Creating a data ecosystem

At the end of 2018, Ireland published its first ever data strategy for the public service, setting out ambitions to improve the use of data to support a more joined-up, efficient and effective Government.

A legacy of collecting and managing data independently across the public sector has resulted in an environment of increased “administrative burdens, reduced data-driven policy making, difficulties in introducing joined-up digital services” and reduced government agility in responding to public demand.

Taking learning from exemplars of data strategy implementation across Europe, such as in Estonia and Denmark, the Government is seeking to create a “data ecosystem” for the optimisation of data management.

The benefits of such an approach include: more joined up digital services; better data-driven insights on policy formulation, better efficiency in data administration, approved agility in securely reusing data; better protection and transparency of held data; and better services through improved data quality.

The Strategy is the latest step in existing data initiatives including the National Data Infrastructure and the Data Sharing and Governance Bill, and creates the governance, processes and systems to create a “cohesive ecosystem”.

The primary characteristics of the Strategy are:

Support: supporting data controllers to meet GDPR obligations while also allowing the relevant access by the public and private sector to the data holds;

Trust: Maintaining standards and good governance process for data management to ensure trust;

Privacy: Ensuring privacy-by-design and privacy-by-default are adopted to protect citizen and business data;

Sharing: A consistent method of publishing and collecting data digitally will provide the backdrop to a co-ordinated approach to shared systems and processes;

Access: The introduction of a shared platform to support the reuse of data across public sector bodies with a focus on Application Programming Interface technology;

Efficiency: The use of base registries to enable date to be reused and reduce the need for multiple data inputs to public sector bodies;

Transparency: The empowerment of people to see what data government holds through privacy, security and transparency systems and processes; and

Structure: A structured approach to open data and cross-departmental analytics to promote the value of data and data insights in evidence-based decision making.

The multi-department strategy covers a four-year term but includes long-term actions beyond its lifetime and will build on progress that has already been made in public sector bodies.

The Public Service ICT Strategy, the eGovernment Strategy 2017-2020, the National Statistics Board’s Strategy and Our Public Service 2020 have all called for data management improvement across government, recognising it as a key enabler of digital public service delivery.

Recognising the benefits of the legacy processes in which public sector bodies have collected and stored data, including security, the Strategy points to an overall “sub-optimal whole-of-Government ecosystem where data is managed by the policies of individual public sector bodies.

“In order to improve the various forms of data reuse, a greater degree of standardisation in terms of systems, policies and practices is required. The good practices being employed by public sector bodies should serve as the foundation for building a more co-ordinated, consistent approach to data management in a whole-of Government manner.”

The good practices are embodied in existing good practices of data-sharing between public sector bodies such as MyGovID, the Local Property Tax register and the HSE Healthlink project. However, there are also areas of existing challenges for service users such as separate online customer registration systems; cross-agency customer data matching issues; manual processes necessitated by the lack of real-time interfaces and data re-collection serving to slow down service delivery.

Key principles of Public Service Data Strategy 2019–2023

  • Data is discoverable by citizens, businesses and the Public Service
  • Data is processed in a transparent manner
  • Data that can be made public should be made public
  • Data is reusable
  • Data is accessed and maintained via base registries
  • Data is accessible through APIs to support interoperability
  • Data is demonstrably processed in line with legislation
  • Data is effectively governed
  • Data is collected and processed digitally
  • Data is used to support evidence based decision making
  • Data is processed in a secure and private manner

Barry Doyle

Since graduating with an MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in 1994 Barry has worked as a GIS / IT professional and business consultant in various roles in both the public and private sector in Ireland. With over 13 years’ experience working as a Project Leader in the Irish Local Government Sector Barry has been responsible for leading and delivering various innovative projects at both a Local Authority and Sectoral level with a particular focus on Digital Transformation, Geographical Information Systems, Information Management and Open Data.

Prior to joining Galway County Council in November 2018 Barry championed, defined and led the Digital Transformation Programme in Roscommon Country Council with the overall aim of embracing opportunities presented by ongoing advances in the digital technologies, broadband availability and capacity, and Cloud based enterprise solutions to transform how the Council provides services to, and interacts with, the citizens it serves. In line with this Barry completed a Special Certificate in Designing Innovative Services with Cork Institute of Technology in 2018.


