The Future of the Data Economy

Open Data
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2018 / November

Lynn Su /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Scott Williams


With the digital revolution still in full swing, technologies such as ultra-wideband, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, e-commerce, big data, and the Internet of Things are changing our lives.

Artificial intelligence is one key to this revolution, but information and data are even more important facets of this ongoing technological transformation.

 

 


Taiwan began officially promoting “open data” in 2012. That effort has been very successful: the National Development Council’s open-data portal (data.gov.tw/en) has made more than 36,000 documents available to date, and the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) ranked Taiwan first in the world in its 2015‡2016 Global Open Data Index. More recently, Taiwan held its first Presidential Hackathon in 2018. The applications developed there spread like wildfire.

Public assets, returned to the public

Even before the shift to fully open data, the Freedom of Government Information Law required the government to make public the structure, address, telephone number, budget, and purchasing contracts of organizations at all levels of government. The law stated explicitly that its purpose was to “protect people’s right to know.” But open data has a much larger scope.

Government data covers a broad range of subjects and fields, everything from the climate, earthquakes, and tourism, to GDP, taxes, government spending, road traffic, healthcare for the elderly, and even ­document collections. Open data operates on the principle that most data originates with the public, and is therefore a public asset. As such, the portions of it that do not involve national security or reveal personal information should be freely available to businesses, NGOs and academia.

By moving beyond passive information transparency to actively publishing raw data, the government is making its vast data resources usable. 

Public‡private cooperation

Information is crucial to private corporations’ pursuit of growth. But the government was often slow to release information that only a single company had asked for because there was no legal basis for doing so. That changed when Premier ­Chang San-­cheng called upon ministries and departments to inventory their data and develop strategies to promote open data. He also formed an advisory panel on the issue. Taiwan has made great strides in opening up its data in the years since, placing its initial focus on the quantity of information made available.

Outstanding cooperation between the public and private sectors has been key to the rapid results that have been achieved since then.

TMS Technologies is an intelligent transportation systems and telematics service provider. Company president Tim Chen recalls when the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and the Police Broadcasting Service (PBS) began working together on traffic data a decade ago.

In the past, the fact that different departments oversaw different roads meant that the traffic information available in real time and the formatting of this information varied. Chen’s company helped gather this traffic data and organize it according to international standards. It also helped the MOTC’s Institute of Transportation build the radio ­data system traffic message channel (RDS-TMC) that has since driven the opening up of traffic data.

The Organization for Data-driven Applications (ODA) established by the Taipei Computer Association in 2013 has given the private sector a voice on open data issues. ODA secretary-general Carrie ­Chang says that the early stages of the government’s open data project inevitably revealed erroneous and scrambled information that frustrated data users. The ODA has worked with the government to improve the quality of its data by providing feedback on it, and to create synergies by pushing for the release of additional information that companies need. 

A proposal for the digital era

The use of open data revolves around three hubs—security, convenience and innovation—and the deep application of such data highlights its intangible value. “The deep application of data results in more than insights; it can change users’ decisions and behaviors,” says ­Chung Lan-kun, the founder of data science company Singularity & Infinity.

With the spread of smartphones, apps that use open data to offer creative value-added services now provide the public with a great way to experience its benefits.

Take mass transit, for example. Since the public buses in Taiwan’s six major cities all carry GPS systems, companies have been able to use open data about buses’ locations to develop public transportation apps for each city. Other business have used valuable open data on the status of parking spaces, something rarely seen outside of Taiwan, to create apps that enable drivers to con­veni­ently check the current availability and cost of parking spaces at their destination.

A great leap forward

Open data is also closely connected to the further development of city governance. The Industrial Development Bureau of the Ministry of Economic Affairs worked with local governments to jointly promote seven projects in 2018, continuing to pave the way towards smart cities. 

For example, open data is helping with traffic management. Cities often require police to direct traffic at peak hours. But engineers can use historical traffic data that includes the volume and types of vehicles, and travel times, to build regional transportation models, then plug in real-time traffic flow data to predict traffic conditions ten to 60 minutes in the future. This allows traffic managers to improve their signal control strategies, thereby reducing traffic congestion and manpower expenses.

Taichung’s Daya Interchange connects several major transportation corridors. A very important intersection for city residents, it frequently becomes congested during the evening rush hour, weekends, and holidays.

