Derilinx’s Deirdre Lee on harnessing the power of data

20 Sep 2019

Deirdre Lee. Image: Derilinx

Deirdre Lee, CEO and founder of Derilinx, discusses how data transparency goes hand in hand with improved data security.

As CEO and founder of Derilinx, Deirdre Lee plays a pivotal role in supporting both public and private sector clients to improve data access with the company’s own data portal.

Here, in advance of her speaking engagement at CIO Summit, she discusses how companies can better wield data to improve their business and the importance of making data more broadly available.

‘In my opinion, the key to better data security is transparency’

Tell me about your own role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy?

My role as CEO is to understand the needs of our market and to ensure that Derilinx is providing high-quality, comprehensive solutions. Data is increasingly being recognised as an essential ingredient for decision-making and analytics within organisations. Open data, information that is available for anyone to access and use, is an underused resource in the current data ecosystem.

Typically, open data is published by government bodies, for example, real-time public transport information, census data, housing statistics or national boundary files. However, this is expanding to private-sector organisations, as they see the mutual benefit in data sharing with collaborators and stakeholders.

Therefore, in Derilinx we not only support organisations in making their information more reusable, but I see our role also to raise awareness and promote open and linked data solutions. 

Are you spearheading any major product/IT initiatives you can tell us about?

Nationally, Derilinx is responsible for the management of the Irish Government’s Open Data Portal, which currently provides access to 9,000 datasets from over 100 publishers, a number which is growing daily. With the support of Derilinx, the Irish Open Data Initiative has been ranked as the top country for open data maturity across 32 European countries in a European Commission study for two years in a row.

Internationally, Derilinx is working with a growing number of global organisations on data-sharing and access projects, including supporting the World Bank’s sustainable energy data platform and the International Aid Transparency Initiative’s (IATI) data registry.

How big is your team?

The Derilinx team consists of a dynamic group of developers, data scientists and business analysts. Much of our development is based on open-source solutions, with our core product and development unit offering expertise in areas such as software engineering and data management, as well as emerging areas of technology, such as data analytics and artificial intelligence. We are a Dublin-based team.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

Open Data was traditionally seen as a ‘nice-to-have’, as opposed to an essential component of any data infrastructure. I believe this will change with the recent publication of the European directive on open data and the re-use of public sector information, also known as the Open Data Directive.

Once fully transposed on the national level, the new rules will stimulate the publishing of high-value, dynamic data and the uptake of APIs. This means that the data published will be up to date, easier to access and of overall better quality. This, in turn, will drive greater reuse of the information, with wider social, economic and environmental impact.

We are also seeing an emphasis on the importance of open data and better use of data through its inclusion in national policies, such as the National Open Data Strategy, the Public Service Data Strategy 2019-2023 and the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy. At Derilinx, we see this as a hugely positive step towards harnessing the power of data. However, we also have to recognise that digital transformation is often required to implement these policies in practice.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation and how are you addressing it?

Digital transformation is an essential, yet challenging, part of business today. The benefits of deploying an organisation-wide data strategy are widely recognised, and a consistent approach to managing, processing and sharing data facilitates efficient processes and enables rich business intelligence. Derilinx helps with the practical challenges that our clients face including organisational alignment, a lack of capacity and data literacy, and measuring impact.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

When we discuss linked and open data with our clients, security and data protection questions frequently come up – and quite rightly so, as we are talking about sharing information. We often reference the data spectrum, as outlined by the UK Open Data Institute.

On one side of the spectrum is closed data – data that is only used internally in an organisation or team, eg employee data. This will never be shared or made open. Shared data is data that is shared with certain people or groups under certain, controlled conditions, eg clinical trial data that was consented to be shared for medical research.

On the other end of the spectrum is open data – data that anyone can freely access, use, modify and share for any purpose. Open data does not include any personal or sensitive information that can infringe a person’s right to data protection, eg bus timetable information or air quality data.

In my opinion, the key to better data security is transparency. It should be clear to all of us what information is being held, how this information is being used and who this information is being shared with.

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