Using Open Data in MIDAS

Guest blog post by Scott Fischaber from Analytics Engines

The overarching goals of the MIDAS project are to provide software and tools for healthcare policy makers to enable data-driven policy decisions and evidence-based historical outcome analysis. To achieve this for a policy pilot site can involve integration of a number of different data assets, be they from within an organisation or originating from external sources such as governmental open data or individual data as have been discussed in previous blog posts.

The collection and publishing of governmental open data really took off a decade ago, although a set of 8 principles were laid down at the end of 2007.  In 2009 President Obama set out a memorandum calling for transparency in government which led to the creation of and at TED2009 Tim Berners-Lee put out a call for governments and organisations to share their data.  By the end of the year the UK had and the EU Open Data Portal was setup in 2012.  

According to the EU OPD, the benefits of open data are to provide transparency within EU institutions and enable economic development. The first follows that governments should be open and transparent with their citizens, and one way to do this is through making information in governmental databases free and open to the public.  The second looks at how can these datasets be used in new and creative ways to provide better information back to governments to make better data-driven decisions, improve efficiencies or provide enhanced or new services to the public.

Governmental organisations often do not have the time, resources, or skillsets to fully exploit the massive amounts of data that they collect for the public good.  By opening up this data, it allows innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs to provide societal benefits based on these datasets. Liam Brannigan from Analytics Engines recently discussed how open data can benefit society.

Since 2014 the EU has been reporting on the European Open Data Maturity Landscape.  Overall, the countries represented by the MIDAS pilot sites score well as shown in the following figure.  While Ireland was ranked 18 in 2015, it has topped the rankings for the last two years and only just exceeds Spain in overall maturity level.  Within the 2018 report, a new category was added to the maturity model for impact of open data within a country; this has caused a general decrease in the maturity level across the EU countries, however, Finland reported particularly low impact scores, hence it’s drop in the overall maturity score between 2017 and 2018. 

Within MIDAS we are using some of these open datasets to enhance the existing organisational datasets provided by our pilot sites.  This includes statistics information (populations, deprivation measures, economic measures, etc.), mapping information (area boundaries, health centre locations, etc.), national registers, and are constantly looking for new data sources to further enhance the opportunities for discovering new insights into historical or future policies. 

The power of the MIDAS platform being developed is in this collection of disparate data sources to empower users to derive more accurate or timely insights on a policy area by using the data available in an intuitive way. With the increase in the number and variety of open datasets being released by governments, having a method for integrating and extracting value from this data to enhance our understanding of the world around us is key and within MIDAS we have the opportunity to develop exactly this.