By building a regional traffic model incorporating CCTV, electronic toll collection (ETC), GPS, and changeable message sign (CMS) data; installing inductive-loop traffic detectors at intersections and freeway ramps to collect real-time traffic flow data; and then integrating the real-time data into the long-term model, engineers can produce accurate traffic forecasts. Armed with these forecasts, traffic-control systems can automatically adjust the length of traffic signals, reducing travel times by 10% without the need for human ­management.

The application of this data benefits both the general public and the government.

A member of the at-large advisory committee on open data, Tim Chen says that the government used to have a very limited view of how to apply its data. One of the advisory panel’s recommendations was that the Tourism Bureau create a simple questionnaire to gather information on the questions travelers ask at airports’ tourism information counters. The data gathered from this survey over the course of just one year yielded surprising results.

For example, the survey found that 37% of the 5,000 people per day who visited at the information counters at Tao­yuan International Airport wanted to know where to find a bathroom. Given that the counters have to deal with an average of one inquiry every three minutes, this suggests that placing clearly visible signs in the airport’s arrivals areas could greatly reduce the workload of information-counter staff.

The next step

With the volume and quality of the government’s open data rising, Taiwan’s next step is “digital governance.”

Chung Lan-kun explains that while digital governance uses large amounts of data as a foundation, it focuses on long-term strategy and the establishment of clear objectives. It also requires that people, technology, and the law all work hand in hand. “Governance and management don’t operate on the same level. Governance is about doing the right thing. Management operates under the framework of governance, and involves properly executing those things.”

A number of current issues show that Taiwan still has a long way to go in applying open data. During our nuclear power controversy, environmental groups and the government simply talked past one another. If power data had been made available, the two sides would have had a shared basis for debate. The idle buildings we see everywhere reflect a similar problem: we have lacked the big data that would have allowed us to evaluate their potential benefit and impact in advance.

The ODA has actively pushed for international ties. It cofounded the Asia Open Data Partnership in conjunction with 11 nations and 16 organizations. The AODP aims to strengthen exchanges on issues, and holds an annual Asia Open Data hackathon that provides a platform for open competition. 

Tim Chen, who regularly judges the hackathon, mentions that not only has the quality of the products created by the competing teams of programmers improved, but the number of university-student teams has also risen, demonstrating the powerful capabilities of young people.

Taiwan is a computer-industry hub with inexpensive IT hardware and world-class technology. Open data offers our tech industry vast scope for development. Putting this data to use will unlock enormous value and help propel our nation into the future.                            

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繁體中文

資料經濟大未來

文‧蘇俐穎 圖‧林旻萱

數位革命方興未艾,超頻寬、人工智慧、雲端運算、電子商務、大數據與物聯網,各樣科技技術,早已改變你我的生活。

在這一波的變革中,除了人工智慧的關鍵技術,數據與資料更是核心。

 

 


2012年,台灣政府正式推動「開放資料」(open data),如今國發會上的「政府資料開放平台」(data.gov.tw)資料集數量,已經超過36,000筆;2015-16年,台灣連續獲開放知識基金會(Open Knowledge Foundation,OKFN)評比為開放資料指標(Open Data Index)第一名,今(2018)年首次舉辦總統盃社會創新黑客松,各項研發應用亦如火如荼地展開。

開放資料,不僅意味著國家邁向透明治理的進程,即時、豐富、多樣化的資料集,也催化創意發生,商業或非營利的應用猶如雨後春筍,讓全民對數位時代生活更「有感」。

公共資產,還諸於民

早在開放資料以前,依據《政府資訊公開法》,政府必須公開各級機關的組織、地址、電話、預算書與採購契約等內容,法條明言,立法目的在於「保障人民知的權利」。不過,開放資料的內涵與範疇,卻遠超於此。

舉凡GDP、氣象、地震、道路交通、文獻典藏等,都是資料的一種,範疇涵蓋公共資訊、交通運輸、觀光旅遊、財政稅收、醫療銀髮等領域。開放資料的主要精神在於,既然資料多源於民間,又屬於公共資產,只要不涉及個資與國安機密,都應給予釋出,供民間企業、NGO、學術單位自由使用。

