I've been learning to drive (again) recently, with an aim to finally actually take my driving test, I'm also a keen (legal) cyclist… None of this has any real bearing on me deciding to attend tonight's event, that was more to do with my fascination in knowing about and understanding the various data sets that are available from our government agencies. 

There was a slightly strange feeling in the air that is always present when those from ‘old school’ government agencies or business present in front of more entrepreneurial or activist audiences, and wow, did all the speakers have some rather ominous job titles that were sometimes six words long. 

I digress.

VicRoads produces and releases 17 (mainly spatial) data sets and I struggled to find a concrete location on their website where they could all be found. I also wasn’t entirely sure which were free or paid for, these include : Road crash statistics (collected through the police who have to collect a staggering 70-80 statistics per incident), assets and infrastructure, traffic volume, travel times and many more.

I got a little confused during the breakout sessions as it actually seems that VicRoads don’t monitor as many roads as we may think, there are different classes of roads (relating to size, surfacing etc) and they only monitor roads above a certain class (the ones below are monitored by local councils) and there are also differences between rural and metropolitan road networks.

This highlights some of the major issues with data, access to it and trying to utilise it. The overlaps, gaps and how to know where to go to find the various pieces of the puzzle you are trying to assemble, which then introduces inconsistencies and differing measurement levels.

Some of the real life applications of these data sets are travel time estimates, planning for major holiday and event traffic increases and productivity / livability planning based around traffic levels.

Some issues pertaining to VicRoads and their data sets relate to privacy and licensing issues over particular data sets not being available for public consumption and with VicRoads being tax payer funded, they are not able to create data sets and APIs to suite niche requirements that aren’t in the public interest.