The following guest post is from Bart van Leeuwen, a firefighter in the city of Amsterdam who has been experimenting with governmental linked data on Open Street Map to help improve fire truck navigation.
Working as a firefighter in the city of Amsterdam, will Linked Open Government Data help me fight fires? Probably not, but during the development of an innovative new way of assisting fire truck navigation, I found out that Linked Open Data could at least assist us getting to incidents easier and faster. One valuable addition for us is to plot the location where work is done on the city infrastructure, e.g. roadblocks. We do not maintain this information ourselves, so we went out to the department supplying this information.
Demanding other government departments to open up their data to us is a pretty tough job if there is no municipal wide policy on opening data. Of course, the questions the fire department asks are very well understood, and there is a great will to assist us but people still have cold feet on this issue. What could others do with it, are we allowed to do this, what are the risks etc.
We decided to go the other way around, in the talks we had with other departments we already noticed that they were also interested in information we could supply. This led to the initiative of publishing structured data related to incidents which is out on the web unstructured already. This way our department is giving a good example and we have a better position in demanding open data from others. A very interesting side effect is that even in our own organisation people start to think about opening up information for the organisation a whole. For example information that was locked up in excel sheets now is included in the solution I created. Even though we have no official policy, funding or projectplan it already has started!
Traditionally government organizations are slow in adopting change, getting LOD done on policy level alone can take a while, starting it from the work floor up, can speed up policy talks. Role up your sleeves and get your own data out there!