park. These sit in lieu of traditional signs, which have a more significant impact on the natural environment. The next release of the app will have GPS integration, aimed at creating even greater accessibility, and further enhancing user safety.

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