Gemma Garvan

Gemma Garvan is Director of Informatics at St James’s Hospital in Dublin which last year became the first digital acute hospital in Ireland, which is the start of a landmark change for how care is delivered.  Gemma is an experienced Health Informatics Leader with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital and health care industry.  Prior to taking up her role at St James’s Hospital in 2018 she was Head of Access to Information at Healthlink. Gemma began work as an analyst programmer with The National Healthlink Project and moved into a project management role over a decade ago. Gemma has a BSc in computer science and software engineering and an MA from Trinity College in Dublin.

Barry Lowry

Barry Lowry is CIO for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, a position he was appointed to in 2016. He is tasked with delivering the Public Service ICT Strategy. Prior to 2016, he spent almost 35 years in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) on work ranging from the programming of mainframe computers to operating as a team leader in the design of client server systems. For the five years prior to his appointment, Lowry was the director who oversaw the establishment of ICT shared services in NICS. He also operated as the Head of Profession for ICT. In 2011 he was voted the Northern Ireland IT Professional of the Year by his associates.

Aileen McHugh
Kieran O’Hea

A native of Cork, Kieran O’Hea is Leicester City Council’s Head of Smart Cities, where he is leading the implementation of a Smart City Strategy that is city-needs led and demand-driven. He was formerly Chief Digital Officer of Brisbane, where he led the development of the city’s digital economy strategy. Before focusing on city strategies, Kieran led the development of digital strategies for a number of government agencies in Dublin. He has also worked for the European Commission, developing funding programmes in the area of digital content.

Donal Spellman


Tim Willoughby

Tim Willoughby is Head of Digital Services and Innovation at An Garda Síochána. He was formerly CTO of the LGMA, with over 20 years in a number of Senior Management and Technical Roles in the Local Government Sector. He has been working in the Public service for almost 28 years. Tim has a Civil Engineering Degree from TCD and a Masters in Innovation from the University of Ulster.

Moyagh Murdock

Moyagh Murdock has been in the transport sector for over 20 years in various capacities. Currently, Moyagh is the Chief Executive Officer at the Road Safety Authority. In her early career she spent 10 years in the airline industry having worked at Bombardier in Belfast as an aircraft systems engineer. She was then Chief Operating Officer for Bus Éireann having joined the Company in 2007 as the Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer with responsibility for the fleet maintenance and garage operations. In 2012 she was awarded an MBA from Dublin City University (DCU) and holds a Certificate of Professional Competence in Road Transport Operations Management.

Caron Alexander

Caron Alexander is Director of Digital Shared Services at the Northern Ireland Civil Service.  She has more than 30 years of experience in the UK public sector.  Caron is responsible for providing ICT shared services to 27,000 staff, for the NI citizen portal and contact centre services, delivering the NI Digital Transformation Programme and driving forward the NI Open Data agenda.  Previously Caron held a number of senior technical, programme and change management roles in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

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Michael Redmond
Michael Redmond is Chief Operating Officer at the Office of the CIO/eHealthIreland. A highly experienced leader within eHealth and Digital, Michael has a reputation for delivering results, driving excellence and building capability in each and every one of his career roles to date. Hugely experienced across the public sector, he is known to be acutely customer focussed; his strategy of simplifying the digital agenda resonates with the C-suite, staff and the general public alike. As COO, Michael manages the largest ICT investment budget in the whole public sector. Also a qualified and certified CIO, Michael studied Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin.
In 2008, Stella founded Annertech, Ireland’s leading open-source digital agency. Since its inception, Annertech have grown to become the "go to" Drupal experts in Ireland and work with a variety of clients in both the private and public sectors. Stella is an active contributor to the Drupal open-source content management system, and maintains many modules including Commerce Realex, Commerce Donate and Code Review. She is a member of the international Drupal Security Team, and was recently chairperson of the Drupal Ireland Association.

Dominic Byrne is Head of Information Technology with Fingal County Council and has 26 years’ experience working in IT.  He holds a Degree in Information Technology and a Masters in Internet Systems.  He is responsible for managing the provision of IT services in Fingal County Council and his current interests include Digital Government, Smart Cities and Civic Tech.  He is a member of the Smart Dublin Executive Committee and the Public Bodies Working Group on Open Data.