奇點無限有公司創辦人衷嵐焜說明,開放資料具有三大核心關鍵。

首要精神便是「開放授權」,開放民間團體與企業不限目的使用,尤其初期,政府機構對於資料釋出多有疑慮,開放授權的用意,除了允許民間自由重製、散播,也同時盡量免除公務員責任,由資料的使用者負責。

再來,應當「方便取用」,最好可供網路下載,容易取得。

最後,資料應是可機器讀取、不受特定軟體限制的「開放格式」,如xml、json、gml等。

由資訊(information)的公開透明,走到原始資料(raw data)的主動開放,意味著由「知」到「用」的大幅躍進。

公私協力,推動資料開放

民間企業由於發展所需,對於資料一向保有高度敏銳,早年若由單一廠商請求政府釋出,由於當時公部門態度保守且依法無據,成效相當有限。直到近年的國際開放資料漸成趨勢,加上前行政院長張善政主導,要求各部會針對開放資料擬定推動策略,並成立諮詢小組,同時要求各個單位盤點資料,先以量優先,至此台灣開放資料的進程,才有大幅度進展。

官民之間的良好合作,也是短時間內旋即見效的關鍵。

景翊科技公司以提供智慧型交通運輸系統(intelligent transportation system,ITS)與車載資訊系統(telematics service provider,TSP)等相關服務為主,總經理陳奕廷回憶約十年前開始,與交通部、警廣合作建立交通資料的歷程。

在過去,由於全國各地的道路主管機關不統一,因此即時路況資料的內容、格式均不相同。於是,公司循國際標準,協助匯整全國即時路況,並協助交通部運輸研究所建置RDS-TMC(調頻副載波即時交通資訊廣播),成為交通資料開放的推力。

2013年,Open Data聯盟(ODA)成立,有效凝聚產業界的聲音。台北市電腦商業同業公會之Open Data聯盟秘書處總監張雅婷特別談到,政府推動開放資料初期,勢必會發現不少錯誤或亂碼,多少會感到不堪其擾。聯盟站在主動回饋的角度,與公部門一同協作,提升資料品質,同時也彙整企業需求,主動敲門,要求開放,造就雙贏之局。

數位時代生活提案

國際上,最早開始明文推動開放資料是英國,2012年英國政府所發布的「開放資料白皮書」,就特別指出:「資料是新的原物料,可以產生知識、優化決策、促進創新,產生社會與經濟價值。」

安全、便民與創新價值,是開放資料在應用上的三大主題,透過深度應用,更能充分發揮資料的無形價值。「深度應用,不僅提出洞見(insight),還會進一步改變使用者的決策與行為。」衷嵐焜說明。

由於智慧型手機普及,透過開放資料作創新加值服務的各類App,是民眾日常就能充分體驗到資料開放好處的絕佳方式。

以大眾運輸為例,由於六都公車均裝設GPS,透過開放資料與創新加值,如「台北等公車」、「台中等公車」等交通App,不勝枚舉;另外,各縣市的停車場剩餘數資料,是國際罕見且可貴的開放項目,業者於是因應推出「停車大聲公」App,駕駛人可隨時掌握各地停車場的計費、車位數量、剩餘車位數量等資訊,也是便民創舉。

資料的應用不只可製作成智慧、便民的App,更可用來避免企業虧損及增進電梯安全,例如晶圓廠與氣象公司合作,氣象公司將收到的落雷資料轉化成預警推播,廠商可在雷擊以前暫停產線,避免壓降造成產品損壞,蒙受高額虧損;或者電梯廠商,預先收到地震警報,可先將電梯暫停在安全位置,避免乘客卡在中央。

傳統城市大躍進

開放資料也與城市治理息息相關。今(2018)年經濟部工業局與地方政府共同推動7個示範案,也為邁向智慧城市鋪路。

傳統上,城市的道路交通,高峰時段時常得仰賴警察的人力指揮,但透過歷史的車流量、車輛類型、旅行時間等交通資料,可建立出區域內的交通運輸模型,再結合即時車流資訊,便可預測未來10~60分鐘以內的短期路況,藉此找到最佳的號誌控制策略,除了可有效縮短交通壅塞的問題,並且省下人力成本。

位於台中的大雅交流道,由於銜接多個主要交通幹道,雖然深受市民倚重,但每逢下班時間或假日,就會出現常態性壅塞、回堵。

景翊科技藉由彙整CCTV(監視器)、ETC、GPS、CMS(資訊可變標誌)等資料,建立區域性交通出勤模型;同時在各路口、匝道布設DV(車輛偵測器),蒐集即時車流,將長期的出勤模型結合即時車流,作出精準的預測模型,再藉由每5分鐘自動調整控制區域內交通號誌秒差,如此不但可減少約10%的行車時間,且完全不需仰賴任何人力。

2016年梅姬颱風過境後,台南市政府也與宸訊科技攜手勘災。在颱風登陸以前,搶先利用衛星、航照圖等方式,結合市府的農業資料,蒐集到完整的災前影像,並且建立作物分析;災後再運用行動勘災工具,搭配申報案件的地籍、作物資料,將過去往往得耗費6週的勘災行動,縮短至10天以內,明顯加速復耕速度,提高農業產值。資料應用不僅便民,連同政府也能受惠。

由於擔任開放資料的民間諮詢委員,陳奕廷談到與觀光局互動的實例。在過去,政府對於資料如何應用,認識仍然相當有限,當時他們曾建議觀光局可以設計簡單的問卷,統計觀光客到機場的旅客諮詢服務台詢問的問題。這個乍看平白增加的業務,經過1年的統計,卻發現了驚人的事實。

以桃園機場為例,旅客服務台平均1天就有約5,000的詢問人次,平均3分鐘就要解答1個問題,其中高達37%的問題竟都是:「廁所在哪裡?」由此可見,若能洞察資料中夾帶的訊息,僅需要在出口處設置顯眼的指示標誌,就可以有效降低服務人員繁重的業務。

開放後的下一步:數位治理

隨著政府開放的資料集數量、品質不斷提升,「數位治理」將是台灣發展開放資料的下一步。

衷嵐焜解釋,數位治理除了有大量的資料作為基礎,更重視長遠的策略與明確的目標,同時必須有人、技術、法規、軟硬體與制度作全面性的配合。「治理與管理的層次並不相同,治理是做對的事,管理是在治理的框架下,把事情做對。」衷嵐焜說。

韓國政府近年頒布《開放資料法》,開放資料有明確的法律位階;杜拜政府利用地圖、人口分析、土地使用等資料,結合市民的居住地、收入、消費紀錄與通勤紀錄等資料,用於未來卅年城市的發展規劃,都是政府重視資料運用的例證。

場域移至台灣,從不少時事議題中,可以看出台灣在資料應用上仍有進步的空間。比方一度吵得沸沸揚揚的核電問題,民間環保團體與政府各執一詞,若能有公開的電力數據,雙方討論才能較有溝通的基礎;國內常見的蚊子館現象,缺的就是過往無法事前運用大數據資料,針對影響與效益作審慎評估的緣故。

台灣作為IT大國,不僅設備成本低廉,更有傲視國際的優異技術。陳奕廷談到,大雅交流道案子由於與德國交通顧問公司PTV合作,經過縝密地討論流程設計,原本對方預期需要2個月來撰寫程式,台灣工程師卻只花3周就完成,除了成功通過測試,系統上線一年多,也不曾再修正程式。

也由於景翊科技多年協助台灣交通資料開放,具有將原始資料糾錯並重新整理的能力,更符合國際標準。將來的智慧汽車時代,對於交通資料勢必更加倚重,因此,在國際圖資公司邀請下,希望他們前往東南亞,協助盤點當地交通資料。

也由於Open Data聯盟積極連結國際,與11個國家與16個組織共同組成亞洲開放資料合作夥伴(Asia Open Data Partnership),加強議題上的交流,每年也舉辦「亞洲跨國黑客松」,提供公開競技的舞台。

常態性擔任「亞洲跨國黑客松」評審的陳奕廷也發現,這個聚集程式好手的盛會,除了參賽團隊作品水平連年提高,加上過去多是社會人士,今年竟有大學生組隊,可見年輕人的能量爆發力十足。

因此,開放資料不僅為台灣的高科技實力開闢出寬廣的發展空間,如今,更盼望藉由縱深的應用,發揮資料價值的極大值,成為推進國家往前的動力。                                                                

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